Dignity by Tiffany Trivett

Tiffany Trivet

Dignity: the state or quality of being worthy of honor or respect.
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I finished “The Diving Bell and the Butterfly”, a seriously remarkable book, in just two hours. The best words for it are: Drinkable and Clarifying. Drinkable because it is eloquently written. Clarifying because it shifts paradigms into sharper view.
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In 1995, Jean-Dominique Bauby, the French editor-in-chief of Elle magazine, suffered a massive stroke which left him permanently paralyzed, except for the ability to blink his left eye — which is how he wrote his memoir. By blinking letters to a woman who transcribed them, he describes his experience as a fully-conscious paraplegic. He laments over his inability to communicate, observes how people stare as though he isn’t even there, and fumes over what it’s like to have a fly land on your nose and be unable to twitch it away. He shares, simply, what it is like to be fully awake inside of a body that is mostly dead.
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Last night, a friend told this story: “I was visiting an assisted living home for my mother, and spotted a woman across the room in a wheelchair. I thought nothing of it; an old, sick woman. Later, I heard the staff talking about her. ‘She’s a riot! Last year for Halloween, she wheeled herself out with a white trash-bag over her head. Said she was dressed up as a condom!’ The staff roared with laughter. I was beside myself! Never had I imagined the woman in the wheelchair was so spirited, so full of humor. So alive.”
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It made me consider my own judgements. An obese woman enters a restaurant. A man wearing a turban waits in the airport. A woman has her PhD but doesn’t speak English, moves to the United States. A paraplegic blinks his eye, imprisoned in his own body.
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I challenge myself to expand my mind: to pause snap-judgements and include everyone in my “fully human” mental category. I ask myself honestly: Where do I cast judgement? How can I do better?
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I want to look at everyone with wonder. I want to treat them as they are — worthy of honor and respect. I want to acknowledge them as complex beings with stories as intricate and nuanced as my own. 

- Tiffany Trivett, Managing Editor at If I Made

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