I've traveled a lot in this life of mine. I've traveled far and I have traveled to places that were really close but seemed as far as the moon.
I've spent a lot of time in airports being treated with a lot of dignity.
I have also had my dignity taken away.
When my children accidently had tickets issued in my maiden last name and not theirs in Paris, the authorities had the entire airport shut down and dogs surrounding me. Clearly we lived to tell the tale, but it was not fun and humiliating on many levels.
I lived most of my life in the Middle East, where I was part of an Arab-Jewish theater group.
Our theater group traveled a lot.
In Israel when Palestinians exit and arrive from the Tel Aviv airport, they are not always treated with dignity.
A close friend, my Palestinian sister, whom I love, once was treated so badly that I made such a big ruckus about it that I was taken into interrogation while she went to spend $200 in the duty free shop.
Dignity is a big word. It can be given and taken away by one look, one gesture, by a small act of kindness or a rude remark.
I sent my daughter to visit a friend on the East Coast today.
It was the first time she was traveling alone, as she herself said,
“I am ‘scar-i-cited’ (scared and excited) at the same time.”
We bought a gift, a mezuzah for their door, for the people she is staying with, close friends who moved across the country a year ago.
She wrapped it the night before with great care, not even thinking that if you look at it in a certain way it could be perceived as a weapon.
When we went through security, of course, they flagged her, had her open the bag and then took out the very delicately wrapped present.
The security man with great caution, and so much dignity carefully unwrapped the scotch tape that my daughter so diligently applied the night before.
He apologized profusely, took out the mezuzah, which led to a five-minute theological explanation of what it was.
He then put it back in the box and rewrapped the present.
I said, “It's okay. Leave it, we are in a hurry. Don't worry about the wrapping paper.”
He looked at my daughter, seeing that she was a little distraught by the unwrapping of her present and said, “Hold on.”
He disappeared for two minutes and came back with scotch tape and proceeded to tape the present, looked at her and said, “It's not as good as you did it, but I think it's okay.”
What a dignified moment! He saw my sweet girl and made her feel very special.
I leave tomorrow for India. The Advot Project will be presenting workshops, working with the police, social work students and education students on how to use theater as an educational tool and the arts for rehabilitation and a platform for social action.
I will be performing “Flowers Aren't Enough” at four different venues.
I have been to India many times and I love this country from the deepest place in my heart.
What I love the most about India is the warm, beautiful culture, the openness, and the women…oh, the women.
They have so much dignity; in the way they walk, in the way they talk, and in the tension that they keep of preserving their beautiful traditions but yet moving forward into modern times.
I am traveling with a dear, dear friend who will be helping me upload pictures, blogs and my thoughts from this beautiful country.
Today as I stood in the airport with my beloved child, sending her cross-country by herself, I was struck by this lovely man who took the moment to get the scotch tape.
It is so easy to make someone feel like crap. It is so easy when you have the power to forget that there's a human being standing on the other side. In the same breath I have to add that it is so incredibly easy to make someone feel loved, important, and dignified.
It is a choice, and it is taking the extra moment to do the right thing.
Later in the day I called my girls, the ones I work with.
I’ll be away for two weeks, I tell them, but if they need something, call here or text there, you are not alone.
“Damn,” one girl said to me.
“You’re calling to tell me you are going away?”
“Yes,” I said.
“That’s so nice.”
It was quiet.
“You make me feel important,” she says to me.
“You are to me,” I say.
“You give me dignity,” she says.
Now I am quiet.
I don’t want to give dignity.
I want this girl, all the girls I work with,
I want everyone to simply HAVE dignity.
I think of my child today, who when I told her that I thought the man was nice for getting the scotch tape, looked at me and said,
“Mommy, he should have gone to get that scotch tape, he took off mine.”
I said, “Well, he was really nice.”
“Don’t you say people should always be nice?”
“I don’t give you dignity,” I say to the girl who I work with.
“It’s yours to have, to keep, and to protect.”
“Well, you make it easy,” she said.
And that’s what the security man did today. He made it easy for us to feel good.
“Well,” I say, “Don’t let go of it even when people make it hard and try and take it away…and, actually, you should demand it.”
I hear myself being just a little too preachy for a simple phone call.
“Okay, Ms., I will. Now you go, have a good time in India, and do me a favor, don’t worry about my dignity. I got it.”
I laugh and we continue to talk.
I hang up the phone send a few texts and think to my self, it’s not about giving or taking away dignity.
It is about giving it space for it to live and be present.
“Mommy,” my daughter looked at me,
“You shouldn’t have been so grateful to the man for rewrapping the present. It was important to me and he respected that.”
“You should always be grateful, but you’re right,” I say, and sigh a sigh of relief.
She gets it.
Stay posted for #advotinindia
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