The following is an excerpt from the book, "Unbroken" by Laura Hillenbrand.
The crash of the Green Hornet (B-24 Liberator) had left Louie (Zamperini) and Phil (Russell A. Phillips) in the most desperate physical extremity, without food, water, or shelter. (they had endured 47 days on a raft after their plane crashed in the Pacific) But on Kwajalein, (nicknamed Execution Island) the guards sought to deprive them of something that had sustained them even as all else had been lost: DIGNITY. This self-respect and sense of self-worth, the innermost armament of the soul, lies at the heart of humanness; to be deprived of it is to be dehumanized, to be cleaved from, and cast below, mankind. Men subject to dehumanizing treatment experience profound wretchedness and loneliness and find that hope is almost impossible to retain. Without dignity, identity is erased.
...On Kwajalein, Louie and Phil learned a dark truth known to the doomed in Hitler's death camps, the slaves of the American South, and a hundred other generations of betrayed people. Dignity is as essential to human life as water, food, and oxygen. The stubborn retention of it, even in the face of extreme physical hardship, can hold a man's soul in his body long past the point at which the body should have surrendered it. The loss of it can carry a man off as surely as thirst, hunger, exposure, and asphyxiation, and with greater cruelty.
I ask that you examine your behavior when it comes to the homeless, a man like Alonzo, or a teen like Shane. I believe this weeks message is abundantly clear; we do not honor our fellow man when we look past or through them. Ignoring them, or worse labeling them, leads to dehumanizing them. If labels like "loser" or "worthless" pop into your mind when seeing certain elements of society, know you have "missed the mark." You look with eyes that do not see.
I ask that you give them what we all have to give. A smile. A wink. A nod of acknowledgement. I ask you give them what they may have misplaced...their dignity.