Quality People

“I imagined that my own quality might someday be recognized.”

I know many Quality People and they tend to be the ones who recognize the quality of other people.  They see the quality of those who serve them in restaurants and teach their children.  They are grateful for those know make their own lives easier: the grocery store cashier, the car mechanic, the construction worker.

There’s talk of a Faith and Values Debate between the Democratic Candidates for President and I wish there would be one for the final candidates of all political parties – not to try to out-pious each other or judge each other, but to ask some basic questions about humanity:

  1. Do you believe that people are created in the Image of God?
  2. Which people?
  3. And how would your answers impact your governance?

This strikes me as the only way to get to a candidate’s most fundamental understanding of human life.  It cuts to the chase for every issue from Pro-Life to Immigration to Gun Control.

It illustrates who is valued in someone’s world and who is less valued or not valued.  I don’t know about you, but I want to be a person of value.  I know I’m valued by God except for those times I don’t feel it.  And I admit that I also want other humans to value me.  I’m profoundly fortunate to feel that most days.

Please read Ta-Nehisi Coates’ new book and first novel The Water Dancer about Hiram – an enslaved man whose parents were an enslaved woman sold “Natchez-way” when he was a child and the owner of the Lockless Plantation.  The setting is pre-Civil War Virginia.

Coates rarely uses the words “enslaved” or “slaveholder.”  He uses “Tasked” and “Quality.”

“I was just then beginning to understand the great valley separating the Quality and the Tasked – that the Tasked hunched low in the fields, carrying the tobacco from hillock to hogshead, led backbreaking lives and that the Quality who lived in the house high above the seat of Lockless, did not.”

The truth is – of course – that the people with deep value, deep quality – were actually the Tasked.  They were the engine that kept Lockless going.  Without them, the Quality could not have survived.

I think about the people I know who are admired in the world for their gracious homes and welcoming hospitality when – actually – there are housekeepers, gardeners, bakers, and others who make the quality of their lives possible.  The worldly qualities I myself possess are a result of generations of helpers in and outside my family.

There are “successful” people everywhere who are selfish and mean-spirited.  They have quality in the eyes of the world and certainly in the eyes of God.  And yet they tend not to recognize the quality in others.  At all.

As I wake up very early on this Monday morning, I see that we still live in a world divided into The Quality and The Tasked.  There are those of us who have and those of us who do not have: homes, food, health care, safe neighborhoods, good schools, citizenship.  Their daily tasks would bring The Quality to our knees.

The world is a hot mess and the beginning of cooling things down and cleaning things up involves understanding who is created in the Image of God.  (And remembering that there is no one who is not created in God’s Image.) May we all be fluent in the language of appreciation this week.

Read Ta-Nehisi Coates’ The Water Dancer.  It is extraordinary. The quotes are both from this novel.

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