I had a conversation with some friends recently about values. Not like “This we believe…” values, but more like how do you see that others value you and how do you show others they have value.

It raises the eternal, internal question – what is my worth?

Is my value to others transactional? I matter to you simply because of what I can do for you?

I’d really like to believe that my value is intrinsic. Value tied simply to my humanity. Every member of the human race is worthy of respect.

Yet, so often some are marginalized. There are those who are ridiculed for the obvious; race, religion or sexuality. But, also those who are shown contempt for ignorance. For lacking expected skills. Or, for just being different.

Do we value others enough to look beyond what is visible and recognize there might be a void that’s been overlooked?

Do we value others enough to acknowledge the “elephants” in the room? I work in United States 4th largest city. It is a major hub for sex trafficking. My route to work every morning for years took me past prostitutes walking home or finishing up their nightly quota. I never bought gas in my neighborhood – unless it was early morning. In the evening, I would drive 15 min. to a neighboring suburb before I was willing to stand outside my car and fill it up.

The stories I read indicate many prostitutes were first sexually abused as children. Statistics say 1 in 5 girls will be sexually abused as children. The most common age for child sexual abuse to occur is 7 to 13 years. (National Center for Victims of Crime)

I’ll never forget the day my view of prostitution changed. It was fifth period, after lunch, and I was welcoming students into chemistry class. One of the girls talked about how she skipped lunch to make some money off a John across the street. My heart broke when I realized she put her worth at $20 for a quickie in a car. Her value seemed so much higher to me. Yet, for her that was a normal way of earning extra cash.

How do we show value? How do you communicate that sex isn’t just a strategy for quick cash or cheap entertainment? How do you teach that real respect doesn’t come from a pimp? Or even, how much you earn per trick. How do we break out of a middle/upper class bubble and actually address the pain of those living in the margins?

Self-worth, value, it’s all tied together. How do I show value to those who live in the margins of my life? The security guard who always says hi, the officer who directs traffic, the displaced who sell water asking for donations, or simply sit-sleeping under a bridge? Who do I value? How do I demonstrate value to them?


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I’m a wife, mother and teacher. Navigating the uncertainties of life with the aid of unending grace.

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