Give 'Em Lipstick: 10 Ways to Preserve a Stranger's Dignity

A friend and I were sitting in a coffee shop the other day. He is someone I learn from nearly every time we are together. We have completely different upbringings and our pasts could not be more different. I love spending time with him.

As we were chatting, I asked a question which prompted him to send me an article. The article chronicled the story of a Horror Camp where people were dying daily. Shortly after the discovery of yet another death, a box arrived from the British Red Cross. In it was found tubes and tubes of red lipstick. Many were baffled by the gift, but it was this gift that brought dignity to those encamped in this horrid experience. (It is a short story, I encourage you to take the time to read it.)

I immediately was struck by the thought of lipstick bringing dignity. I then remembered a time when I brought bouquets of flowers to women who made their home on the street, and how it was important because every woman wants to feel beautiful, lovely and seen. When you give a woman flowers, that is what you are telling her without words.

The needs of this world are great. Every day greets us with more hatred, pain, death, useless violence, poverty and darkness. I want to be a person who brings light. A person who steps out of the comfort of home and acts. A person who brings dignity and gives courage to all she meets. A person who gives away flowers and lipstick.

I don’t always know the best ways to bring dignity and courage, but here are a few thoughts:

1. Smile at people. A smile acknowledges a person exists and says that you are glad they do. It’s inexpensive, but the payoff is great.

2. When a person wears a name tag, refer to him or her by name. Be the first to ask the question at the cash register. Be warm and engaging, treating each person as though they are a friend in the making.

3. Leave early when driving somewhere. When you’re not pressed for time, other drivers don’t seem to be so annoying. Be kind, let other drivers in. Assume that those in a hurry or seemingly rude have something hard going on in life and, instead of internally flipping them off, take a moment to pray that God would meet them in their need, in their rush and in their pain, and intervene.

4. Pray that God would give you a friend who lives a story that you may have prejudices against. It’s amazing what happens when our life crosses paths and friendships are created with those against whom we hold prejudice.

5. Know someone who struggles financially? Buy them a gift that is not practical. Give them something that says you are worth more than just making it. It could be something as little as flowers or as big as a night in a hotel.

6. When you see a person holding a sign asking for money, roll down your window and start a conversation. Acknowledge, smile at and warmly invite the person to conversation that speaks to their personhood.

7. Buy products that give dignity to their workers.

8. Be kind, assume good things and be generous with your attitudes and beliefs.

9. Tip really well. Tip extravagantly. Over-thank and encourage any who serve you. (Simply because we are paying someone for a service doesn’t mean that they have to be perfect. They, too, may be having a bad day or have just had hard customers. Maybe a relative is going through a difficult time? We don’t know. So instead of complaining and not tipping, tip extra and look your server in the eye and say something like, “I hope your day gets better.”)

10. Be a good neighbor, to all of your neighbors. Be a good neighbor to your local businesses, postal workers, lawn care and landscaping workers, the neighbor who hides and the neighbor who knows everyone. Be the kind of neighbor you want.

You and I may not be able to alleviate the world’s darkness on our own, but if we each bring our light and give away light and dignity and courage … the darkness sure dissipates quickly.

How have you seen dignity given away? How have you been given courage?  

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Cari Jenkins
Cari has been able to pursue her love for Jesus and people in a variety of ways: Leading adventure trips for women. Speaking for various groups, retreats and events. Walking alongside of others in mentoring and discipling relationships. Spending time developing leaders. Working with other leaders pursuing collaborative relationships to make an impact in San Diego. She loves using story to inspire and invite others to live well the stories they’ve been given.

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