Who are we as human beings if we ignore the suffering of others? This is the question that comes to mind as the 25 homeless men and women who passed away this year in the Long Beach area are honored at a memorial service on Wednesday evening at Harvey Milk Park. All died without much dignity, something the memorial service aims to somewhat rectify.

The service is organized by the Long Beach Area Coalition for the Homeless (LBACH) and is part of National Homeless Persons’ Memorial Day, which takes place annually on the first day of winter, also the longest night of the year.

City officials and religious leaders will join with people who have known homelessness personally and those who have not. But everyone there will be united in the conviction that every person has dignity and should be honored in life and in death.

And at a time when we are seeing disturbing increases in public attitudes of racial and other forms of discrimination in many parts of our society, it is all the more urgent that we open our eyes to our fellow humans living on the margins. We need to insist that we are a stronger nation when we foster an ethos of compassion and mutual care, especially for the most vulnerable among us.

An important aspect of the Homeless Memorial service is the acknowledgment of specific persons, individual names, and their unique stories. When we touch those human dimensions of homelessness, we are moved and empowered to act. This memorial invites us to both embrace the deepest truths of our own humanity – with its frailties and gifts – and inspire us to work even harder for a more just and compassionate society, one in which each person is given the chance to flourish.

The event will take place on Wednesday December 21st at 6:00 p.m. at Harvey milke Park. Free parking is located at the 3rd Street parking garage, located adjacent to the park.