Monday, July 25, 2011

Wealth, Privilege and Abundance

We spent the last 2 weeks at my father's home in Waterloo, Ontario while he took his motorcycle to Newfoundland.  (Yes, Newfoundland is an island and his trip involved a ferry.)  We had an absolutely fantastic time in Waterloo:  we took care of my father's enormous vegetable garden, we went to the African Lion Safari near Cambridge, we swam nearly everyday, we spent lots of time with my mother (she lives nearby) and Jasmine developed an affinity for feeding the local ducks and chasing the local rabbits.

I've never been away from our home for 2 weeks with 4 kids before, so I wasn't sure how much STUFF to bring.  Each daughter (ages 7, 5.5 and 3.5yrs) packed one small basket of toys and 7 days worth of outfits.  I packed 7 outfits for myself and about 12 outfits for Julian (12 months) since he tends to be a little messy.  I intended to have to do laundry only once.

Well, wouldn't you know it, that by the 5th day we were all out of clothes!  Apparently my mommy brain had forgotten that there would likely be incidents involving sand, water, mud, ducks, mustard, blueberries and...yes, poop...that would require frequent clothing changes.  In fact, by the middle of the second week I was wearing some of my clothes for the third time.  As I was searching for a matching outfit and gathering up the laundry, a startling thought went through my mind:

This must be what it's like to be POOR.
You know--having to wear the same clothes more than once in a week.

Then another startling thought went through my mind:

I don't have the faintest idea what it is like to be POOR.
It's like I had a little imp on each shoulder screaming in my ears.

But serious, I DON'T have even the tiniest idea of what it is like to live poor every day.  That I would even consider that lack of clothing choices was somehow akin to living in poverty is actually proof of the life of privilege that I have experienced for....well, for 37 years.  I have always lived in abundance.  I have never wanted anything that has been out of my reach.  Much of what I take for granted has come to me because of my place of privilege and not because of my own effort or even luck.

I've been confronted several times recently with evidence of privilege and I am trying to figure out what it means.  I found an interesting piece online that uses a metaphor of a dog and a gecko to explain privilege.  It is interesting and well worth the read.

I don't know what to say about being privileged except to say that I am becoming aware of what it means in my life.  It is more than just the obvious:  I am white.  I have university degrees.  I have never gone 24 hours without food.

Here are some more specific examples:
  • I am privileged because when I am with my children in public no one doubts that they belong to me.
  • I am privileged because I have the option of not working for money.
  • I am privileged because I speak English.
  • I am privileged because I can write and speak about homeschooling, extended breastfeeding and co-sleeping without 'The Authorities' showing up at my door.
  • I am privileged because when I ask a stranger for help, that person helps, smiles and makes eye contact rather than avoiding me.
So I don't really have anything else at this moment to say about this topic, other than that I am becoming more aware of who I am and who I want to be and that there are some things about myself that I cannot change. 

I can become more aware.

1 comment:

  1. Another reminder how lucky I am. I had two such moments today. One a man who was scouring the land with a metal protector to find any cash - he tells me he was in need of anything he could get because of the recession. And then later, my son was really really testing me and I walked away to calm down, and 5 minutes later a woman spoke to me how she couldn't have children.