Tuesday, August 30, 2005

privilege

a few weeks ago, quite by accident*, i received an email intended for another, an email containing a survey on “privilege.” not being the intended receiver, i was not required to answer the questions, but for my own curiosity i perused the survey’s contents.

the survey sought opinions on what one considers to be a life of privilege. the email was not a religious sermon, not a spiritual parable, not even a philosophy lesson, but was instead a business correspondence, and yet after my reading and forever since, i have come to understand much of the breadth of my own life of privilege (though i cannot truly comprehend its scope).

prior to this reading i had believed i held no experience with “privilege” because i had, after all, started with very humble beginnings and i continue to work hard to make my own way. i mistakenly had believed because i “earn” my own way i do not have a life of privilege. and yet, the very fact i have a job puts me in a position of privilege. the fact i have a comfortable position and one with healthy benefits puts me in a position of greater privilege.

i did not have the benefit of a formal education, neither one provided for me nor one earned on my own, and i have felt “disadvantaged” for this. but i am smart and clever and strong, and my ability to become accomplished in spite of lacking formal education is itself a position of privilege. intelligence is a gift and a privilege.

born an american citizen, i began with a level of privilege, a considerable one. just by living in the same country as mine or one similar, you too participate in some kind of privilege. being middle class, being a white woman, these give me incredible privilege i have barely been aware of. even with limited income, having limitless opportunities grants me privilege. living in circumstances that support a life of confidence and faith is a privilege. my incredible good health, though requiring my committed discipline, grants me significant privilege. family, friends, community…these bring a life of privilege.

how casually i live with advantages and call them merited. how easy it is to accept my privileges and believe them to be deserved. how easily i accept my gifts and view them as my rights. to consume a thing without seeing its gift is devastation.

may i ever deepen my appreciation for the gifts of the universe, may i increase my willingness to share with others, and may i enlarge my compassion for the world around me.


photography by diana christine

*for those who don’t know me well, let it be known i believe there is no such thing as an accident…

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