I grew up in a modest home. My parents worked extremely hard. We always had food on the table, clothes on our back, and a roof over our heads. However, name brands, family vacations, and eating out were rarities. In between 40 hour work weeks, my parents volunteered their time to good causes. They reminded my sister and me of our blessings. When we complained that “EVERYONE has Guess jeans”, they reminded us, “Many people have it much worse than you.” As a teenager who desperately wanted the coveted red question mark on my derriere, I lost sight of my blessings. My parents’ love and sacrifices allowed me to go to college. My experiences there gave me the confidence to pursue graduate school. Now I live in one of the most beautiful and expensive cities in the country, and I work in a clinic that sees some of the poorest people who inhabit it.
On a daily basis, I hear stories of remarkable individuals dealt incredibly unfair hands . . . illness, businesses failing, trauma . . . which left them without a family, shelter, and/or money to cover basic needs. Food stamps do not cover razors or feminine products. I frequently ask, “Given everything you’ve endured, what keeps you going?” Their responses humble me . . . “God, my children, my dog, hope it’s got to get better, others have it worse than I do.”
Last night I appreciated the warmth of my down comforter given the plummeting temperature. I thought of my patients who lacked a warm bed to sleep in. It filled me with sadness and fear. I quickly attempted to expunge this thought. Privilege allows one to do that . . .change the channel, look straight ahead when someone is panhandling, and overlook the sociopolitical structures which perpetuate inequality in our society.
I recognize that I have to stand in the discomfort of privilege. Then, ask myself, “What I can do in my corner of the world to level the playing field a bit?” What can you do?