The first time I realized–like, really realized–how much people’s upbringings can differ was in college. We were walking down to the cafeteria when a friend looked at her phone and said, “Oh, I’ll catch up. My dad’s here to drop off my tuition check.”
That’s a far cry from my little crying jag when I came up $700 short freshman year. I’m happy for my friend: her parents were doing their best for her. My parents were doing their best for me, too. They bailed me out when I came up short and even sent a bit of “pop money” each month. I’m so grateful.
It’s easy to look at somebody else’s life and say, “Must be nice.” I do this too often. But when I do, not only am I sacrificing an opportunity to thank God for the many blessings I do enjoy, I also forget how privileged I am compared to others.
In The Sum of Small Things, Currid-Halkett comes back again and again to a mindset in the wealthy/aspirational class of having arrived by hard work, saying that their
“self-assurance with their decisions and seeming deservedness of their social position allows them to ignore the growing inequality all around them. At the very least, they do not see themselves to blame.” (pg. 23)
Matt and I have had what we call a “good bounce” after the recession, though more accurately, God has provided for us immensely. Our path seems to be headed somewhere that will provide solid health insurance and other benefits and enough money that I can choose to work or not. But things might also turn out another way. Who knows?
Either way, I don’t want to ignore or forget how privileged I am. So let’s name some ways.
1. I grew up with two married parents with stable jobs.
I have no context for divorce beyond TV. I’ve seen my parents argue, probably I’ve seen them go through phases of not really speaking to each other–or at least not wanting to. But our house was stable and there is great security there that I took for granted, just as every parent hopes.
2. I went to a solid public school.
I learned to read by phonics. I had recess a few times a day. We got to do that big parachute thing in elementary gym class and I ate crappy pizza off a rectangular tray. I didn’t love everything about going to public school and there are some things that have changed about it that make us hesitant to send our kids (too much testing, etc.), but I was taught to read and write well with a jumble of facts added in for good measure.
3. I’m white.
I never would have thought of this as a privilege because it was the default. A black family moved to town sometime in middle school, and there were a handful of Latino kids and Asian-adopted kid, but otherwise, everybody in my tiny town was white.
We learned about slavery, Martin Luther King, and Ruby Bridges and I thought it was terrible how people used to treat people of color and isn’t it great that that’s done now? Just like I know nothing about divorce, I don’t fully understand the privilege of being white, but I don’t want to overlook it, either. I’ve read and heard too much of the pain others have experienced to brush it off as finished history.
4. Going to college was a given.
In my circle of friends, college was a question of where not a question of going. It permeated the air at school and at home from my parents. My mom bought ACT and SAT prep books and helped me fill out applications and the dreaded FAFSA.
Without that support and culture, it would have been hard to navigate, as so many low-income and underserved students experience. But I had help, so I never questioned going.
5. I married the right guy.
During our first married fight, I let out a string of yelling and slammed the door to our bedroom, settling down for a long silent treatment.
Matt walked in, puzzled, and said, “We don’t do that.”
I have never had to worry about abuse, misuse of money, abandonment, anger, or even laziness. There is not a better husband on this earth–for me, anyway.
He’s great not just at home but in his work, and that blesses our family. If he hadn’t gotten himself to college (first in his family), worked hard through graduate school, and applied himself so diligently to his work, our life might look very different. He’s Mr. Wonderful and (praise God) Dr. Successful. He works hard for the security and future of his family, and I am so grateful.
6. I know how to find the information I need.
Google and I are good friends. Reddit can answer just about anything. If you research a question long enough or hard enough, you can probably find an answer.
Online research has saved us money and time and added all manner of fun or new information to our life. I know how to cook with good technique, breastfeed, change out a headlight bulb, teach my kids the necessary subjects (and know what those are), and so many other skills because I kept looking for answers that would serve us well.
7. God found me.
There is no greater benefit than knowing Christ. This is different from the rest of the list, but it still needs to be said. This does not change one’s status, rank or class, yet in Christ I am a new creation and have a framework for life in this world. I do not have to despair over the past or worry about the future; there is freedom in being held by the God who upholds the universe.
I came from more than some and less than others, but I never want to forget the many benefits I’ve been afforded in this life.
P.S. Are you enjoying this content? Do you have a friend who might enjoy it as well? Feel free to share a link back here with them; I’d love to grow this conversation!