Tag Archives: perserverence

Checking My “Privilege”

Everyone loves a good Internet quiz. I stumbled on one on Mashable I had to do this week.

It was about determining your “privilege” quotient. There were 100 check off boxes. You got one point for every box you checked off. The higher your score, the more “privileged” you are. 

I got a 52, which the quiz creators seem to think is somewhat high. Despite the fact that I’m not a man, was bullied as a child, and have been discriminated against for my gender and religion. After all, I am white, have never lived below the poverty line, have traveled abroad and remain the same gender I was when I was born.

The whole fight against “privilege” strikes me somewhat odd. Or maybe I should say backwards. I certainly understand that human beings have a way to go when it comes to equality, and I applaud strides to get us there. But why exactly does that mean we attack the achievement of those who have gained comfort?

Many of the questions on the quiz seemed not to be judging me so much as they were accusing my parents of beng successful people. I don’t mean one percent successful. There are many people between those in poverty and those swimming in money. I mean employed, educated, comfortable, hard-working middle class people. 

My parents sent my brother and I to Catholic grade school and high school. They sent us both to college – they made too much to get any real financial aid but not enough that paying tuition wasn’t a real sacrifice. Our family visited my father’s family in Germany, and he helped me buy a car when I was in grad school. He and my mother now enjoy spoiling my daughters, their only grandchildren. 

My father, who came to the U.S. after World War II, learned English, became a citizen, got a college education, and became a successful engineer, considers these things major achievements. Caring for his family, and preparing a new generation to contribute to the world, was a goal he set and achieved. He is a hero to me.

But apparently in today’s conventional wisdom, providing “privilege” to my brother, me and my children, is wrong. When my father came to this great country, it was all about using freedom to create opportunity. Some were more successful than others, but everyone had a chance to better themselves. Even German immigrants after the horror of Nazi Germany. Today, the best opportunity Americans seem to find is in discovering who is to blame for their misery and using the system to take whatever someone else has earned away from them.

I did not grow up rich. Nor am I now. My husband and I pinch pennies to provide our children with all we can. My parents were not “connected” people. They kept there noses to the grindstone, and have hard work and commitment to thank for what they have and what they have given to us.

Having lived a comfortable life does not make me insensitive to the needs of others. I know many people with varied human needs. I do my best to provide support, aid and friendship that lifts those who are down. I do that because it’s the right thing to do. The very international travel and education that’s supposed to make me “privileged” has actually brought me greater understanding of others, just like it was supposed to.

Not being black, Hispanic, poor, gay, trans or whatever does not mean a person has not been discriminated against. (The quiz, interestingly, did not have questions related to age, disability, etc) I’ve faced discrimination for being Catholic, diabetic, female, depressed, married and having children. My husband has faced hardship for being a farmer, hunter, union member, energy company worker, and white man with facial hair. EVERYONE faces discrimination at some time in their lives. 

Yes there is true, heartbreaking discrimination in the world. But it won’t be eased by driving a wedge between those who have found success in life and those who have not. Instead, we should be looking to those who have achieved to learn how to do it ourselves. We should be raising one another up with the gifts God has given each of us.

“Privilege” is something that is earned through hard work. It’s something that illustrates just what we can achieve. Not something that makes us less human, or less compassionate. It’s not yet another reason to throw stones at others.

Can I Trust You?

My hair hurts.

I’ve been spending a lot of time these days thinking about trust. And I’ve got to say, I’ve got nothing.

I can honestly tell you I currently trust a total of seven people. Two are 10 and under.  And if homework is involved, there can be lapses there.

But that’s not the kind of trust I’m really talking about. Kids are going to fib if they think they’re headed for trouble. I’m talking about the kind of trust you base life decisions on – the kind you build your foundation on and take refuge in.

For many years, since childhood until my 30s, I trusted freely. I believed in people, and I believed those who I spent time with, worked with and for, and knew me in my community, if they claimed to like me, accepted me for who I was. We may not have agreed on everything, but I thought my inside person – the part of me that loves, hates, likes, dislikes, thinks etc – was safe with them. I rarely held back my feelings on anything, even if I changed them, or they led to what I considered an “agree to disagree” situation.

Much has changed. A few years ago, I lost the woman who had been my best friend since high school. In a somewhat heated discussion in front of all of our other friends, suffering with serious depression, I told her I didn’t think our relationship was reciprocal – and that it had been a long time since it had been, if it ever was. After over 25 years, in which we always said “friends can tell each other anything,” she kicked me out of her house. I apologized – in writing no less – at least three times. She has yet to accept. 

I’m sure we don’t know each other at all any longer. Nor do I know the others who were there that night any more, even those who promised to support me but have now even unfriended me on Facebook.  Sadly, I couldn’t even say I’d trust any of them now if I had to.

I’ve tried to keep up and “fix it” – I have sent Christmas cards, gifts for my God child. Tried to find out what’s happening through other sources. I pray daily I’m forgiven. I pray for my friend, our friends, their children, their parents. Heck, I even tried to die once of a heart attack. I got a delivery of rotten pineapple and cantaloupe from four couples who were once my foundation. No calls, no cards. To this day, it’s the most painful part of that experience – I truly was sick of a broken heart.

But I digress. Recent turns in the world have me realizing that beyond my tight circle, I’m really not sure who or what there is to trust in.  Obviously not age-old friends who’ve abandoned me. I have relatives I cannot trust, who have literally stolen or attempt to steal from me when I’ve showed them kindness. I had colleagues who destroyed my confidence and eventually my career because I put my children above my job. Not doctors who can’t seem to comfort or heal me. I love my country – yet the very president shows contempt for my religion, my race and my upbringing.

I’m confused also about my Church. As an adult, I’ve finally gained an understanding of what it stands for, what its traditional teachings show. While I’m busy striving to be God’s servant and falling on my face in the process like any real Catholic, our clerics are giving the impression that perhaps THEY no longer trust the Word of God.

In this world, I find love only in my family and my dogs. I hide from most of the rest for fear my heart cannot take any more loss. And I’ve come to understand those who say God is their light. Not the God wrapped in the majesty of the Church. Not the superhero one we look for when something awful happens and we wonder why he allows it. But the one who’s strong hand I can feel on my shoulder at night when I open my Bible and allow him to lead me to the right passage to heal my anger and fear. The one who gently shows me each day, through my beautiful daughters, that the world might be ok after all. The one who trusts ME to raise them. The one who gives me the ability to share my often unpopular ideas here with you.

I’ve found through my recent thinking, in our world so full of lies, he is the one I trust most of all.

And the Last Shall be First

A few months ago, my daughters started running cross country for their school.
I convinced them to give it a try for a few reasons. One needed to find something to engage herself in that she could call her own. The other needed a bit more physical fitness in her life. And I didn’t want either of them to become an adult like me who hates exercise.
While I was busy focusing on how they could benefit, I never stopped to think the pursuit -and my girls- would end up teaching me the real lessons.
One of my daughters it turns out has a real knack for this running thing. She improves all the time. The other…maybe not so much.
Today, they ran one of the more challenging courses they’ve been dealt so far. I knew one would finish near the end. The other I expected in the middle of the pack. Earlier, I had watch them set out with something of a wince. My one daughter, as expected, was dead last, and continued to fall behind as the pack moved out of sight.
As I waited near the finish line, kids were coming in one after another. But not either of mine. The field was thinning. Earlier finishers were heading home. And I saw one of my girls come into view. She had to be near the end of the heap, yet she didn’t look particularly spent or tired. Odd.
A few moments later, I saw her sister, the one who struggles more with her performance and technique. She was obviously exhausted. Pushing ahead in what seemed to be agony, she was also gathering the support of the parents watching, her teammates and competitors from other schools. They were running with her. Cheering her on.
Tears were clouding my eyes under my sunglasses. I hurt for her, physically and emotionally. All parents surely understand. It’s painful to watch your child struggle so publicly.
I hugged the daughter who had finished and handed her water as I turned back to the course. The other’s coach was now running at her side, encouraging her gently but firmly. Other runners from the home team came to run with her. Cheers were growing louder. I couldn’t help but wonder if the support – all genuine – lifted her or embarrassed her. But as she crossed the finish in a crowd of people, there was no frown.
She walked into my arms, and when she saw my tears, she cried herself. I turned her beautiful face, covered in sweat and wet hair, up to mine and kissed her forehead. I had never been more proud of her, my heart felt fuller than I thought it could.
Her perseverance was inspiring. And I told her so. That I would think of that moment every time I wanted to give up, take the easy way out. Take a nap instead of doing something that needed doing. And she smiled a beautiful smile, and said, “I love you mom.”
We gathered our stuff, and people came by, still cheering her on. “Great job, honey.” “Great way to hang in there, kid.” I was proud to be her mom.
As we were walking to the car, her sister, the more talented runner, took my hand. Another coach had been encouraging her to take on more in her training, greatly impressed with how far she’d come so fast. I wondered how that would progress now that she had finished second to last.
“She finished it, mom.” She said and smiled. I looked down at her and finally understood why she finished so far back. Just a moment before, I thought I couldn’t be more proud. But I was. I realized she had stayed behind on the course with her sister to support her effort just to finish, instead of pursuing her own interest in a stronger time.
My kids have done more than learn to run and stay healthy as I had planned. One has re-energized me to fight on when the days get hard. The other showed me that not all winners cross the finish first. Some do it last.