Privilege is a headache
that you don’t know that you don’t have.
(Ani DiFranco, “Shroud”)
My day began with coffee and donuts and ended with cold pizza.
The coffee and donuts (purchased for $1 each from the sketchy donut shop around the corner) were consumed on porch steps, sitting with my boyfriend, enjoying the morning sunshine.
Next door is a youth home for teenage boys, one of whom was pacing in front of the house, talking loudly on his cell phone. He was clearly upset: you could hear the rising desperation in his voice as he pleaded with the person on the other end. A woman, I assumed. He’s on the phone a lot, upset a lot. I made a comment about how astronomical his phone bill must be.
And he says desolate into the phone: “You should have at least told me before you got the abortion! I didn’t even get to have an opinion.”
And my heart sinks for this kid, for his girlfriend, for the baby they weren’t having. For the life they weren’t having. We go inside to give him some privacy.
The pizza was consumed in a dingy office building in downtown Oakland. This was my first night volunteering for an organization that helps immigrant women start their own businesses.
“I don’t have much to offer,” I said over the phone when I signed up to volunteer. “I know how to use Word, if that helps.”
So this evening, I sat with these women, one-by-one, and helped them create 3-month budgets for their dream businesses: cleaning companies, bakeries, and salons. Speaking to me in broken English, they marveled at my ability to type with both hands and use Google. Beautiful women, with exotic names and hopeful dreams and far-away families.
“You’re an angel,” one of them says to me. Another hands me a Chinese knot, a “small gift” she says. She is handing them out to the students in the class, for good luck. I try to decline: I don’t need luck. But she insists and I take it home.
My life has felt tough lately. I’m unemployed, uninsured, and I’ve been couch surfing for months. I don’t have a plan; I don’t have savings. I’m battling boredom, discouragement, and loneliness. I get frustrated when my bike tires are out of air, or I have to wait my turn to use the washing machine, or when the bottom of my pants get wet in the rain.
It is so easy to get insulated by my own tragedy, to numb myself to the spinning world around me. But tonight, before I sleep, I cry for a while. I am grieving unfairness, injustice, suffering, lack of possibility, hopelessness… but not only for myself this time.
Perspective is presence, like waking up. Perspective is invitation, engagement, a call to change. And I am painfully grateful for mine today.
What experiences, big or small, have reminded you to be present and engaged? What pains are you grieving, for yourself or others, right now? How do you keep perspective in a suffering world?
Sharing today with brothers & sisters…