Awareness and Perspective, Gratitude and Privilege

I’ve written a lot about gratitude. It was part of our reflections on Joy in mid February, and the word of the day on the following Monday, when I wrote a new Meditation on the subject. That was not the first Monday Mediation on the subject, either. It has become almost trite to tell people to count their blessings and be glad for what they have. We even slipped that message in last Tuesday as we asked you to contemplated Abundance.

Few people are offended at being asked to think about the ways they have been blessed, the little things that they didn’t really have to earn, but that make their lives better or more fulfilling. We can’t simply choose what kind of people we meet and are able to befriend, or even who will be our family, much less where they will live and what kind of education, cultural opportunities, or nutrition we will be raised on. If you are reading this, on a computer, via the internet, it is safe to say that you have been blessed in your life.

The United Church of Christ took a different angle on that last month, and it really upset people. They posted a simple message:

White Privilege. If you can’t see it, you got it.

Now, there are many kinds of Privilege; being healthy, physically and mentally; access to clean water and shelter; being comfortable with the biology you were born with. I am a white, straight, man and I was born in a healthy body that I am comfortable in, and I know all of those things give me advantages in most of the county I live in. This message focused on one type of privilege, because it is one very important one that we can probably address if we, as a culture, chose to.

Nothing about that message is meant to shame anyone. Nothing about it is angry, or even assigns blame. It says that some people are born with blessings they don’t even know to count, and that fact is abundantly true. It was still a magnet for so much anger, as people who were asked to be aware of their blessings, their unearned privileges, lashed out. “How dare you try to shame me for something I have no control over?” was a common theme. (I am sure that there are a lot of people who are not white who can sympathize with the feeling.) People were asked to be aware, and the smallest discomfort at that awareness made many very angry. That is natural, of course, but it is also a symptom of a problem being uncovered. It can be the beginning of real change.

Change can be painful. Pain is scary. Fear leads to anger. And being angry is much easier than becoming aware. We hope that our community, and UUs in general, strive for more than that. We hope you will overcome the fear and the discomfort and try, honestly, to be aware of what you have, all that you have, that others might not. We hope you will be moved to look for ways you can work to share your blessings, your privilege, with those who were not equally lucky.

What good is #awareness if we are not moved to #action? More on that next week…

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