Showing Gratitude Through Activism

I am a lucky person. I am a straight, white, healthy and able-bodied cisgender man living in the United States of America in a time when most of the information the human race knows is available to me through a computer that fits in my pocket.

I am at low risk for harassment or sexual assault. I am comfortable in my body as it is. My relationships are almost universally accepted as “normal”, at least as they appear to the public. I shave what I want, when I want, and almost never hear anyone speak up about it except to compliment me.

I do not have to worry about accessibility, hearing or vision impairments, or how long I will be able to maintain my balance or posture.

Band-aids have always been available in colors that don’t stand out too much against my skin. I can assume that most stores will have a shampoo I can use on the “Haircare” aisle instead of the “Ethnic” section; even cheap hotels provide them free of charge. The people we study in history class looked a lot like me every month except maybe February.

If a movie stars a person who looks like me, no one ever accuses it of being a politically motivated casting, though all art is political.

These are all things I have had to learn to be thankful for because it was always presumed to be “normal” for me. I strive to remember to be grateful and not to take these blessings for granted.

What shape does my gratitude take in the world? One very important aspect is that I work to pay attention to these little privileges that come with being born in the time, the place, and the body that I was. I listen to others when they tell me how their lives are different because of their skin or their gender or their health. I try to remember that those differences are a gift and that I ought to work harder to use them well.

My gratitude moves me to have talks like these and encourage others to be more compassionate and to work for equality. When I listen, and I hear something that is new information, I think about it and integrate it into my world-view.

That takes effort because our brains want to ignore information that seems trivial to our experience, especially if it contradicts the way we’ve been thinking about the world all along. I then try to use that information to shape how I talk about those issues and thus change conversations with other people who also don’t have those experiences. I do this because I know I am fortunate, and I don’t want luck to be such a huge factor in people’s success. I want it to be merit and skill and determination. We don’t have that now because so many people inherit poverty just the way a few inherit wealth. They don’t get quality healthcare, education, or nutrition, and that is influenced by things they have no control over as kids, so it taints their whole lives.

If you are reading this, you likely have some degree of privilege, too. I want to encourage you to take whatever privilege you have and utilize it to better the whole world. Let’s make luck less of a factor in success for the next generation.

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