Born Privileged

In the very early hours of July 15th, 1984, I came into this world. Born in a hospital with well-trained staff, up to date equipment and an overall safe and clean environment. After my birth I was taken home to a comfortable house where I had a roof over my head and somewhere warm and safe to sleep. I am white. I am Canadian. I was born privileged.

I know that word can make some people feel uneasy. Privileged. It’s not an insult. It’s not something to feel ashamed of. But it is a fact.

When I was 21 years old I made the decision to leave my home country to volunteer in Honduras, later traveling onwards throughout Central America, and down to South America, where I spent several months volunteering and hopping from country to country… to countries where I met and worked with dozens of people. People who never would have been able to make that same choice in return. No one stopped me at the borders and told me I couldn’t enter. No one sent me back to my home country and told me I was not welcome there. That is privilege.

At 22 years old while working at a job in the United States, I fell inlove. He was British. I was Canadian. And although we spent many hours discussing where our future may take us, we never once worried whether we would even be allowed to be together in the same country. That is privilege.

Yesterday a Haitian friend of mine came to me for advice. He asked me if I thought he should keep sending $40 of his $70 a month salary to his family in Haiti so that they can buy food each month, or if he should try to get them all over to the Dominican Republic where, yes, it will be more expensive for them to live, but at least he will wake up and see his family everyday.

He, just like the countless black men shot in America in the past decade, and the thousands and thousands of Syrian refugees trying to find a place to call home, and the kid at the toy store who gets followed around by the shop attendant just because he is black… they weren’t born with the same privilege.

Those people will all write their own stories, but they didn’t choose those beginnings. I didn’t choose this privileged beginning and I do not feel guilty for it. However, because of it, I will make sure I do everything in my power to use this privilege for good.

It could mean educating the guy on your Facebook feed who is claiming he doesn’t want any Syrian refugees coming in and taking over ‘his land’. It could mean sticking up for the kid at school who gets teased because her hair is ‘different’. It could mean speaking up when you know darn well that yes, all lives do matter but right now what we need to be focusing on is that BLACK LIVES MATTER. It could mean using a connection to help someone get a job they otherwise might not have had access to. It could mean donating what you can, whether it is the left over change in your pocket after getting a coffee or your whole annual bonus to someone who might just need it that little bit (or a lot) more. It means using your privilege to confront racism when you see it in action, whether on your Facebook feed, in line at the grocery store, or in your own work place. We have that responsibility.

We have that privilege.

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Choose Love

When I was about 14 years old I found a dress in my mother’s closet. It was navy blue, sleeveless, silky and had brown leaves on it. I remember putting on the dress and admiring it in the mirror. I loved that dress. I loved the way it made me feel older. It took me outside of those difficult and awkward teenage years to a new place, much farther away. Yet I never wore it outside the safe walls of my bedroom. I didn’t wear it out, not because my mum wouldn’t let me but because I feared what people would say or who would laugh. Being a teenager is tough. Every haircut, every new item of clothing, every new pair of shoes, every packed lunch… every little thing is being judged, criticized and evaluated by your peers.

The good news is that all of that hard stuff, all of that judgement, it all ends as soon as the teenage years have passed….. at least that’s what I dreamed when I put on that navy blue dress. If only that were the truth, maybe then it would make those tough teenage moments that little bit easier, that little bit more hopeful. The truth is, being an adult is tough too. There are people out there who want to pick you apart, watch you fail and beat you down until you don’t think you can go any lower.

That unkindness isn’t just found in the school yard, or in the office, but in the comfort of our homes, on our laptop screens and right in the palm of our hands. People are teasing teenagers, shaming mothers, judging you, judging me. Bullying people, most of whom they have never met and never will meet.

The good news is, that behind those screens, in the halls of those schools, on the street, in the parks, all around us, you can also find kindness. The sort of kindness that makes you tear up, gives you goosebumps and reminds you that there really is so much good in the world, even if it isn’t always easy to find.

The world has been dishing out some very scary, very sad realities lately. Events that can make even the most optimistic of us lose sight of the kindness and the love. But it is times like these that we need to search even harder and work even harder to find it and spread it. Spread kindness to your neighbours, your friends, your family, your students, your teachers, the stranger at the bus stop, the mother in the grocery store, the kid crying in the playground, or the teen sitting by themselves in the lunch room. Spread kindness in person, in messages, in gestures, in smiles and in hugs. In the past few weeks I have had a couple of old friends come out of no where and do things for me that they didn’t need to do… some pretty awesome things. They didn’t do it to be thanked or praised. They just did it to be kind and because they thought of me. And believe me, whether they fully realize just how much, they truly made a difference.

Earlier this week, after watching yet another tough news story roll in, I said to my husband, “I wish people would just be kinder to each other.” and he responded that it isn’t that easy, that unkindness surrounds us and sadly, it isn’t going anywhere. Unfortunately, he is right, unkindness does surround us, but it doesn’t mean kindness can’t win and that love can’t win, but it takes us to make that choice. So when you wake up tomorrow morning, whether you wake up with a smile already on your face or you’re dragging yourself out of bed to yet another day of work, and maybe you’re frustrated because there is too much traffic, or someone pushed in front of you in line, and you just want to scream….. Stop. Breath.

Choose kindness. Choose love.

We got this.

Choose Love