I spend a good amount of ink (or screen space) on differences in gender, race and age. Another area of difference that is huge and important is socio-economic differences. I am privileged in this realm of differences – and aware of the great divide between “haves” and “have nots.” I am blessed to be a “have” and hope to make some contribution to “have nots” in my charitable work and giving. I want to make a more important difference: helping narrow that divide. I recently had an experience that gave me a bolt of awareness of this kind of difference – and my privilege.
I am not happy with what I hear in the public discourse about immigration. It seems to be based on fear instead of on reason and compassion. Rather than get angry, I am getting busy. I am representing an immigrant on a pro bono (no charge) basis. I realize this is a tiny contribution in light of the millions of refugees and people who have entered our country to avoid terrible conditions. I am reminded of the story about the starfish. In a nutshell, thousands of starfish have been washed ashore in a storm. A child throws one at a time back into the sea. An adult tells her that her actions are futile in light of the number of dying starfish. Her response is to throw another one, saying, “Well, it makes a difference to this one!”
So I am trying to help one of millions. Whether my efforts succeed or not, it is a gift to me. It takes me out of my own world of plenty and comfort. My story of that “bolt of awareness” needs no explanation or philosophizing.
I recently met (along with a translator) with my client, who is seeking legal status through a long journey involving stacks of papers. I learned of the awful conditions that the client escaped by coming to the U.S. I learned about the awful, but less awful, conditions she is living in here. . . . Then I got into my Lexus and drove to my second home.
My socio-economic privilege is so clear to me. I know others are struggling with things I’ve never had to encounter. Regardless of how I do with my first starfish, I will try to help more!
Are you trying to help some kind of “starfish”? What reminds you of your privilege?
My friend Michael said: do you offer training and/or remedies for our inability to recognize and overcome unconscious bias.
Yes and thanks for the question. I think the only remedy is to learn to recognize our unconscious bias. That’s what my workshops are designed to do!