Unfinished Thoughts on Privilege


A few rushing thoughts

I have called the Sheriff three times this summer. The first of these incidents was the worst and has bothered me ever since it happened. It involved a homeless person who tried on several occasions to get a free night’s stay the campground. They harassed the other hosts, eventually coming into their site and screaming at them at 10:30 at night. After several days of trying to reasonably accommodate them, the Sheriff was called. Two officers came by to encourage this person to pack their things and eventually they were escorted off the property.

As the staff discussed the incident, on of my co-workers wondered aloud, as so many people do, “How does a person even end up like that?”

How indeed?

I am a homeless person. My permanent address is for a place I haven’t lived in years. I don’t live in a house or apartment, and I do not have what can be described as a “stable” living situation (totally unrelated note, anyone hiring in September?). But I am not counted among the homeless. Because I am lucky, I am counted instead with the growing number of mostly young, white and middle class nomads who have had the luxury to choose homelessness in favor of pursuing their passions, living alternative lifestyles, saying “damn the Man” and retiring early.

I am lucky because others worked very hard to make sure that I was able to graduate high school, find work, have completely free access to mental health treatment and take my time graduating from college. I am lucky because others have let me live in their homes for free on multiple occasions, given me rides to work, been references on job applications and paid me to hangout with their kids and pets. I am lucky because others have invested time and emotional energy into giving me tools that I didn’t even know I needed.

Last week, I read an amazing article by Christopher May who wrote, “The privilege of privilege is not knowing itself.” Despite living paycheck to paycheck for most of my adult life, I never gave much thought to how safe it was for me to flirt with that line until recently. Working in a rural, low-income community has made me aware of my economic privilege in a way I never have been before. Mostly, I just feel guilty about my perceived inability to do anything about it. I recognize that I’m still oblivious in a lot of ways. All I can say at this point in my learning process is that I am profoundly thankful to the people who have invested in my life, and I want to be able to do the same for others as soon as possible.

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