There comes a moment sometimes when you look around and realize just how privileged your life is.
And I’m not talking about “white privilege” here.
I’m talking about “American privilege.”
I went on Unsplash to look for pictures for blog posts, and it just sort of hit me. Beautiful people looking at smart phones and slim laptops. Perfectly plated food. Meticulous make-up, stunning skylines, people pursuing pastimes. Not all of them taken in America. But clearly from perspectives of wealth.
There are so many days when I don’t feel wealthy. But then I pause and look around my house, that I own, with all its decorations, refrigerator well-stocked, and books and hobbies lying around at random – and I know I’m richer than a good majority of the world.
And all the things that we Americans spend hours upon hours doing – scrolling through social media, watching TV shows, posting about another social justice cause, shopping online, playing video games – seems so vapid and meaningless. Especially when there are people suffering around the world through famines and droughts and lacking basic things like clean water and electricity.
So many Americans seem caught up in this cultural swell of “change” and “justice,” but what are they really changing? How is protesting in the streets, setting fires to businesses and looting them, or posting another hashtag actually making the world a better place? How can someone possibly think that waving a sign around about defunding the police is progress when there are people from all over the world who long to live in a country that is as safe and protected as ours?
But then people love to bring up the argument of the “white savior complex” when you start talking about the problems in impoverished countries. “How dare you think you can go in and solve all their problems??” goes the refrain.
Well, I don’t think I can solve all their problems – not even close. And I do believe that people in impoverished countries should receive the education and support they need to be self-sufficient and help move their own countries forward.
But I also know they need the partnership of brothers and sisters around the world who love them and want to help them on their way. If I have been given all this wealth in the country I’ve been born into (through no choice of my own), why should I be hoarding it all to myself instead of doing what Christ calls me to – which is to help those in need?
When I read the reports of what Compassion International is doing in Ethiopia where my sponsor child lives – and the impact that only $36 a month has on his life – I am blown away. When I read about what Samaritan’s Purse is doing with digging wells and bringing much needed medical help to remote villages, my heart is encouraged. When I read books like The Boy Who Harnessed the Wind and see the impact that one small windmill has on a whole community, I am inspired. Inspired by the ingenuity and perseverance of people in other countries who work to solve problems, and who could go so much further if they just had a little more assistance and support.
This last summer I also got to speak to a new friend in Uganda who was excited about the idea of bringing CYT’s high school leadership program to his city and country. He told me it’s exactly what their youth need to give them hope and promise for their future. Although plans had to stall for now, just knowing that this desire for growth and leadership development is there makes me thrilled.
I also love the idea of The Grace Case by Ann Voskamp – a quarterly subscription case filled with hand-crafted heirlooms made by sister artisans around the world. And all the proceeds go to support Mercy House’s transition home in Kenya. Unfortunately, when I went to sign up, they said they were currently sold out and I had to go on a waiting list for now. But this is practical support for women around the world who can then support themselves and their families.
This is real change. This is living out a life of meaning. This is being the hands and feet of Jesus to people we may never meet.
I love what Ann Voskamp says about living this kind of life. She points back to Esther 4:14, which says, “And who knows whether you have not come to the kingdom for such a time as this?” Esther was placed inside the king’s palace at a very strategic time – and that was not an accident. God intended to use her place of privilege to save her entire nation.
If we have been given wealth and privilege in our country, it too was “for such a time as this” – not to be wasted on ourselves, but to be shared with those in need on a very practical level. And each of us has to give according to the Spirit’s prompting in our hearts – whether that’s to local homeless shelters and crisis pregnancy centers or to supporting children in other countries (or both).
I am all too often selfish and apathetic and indifferent. I get lost in the “American norm” of living without often lifting my eyes to consider the needs of the world all around me, both local and global.
But there are moments when that apathy gets shaken. And tonight was one of those moments. I pray that my heart would grow in its convictions and desires to live practical love and contribute to meaningful change.
And may God’s work be done in hundreds of new ways by His people for His glory.