Wednesday, December 13, 2006

Choice: The REAL Difference Between "Haves" and "Have Nots"

Part of the ministry my faith community shares in is providing food stuff for a local pantry. At Thanksgiving we put together large baskets of food for those in need. The pantry gave us a specific list of what to place in those baskets, and the people receiving them had no choice about what they were eating for Thanksgiving dinner. Next to that very specific list which I posted on my fridge as a reminder, was my family's dinner menus for the week. I had twelve diffferent menu options to choose from and we could choose to eat them on whatever day in whatever order we felt like.

This got me thinking about what a luxury it is to be able to choose, and how much I take this freedom to choose for granted.
I can choose what my family is going to eat or not. I can choose to go to the dentist or not. I can choose to walk or drive somewhere. I can choose whether to go on vacation and I can choose where I want to go. I even have the luxury of choosing whether to get a job or not. I possess the privilege of choice. And when I don't have the freedom to choose, I get mad, frustrated, upset.

As an inane example, my health insurance plan limits me to choose only those physicians who are designated as "preferred providers." The county by county list in my state of these "Preferred Providers" is very short. In a particular specialty, there may only be one doctor listed, and that lack of choice leaves me feeling powerless and indignant. I want/expect the right to choose what doctor I go to. But at least I can choose whether to go to the doctor's or not.

Those in poverty have no such luxury of choice.

Who's Shutting You Out?

ABC's 20/20 Program entitled "Privileged in America: Who's Shutting You Out" asked the wrong question and pointed the finger in the wrong direction. It changes nothing to encourage people to look at all the ways others are putting you down, shutting you out. It places blame on some system, some people group, some individual outside ourselves essentially handing power over our destiny to "them." Rather than stirring up our ire for all the ways we are suppressed, which only serves to reinforce or breed new prejudice, why not attempt to heal, reconcile, and empower us to move beyond the brokenness of this world in which we live?

The better question is the self-reflective one: "Who am I shutting out?"

We ALL have prejudices and biases that run in many, many directions and are derived from deep and unhealthy sources. A call to self-awareness, an inivitation to look critically at this internal brokenness within ourselves is what is more likely to bring change. As we see the ugliness in our lives and hearts and actions towards others, and as we hold ourselves accountable to act and think and be in new ways that are whole and healthy and reconciling then we will see wounds mended, systems transformed, and humans treating humans as, well, humans.