I clicked on a Buzzfeed story that popped up in my newsfeed the other day: 18 Privileges That Many People Don’t Even Recognize.
Using my iPhone.
Inside the home I own.
Sitting on furniture that matches the room around it.
With a satisfied stomach.
On a weekend day with nothing else to do.
You get it, right? I KNEW I was reading from a position of my own privilege. I’m not rich, but I have what I need and I don’t worry much about it. Not everyone has stable housing, the “right” furniture, enough food, or the weekend off.
Still, the Buzzfeed-curated list broadened my perspective a little. I never considered having a pet or extra bedding or weekend off a privilege. Honestly, I never considered those things at all.
Fast forward a couple of days. A friend on a job search triggered a memory from one of my son’s summer jobs. He was in high school and wanted to make money for all kinds of important things: gas, dates, clothes, fun times with friends. His primary duties kept him on the cash register, but occasionally he’d help unload a truck, fold clothes, or update displays. He made sure his manager knew he was willing to work more hours, too.
When I heard him grumble one week about being scheduled for less hours than he had hoped, I asked why he didn’t push harder for more time. [You might want to sit down for this.]
Mom, this job pays $9 an hour. I work there for extra money, but several people work there full-time to support their families, and I don’t know how they can do it for that amount. I feel guilty taking hours they would otherwise get. They need it more than I do.
My son realized something at seventeen years old that I didn’t fully assimilate until this week. Even working can be a privilege, especially when it’s (in today’s vernacular) extra.
I encouraged my kids to hold jobs while they were in high school so they would hone a work ethic, learn how to interact on a professional level, and of course, have some pocket money. I got my first job at 14 and have worked ever since. Those first jobs were a rite of passage.
How lucky we were to have that option. If my kids’ jobs interfered with their schoolwork, they had to quit. If the hours at one job didn’t accommodate some “need,” they’d look for a different one. Want some new electronics Mom won’t buy? That’s easy: extra hours.
Thanks to the unexpected insight of a seventeen-year-old, a Buzzfeed article, and a few years to percolate in between, I now realize that what I once considered a rite of passage is truly a gift.
My luxury might be someone else’s livelihood. Chew on that for a while.