No, not lucky. Privileged. Or if I reverted back to the flavor of evangelicalism with which I was raised, blessed. Ick. Just the word puts a bad taste in my mouth. Seriously. Maybe I'm so cynical, but hearing it, writing it, reading it brings to mind all the bad connotations it has.
I have a better job than you.
My relationship with my opposite-gendered partner who lives into his/her biblically defined roles is better than yours.
I have more money than you.
My kids are better behaved (read: better parented) than yours.
I'm whiter than you are.
Okay, so it's a cynical night. Frankie and I went out last night to see Oz, the Great and Powerful. Afterwards, waiting for the train at Grand, we were approached by a homeless man, African-American, probably in his 50s. Ok, we weren't approached. Frankie was. Out of the corner of my eye, I could see him walking towards Frankie, and in all honesty, I stepped away, listening but not engaging. I have a tendency to do that, especially when in the subway.
Frankie listened quietly as the man, Tony, shared his story and asked for some help.
Missing most of his front teeth, he was gentle, almost eloquent in his own way.
He talked about wanting to have his own place, able to come and go as he pleased. He wanted to hold the key to an apartment in his hand, knowing it was his own. A bed to sleep in. Warmth. Stability. And in a very Wesleyan fashion, I felt my own heart break for myself, for my judgment and stereotypes, my own racism and classism. Frankie gave him some cash (I didn't have any small bills on me). I talked with him about shelters, where he was staying that night. I know that, if a homeless person is out that late at night, odds are they're sleeping either outside or on the train.
On the train, I commended Frankie for his patience. We both struggle with the question of how to engage people who are less well off than we are. What can we do? Anything? How far do we go? There are times where I have no problem handing over a 20. Other times I don't do it because it feels... cheap. Almost insincere.
Even though I'm gay, most my life is spent with racial, class (albeit imagined or pretended), and gender privilege. I'm white. I'm middle-class(ish), and I'm male. I walk into a room and certain presumptions can be made about me by how I look, dress, and carry myself, and in all honesty, my sexual orientation isn't noticeable until, well, I speak, and even then not consistently.
My heart ached for Tony on Saturday as it does whenever I'm willing to let my guard down and truly encounter the person deemed "other" by society and by myself. My girlfriend Audrey and I play this game sometimes where we ask each other what we'd do if we ever won the big jackpot, you know, the 9-digit one. Over time, I find the amount that I'd be willing to give away, to toss into the wind, getting larger and larger, holding on to less and less for myself and my partner. Then again, to win the lottery, one has to play, something I rarely make time for or put much stock in.
And so I settle for treating these people labeled trash, garbage, expendable, and disposable by much of popular culture, as human, treating them the way I want to be treated. Eye contact. Being called by name. Hugs. Handshakes. Sitting down for a meal.
I'm not lucky. I'm loved, and as such, I'm called to love in ways that make me uncomfortable, ways that might make some people think twice about, ways that would make me seem strange to passers-by. Besides, life's a craps table, and sometimes, when you win, all you wanna to is spread the wealth and share the love, even if the wealth is something other than money, and the love only lasts for a few moments.
If you live in the city, then you know who and what I'm talking about. And if you're a person of faith (though I'd venture if you're a person at all), then you're called to live by the Golden Rule. Every person is worth something. Every person has value. Take time to notice it. Take time to pay attention, to buy a cup of coffee, to sit down at Subway or Potbelly. Research shelters so you can be a stepping stone. Make friends with people in the service industry so you can call them for information on how you can help these people who are often just seen as un-lucky. Love the person who has nothing to give you in return other than themselves.