Relationship As Privilege

December 9, 2016

We talk a lot these days about privilege. About white privilege, or male privilege, or straight privilege. The idea is that certain things beyond our control sometimes gives us an unfair head start in life. Or an unfair disadvantage. I think it's a vital discussion to have. Not to shame people for being born into relative safety and comfort, but to be aware of the ways in which things outside our control can contribute to our successes and difficulties. So that we can begin to close that gap.

As a straight white woman in a middle class family, I was born into privilege. That doesn't mean everything was always peachy-keen and that nothing shitty ever happened. Just that I started with some advantages. For example, as far as I know, nobody has ever judged me for the colour of my skin.

There is another way that I've been privileged: Relational privilege.

A few winters ago there was a propane shortage. The huge tanks that heat our house ran empty for the first time ever and when I called the propane company they told me they were out of propane as well and it would be at least two days before they could deliver more. And you know what? Within 20 minutes of sharing about this on social media we had multiple offers from friends and family willing to take our family of 8 in for the weekend. This is relational privilege.

I have a hundred examples. People who surrounded us with gifts and support as we welcomed each of our children into this world, , friends who delivered casseroles and encouragement during seasons of difficulty, a church family that prays for and nurtures us, friends who helped us move and paint, loved ones to fill the house on Christmas day, in-laws that pour life and love into our children, people to share a good cry with at the end of an especially hard week. No matter what life has thrown our way, we have never ever been truly alone in whatever we are going through.

And friends, this isn't the case for everyone. Not everyone has somebody to help them move. Or somebody to ask how they are doing. Or somebody to remember how they take their coffee. There are countless people moving through your city and mine right now who don't have a network of support and love. Whose birthdays go unnoticed.

In my years of serving those living in poverty I have had the privilege, on a few occasions, of baking grown men their first ever birthday cake. We've helped people move from one apartment to another, only to discover that their plan before we showed up was to leave behind everything they couldn't carry. We've visited people in hospital after surgery, people who expected to have nobody at all visit them.  Take this in for a minute: there are people in your community who go in for surgery without anyone knowing, without anyone checking in on them or bringing them a basket of fruit.

Relationships are vital. One of my favourite activist/blogger/street ministry leader/writer/pastor dudes likes to say that the opposite of homelessness is community. Community and healthy relationships go a long way to insulate us from what life throws our way. Surrounded by love, we are still shaken by the broken and difficult world, but those relationships help us climb back to our feet after the quake.  Those relationships protect us from from the tragedies outside of us and our own interior hurts.  Relationships matter.

If some tragedy occurred tomorrow, or I made some bad decisions, and somehow lost everything I have, my house, my van, my stuff, my credit cards, the 7 bucks in my savings account, everything, I wouldn't have to sleep in the snow tonight. Whether the loss was my fault or somebody else's or a series of freak accidents, me and my husband and my kids wouldn't have to find an abandoned building to sleep behind. Not because we've done anything right. But because of relationships. Because we were born into families and churches and communities that noticed us.

But if I lost those relationships?  My next bad day could be devastating.  This is true for every one of us.  Let us not take this for granted.

So friends, can we reach out this very day? To somebody who is travelling through this dark and difficult world alone? And offer them the hand of friendship? Because that hand of friendship is sometimes exactly what we need in order to keep putting one foot in front of another.

 And because everyone deserves to have somebody remember their birthday.




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1 comment

  1. Excellent article. We're from Western Canada and involved in a small church we've started in our town! While exhausting and messy at times, it is great privilege to share our lives and Christ. Maybe were not successful in the eyes of the church world but perhaps to the individuals to whom we share Christ,our lives and home, we can be a life line. Its often not the big things in life but the every day small acts(of being in a community). Our five kids lead a life of others with cards, help, and baked goods for those whose lives are a struggle. They think normal is talking with the girl from the streets who is cold over coffee and a sandwich. My eldest out running saw a man in tears, perhaps struggling with addiction she stopped to ask if he was ok listened to him and invited him to meet her dad. Now that is success! To truly care about those that most would pass by. I think Jesus may have took the time. Its not about that showy Christmas time "gift" for the needy, but do we truly take the time all year long to build relationships with those society would pass by. That with Christ will change lives. Anissa

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