It was an unusual staff meeting. They were scheduled quarterly, but this– the morning after we heard the news– seemed especially frivolous, especially insignificant.
When he won the nomination I knew he would win the presidency. There’s a pervasive “me first” culture I see and hear (and, regretfully, sometimes participate in when it suits me) that seems overwhelming. Diplomacy and objectivity don’t bode well with selfishness.
Despite my prediction, this morning was emotionally devastating. I lost the will to get up, to participate, to contribute. I didn’t want positive speeches by rich, privileged CEOs who would never have to experience the real-life, trickle down effects of the politics of exclusion. I didn’t want to see colleagues feigning disappointment, waxing poetic about activism, or pretending to be disenchanted.
This was Lord of the Flies all over again. This was The Summer of My German Soldier absent the love affair and with greater emphasis on grief and war.
She chose her words carefully, but purposely. We were a diverse bunch. More than 200 staff members in attendance. There were visitors from Australia who worked with refugees and undocumented immigrants. There were accountants, VPs, Directors, Chancellors, case managers, teachers, and social workers. Many of whom with a recently changed citizenship status themselves. Many of whom who were bilingual, bi-cultural, or biracial.
All of us were employees of a nonprofit community center in the heart of Houston, in the heart of Texas. The day after the end of the world, if there was ever a group that could offer solace: this would be it. Superficially if nothing more, this was the kind of safe space I needed. (Even if it was too soon to connect, to mourn, and to publicly & collectively grieve).
“This isn’t a bipartisan issue. This isn’t about race, culture, or hometown. This isn’t about what side of the tracks you come from or on what side of the ocean you were raised. I truly believe there are two groups of people. Two distinct worldviews, two distinct camps.
You either believe, truly believe, that there is enough to go around, or you don’t. You believe there is enough opportunity, enough resources, enough power, enough wealth, enough freedom, enough love, or you don’t. You either believe there is enough for everyone or you don’t.”
It was the first time I’d ever considered it in those terms, but I completely, whole-heartedly agreed.
What is enough?
I struggle with privilege. It’s a simple idea I think, but one that’s deeply rooted in who we are and how we live. I want to believe that my successes, however trivial, have been engineered by my own ingenuity. That my sacrifices, my discipline (few and far between), and my dedication have set me apart and made me special. (LOL, right?)
I want to believe that my commitment to education and to service have made an impact and have changed lives. I want to believe that I have changed lives. And more than anything, I want (wanted) to be seen as an individual. The struggle. (More on that later.)
In less than a year my parents will celebrate their 40th wedding anniversary. Neither of them will be 60 years old. To me (but perhaps more importantly, statistically), their union is significant:
- Educational attainment and family structure are inextricably linked.
- On average, children of married couples a) complete more years of schooling, b) are more likely to graduate from high school, attend college, and complete college, c) are less likely to demonstrate behavioral problems in school, d) are more proficient in Math & Science (random, right?), and e) are 85% less likely to be in special education classes than children from single-parent households.
- Children of two-parent households experience greater lifetime earnings, are more involved in community activities, and are more likely to take advantage of opportunities outside of school.
- Children who live with both parents are also 20-35% healthier than those from other family structures.
- Children of married couples are 82% less likely than their counterparts to live in poverty. EIGHTY-TWO PERCENT LESS LIKELY.
I believe there is enough.
I also believe there are people who don’t want us to believe it, and who would do anything to keep us in the dark and to keep us in competition with each other. Worse still, there are those who feel entitled to keep it from the rest of us because they believe they matter more. They believe their children matter more. They believe they are more significant.
I want to believe, but I am doubtful, that this (or they) can be changed.
What is enough?