Blessed are those who are persecuted because of righteousness, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. — Matthew 5:10
Before beginning our year as Young Adult Volunteers, we spent a week in Stony Point, NY for orientation. We learned so much and I won’t be able to put together words that will do the week justice. But here are 3 important lessons I learned:
- White privilege is real. Most of the Young Adult Volunteers come from families that did not struggle to get what we needed. If I wanted something growing up, I would ask for it, and my parents would usually get it for me. We were given many opportunities that many minorities did not, and in general, white people get treated better than people of different ethnicities. It’s a sad fact, but it is a fact. At Stony Point we learned that we can’t “fix” our privilege. Our society created white privilege many years ago and changing that will take many more years (if it’s ever changed at all). Whether or not white people like myself like it or support it, we benefit from white privilege.
2. We are not going out to “help” the underprivileged. Some people may go into a year of service thinking we are going to help people who are less privileged than us and bring them closer to being “like us.” But minorities, the homeless, and the poor do not necessarily need our help. They need allies. Young Adult Volunteers are sent out to work with the underprivileged to achieve social goals together.
3. This year is for me. This year is about being uncomfortable and learning to see the darkness and suffering in the world. Our experiences as Young Adult Volunteers this year are more about dramatically changing ourselves, rather than the whole world. We are not going to be able to bring about world peace this year, but we’ll gain awareness of the inequality and injustice in the world and work to make small changes. In doing so, we will become stronger and able to be better allies to those who need them.
This year is meant to be difficult. I will be changed by my experiences, and I am willing to embrace the possibility of challenges.