Seeing homeless people is oftentimes extremely disheartening and sometimes even guilt-provoking. Tonight, as I exited the ramp from the Kennedy onto Irving Park Road, I saw a man stumbling rather haphazardly on the narrow white lines of the road. I couldn’t imagine what it must be like to stand in the middle of the road, completely vulnerable, naked with humility, and begging for just the slightest amount of assistance. In fact, just a few weeks ago, I was on the train when a woman boarded, noting how “humiliating” it was to have to beg for money on the train, but that it was her only hope at getting some money to feed her kids for the night.
I know a lot of you are probably thinking this is bullshit, that she probably was lying, but she had me when she mentioned how humiliating it was. She had me because I was suddenly able to connect with her and understand what it truly meant to be lucky–or blessed–or fortunate. No, I don’t really like those words. Maybe it just helped me step back and appreciate what I have.
It’s really hard for me to believe that anyone is simply “lucky” or “blessed.” Lucky, on one hand, implies that we play little to no role in the positivity in our lives. A good job, good friends, possessions, don’t merely come from luck. They don’t only come from factors beyond our control, do they? I suppose the world into which we are born colors the rest of our lives, but it would be inaccurate to say that this factor, in and of itself, determines the entirety of our existence.
Saying that someone is simply lucky implies that they’ve only relied on some sort of external factor, a factor completely out of one’s locus of control, a happening or predisposition that has provided all of the good things that come one’s way. In some cases, people do “make their own luck,” and this luck can manifest itself in a variety of arenas, no matter your walk of life. But is it really “luck” then? Is it “luck” if the individual has played a large role in the outcome?
Similarly, I’ve come to dislike the word “blessed.” Blessed connotes a meaning similar to “lucky” or “fortunate.” Once again, this predisposition lies somewhere outside of our locus of control, maybe less so than sheer luck. Instead, blessings imply a religious context, where God or some other Creator has bestowed grace upon his believers–an undeserving, yet unconditional, love. And with this love comes bounties of blessings. And in my mind, the term “blessing” implies that someone (i.e., God) has given that person something that they are apparently not giving to other people. So why you? Or why the person who is apparently “blessed”? What are you doing that others are not doing?
It seems like this term “blessed” not only implies an unequally distributed gift, but that somehow this external being managed to see something within you that makes you more deserving of these blessings than others. Perhaps it is a devotion to this divine being, perhaps it is your kindness, or perhaps you merely think it is one of these things, allowing you to put yourself on a pedestal.
And we wonder why people begin to believe that they are better than others. We wonder why people place themselves in hierarchies. We wonder why people begin to judge others.
Perhaps, in some capacities, we don’t have as much control as we’d like, but I find it nearly impossible to say that we play no part in the quality of our futures, that even in the most bleak of times, even when we feel powerless and without control–when we feel “unlucky” or “unblessed”–we still are able to take control of something, that there is still something that we can hold on to and appreciate, and we don’t need to feel “lucky” or “blessed” to do so.
So today, I merely appreciate my ability to appreciate. I’m not appreciating how “lucky” or “blessed” I am; rather, I am appreciating what I have. However, I refuse to believe that I deserve it more than anyone else, and I neither believe that my role in the making of these present conditions was meaningless, nor do I believe that my actions will not have any sort of impact on the future of these conditions.
I am not lucky; I am not blessed. I am not fortunate, favored, or charmed. No one chose me, but I also didn’t do it all on my own. I have things that others do not have, and others have things that I do not have.
I simply am, and I am appreciative to be.