Privilege—taken for granted or shared with others?
Written by Olivia Masih White
July - August 2004
Last year, while house hunting in Cleveland, I was caught in a blackout in the heat of August. Electricity, which I take for granted, was no longer there when needed.
At the Radisson Gateway Hotel, I struggled up and down seven flights of stairs. I could not dry my hair. My e-mail connections were worthless, and there was no air conditioning. Driving without streetlights was perilous. I could see stars in the sky, but they did not light my room. I could hardly wait for the electrical power to return so I could get on with my privileged life.
People in many parts of the world live without electricity. They do not take it for granted, and they are not dependent on it. Many live without social or political freedom, and they long for freedom from poverty, illiteracy, war or other forms of violence, disease, hunger or exploitation. Not a day goes by that we do not hear about the suffering of people in Iraq, North Korea, East Timor, Colombia, the Sudan, and in so many other places. They are paying a high price for freedom, and their sacrifices can inspire us to value freedom more than privilege, and challenge us not to take social, political or economic freedoms for granted.
The Common Global Ministries of the UCC and the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) is committed to reaching out to our global partner churches as they minister among the most needy in the world. With funds, supplies and personnel, we seek to provide a critical presence in difficult circumstances.
Fortunately, many local churches, Associations and Conferences are not taking for granted the blessings they have received. In gratitude they are reaching out to others in and through the global church to accompany those questing for freedom. But my hope is that the whole church will quiet down enough to hear our still speaking God invite us into mission through the gentle voices of children in need, of older people in despair, of those grieving without understanding, of the hungry, the marginalized, the disenfranchised and so many others. Then, may the church hunker down and generously engage in mission in this world where far too many needs go unmet and hope is in short supply.
On a hospital bulletin board, I read, "Hope makes it possible to live with our feet planted firmly on earth, while our hearts and minds are committed to a vision of life that is bigger than we are." The vision of abundant life is not just for those who, by accident of birth, live privileged lives. Jesus came that all may have life, and life abundant! Along with God's gracious love and forgiveness, we run the risk of forgetting the truth of that inclusive declaration. How freely we respond to that global vision of life will reveal if we are hope-givers—or if we are simply among those who take too much for granted.
Olivia Masih White is executive minister of the UCC's Wider Church Ministries and a member of the UCC's five-person Collegium of Officers.