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The Good Life?

Today, while driving I made eye contact with a particular homeless man (we’ll call him WhiteTee). Being a graduate student has its perks, but it also has its disadvantages; I’m broke too, just not on his level of broke. I made eye contact and gave him the look “sorry man, I wish I could.” I don’t know what I expected, but WhiteTee gave me a similar look. It seemed he understood that more people today are becoming penny pinchers.

The biggest surprise was that I could almost feel all of his emotions in that one look. He was sad, sorry, hopeful, grateful, and maybe angry all at the same time. And I could see it. In that moment it all hit me. Gratitude.

Earlier this week my father asked me if I would like an iPad for my birthday (I don’t particularly celebrate my birthdays). I said I had no use for it, so he should save his money. I like to think that I’m frugal, but after my encounter with WhiteTee I honestly feel selfish and unappreciative. While I’m rejecting presents for my birthday, he’s never even given the option to get an iPad. I’m at home watching SportsCenter and he’s at the offramp of PleaseHelp and DeadBroke.

I wish I could make a promise to donate at least a quarter to every homeless person I come across, but as we all know, it’s difficult to keep such promises. It’s never easy to see people in that situation.

After that moment, for some reason I began thinking about how much work it’s going to take to complete my graduate program (and beyond). I take it for granted. Getting into a graduate program is more than enough and I feel like I’m barely working. I know I’m not doing all that I can and it’s like I’m pissing on WhiteTee. He could be working his butt off, barely able to make ends meet (which I’m sure is a reality somewhere) and here I am living the good life being picky about what I want in my sandwich.

Being privileged doesn’t mean you should take advantage. You should make the best of it by using what you have (economically and physically) to do all you can for yourself and others. I don’t mean for you to donate all your money to charity, but if you have a decent paying job you should work to the best of your ability. If you’re still in school, do your best to use all the resources they give you. I spent my undergrad socializing and didn’t realize how much more college really had to offer until too late.

Aside: Tribute in Light images (9/11 tribute) Tribute in Light – Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia.

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