I am a hypocrite. This is a realization I have come to after working nearly five years in one of the poorest neighborhoods of Columbus, Ohio.
Being employed at this particular non-profit has given me the opportunity to work with real cases of poverty and abandonment. I go to food pantries and talk with the single mothers in-between two jobs picking up food because she does not have enough to feed her children. I Meet the homeless who are missing body limbs from arthritis and unmanaged diabetes. There are men who have been given the infamous black spot in their community, because of past decisions they have made “because it does not matter what they have done, they need to take responsibility for their actions.”
My job in marketing and community outreach does all it can for those forgotten in a fast pace gentrifying city. I tell myself I care immensely for those I have met because of the stories I have heard. But I end each day with hypocrisy: I get in my car, crank up Sirius XM radio, merge onto I-70 thinking about which restaurant Rebecca and I will choose. I leave the very community to go to a quaint neighborhood on the outskirts of the city.
I do not live in perpetual luxury, but I do experience the comfort of never worrying about my gas getting turned off, missing an electric bill, or having enough to pay the water bill. I have all of the streaming services (I bet you haven’t even heard of Crunchy-Roll). I sip on expensive craft beer with my friends at the local brewery, and smoke high-end cigars on walks through well kept metro parks, never fearing for my safety.
The privilege I feel in my white-male-suburban-middle-class life is real. I get to leave one of the most vulnerable neighborhoods in the city every single day and live a comfortable life, when the man I recently met missing a leg cannot even climb to the homeless camp on the hill anymore. Hell, it is even a privilege to even sit here and write about the privilege I feel grief for.
Suffering exists in the world, and many of us get an opportunity to escape or never experience the pain, hunger and abandonment of the least of these. But we can do a better job and consider carefully the choices we make, and how they are impacting others. This is not to say that I find it ridiculous for people to find respite; even Jesus went away to be alone after he fed the 5,000 hungry people.
There is nothing wrong with respite, but there is something wrong with hiding behind privilege, closing a door saying “It is not my problem.” That is the hypocrisy I have felt. Feeling as if I can just close the door and make decisions in my respite that would still impact the most vulnerable.
I do not believe that is what we are supposed to do. When Jesus went on the mountain, when he was in the garden, I believe he continually prayed for the strength to go back down, to be with the most vulnerable. I cannot live thinking I should take advantage of my privilege, simply closing the proverbial door and saying: “The poor will be with me tomorrow.” But the reality is the poor still exist behind that door with people living in hell while I am seeking my own heaven. This is the hypocrisy and tension I find myself living in.