To whom much is given, much is expected

Maria Bossert - Ecuador


April 15, 2019

One of the most difficult things I have been forced to confront over my gap

year is my privilege.





I’m white.





I’m American.





I’m a native English speaker.





I’m wealthy.





Well, I have never considered myself wealthy until recently. I knew my

family had money; we lived comfortably and never had to worry about putting

food on the table. But I also grew up seeing my parents work far harder

than they should have to pay for that food, along with everything from our

house, cars, and clothes to my high school. So, even though I realized we

had much, I understood that a significant amount was achieved from hard

work.





I have tried my best to adopt their mindset. It is often difficult for me

to be proud of what I have because so much has been given to me, but I can

honestly say that I have worked extremely hard in pursuit of education,

sports, arts, jobs, and much more. Yet, I now understand that the

opportunity to study at a college preparatory school, the physical ability

to play sports, the supplies to create art, and the chance to work a

fulfilling summer job are all privileges in themselves.





I’ve struggled greatly with accepting the hardships I experience here in

Ecuador because, in a way, I am privileged to be experiencing them. The

reason that washing my clothes by hand in the blinding sun, finding fleas

in my bed, and fending off stray dogs in the street are especially

difficult for me is because, fortunately, I’ve never had to go through

them. Yet, here I am, paying a gap year organization to live with less

privilege than I am used to. I know that this mindset isn’t entirely

correct and that these were certainly not my intentions when starting the

program, but I can’t help but feel this guilt sometimes.





I know logically that my privilege does not disqualify me from making a

difference because people in my position have been faultily “making a

difference” for centuries by assuming that other people in positions of

less privilege actually want their help.





In fact, I believe that the privilege and resources I do have give me a

greater obligation to truly do good in the best ways I can.





If I’m being honest, I don’t know what these best ways are. I certainly

haven’t figured them out during this gap year; there was no “finding

myself” or my path to be done. I can only say that I have seen real

differences being made here, and have begun to scratch the surface on how

to manifest change-making in my own life. I have learned that making a

difference takes years of dedicated work immersed in a community and that

the process is never really finished. However, the key is to start.





In Ecuador, my start has been by trying to come to terms with my privileges

and not allow my guilt to hold me back. I will always struggle with

accepting this part of myself and my life, but I know that dwelling on

guilty feelings is not the answer. I believe that changing the question

from “do I deserve my privileges?” to “what do I do with my privileges?” is

the right step forward. It is a difficult step, and one I’ve been grappling

with for seven months, but one of the most important journeys I have ever

been on.


Maria Bossert