A few weeks ago I had the pleasure of meeting Canadian author Eric Walters. Celebrating his 100th book he was touring schools across the country to pass on a love of reading and inspiration to students. He taught me a lesson in privilege I wouldn’t soon forget.
A lesson in privilege
One of the many hats I was wearing at the time was freelancing for my local newspaper so seeing as it was my kid’s school anyway I took the assignment as soon as I heard he was coming. As a former librarian I already knew the pull the man had in the literary world and wanted to see what he had to say.
The school principal took me to wait in the library with Mr. Walters for the students to arrive. We chatted a little and he showed me pictures of his grandchildren before a book caught his eye. It was the true story of the youngest person who climbed all seven summits of Mount Everest. Quite the amazing feat for anyone, let alone someone so young. Walters picks up the book and turns to me.
“That’s privilege right there” he said and then proceeded to tell me it costs $100,000 to climb the mountain. I agreed but was a bit dumbfounded. He was, after all, a bit of a celebrity, and I’m a small town journalist.
But it got me thinking.
Financial privilege is something we like to pretend doesn’t exist. We see people all the time boasting about how much debt they paid down or how successful they are on one income or how they grew their business. What we don’t see is the whole picture, the privilege side of things. How much money did the make to retire early? How did they get there? Did they have their education paid for? Did their parents have connections that got them a job? How much was invested in that business?
The truth is that my sweet 9 year old boy might be capable of doing what Jordan Romero did at 13 or 12 or even now but I will never know because his mommy doesn’t have 100k lying around to attempt it or the resources to allow for the training beforehand.
This isn’t a knock on people who are born into better lives. I have immense privilege compared to other people. All I’m hoping to pass on with this post is a reminder to everyone to think about these things next time you marvel at an amazing feat or financial success.
Whether it’s the best science fair project in the school or someone retiring at 30, think about the money that had to come from somewhere to make it happen.