Honor In My Burden
It’s very easy to get caught up in the treadmill of work in America. Always on the go, never a moment to reflect. On to the next. Being in Ethiopia makes me reconsider and reprioritize my beliefs and perspectives. It forces me to open up my eyes, mind, and heart to what I hold dear.
I never considered myself a privileged person. In the U.S., I am seen only as a young Black male who lives in the inner city. My parents do anything and everything to make sure that their children are provided for, and when you live like that, there isn’t much room for more. This stops being the case, the moment I step foot onto Ethiopian soil.
“I never considered myself a privileged person. In the U.S., I am seen as a young Black male who lives in the inner city.”
In Ethiopia, I’ve found myself in settings with the affluent, educated and powerful. The upper class of society – maybe, Ethiopia’s 1 percenters. Businesspeople, diplomats, and many other people of influence and power. This happens not by my own talent or skill, but because of my access. Essentially, because I’m from America, can speak English fluently, and have a Western education, I am valued differently than my local peers. Then the next moment, I’m in a setting with family where people are just trying to survive day-to-day – a more familiar space, that somehow now feels uncomfortable.
Beyond challenging my identity, my time in Ethiopia challenges my understanding of where I really belong and which version of myself is the more genuine me. I sit on the minibus to and from my place of employment, where I work with marginalized women and orphans and watch from one side of the window a child begging for coins. With a turn of my head, I see a shiny Range Rover passes by. And it’s not just the surroundings or my environment, I am aware of how I am part of the disparity problem.
“I am aware of how I am part of the disparity problem.”
I watch street kids play soccer with an empty water bottle, while friends and I spend many people’s month salary on my lunch. Torn, because I can relate to both. Not in another world – but on the other side of the world, I am like the kids in the field with less access than my more privileged counterparts. I’ve been provided the necessities and I’m not downplaying my opportunities – I am being real at a disadvantage many of us, children of refugee’s face in the U.S. But here, in Ethiopia – I am on the other side looking at the disenfranchised, I am the one that is privileged.
I’ve been forced to check this privilege, privilege that I’m not accustomed to. So I sit on the mini bus to and from home and internalize what these last few months in Ethiopia has done to me. Through prayer and support I’ve realized that yes, I am privileged. Though it’s not my job nor am I capable of saving Ethiopia from all of her hurt and afflictions. I’m a Black kid, a son of refugees, from the inner city who had the opportunity to get an education. Now I am able to use that use that access to give back – even on a small level- to the place that has captured my heart. I’ve turned this burden, my burden, into my motivation. I’ve been blessed enough to have many opportunities that many, including many members of my family, have not received.
“I’m a Black kid, a son of refugees, from the inner city who had the opportunity to get an education. Now I am able to use that use that access to give back – even on a small level- to the place that has captured my heart. I’ve turned this burden, my burden, into my motivation.”
I understand that my unique perspective, talents and experiences can be used to add value to people and organizations. I have been moving from the burden of knowing that roles with my family, or basically any Ethiopian, could have easily been reversed. I’ve accepted that they haven’t, so I will give all that I have, in an effort to change the uncertain fate of many. I am finding peace that through my privilege, I can help in someway help someone live the life they deserve, full of hope, opportunity and prosperity.
“I am finding peace that through my privilege, I can help in someway… And that’s why – I find honor in my burden.“