“Those less fortunate.”
This is a phrase that I think I first heard as a small child being explained the meaning of Boxing Day. I was told that Boxing Day was created so that people could box up old stuff, having got new stuff at Christmas, for the poor. The poor would be delighted to have the old stuff and we should remember that we can make their lives better through acts of charity. This all confused me because no one I knew boxed up old stuff and gave it to anyone. But then I was told that’s the tradition that started it and now we get the day off but aren’t expected to give anyone anything. So, in the end as I understand it the poor stay poor, we keep even what we don’t need, and we get a day of to celebrate an act of charity that we don’t do. To my child’s mind, that made no sense at all.
I have been sorely tempted to look up Boxing Day on Google but I’ll do that after I write this. I’m just going on how I felt then and how I feel now. Then it bothered me that out of our bounty charity did not flow. Now, and perhaps because of the times, the phrase, ‘those less fortunate’ sticks in my craw. So now I’m more concerned how people are portrayed in speech than I am the miserliness of turning a holiday set aside for charity into another day for shopping.
But, words matter.
When I see pictures on television about those less fortunate, I see that the phrase cuts a broad swath through the community. The poor, the disabled, the sick, the disenfranchised, the lonely, the immigrants and shutin-igrants. This is only a portion of the list of those that fortune is supposed to have disowned.
This rankles me as I sit here in my wheelchair being judge by many as less fortunate because of my disability. It’s like the phrase, ‘there but for the grace of God …’ which implies not only have I been shunned by fortune, I have been denied the grace of God. I think it rankles because it sets up an idea of this hierarchy where those with God in one and and Fortune in the other look down on us, the unworthy of both, and the mere act of looking down confirms their rightful place in the world. The believe in a kind of trickle down economic approach to how their charity can effect my salvation and, if I’m grateful, raise my worthiness. Because now I have a purpose, they can raise me and thus raise themselves.
So they can dance with a woman with Down Syndrome at the prom, film it, at put it on the Internet to let people see how good they are. She get’s a moment of pretend value and you get a lifetime of praise.
So they can show up at the house of a single mom, turkey in hand, and take selfies that show the turkey, the tears, and the porcelain smiles of those that give.
So they can ‘like’ a picture of a child with disability and differences that asks for a million likes to show her that she’s loved and then share the picture to ensure that friends can get the feeling without actually loving anything.
In considering fortune and the fortunate, in thinking about those with and those without the Grace of God, the assumption is that they are and we aren’t, that they have and we don’t.
They don’t know what we have.
The don’t know who we are.
They don’t know the lives we live.
They don’t know that our self worth and our self value are real and are substantial and stand in opposition to the idea that value comes from wealth or walking or wellness.
We have a secret that we’ve been keeping.
Maybe it’s time we box it up and send it on up to the more or less fortunate.
I really would.
But I’ve got shopping to do today.