Having lost out for the third time in as many months on house bidding wars, I was having a little pity party for myself last night. I was disappointed that we didn't get the house we wanted to buy. Then, I attended the fund raising breakfast for First Place School this morning and quickly adjusted my attitude.
The keynote discussion was about poverty. Donna Beegle delivered a moving keynote about what privilege is. She said, “Privilege is being able to buy groceries with cash or check, rather than food stamps. Privilege is garbage service. Privilege is having a warm, safe, and dry place to sleep every night. Privilege is kids attending school in clean clothes…”
Beegle grew up in extreme poverty. By dint of hard work, tenacity, and many other admirable qualities, she earned her PhD. Today, Dr. Beegle is a nationally known speaker and author on communication. She moved a packed Washington State Convention Center ballroom room to tears with her story — and I know I was moved to write a generous check. I left today's breakfast full of gratitude for my life and the privilege to contribute to the wonderful work First Place School is doing to educate children of homeless families.
Here is an excerpt:
…One day in a theology class, Beegle was given what seemed like a simple assignment: write about how freedom, or the lack of it, had affected her. That night something opened up inside of her. It was instantly clear: What was wrong was that she had abandoned her roots, and since poverty would always be a part of her, no matter how successful she became, abandoning her roots was abandoning herself. She would never be free of her story until she told her story. For hours she poured words and tears onto the keyboard.
She wrote about all the freedoms she had never enjoyed. Freedom to not see her mother crying, to not watch her father unload trucks full of watermelons for 16 hours then try to decide whether to spend the handful of cash he earned on food or shelter. Freedom to not watch police take her brothers away, to not come home to an eviction notice, to go to the doctor when she was sick, to hold her head high. And the most important of all, the one so many people had helped her discover: freedom to get an education.
The instant she turned the paper in, she was certain she’d blown it. Everybody would know she was an imposter, just a dumb poor kid pretending to be someone else. When she got the paper back, she could only stare at the words scribbled across the top by her professor: A+. Best paper I’ve ever received.
She began to tell her story again and again, speaking to various groups and being interviewed by journalists. She completed her major in communication. In the spring of 1990 she graduated with honors, and the University named the woman who spoke Middle Class English as her second language its student Communicator of the Year.
Please read Donna's story. And, if you are so moved, make a contribution to end poverty. Start at First Place School.
My pity party is officially over. I will never forget Dr. Beegle's powerful message. And I can promise you, you won't either.