Wednesday, June 20, 2007

Accident of Birth

By accident of birth, I eat a delicious breakfast this morning, the same as I do every morning: 2 pieces of whole wheat toast, made from organic ingredients by Great Harvest Bakery, and 2 scrambled eggs, delivered from a neighbor who raises chickens in the city.

She looks at the barren cupboard and tries to ignore the gnawing in her stomach, focusing instead on what she can scrape together for her children's meal-- the only one they'll eat today.

By accident of birth, I dress myself in moss-colored capri pants and a brown, v-neck, short-sleeved shirt (taking into account the blue sky today and the prospect of a warm Seattle day). I decorate my neck with a new necklace that I made last weekend.

She regretfully considers the balmy weather outside, then dutifully dons her heavy burka in order to protect her body and face from view.

By accident of birth, I wake my children this morning, rousing each of them from peaceful slumber with gentle kisses on their noses.

She doesn't wake her children, because they are already awake. Last night, their fitful sleep was disrupted by the rumbling noise of the bombs and the rat-a-tat-tat of the guns that seemed to move closer and closer as the family huddled together on the mats of their one-room home, clinging tightly to eachother.

By accident of birth, I will enjoy staying home with my children today. We will play at the park, and then celebrate our friend's 4-year-old birthday with our neighborhood playgroup.

She won't see her children today, since they will have eaten, showered, collected their books, and gone to school by the time she is home from her graveyard shift, one of the two jobs she's had to take to make ends meet.

By accident of birth, I will move freely wherever I want to go today. My only impediment will be the limitation of keeping three children in tow. I will play, shop for groceries, and socialize.

She cannot leave the confines of the compound at Guantanamo Bay, where she was sent as an enemy combatant. She has been detained in error, but will have little chance to prove it, because she lives without hope of ever having a trial.

By accident of birth, I will drive my mini-van where and when I want to today. I may take the bus, but if it feels too far, or the schedule isn't convenient, or doesn't align with Eli's nap schedule, I will opt for the ease and comfort of my own vehicle.

She doesn't have the money for the 1-hour taxi ride into the village where the doctor receives patients once a week, and so she rises before dawn, and begins the long, long walk to the village, her sick baby strapped to her back.

By accident of birth, I type this from my brand-new Dell laptop computer, which is linked to the wireless internet network in my home.

She, on the other hand, cannot even read, let alone type, because her family didn't have the money to pay for "public" school, where education is free in name only, and teachers and administrators exact bribes from families in order to pay their own wages.

By accident of birth, I will pray to God at the end of this day: "God, please heal this world, where there is so much pain and suffering. Be with all children everywhere, and protect them from harm. Help me to do my part to bring justice and peace to those around me, and to all people everywhere. "

And so will she.
This essay was written as part of Julie's weekly round-table, which solicited essays on the subject of "Accident of Birth." Click here for details.


thailandchani said...

Great post... wonderful blog!

Yes, I think much is an accident of birth.. but also want to recognize choices. :)



Ally said...

Yes, Chani, I completely agree. The choice of the word "accident" here was lyrical and doesn't reflect the impact of our choices. Still, the fact remains that for some, there are no good choices to be made, or rather, just which choice is the least bad. I don't believe that any of this is "accidental" but I do have a difficult time reconciling a God who is in control with all of the injustice and inequity in the world. I have faith, but I have questions as well. Anyway, thanks for your comment.

Julie Pippert said...

Ooooh ahhh...I like this approach. I like the side-by-side that is not a comparison of circumstances.

Yes, this is much along the lines of the point I aimed for: we happen to be where we are, our choice is who we are while there.

And I completely agree with your reply to Chani.

Lawyer Mama said...

Oh, this was a beautiful post, Ally. We take so many things for granted and this is a good reminder.

Little Monkies said...

My dear friend,

Beautiful post. I think understanding privilege is an important part of our understanding of how we walk in the world. It also begs us to think of the other women around the world. Surely we are bound by a sisterhood.

Love you!

Emily said...

I think this all so often, but it suffuses me with guilt. Your post states the unfairness without the guilt -- we must understand our privilege so that we can have empathy for others.

canape said...

That was very powerful and well stated.

Seattle Mamacita said...

"and so will she"..your closing gave me goosebumps. i too want to join you in being a part of bringing justice and peace in the small ways that we can.

KC said...

I really enjoyed this post. Especially the ending. A thoughtful take on the topic.

slouching mom said...

Lovely post, Ally.

Jenn said...

This is heartbreakingly beautiful.

Painfully beautiful.

Amazingly beautiful.

Praying the same prayers.

Mary-LUE said...

Awareness of the world around us brings a special gift: perspective. I see this in your post, that you are so aware of life's inequities and that you have another gift which is so important: gratitude.

Thanks for coming by earlier. I always love e-meeting fellow bloggers and I think this was a great post for this week's Hump Day Hmmm.

Worker Mommy said...

Wow, you are truly a brilliant, thoughtful and insightful writer.

I can always count on you for a truly meaningful post!

Very well said.

Anonymous said...

Well, that is a very powerful post there...


bgirl said...

so moving ally. i'm at work and should NOT be reading blogs, and now i'm teared up at my desk.

such a reminder to recognize the privilege of our surroundings and to be more than grateful, rather mindful of the choices we make.

thank you for such a thoughtful post.

Mrs. Chicken said...

Very moving, Ally. And sobering, too.

joey said...

As others have already said, this post was so moving. Thank you!

jen said...

this is AMAZING. i hope you don't mind if I include it at our Just Post roundtable this month.

it's the way i feel all the time and haven't been able to eloquently express.

Ally said...

Um, Jen, no I wouldn't mind at all. :)

Oh, The Joys said...

Amazing post! Bravo!

momomax said...


it's nice to meet you. I'm very glad to have found you!

bubandpie said...

What an amazing post.

painted maypole said...

I loved this post, and then I just spied your first response within the posts, and I love it even more. I struggle with this, too, this being born into privelege, and how can I help to make the world better for others. And I struggle with the guilt that comes with that, and the questions to God of how can this be, but I know that because it is, we are called to DO something about it.

Penny. said...

Found you through Jen. Excellent.