My son is a fantastic Jr. High teacher; very creative in his efforts to teach his students well. Recently he has been teaching his students about India; talking about the many religious beliefs and traditional systems that generations have either enjoyed or endured for hundreds of years.
Yesterday he was trying to teach his students about the “Caste” system that has been (and often still is) used to keep people in their rightful place. The students drew numbers and based on that choice were placed with a group who had to complete tasks together~ some interesting tasks, some very menial based on the level of caste they were in. I believe the whole concept of being “placed” into a lifestyle where you must remain based on your level in life was kinda surprising and uncomfortable for students who have been raised in America.
When I travel and spent the summer in India many years ago I saw the Caste system in place for myself; an older gentleman sweeping the same small area of the street every day, all day for life, with the hope that he would prove himself worthy and have a chance at living his next life at a higher level. When visiting the Taj Majal there was a man who mowed the grass there by leading a cow with a crude type of steel grass cutting tool. I was told that this man fulfilled this task day after day after day in hopes of moving to a higher level of caste in his next life.
Another element of the caste system is that if you are privileged to find yourself in a higher caste you are not even allowed to look upon an “untouchable”, those of a lower caste! So within the system, those with greater influence cannot even give a “hand up” to those whose find themselves to be “untouchables”.
All of this got me thinking about America. There are, indeed, many pockets of society where children are born into extremely difficult situations. There are many people who find themselves in places, geography wise and family wise, where they feel they will never be able to live a life any different then what they are experiencing.
However, the difference between our freedoms and that of a caste system is that we actually “can” change our station in life with incredible perseverance, education, creativity, and tenacity. In America we do have the freedom, within our one life, to move from poverty to success, from dysfunction to health, if we can apply ourselves in intentional ways! No one has made it a law that we cannot “change” our station in life. There are many stories of those whose lives were desperately challenged yet managed to pull themselves up and out to find a life of influence and purpose.
Another factor in our American freedoms is our choice to help others success. As fellow citizens we are completely free to lend a hand to another, to financially support an individual with a challenging beginning in creative ways. Rarely does a person soar without people around them who “gave them a foot up”. In America we have the freedom to help make a difference and we should!
So in this season of challenging political rhetoric, let’s not forget the freedoms that we have, the choices weare free to consider, and the opportunities we are free to undertake in this great land of ours, and our freedom to lend a hand to those who need it!