On Privilege

Last night, Cory and I attended a developer meeting for our community. The first half an hour was great: the developer discussed the exciting future plans for our area and I thought, Wow I am so lucky to live this kind of life. I feel proud.

Then, the developer opened the floor for questions…and my mind was literally blown to smithereens.

This man was bombarded by angry adults, yelling and complaining passionately, waving their HOA documents (note: this was not an HOA meeting) and demanding answers.

How will we monitor how many guests people bring to the pool?!*

We really have to share the pool with the [CHILDREN'S] swim team four nights a week?*

My neighbor has had a camper outside of their house for months and the HOA has done NOTHING ABOUT IT!*

 There is a hole in the Earth next to my house – it wasn’t there when we closed – who’s going to fix this?* (To this, I thought: Are you there, God? Ann’s pissed.)

Can you please work on adding more equipment to the play ground? My three-year-old has nothing to do but chew mulch. I would bring her toys from home, but those are the toys she sees everyday.*

At this point, all my pride had dissipated and I felt embarrassed. I was embarrassed to be among a group of adults complaining with fiery passion about mulch and chair space at the pool.

I felt embarrassed that I spent over an hour of my time listening to this foolishness. This was an hour of time I could have volunteered to something substantial: hunger, homelessness, coaching, an animal shelter, etc.

This made me realize how truly, truly fortunate we (i.e. anyone who’s reading this on a computer/phone/iPad) are, how out of touch we are, and how unwilling we are to fix our own “problems.”

If someone upsets you, talk to them.

If you’ve reached a dead end, back track and find another way around.

If you’re yelling and no one is listening, soften your approach.

If the pool, your children’s toys, or the imperfections in your lawn are the biggest of your concerns, take a step back and refocus.

We’re privileged. And we shouldn’t take it for granted. 

*Actual comments made at the meeting
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39 Responses to On Privilege

  1. It saddens me to think of grown adults acting like that.

  2. Wow it’s so sad how quickly we can lose perspective… yikes

  3. Sean K says:

    Oh so true. This is why I didn’t go. I would have been rather uncomplimentary to these people.

  4. I’ve noticed this so much recently – and it absolutely saddens me. I really started to see it when I was teaching. The students didn’t want to do anything themselves, they wanted us to do it for them. Now I’m seeing it begin to rise in adults. I hope that people do realize how blessed we truly are and stop taking it for granted!!!

  5. Brittany winfree says:

    Right on sista! People jhave either way too much time on their hand to complain about nothing! We live in a beautiful neighborhood with awesome neighbors . Why cant people just be happy! Think of the people who have no home, no food, nothing and then look at our lives. People need to chill out!

  6. Catherine says:

    Well said. I was there too and love this neighborhood. But everywhere you go there are people that need a dose of perspective. Those people that complain about everything. You know the kind. Must not be very fun to be them or their friends. Sad they are our neighbors. I truly felt bad for the guy speaking. He seemed so excited about all the projects and the success of our community. I hope he realizes the majority of the community appreciate all their hard work.

    • Colleen says:

      We said the same thing as we were leaving: “Man, I’d hate to be their friends or neighbors.” We absolutely adore this community and are so proud of it! I wish I had that man’s email address or name (I totally missed it!) because I want to let him know what a great job he did and that the majority of people appreciate their hard work and dedication.

  7. Liesl says:

    Perhaps the other we’re angry because they are not getting answers form the developer one on one. Just because we’re privileged doesn’t mean we don’t have the right to get what we pay for. Imagine paying for a computer and then having a black hole in the middle of the screen and not getting any help from the company. Would you just say “oh well, I’m just fortunate to be able to buy a computer. I’ll just live with it.” Now imagine paying hundreds of thousands of dollars for a nice home and then living next door to a hole in the ground which is unsafe and probably going to impact your yard with mud and erosion problems. I’d bitch and complain too. Also, you’ve probably never had much contact with HOA’s. they can be a great organization but they can also be a royal pain in the butt! And since your development is so new, I’d bet the developer is still in charge of the HOA so in essence it probably was an HOA meeting. An your HOA documents are written in favor of the developer. Walk a mile in your neighbors shoes counselor before you pass judgement.

    • Liesl says:

      I’m not saying some complaints aren’t petty and wrong time wrong place, but its just possible they have tried talking to the developer and they aren’t getting a response.

    • Colleen says:

      Thanks for your kind comment, Liesl. He have had adequate interaction with HOAs to comprehend the situation. And I’m not being a Polly Anna about this; the developer dug an extremely large hole in our backyard after we closed, and it is the eye sore of our neighborhood. That said, we are aware that this will help with drainage issues for everyone, so we accept it. Also, in the process of creating this ditch, they dug up the electric fence on our property that my husband spent hours installing just the day before. Rather than screaming and yelling, we approached the developed and they paid for the damage. It was an easy communication. So yes, I do understand, but I still hold my opinion that many people at that meeting were out of line. Thanks again, Lisel.

  8. This just further proves my theory that there is something SERIOUSLY wrong with people. I can’t believe THOSE are the problems they chose to address. Clearly they are living in a little bubble with no knowledge of what real world problems are. Glad you and Regis are smarter than that. You may be some of the smartest people in your neighborhood ;)

  9. Parita says:

    I think we should all step back every now and then to gain perspective. Life isn’t that bad when you take the time to do all the things you listed – be kind, slow down, soften your approach, laugh, smile, etc.

  10. So freaking true!! Some people have just been living in their own world for so long, it’s sad.

  11. Nicole says:

    It agree. We spend so much time on petty issues like inadequate playgrounds, over crowded pools, etc. Perhaps the lady complaining about the playground should take her kids to do volunteer work so they realize how fortunate they are. They could build playgrounds for under privilege children. Or invite them to come to your community pool since they probably don’t have one in their neighborhood.

    Just curious, what volunteer work do you do? I volunteer at a local no kill animal shelter on Sundays after church.

  12. Some people really need to gain some perspective (myself included, at times). Or maybe they just need a good whack over the head. How frustrating!

  13. Rachel R. says:

    So sad :( but I appreciate you writing a post about this to remind us all to rethink and refocus on what is important. I love your blog and that you are a kindred spirit!

  14. Liz says:

    Have you read Power, Privilege, and Difference by Allan Johnson? It is an amazing book about the perpetuation of privilege and how those with privilege often do not recognize the influence privilege has in our lives.

    This book has been extremely influential on my opinion of perpetuating privilege through service and has been the start of amazing conversations with a group of students I advice.

  15. Wow, I mean it is sad; but yes that is how a lot of adults think now a days. I see it all the time working at a private school, the teacher gets blamed for what the teacher did wrong according to the student.
    Plus all of my students are so privileged with their iPods, iPads, iPad minis, and iPhones. Most of them not even being in 1st grade. Talk about ridiculous.
    So yes, I totally understand the meaning of privilege and the reality that a lot of people do not understand it.

  16. Shannon says:

    A great post and good reminder…take a step back and understand that some people have REAL problems, like how they are going to feed their families and keep a roof over their head. A pool chair is not a major crisis!

  17. This is really well said, you are so right about the privileges and sniveling whiny ADULTS (I know you didnt say sniveling haha) . I have heard some of the nastiest (meaning embarrassing and ridiculous) things about HOAs/Condo association meetings! I cant believe some of that either! My old boss had bought a condo as sort of a temp thing after she got a divorce and she always went on how the meetings were crazy and everyone whined about everything and it was sad. I have also heard people suggest that if you are looking at buying in an HOA area or Condo association they suggest sitting in on a meeting first! Which is a good idea! haha
    Anyway, so right – some people really, truly dont understand what they have!

  18. Amy says:

    Wow! How are you going to get through the next 30+ years working in the mental health field if you can’t handle people complaining about things which are important to them but you might find trivial? You’re upset that they wasted your time “complaining” to the developer about issues that were important to them but not to you. Yet you’re now complaining about those people in a public forum (yes it’s your blog but its open to the public) opening those people up to ridicule by other “neighbors” who read your blog. Maybe the playground isn’t important to you because you don’t have kids, but it is important to those who expected a well equipped playground and all the ended up with was mulch. And here they are at a meeting where the developer is talking about all the great things they are going to do, yet others may still be waiting on original promises. You’re judging the other people based on your interaction with the developer. They may have had a different.

    • Colleen says:

      Amy, what do you do for a living? Whatever it is, are you “on” at all times? I turn my “counselor mode” off the second I walk out of the office, because being a counselor is draining (yet fulfilling) work, and it’s not something I “do” while attending a developer meeting for my community. That said, I understand and appreciate that people get worked up over different things, but that doesn’t give anyone the right to be rude and hateful. And yes, I would say that to any client that sat in my office. Thanks for your comment, Amy.

      • Amy says:

        I’m a teacher at the local high school so yes, when I’m out and about I have to be “on” pretty much all the time because I run into students and their families on a regular basis. And I agree, rude and hateful is not acceptable anytime. I didn’t realize that that was what you meant by complaining “passionately”. I guess I took your post to mean that they should just be great full for what they have and stop complaining about the trivial stuff. But maybe they are frustrated and haven’t been able to get satisfaction from the developer by being nice. And maybe I can sympathize with them because I’ve been in their shoes where the developer promised certain things and then didn’t deliver. And once the developer leaves your stuck if they didn’t deliver all they promised.

        I love reading your blog and usually agree with you 100%. I love the approach you have to food and fitness and find you inspirational. I guess it just rubbed me the wrong way when you suggested they shouldn’t complain because they were privileged.

        • Emily says:

          I have to chime in here… as a veteran in the mental health field, I assure you Amy that being in the types of situations that Mrs. Lunchbox Diaries described only infuriate you that much more. Working in the field makes you incredibly grateful for what most people consider basic things (stable housing, half way stable families, coping strategies, living life by choice and not by circumstance, etc). Just sayin’:)

  19. Amy says:

    Also, I hope they disclosed to you when you bought your lot they they were going to put a drainage ditch in your backyard. And that they have properly built and enclosed it so that you aren’t subject to liability if someone were to fall in.

  20. Currently reading on my phone…and couldn’t agree more. I get that some situations are frustrating…but hearing about someone complain about the playground hits the nail on the head for me. Parents are CO STANTLY complaining that my library does have enough toys..because parents “Bring their children here to get them out of their hair” (an actual quote). I wish people could be greatful for what they do have…

  21. Amy says:

    I read your comment on twitter and I sincerely apologize if you thought I was trying to make you feel bad because you had a negative opinion about someone. My comment was not in reference to your opinion. I have the utmost respect for the job you do. Heaven knows I couldn’t do it. I once told my own therapist I didn’t see how she did it, listening to everybody else’s problems all day. I wouldn’t be able to sleep. My comment was aimed more at the fact that you dismissed their concerns as trivial and said the should just be thankful for everything they have. However much you hated their behavior, some of their complaints are legitimate. One of your commenters on twitter said a little understanding, respect and manners go a long way. I would think that comment would apply to both people who agree with you and disagree with you. And to the people at the meeting who were upset. And in the future ill just keep my opinions to myself because some of your commenters on twitter act like “mean girls” when they don’t like someone else’s opinion. I’m not a “hater”. I can just empathize with the angry people at the meeting. Perhaps the one lady’s comment should have been “a little understanding, respect, manners and EMPATHY would go a long way”.

    • Colleen says:

      Amy, please know that I respect you and appreciate you commenting. Please know that that Tweet wasn’t directed solely at you – some people comment in the comment section, and some people email me directly; I was simply shocked by how many people used the “counselor” card as a backhanded insult. As if I can’t be upset and angered by inappropriate behavior? I believe that everyone has the right to complain, even if they’re privileged, because all “struggles” are relative. The majority of my clients are white, upper middle class professionals, and I pride myself of my ability to empathize with each individual. I understand that these people were frustrated and probably at their wit’s end – but their delivery was rude, borderline hateful, and most of their complaints were meant for an HOA meeting, which this was not. Again, thank you for taking the time to disagree me – I genuinely appreciate constructive discussion. I hope I cleared up any confusion.

      • Amy says:

        Thanks Colleen. And I wasn’t upset by your tweet. After I reread my comment I realized my first line sounded a bit sarcastic. My problem was with the people who commented on your tweet. For example Amy Walker who felt the need to proclaim she wasn’t “that AMY with the crazy comment” or those who lumped those who disagreed with your post as one of the angry rude people. It’s a little bit of cyber bullying on their part. My comment was neither angry, rude or disrespectful. I just felt the post focused a little too much on the specific complaints and how those people should just be happy for what they have.

        For instance they women who complained that the playgrounds didn’t have enough equipment and how she didn’t want to bring her children’s toy because they play with those every day. She may have worded it wrong and said it badly but she had a valid point. The purpose for a playground is to get the kids outside playing on swings and slides, not to bring their own toys to play with. That’s like a library with no books. When I go to a library it’s because I want to read their books. If I have to bring my own books, what’s the point?

        I’ll close with my final point. We all complain. Sometimes it’s about really important things and sometimes it’s about really trivial things. And sometimes it’s just because we want someone to listen to us. A lot of the time, when people don’t feel like people there complaints are being taken seriously, that can lead to frustration and bad behavior. So complain about their behavior but don’t characterize their complaints as trivial and them as ungrateful and yes I know, there are some people you can’t ever please and they are never happy. We have them in our neighborhood. I’ve learned to just smile, make small talk and then move on.

  22. Love this post. Whenever I see myself freaking out about something completely minor and trivial (like a speeding ticket for instance) I try to take deep breaths, remind myself that really it’s only money, you can’t take it with you when you go, and there are infinitely more important things in life to be thankful for. Great point to make. If your biggest concern is the hours at your development’s pool, well I’d say you’re pretty damn fortunate.

  23. caroline says:

    Thanks for the post! first world problems drives me nuts

  24. bendiful says:

    Ugh! That’s horrible. People really are their own worst enemy! I 100% agree with you, people are best when they do it for themselves!

    I hear the lady about the playground though. As a parent you want equipment at the playground. You shouldn’t need to bring your own toys. Maybe she just meant more age appropriate offerings? I have no idea =pure speculation.

  25. Danica says:

    Love love love this post!

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