From the moment you are born, you are invited into a world that you never asked to be born into and an environment you never chose. Everyday thousands of children are born into poverty just as some are born into wealth. These children will live very different lives but what ones will put in more effort and become more than what society expects of them?
We were invited to experience this through a workshop as part of our Values: Self, Society and the Professions module. In this workshop, we were divided into 5 groups, each given an envelope that had been allocated to our number. Unsure of the contents and what this had to do with values each group grew impatient and eager to peer into their envelopes. The go-ahead was given and the groups tore open the envelopes and emptied the contents onto the table. Confusion sparked across the room as post-it notes and paper fell out, and in some instances only paper clips and pens. Our task was to create something a first-year student could use in their first weeks at university. Grumbles and sighs filled the room from the less fortunate groups, and chattering from the others.
Luckily for me, I was in the middle group, not the worst off but certainly not packed with resources. We scattered for ideas, maps, guides, you name it, we thought it. Minutes faded to seconds and we scrambled together for a mediocre but useful idea. We watched each group as they got closer to us, feeling inadequate each time they moved along. We presented our idea gaining little to no feedback and a very unimpressed look from our tutor, Brenda. As the groups went on we realised that we weren’t that less fortunate as the last two groups who had zero paper to work with but had to make do.
When it came to executing our idea, we struggled as we looked over to the other groups and seen them pilling on the colours and ‘jazzing-up’ their maps. It hadn’t been evident to us at this point but Brenda had been hovering around the two groups with plentiful resources and paying little attention to the others, including our group. Then came the second presentation, and oh boy did we feel low. After working at our map and feeling proud, one glance at the first groups creation our pride started to fade and we began to grow defensive as the scores were dished out. “A 4? WE DESERVE MORE THAN THAT SURELY?” The less fortunate groups created some amazing work, the level of creativity was overwhelming. They used almost anything they could in order to present something more exciting than what they had initially gotten. However, they were still scored poorly and it was evident that it wasn’t justified.
At the end it had become clear that the class was divided. We had those with unlimited resources sitting quite comfortably and those with little to nothing ready for an argument. Brenda, who had a terrible time being untrue to her bubbly personality for the means of this task, decided that it was time to announce the purpose. She explained that it was important to acknowledge those less fortunate, as professionals it will be our job to make sure each individual is given equal attention, and at times to more than others.
I left feeling drained, and yet enlightened at the same time. Something so simple got such a powerful message across. We were all guilty of prejudice. At any time, we could have given the groups with less, the resources we were not using but we never. We were too caught up in our own worlds to have even thought about that. It shed some light on society, and how we go about each day worrying over small things, whilst families work hard with what they have, even if it’s close to nothing just to make a living.
Remember, no one asks to be in this position, but the least you can do is show compassion to those who are less fortunate. After all, they’re in the same position, but by chance you are just better off.