1) A lifelong resident of a working-class neighborhood with average television and movie going habits.
2) A first-generation middle-class person with working-class parents and average television and movie going habits.
3) A first-generation upper-middle-class person with middle-class parents.
What do these classes literally translate to in terms of household income? The following table is from Wikipedia's Social Class of America article.
|William Thompson & Joseph Hickey, 2005|
|Upper class (1%)||Top-level executives, celebrities, heirs; income of $500,000+ common. Ivy league education common.|
|Upper middle class (15%)||Highly-educated (often with graduate degrees) professionals & managers with household incomes varying from the high 5-figure range to commonly above $100,000.|
|Lower middle class (32%)||Semi-professionals and craftsmen with some work autonomy; household incomes commonly range from $35,000 to $75,000. Typically, some college education.|
|Working class (32%)||Clerical, pink- and blue-collar workers with often low job security; common household incomes range from $16,000 to $30,000. High school education.|
|Lower class (ca. 14% - 20%)||Those who occupy poorly-paid positions or rely on government transfers. Some high school education.|
So what does my background actually look like? My dad is an engineer and my mom was a preschool teacher, which put us in the upper-middle class. Upon graduating from college in 2003, I joined the ranks of the working class where I stayed until I got married in 2006. At that point, we were in the lower middle class. Once I graduate and start working, we will once again be part of the upper-middle class.
What I find interesting about all this is that it would be very easy with my background for me to be a very insulated person, yet based on my score (which I would say is fairly accurate) I am very familiar with average American culture. So how did I remain so grounded and how will I help my children remain grounded?
Some may attribute it to all the moving I've done in my life. Others may say it's because my parent's raised me to believe that you have to work hard in life and handle your money responsibly. While these two thing no doubt play a large role, I think the primary lesson I was taught in this life was the meaning of the world blessed.
When I was in 5th and 6th grade, my best friend's mom worked for the Salvation Army in small town Georgia. We used to go put together sacks of groceries for the people that came by. We served food in our church one night a week for people in our suburban town in Ohio and built houses for the Habitat for Humanity. I ran my first Race for the Cure when I was in 9th grade. My dad and I went, just before I was in 10th grade, to a Navajo reservation in Arizona where we tore down the remnants of their church that had been burnt to the ground by arson so they could rebuild. Later in high school and once I graduated college, I spent Saturdays building wheelchair ramps for people in the Tulsa area. In college I gave blood at every blood drive, volunteered at the Methodist food pantry, and built a home for a family in Juarez, MX. I went to Houston where I met homeless people that had run from gangs in other states. In Philadelphia I made and delivered food to people with AIDs, worked at afterschool centers where kids had lost family members and neighbors to gang violence, and hung out with the homeless in the evenings. Do you know what most of those people that I met told me when I asked them how they are? BLESSED. Blessed. Blessed. These people with bigger troubles than I have ever faced in all of my combined life tell me they are blessed. These people know what blessed really is, but what they don't know is that they are also a blessing. Spending time with people like theis is probably the biggest reason I am who I am today.
And with every opportunity I see, I try to encourage my children to be kind to everyone they meet. I try to let them know how lucky they are to have all the food they want and a comfortable home to sleep in and a whole closet full of clean clothes to choose from each day. I know people who are not so lucky. I know people who live in fear that they will be the next victim in the next drive by shooting. I know people who only eat when they are at school. I know people that have to run from the past, lest it catch up with them and kill them for leaving. I know people who don't know if they will see tomorrow or where they will sleep tonight. I know people who own nothing but the clothes on their back. If these people can look me in the eyes and tell me they are blessed, who am I and who are my children to complain about anything? We are blessed every day of our lives, but especially so when we encounter these people.
How do you keep things in perspective for your kids? What is it in life that helps you remember how blessed you are?