So I read most of Red Scarf Girl, a story about a Chinese girl caught up in the Cultural Revolution today.
To be brief, this girl, who was very smart and talented, finds her life very difficult because of the social status of her grandfather, a man who died before she was born, and the choices her father made as a young man. She found out that despite her many accomplishments and talents she could not do everything she could wanted to in school because of the decisions her relatives made before she was ever born or aware.
The obvious result, of course, was she hated her family. She hated her grandfather, because he came from a rich background. She wished she could have been the grandchild of a famer or factory worker instead of a landlord, a horrible, evil, landlord.
I realized, when reading this story, how I'm so blessed to not hate my family and not be held back because of their decisions. Sure, there are some, small things, that I wish I could have done but couldn't because I live overseas. But on the whole, I've been blessed by them.
What struck me the most about Red Scarf Girl, though, was how the main character was ashamed of her family history. She was ashamed to be the granddaughter of a landlord, though she had no control over her upbringing. She could not make herself go against the will of her parents, because she loved them and knew they were being unjustly punished, yet because of this she was harassed and punished.
Now, I have to be honest, and say I don't have the background this girl has. My grandfather worked long hard hours to get to where he is today and my parents have sacrificed to help me as much as possible (maybe not a lot, but we do spend a LOT of money on things like internet for our school, plus my mom spends a lot of time and energy trying to teach us). I come from a respectable middle-class family, essentially, not the Upper Class she came from. Yes, her family was never really rich, due to events, but mine isn't either, at least by the standards of our country.
Anyways, the thing is, my family and my society has taught me not to be ashamed of my family history. My grandfather could very easily pretend he was never a poor boy when he grew up. He could eat different food, for instance, but he chooses not to. I know this sounds hilarious, but I see it so clearly in the food he eats. My grandfather loves Black Eyed Peas, he love's 'em. But Black Eyed Peas are poor man's food, my grandmother (His wife), never ate them as a child (she came from a more privileged background). Is he ashamed of his love of Black Eyed Peas? Every time I think of Black Eyed Peas I think of my grandfather and try to imagine him working hard all day long on the farm and not getting much to eat but a big plate of Black Eye Peas (I don't know how realistic this picture, but that's the picture I get).
My grandfather could stop eating Black Eyed Peas. He's "rich" enough to afford more expensive food (if they are still cheap, I don't know, honestly), but he still eats Black Eyed Peas every so often. He still loves them. My grandfather is not ashamed of his love of Black Eyed Peas and is not ashamed of the lifestyle that made him like them.
And you know what? I'm not ashamed of my upbringing either. I know I've been blessed, because of the blessings others have bestowed on me. I have the privilege of being able to go to a good University. I have the privilege of being a 4th generation Christian. I have the privilege of being a citizen of one of the most powerful countries in the world. I have the privilege of going to one of the world's greatest Churches everyday and I have the privilege of being instructed by some of the smarted people in the world (not just my teachers, by my parents and my spiritual leaders as well). If Someone tried to bring me down for my upbringing, I'd tell them to go to hell. I've been blessed, and maybe others haven't, but that's not my fault. You take what you're given in life. I have been blessed to be a blessing, and I have no intention of letting all the knowledge and heritage I have gained to go to waste. My grandfather worked hard so that his children and grandchildren could have a better life. I think that's why he's not ashamed of his upbringing, of the poverty he struggled with as a young man. I know what he came from and I know, from his first hand experience, that poverty is no fun. He told me once, that he never knew what love was until he met his wife. His family never loved him.
I don't want to be like his family. I don't want to be poor, bitter and hateful people. I don't want to be an alcoholic or addict of any kind. I don't want to be a person who doesn't love his children or family. I want to be a good person like my grandfather, or my father. I want to serve God and work hard to better this world. Because I know where I came from, I know where I need to go.
Don't be ashamed of your upbringing. Everyone's upbringing, no matter how horrible or privileged, can teach them wonderful things. I have been taught wonderful things, and I want to use those wonderful things for the good of God.