Hero photograph
Photo by Andrew Constable

Use your privilege wisely - sermon by Julia McLean

Julia McLean —

At chapel on 24 February, Julia McLean (Year 13), accompanied by her housemates, delivered a sermon on privilege.

Opening responses: Kitty Storey and Sophie Chisholm

Readings: Arna Morris and Charleis Kingston-White

Prayers: Phoebe McColgan, Dolce Kissling-Hemsworth and Lily Carr Paterson

Closing response: Holly Skelton

Before beginning my sermon, I decided to start off with a quick activity which illustrated the theme of privilege. I asked each of the House leaders to choose two volunteers to partake in this quick game. How the activity worked is that each of the volunteers were allocated paper to make two paper planes each. Their goal was to throw their paper plane into the bin up at the front of the chapel, in order to win a prize. However, there was a twist - each one of the volunteers was located at different distances from the bin and they only had one minute to make both of their planes. Once they had made their planes, they could not modify them between throws.

After Xavier (Sargood, Year 12) successfully threw his first plane into the bin, I gave him the opportunity of taking three steps closer to the bin for his second throw, or he could take three steps back in order to choose one person in the room to move forward three steps. After choosing to move forward himself, we then moved onto the next paper plane throw. Unsurprisingly, those who were located closer to the bin successfully threw their planes, whilst those further away failed to get theirs in the bin.

Some of you might be thinking- ‘Julia? What was the point of making people throw paper planes into a bin if some people obviously didn’t have a chance of succeeding?’ Well ... let me explain. This activity illustrates how every person has a different starting point in life. Some of us get lucky, these being those who were closer to the bin, whilst some of us aren’t so lucky, these being the people who were further away or had obstacles to face. The volunteers tonight had no choice as to where they got to stand, therefore it was out of their control as to how hard they would have to strategise to get their plane into that bin. It was out of no fault of their own that they were put in the position that they were.

In life, some of us are born into privilege - these people are given opportunities laid out on a golden platter. Whilst, on the other hand, some of us aren’t born into the same position and therefore have a whole different obstacle course to follow to get to the same opportunities. As a boarder at St Paul’s, you are privileged. You can deny it, say that it's because of all of your hard work and determination, but the reality is much different. Rather, in most cases, it is due to the hard work of your parents as to why you are here. Having privilege is not a bad thing, but rather it is how you utilise the opportunities you have that matters.

Robert G. Ingersoll once said, “Give to all every right that you claim for yourself.” There are so many different ways as to how you can do this. These can be accomplished directly or indirectly. For example, in a direct manner you might choose to volunteer your time to teach ukulele at St Joan’s. Or, in an indirect manner, you might choose to make the most of your education now, so you can later on utilise your skills in a job to benefit your community. These things might seem simple to us. However they are massive to those who might not ever have the same opportunity. I want everyone to ask themselves: Am I making the most of the privilege that I have? Am I making the most of the opportunities that my parents have worked hard for? But most importantly: Am I giving to all every right that I claim for myself? If you look under your seat some of you will find a chocolate coin, whilst some of you might feel hard done by. I’m sorry. As we leave this Chapel, I want all those who got a coin to remember: It was through no work of your own that you sat in the right seat tonight. Just as it was no fault of those who sat in the wrong seat. You’ve been given a coin, you are lucky… now it’s up to you as to how you choose to spend it.