Woodstock prides itself on the fact that it attracts students from all parts of the world, from different cultural, religious and social backgrounds.
But do we ever stop to consider the true implications of this? To consider the fact that Woodstock is home to a community of students from not only different ethnic backgrounds, but also vastly different socioeconomic statuses?
When I came to Woodstock in fourth grade, we were given 500 rupees a month as pocket money. We were happy with this amount of money and never felt like we needed more. Additional money was not allowed, and as innocent 9-year olds, we abided by the rules. As we moved into higher grades, our pocket money increased gradually, as did our desire to have more and to buy more, never giving a single thought to the people around us who were not able to do so.
According to the Woodstock student life handbook, “students are encouraged not to bring large amounts of money” to school. Contrary to this, most students bring huge amounts of cash at the start of every semester. Some come to school every day with their wallets stuffed with wads of 2000-rupee notes and several credit cards. But I shouldn’t be hypocritical; I am also someone who is fortunate to be able to text my mother when I run out of money and receive it instantaneously.
For some students, however, financial matters are much more complicated than a two-minute phone call home. As surprising as it may be, not all of us have the privilege of going to bazaar every weekend and eating a luxurious meal at Llamas or giving our date to Sadie costly jewelry as a gift.
I know people who opt out of class trips in an effort to save money, who politely decline requests for trips to bazaar Saturday after Saturday, who hesitantly pay for something for their friends, ashamed of admitting that they need that money to eat while traveling back home. I have seen people who sit uncomfortably as their roommates discuss which edition of the newest iPhone to purchase, or which $600 shoe to add to their sneaker collection.
As I reflected on this topic, I thought of the countless insults I have heard thrown around about people’s clothing and lack of skills in English. When we make fun of someone’s lack of branded clothing, we are failing to take into account the fact that not everyone’s parents own a major business- some are just working exceptionally hard to give their children an education at a place like Woodstock. When we casually make offensive comments about the way someone speaks English, we are neglecting the fact that an English-medium education is not easy for everyone to afford. We are failing as a community to uphold our commitment towards respect and acceptance of each other’s differences.
When my Spanish 4 class planned a trip to Spain last year, it was canceled due to concerns that some students would not be able to pay for the expenses. When we received this news, the majority of my classmates were completely indignant- “Who cares about them? People who can afford it should be able to go!” As I looked around at the anger and resentment on the faces of my classmates, I came to the realization that many of us are blinded, unable to look beyond our privilege to try and understand the struggles of those around us.
I imagined the immense envy I would feel sitting in my dorm room scrolling through pictures of all my friends frolicking in the sun in Barcelona on my Instagram feed. I imagined hearing about all the adventures and stories of the trip, knowing that I was supposed to be there too. For me, it was just a far-off thought, simply something to imagine. But for some people, maybe even some sitting in that classroom, situations like this are an everyday reality.
Audre Lorde put it best: “It is not our differences that divide us. It is our inability to recognize, accept, and celebrate those differences.”
I am not saying we need to stop spending money on expensive vacations, or bringing large amounts of cash to school. What we need is to give more conscious thought to how we show and talk about money, knowing that not all of us come from the same financial situations. We need to try and understand that although one’s struggles may not affect us at all, we are a community, and empathy and compassion should be at the foundation of any community.
Aadya Aryal is a staff reporter
Edited by Nalin Mahajan
3 thoughts on “Cash or compassion: which do we value?”
Excellent article, Aadya!
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Phenomenal work, Aadya. Thank you for giving voice to this important issue!
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So true. Thanks for sharing.