The sandwiches of life; jam, peanut butter or polony.

sandwichWhen I was five years old I first became aware of the social impact of money and the unequal income distribution in South Africa. The custom in my pre-primary school was that lunch sandwiches were provided on a rotational basis for the class. We all had a turn to fill up the large Tupperware holder with sandwiches for the class.

The kids from affluent families brought polony with tomato sauce sandwiches. In those days polony was expensive and only for the rich. The middle-income group could only enjoy it on high days and holidays. Peanut butter with jam sandwiches were also a luxury but more affordable than polony. The kids from the middle-income group usually brought peanut butter with jam sandwiches for the class. The plain jam sandwiches were from the poor kids.

The sandwiches became a status symbol. On the days when we got polony sandwiches everyone played with the rich kid even though he was rude to others. Sometimes when we got jam sandwiches, the kid who was responsible for the sandwiches was absent (her mother only came to drop off the sandwiches). With the sandwiches feelings of shame, jealousy or pride were (unconsciously) served. Instead of just viewing the sandwich as a means to feed our hunger, it started to distort how we viewed others and ourselves.

At five years old, I knew that my family was not rich because I did not bring polony sandwiches to school. I remember thinking how unfair it was that some kids were admired and others bullied based on the type of sandwich they brought to class. Now that I’m nearly 35 it seems as if the playground has not changed much. The sandwiches are just replaced with other items such as cars, houses, clothes, the area you live in, etc. We still (sometimes more consciously than other times) judge others and ourselves based on the ‘sandwiches of life’.

Learning: It is just a sandwich don’t let it define who you are. You are so much more than a sandwich.

Healing question: How do I allow the sandwiches of life to define me?

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