What shall I do with my privileged inheritance, so easily taken for granted?
I begin by realizing that I have not earned it in the least.
I continue by realizing that my life of ease and opportunity comes courtesy of the labor and sacrifice of countless heroes who came before me… of every nationality, sex, gender, creed, and color. To each and every one of them, I owe an unpayable debt…
… to every immigrant who had the courage to leave everything behind… including their families… to risk their lives on the high seas… arriving in new worlds penniless and with no guarantees… in order to seek a better life for themselves… or at least for their children.
… to every laborer who forged the beams and pounded the rivets… transforming raw materials into buildings, bridges, ships, and roads that connected the world.
… to every miner who braved the cold, damp darkness in order to stoke the coals of industry.
… to every slave on whose scarred back entire nations were built… and who, in return, was rewarded with bondage, prejudice, and violent discrimination.
… to every terrified soldier who lost their innocence and sacrificed their bodies on so many horrific and lonely battlefields of freedom.
… to every parent and teacher who refused to give up on a child who gave up on themselves.
… to every explorer who braved uncharted waters and lands with curiosity and fellowship, not conquest in their heart.
… to every artist and poet who shined a light on truth and beauty… even in the face of poverty and ridicule.
… to every farmer who weathered each drought and planted yet again… in order to feed his family, neighbors, and the world.
… to every philosopher who had the integrity to challenge their own ignorance and the courage to challenge the ignorance of others.
… to every scientist and inventor who persevered through countless failures and criticisms in order to discover healing medicines and life-enhancing technologies.
… to every philanthropist who saw the folly of greed… and reinvested their windfall for the general welfare.
… to every freedom fighter who stood up to tyranny… often making the ultimate sacrifice in the face of unspeakable terror.
… to countless other unsung heroes who lived their conscience, no matter the eternal consequences to themselves.
I cannot write a thank you letter to each and every one of them, but I can do better…
I can make myself worthy of their labors and sacrifice by making my life a living expression of profound gratitude… by reinvesting my rich inheritance in service to those who, purely by accident of birth, are not so fortunate as me.
So easy to say, so [seemingly] hard to do.