At this Thanksgiving I can’t help but be thankful for the opportunities I have been afforded in my life. I mentioned in my last post, I am very thankful for my parents and extended family that raised me. I had the opportunity to attend good schools, and to be part of safe and caring communities.
Because of a wise father, (as well as great farm prices in the late 70’s) I was able to make and save most of the money for college before I even got there. We worked hard on the farm. Rarely did my father work less than 12 hour days 6 – 7 days a week, and I worked with him much of that time, when not in school or other activities. In college I was afforded opportunities to learn from great professors and build significant friendships. I learned that with confidence and the right “look” I could go almost anywhere and do almost anything. Doors open, I learned, to those who played by the rules.
I must confess, I hesitated to write this and give thanks for my life opportunities, but I knew it would be dishonest to not mention the opportunities that have shaped my life positively. I hesitated, because I know for many who read this, and for many of my friends, life did not give them (or their parents and grandparents) the life choices that have been afforded to me and my family.
Why have others not had similar life opportunities? I mentioned before the “right look” and “playing by the rules” that open doors of opportunity in America. These have, since the foundation of this country, had a racial and cultural component. I believe this is beginning to change, yet the imbalances and injustices often continue to compound generation upon generation.
Life opportunities; level of education, family wealth, life expectancy and other factors are all closely aligned to race. As difficult a truth as this is to swallow, can respond with more than a shrug (nothing I can do about it…) or a guilty complex (I hate myself because I was born white..). Positive life opportunities should be available to all, if we are seeking a Beloved Community.
I am thankful for the opportunities I have been afforded, yet I am saddened to realize my opportunities often came as others were being denied equal opportunities. I wrote about my Great-Grandfather in an earlier post. He, and the generations that followed him, were given opportunities directly at the expense of the Native people who had been recently removed from this land in East / Southern Nebraska.
True, my family, schools, early co-workers were not usually actively excluding others. In fact they often broke the barriers and showed me new possibilities. However, we were passively living in a system that had set limits and barriers that could not be destroyed without intentional and consistent action.
Jesus told his disciples that “…. to whom much has been given much will be required.” (Luke 12:48) For us who have had great life opportunities, regardless of our race or culture, may we be thankful, AND let us also seek ways to open up opportunities for others who were not afforded the same.
Happy Thanksgiving! May your giving-of-thanks translate into a life action.