With Apologies to Jane Kenyon

This piece was written in response to a prompt in a blogging class I’m taking:

Who is responsible for my success, whatever success I may have had in life? Here are a few thoughts, with apologies to Jane Kenyon.

First of all, I know that my life regularly touches other lives in ways that make a positive difference. I have the freedom to write and think. I love the work I do and the people with whom I do it. I get paid what I consider to be a generous salary, with health insurance and pension beside. I have a sense of gratitude to and reliance upon something larger than myself. It might have been otherwise.

Like everyone else, I drive on roads and bridges built and maintained by tax dollars. I had the benefit of a strong education in public schools supported by tax dollars, in relatively affluent areas where PTOs applied pressure to make sure instruction was solid. My freedom is defended by a military and police force supported by tax dollars. It might have been otherwise.

I grew up in a relatively stable, if not entirely functional, family. My parents, though they had their marital struggles, did their best to let me know I was loved. They read aloud to me when I was a child. They strongly encouraged me to apply myself academically. They worked to instill good character in me. They possessed the financial resources to expose me to opportunities in music, athletics, and oratory. They, with the help of scholarship aid provided by federal grants and donations of alumni, made it possible for me to go to a fine liberal-arts college, where I received a first-rate education. It might have been otherwise.

I live in one of the most affluent counties in one of the wealthiest countries in the world. I have ready access to goods and services, cultural and educational opportunities that very few people have. I have had opportunities for national and international travel, in a number of instances funded by foundations or individuals in my life. It might have been otherwise.

I am fit and reasonably healthy. I have an intelligent, beautiful, kind, and funny wife who is well-suited to my temperament and interests; two lovely, bright, and well-educated daughters; and we are all healthy. We live in a modest home, but only modest by the standards of the town in which I live. We are surrounded by communities of people who care deeply for us, and for whom we care deeply. It might have been otherwise.

So who is responsible for my success, for all of the good things that have come my way?

Is it all due to my hard work, to me somehow making my own luck? I don’t think so. Is it all just an accident of birth and circumstance? Some might say so. Is it the grace of God, the activity of something beyond me? It seems almost cliché for a minister to say so. But I think its true. Grace has played out in individuals and communities and tax dollars that have supported me. It is partly the hand that I’ve been dealt, and partly the way I’ve played it.

It might have been otherwise.

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