Early this morning I woke up with a heavy heart. I was reaching for my phone, about to update my reading challenge stats, when I was overcome with sadness. In that moment, I thought of my ancestors, the ones who were escaped to Canada as slaves. I remembered how they were denied the right to an education, and it made angry. Instead of telling my friends how many books that I had left to read, I wrote exactly what was on my mind.
My ancestors went through a lot of difficulties so I could live a better life than they did. I pray I don’t take their lives for granted. Children born of my generation are often painted as spoiled, wasteful, lazy, and with a strong sense of entitlement that they did nothing to earn. Well, I can vouch for the fact that not all of us are that way. Some of us know our history. We know that there were countless people, who will never be named or praised. They did all the hard work, organized, protested, faced jail time for minor infractions, were beaten and degraded, scrubbed floors, cooked, and raised other people’s children.
And because we know, we care.
As my pastor always says, I am standing on the shoulders of giants. Whenever I decide that life is too difficult for me, I think of my great-grand mother, who worked as a maid and lived in a house with no electricity. And her mother, who worked as a maid and had to travel to work on a dirt-road by horse and buggy. I am reminded that, while I could be a maid if I choose, it’s not the only option for me. It was for them.
It’s easy to judge someone when we don’t have to live their life, but when you consider how difficult it was back then, it is all the more remarkable that some broke away and achieved success in spite of opposition. I felt a heavy burden to do right by my ancestors because I do not want their lives (or deaths) to be in vain.
I am thankful to them because I’ve inherited their tireless work ethic. I have a sense of pride in my work–no matter how small or insignificant, and I have been given the tools to have the success that they were prevented from achieving.
The way I see it, the only real barrier to my success is my own will. I can have the talent. I can have the knowledge, but if I do not have the perseverance, I will not become who I was born to be.
I was born with the gift of choice, but I owe it to myself, and to them, to do my best. If they could give one hundred per cent with what little they had, imagine what I can accomplish. I don’t know what it’s like to live without options. I pray I never have to. But as long as I’m alive I will work to honour those who came before me.
After what they had to go through, they’re the ones that truly deserve it.