As we celebrate Thanksgiving in the United States, many of us will engage in some practice, formal or otherwise, to name that for which we are grateful. Our health, our families, a roof over our head, the delicious food we are about to eat, and so on. You know the drill.
This is mostly an exercise in naming “the what” of our gratitude, and recognizes little of “the why” or “the how.”
Clearly plenty of folks have worked hard to achieve levels of wealth, connection and safety that millions cannot even fathom; some of us overcoming childhood trauma, poverty, illness or other very challenging circumstances. That is to be acknowledged and admired.
Yet it also true that the sheer serendipity of our birth can play a significant role, and working hard may have rather little to do with whether on this day we experience abundance or scarcity or somewhere in between. This is what Warren Buffett refers to as the “Ovarian Lottery.”
Heads you win. Tails I lose. Or vice versa.
The fact is that the zip code or particular family situation we just happened to be born into is often a huge determinant of our future. In the United States inequality begins in the womb. So as Barry Switzer famously said, if we were born on third base we shouldn’t go through life thinking we hit a triple.
As I sit down for our Thanksgiving meal, I am extremely grateful. But I am also humbled and filled with compassion. Yes, I worked hard, but I also got lucky. Very, very lucky.