“If you were successful, somebody along the line gave you some help. There was a great teacher somewhere in your life. Somebody helped to create this unbelievable American system that we have that allowed you to thrive. Somebody invested in roads and bridges. If you’ve got a business – you didn’t build that. Somebody else made that happen. The Internet didn’t get invented on its own. Government research created the Internet so that all the companies could make money off the Internet.
“The point is, is that when we succeed, we succeed because of our individual initiative, but also because we do things together. There are some things, just like fighting fires, we don’t do on our own. I mean, imagine if everybody had their own fire service. That would be a hard way to organize fighting fires.” – Barack Obama, via Wikipedia, retrieved 4/28/2017
This morning I did a load of laundry.
Thank you for that.
Thank you to the universe that provided the raw materials.
Thank you for the waste products that you expel, which allows many of those raw materials to grow.
Thank you to the women and men who took those raw materials and turned them into metal and useful chemicals.
Thank you to the electrical professionals who figured out how safely apply the current through wires to the machines.
Thank you to the designers and builders who created the machines that accept that current in a way that gets the job done.
Thank you to my parents, who through both genetics and the environment that they provided, gave me the ability to move, to think, to figure out how to separate darks from lights, hot from cold, on from off.
Thank you to all the other people, both those I know of and those I don’t, who brought me to this point in my life where I have access to this amazing technology.
I could go on and on until the day I die, drilling down and mentioning all of the things that came together to allow me to get my clothes clean this morning. But I’ll stop there for now. My point is…
It’s not just the big “successes” (building a business, writing a novel, fighting a fire) that others help us with. It’s every little thing that we do, every single day.
We are a product of our genetics and environment. Yes, we have a choice in a whole hell of a lot of things, but what gave us the ability to make those choices? Our genetics and our past environment (even if that past was just a second ago).
Genetics can’t be changed (or can they?). Environment can be. But both the desire and the ability to make those changes depend on causes and conditions (to borrow a Buddhist term) that are quite often beyond our control.
Think about that today. When you come across something, either mundane or extraordinary, just take a bit of time to contemplate how that something came into your life, both by your actions and the actions of others. I’m not necessarily asking you to manufacture gratitude – just think about it.
For me, thinking about it creates gratitude without having to fake it. And gratitude feels good.
So once again – thanks for doing my laundry today. The amount of effort I put into it pales in comparison to the effort of everyone and everything else that did.