The World Did Not Start The Day I Was Born

Cheryl - Falls Church, Virginia
Entered on May 12, 2008
Age Group: 50 - 65
  • Podcasts

    Sign up for our free, weekly podcast of featured essays. You can download recent episodes individually, or subscribe to automatically receive each podcast. Learn more.

  • FAQ

    Frequently asked questions about the This I Believe project, educational opportunities and more...

  • Top Essays USB Drive

    This USB drive contains 100 of the top This I Believe audio broadcasts of the last ten years, plus some favorites from Edward R. Murrow's radio series of the 1950s. It's perfect for personal or classroom use! Click here to learn more.

This I believe: the world did not start the day I was born. While I take full credit for what I’ve accomplished and full responsibility for my failures, I couldn’t have achieved anything if not given opportunities. The biggest opportunities grow from being in America. But that couldn’t have happened had my grandparents not uprooted themselves from eastern Europe and come here for a new start. Especially my father’s mother. She was 14 when she left home on her own because she wanted a chance to learn more, to be more. When she had to drop out of school because her father said he needed the money to send the younger children, she told him that if he couldn’t afford to give each of his children everything he wanted for them, he had no right to have all those children. She left the next year when her mother got pregnant again.

That sense of self worth was passed down, along with the knowledge that if you want something, feel you deserve something, you have to get it for yourself. Now that doesn’t mean that you don’t have to rely on others. I may have inherited the drive for education or maybe I absorbed that drive from my parents. But I couldn’t have gone to college without their help, financial and emotional.

With that kind of support comes a responsibility. Maybe that’s why we’re all here to begin with – to be part of a long chain of people that predates us as individuals ad will continue long after we’re all forgotten. Just think, what if the proto-humans never left the cave?

I guess that in the end it comes down to the philosophy of Rabbi Hillel in the 1st century BCE.

If I am not for myself, who will be?

If I am only for myself, what am I?

If not now, when?