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18 of 100 – Do the Best You Can with This Life

Angelina Jolie received the Jean Hersholt Humanitarian Award at the 2013 Governors Awards. I saw her acceptance speech on Facebook and in it she refers to an unknown girl in another part of the world. (Click here to see it.)

That girl has all the innate talents and skills that she has. She has none of the opportunities. That other girl if born under Jolie's circumstances could have succeeded maybe even more so that Jolie herself, but we will never know.

She credits her mom with teaching her to make the most of her life because that is not a privileged everyone gets.

I was raised to work hard and to always do my very best. My parents didn't expect my brothers and sisters and me to get straight As in school. They expected us apply ourselves and to give our best given our abilities.

I was chatting about this with with my brother and sister, who both work in Miami's school system. They see children through their work that are up against so much. They see first hand the difference between these kids and our kids that have so much in the way of education and upbringing. They have opportunities because of what we can offer them versus what others born under different circumstances have.

I'm not saying that people born under bad situations cannot success. I'm saying we MUST be grateful. Kids born in migrant camps to immigrant parents who barely make enough miss out on opportunities. Children born in public housing (and Miami like other big cities has areas that are awful) affected by drugs, violence and poverty, don't have the opportunities like our kids have. For them to break out of and succeed, they have to overcome so much.

There are many reasons why I am grateful. A big reason is because one generation back, things weren't so good for my family. I was raised in this country in in stark contrast with my parents who were raised in Cuba and had to flee their country in their early teens to escape a Castro Cuba. They were worried about putting food on the table at the age when I was enjoying "the college life."

By putting my talents and skills to use, I am saying thank you to them. I am showing how grateful I am for what my parents did that gave me opportunities I didn't have to have.

And this gratefulness pushes me to give back. I hope I can take steps to give others opportunities they might not otherwise have.