My bedtime reading lately has been A Blessing over Ashes: The Remarkable Odyssey of My Unlikely Brother by Adam Fifield. It's the memoir of a man from Vermont whose parents adopted a Cambodian boy. Soeuth had been a child slave under the Khmer Rouge regime.
Near the end of the book Fifield and Soeuth visit Cambodia as adults; in one of those odd quirks of fate it turned out that Soeuth's family had somehow survived the Killing Fields. The men go out in the field to help with the work, hacking into the hard, dry earth with hoes. The entire extended family is laboring in the blazing tropical sun, hauling water in buckets to soften the earth, hoping that the crops will grow so no one has to go hungry. Fifield and Soeuth take a break, and Soeuth looks at one of his Cambodian brothers working fiercely. "He's seventeen," he says to his American sibling, "And he'll be doing this his whole life."
Today is my birthday. I have not spent decades laboring in the fields. I have had the luxury of working on the assumption that life consists of more than survival. Life is unfair: I did not earn the right to my world of relative comfort. Whatever my struggles are -- and yes, I have some real ones -- I still ended up with the long end of the stick. I get to eat every day. I have access to good medical care. My children don't die of diarrhea.
There is a lot to be thankful for.