I have experienced worldly comfort and I have been poor in the midst of plenty making for a unique perspective on good fortune and bad luck. A middle-class upbringing in Africa gave me just enough so that I never felt deprived. Even though life's luxuries were limited, I had three meals a day and my parents never skipped a tuition payment at school. I had clothes on my back even if they were not always in the fashion of the day. I took these things for granted, nothing more than the essential necessities of life. Later, life took me to America and I arrived in the lowest echelon of society. I was so poor that I needed help from the State to feed my children. I bared my life to total strangers, declaring my income, my bank account balance, employment plans; before I could qualify to get the food stamps that would shame me at the supermarket where others paid with cash and bank cards. I knew the humiliation of visiting only those clinics that would accept State health insurance. Still I was glad for a country that gave my kids a chance. The school bus picked them every morning and took them to class, they were never hungry and when they were sick they got treated. Later I would harness the solid gifts of my middle class upbringing (education, social networks, confidence and belief in my abilities) to work my way out of poverty.
At 50 I know that at the start of our lives luck has a lot to do with whom we are destined to become because we do not choose where and to whom we are born. Our efforts begin exactly where our luck stops but effort must meet opportunity for us to steer destiny. What we eventually become is a result of how well we applied ourselves to harness luck and whatever opportunity we got.