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June 2012
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Roots of success easily overlooked

By BILL RENZULLI Community Columnist.

Although I have joked about being very proud of my humility, I actually do consider myself a proud, but humble man.

I am proud because I have worked hard to take advantage of the gifts and opportunities provided to me, allowing me to live a full and accomplished life.

And I am humbled to have received these gifts and opportunities even though I did nothing to earn them. So much has been given to me.

I have been blessed with good health, reasonable intelligence (some may disagree with me on this), amazing parents, and a warm and supportive extended family. I was fortunate to be born in this country, and growing up in the 1940s and 50s, somewhat of a golden era for America.

There was little money in our home. My father was a farmer, my mother worked at home and in a clothing factory, and I got my first job at age 13.

We were never hungry, and never had to fear for our safety or for losing our home. I had my own room my entire childhood. (Privacy is an underappreciated gift, except by those who never have it.)

The biggest obstacle I had to overcome was being the shortest boy in the classroom. Thanks to Raphie Donato, I was not the shortest student. Neither of my parents finished high school, but there was never any question about my future. I would get the education they could not have.

I had a wonderful, almost idyllic childhood that I did nothing to deserve. I was born into a privileged class, not one based on wealth or social prominence, but just as privileged if not more.

I was the recipient of the comfort and security of a stable community, and the encouragement from a loving and supportive family that valued education and hard work. I never had to struggle with isolation, hunger, fear for my safety, or indifference from my family and community.

The path to my success was well-prepared, and all I had to do was follow it. It wasn't always easy, the work was hard and nothing was guaranteed. But the opportunities were there for me, and it was my responsibility to make the commitment and do the necessary work.

There are millions of people in this country who cannot claim even some of the gifts I've just mentioned, children growing up hungry, afraid, without family support and educational opportunities, and worst of all, without hope.

I cannot imagine a childhood with indifferent parents and no encouraging family structure for support, or a childhood stained with exposure to addicted and violent behavior. Or even worse, one where no one expects anything from you.

Unlike mine, their path to success, if they can find it, is strewn with obstacles that require an almost super-human effort to overcome.

So I am offended when some people of privilege disparage those who remain stuck on that path to adulthood, or never have the opportunity to get started, blaming them for their lack of success.

They are too quick to take all the credit for their own accomplishments, and for whatever reason, are reluctant to acknowledge what has been given to them.

Recognizing our privileges need not diminish the pride we can justly feel for the efforts leading to our achievements in life.

Bill Renzulli is an artist and retired physician who lives in Lower Town. Reach him at Follow his blog at

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