Unusual People – One More Life Lesson from Grandma

This article originally published on LinkedIn and is republished here with permission from the author.

A few weeks ago, my family and I spent the weekend in Omaha, Nebraska where we were blessed to spend time with my lively 87-year-old grandmother. The weekend provided the perfect opportunity for us to sit and converse with my grandma, all the while attempting to grasp the full extent of her ripened wisdom.

Throughout our conversations over the course of the weekend, my grandma kept making reference to the fact that we are rather ‘unusual’ people. Now to anyone who may personally know any members of my family, you’d probably be quick to side with my grandma on the fact that we are all highly unusual people. But my grandma wasn’t exclusively acknowledging the fact that we are unusual in that we’re all a little weird, but rather, she was recognizing that we are relatively and unusually privileged.

In particular, my grandma shared that she feels immensely blessed knowing that she can live out each day without carrying an ounce of fear or worry. She is grateful — and privileged — to have a beautiful house to live in, nutritious food on her table, and access to quality healthcare. She is filled with endless joy and is surrounded by countless people who love and care for her.

However, she chooses to acknowledge her unique and ‘unusual’ position in the world not as a way to boast, but rather as a tool used to grow in empathy and compassion for those who don’t find themselves in familiarly ‘unusual’ positions. She is able to fully understand that her spot in this world is one that is a luxury not experienced by the majority, thus viewing her privileged position in this world as highly ‘unusual’.

In this way, my grandma’s perspective provides us all with a distinct reminder that we can apply to our daily lives. Although it is easy to think of ourselves exclusively in isolation, we are called to look beyond our personal bubble in order to grow in empathy for the marginalized on a daily basis. By first recognizing our ‘unusual’ position in this world, and then seeking out opportunities to be among people outside of our own bubble, we are called to go forth and share that which has been given to us privileged few.

As tragedies occur around the world and crowd our headlines every day, it is important to listen to those stories and to serve those in need whenever possible. It is my grandma’s hope and prayer that we can all act as a force for good by lending a hand or a smile to those in need throughout our daily walk.

My grandma is spot on. It is rather unusual that we live in such a privileged setting. It’s important to remember that the comforts that we experience every day are a blessing and are not guaranteed by any means. My grandparents’ success — and their resulting ‘unusual’ position — was achieved through hard work and sacrifice. However, there is another essential ingredient to their success. That ingredient is luck — absolute and total luck. When we are born, who our parents are, and where we grow up are things that none of us earned. They were given to us.

When we strip away our luck and privilege and consider where we’d be without them, it becomes easier to see someone who’s poor and sick and say, “that could be me.” This is the empathy that my 87-year-old grandma has discovered throughout her life; it tears down barriers and opens up opportunities to serve and care for others.

We can’t simply sit back and expect things to get better on their own. Through the lens of empathy, we begin to sense a powerful conviction to act as an agent for good. As long as we maintain hope and choose not to look away — no matter how bad the suffering is that we see — we carry an enormous potential to leverage our ‘unusual’ position in the world to better help and serve the marginalized among us.

About Cooper Cohen, CPCU

Cooper is an International Underwriter at CNA Financial in Chicago, Illinois providing tailored solutions to meet the foreign insurance needs of US-based clients doing business abroad. He graduated with honors from the University of Notre Dame where he studied the complexities of Finance & Entrepreneurship. He is a native of Colorado and joined the insurance industry in 2016. Cooper holds the following designations: Chartered Property Casualty Underwriter (CPCU), Commercial Lines Coverage Specialist (CLCS), and Construction Risk and Insurance Specialist (CRIS).

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