12 Years a Slave; How slavery brought freedom to Solomon Northrup

Do you remember the day that you filled out your life creation requisition form? You know the one: I requested to be born in Canada, white, male with DNA that would produce a 6’1” stature at 185 pounds (someone screwed that up though – I don’t know where the extra 30 pounds came from!)

Broken Chain

Of course, this never happened for me, or for you. I’ve been reminded of the importance of keeping this truth in perspective when confronting the challenge of life and work: We had no control over our life at the beginning. Along with this truth is another: we have no control over our eventual death either. I wonder, given that we have no control over either of these significant circumstances of our life, why do we seek to control the balance of it so desperately? Why is it often so difficult to be content and at peace in these various other circumstances?

Over the holidays I watched the movie 12 Years a Slave, based in the actual life of Solomon Northup, a free man who was kidnapped and sold into slavery in 1841. I was moved by Solomon’s story, but also by the stories of the many other slaves that are included in this real-life account. Their path through life was a very hard one to travel and there were few, if any, comforts. Not only were these men and women born into a difficult time, they were also beaten, abused and oppressed by others – a fact I will never fully understand. Just like you and me, these men and women did not choose where and when they would be born, or what skin color, gender or stature they would be.

Prior to his kidnapping, Solomon Northrup had taken his freedom and privilege for granted. Following his return to freedom he dedicated his life to promoting awareness of slavery, ultimately contributing the coming abolition.
Following the movie, I too found myself taking less for granted. I emerged with a renewed sense of gratitude, and a increased desire to have an even more positive impact in the lives of others.

Have you lost perspective? Do you hold a daily sense of gratitude, or are you distracted by circumstance? If so, let me prescribe 12 Years a Slave.