A.L. Wix was just ordinary people—one of those regular chaps who schlep through life showing up, working hard, and trying to do right by their families. Below is an excerpt from Mr. Wix’s obituary, written by George B. Ellis and published 100 years ago today in the Butler Weekly Times and the Bates County Record, in Columbia, Missouri. Mr. Ellis’s account of Mr. Wix’s eccentricities has now been digitally immortalized in the Library of Congress’s collection of historic American newspapers. The obit is reminiscent of the Icelandic tradition of “writing after the dead” in newspaper tributes.
“What a splendid old world this would be if everyone lived up to his opportunities,” says Mr. Ellis. Hear, hear. Today let’s celebrate ordinary people who embrace opportunity with integrity and gratitude. Think about your good fortune. If you’re an American, you can go to your local grocery store—probably less than a mile away—and buy mangoes in December. You’re never truly hungry. You know where you’ll sleep every night, and you can lock the door behind you and be confident you’ll remain undisturbed by a police house search or criminal home invasion. You most likely have easy access to top-notch medical care. With your American passport, you can hop on a jet plane and go anywhere you like without asking the government’s permission or notifying any official of your whereabouts. You can learn a trade or earn a degree in any subject you wish. You can pursue your dream job or quit a lousy one at will. With all the advantages and freedom conferred upon you as a citizen of this country, your opportunities are immense.
You don’t have to run for Congress or write the next Great American Novel. But have you realized your potential? What gifts are you leaving on the shelf? Have you walked through those open doors or turned your back on them? Whatever you do, whether you’re the President of the United States or a humble farmer like Mr. Wix, do it to the best of your ability. That’s the most you can ask of yourself, and it’s the least anyone else can ask of you.