“Tell me, what is it you plan to do with your one wild and precious life?”

The shards of my family scattered in a sea of refugees.

When I was thirteen, my grandfather brought me to rural Punjab, to the remnants of a home splintered by religious intolerance. I gazed across a quiet pasture from the life he and so many others had lost.

Carefully tended for generations, it was left shriveled and raw. I prickled from the sting of the injustice. He wrapped his calloused hands around my shoulders.

From jumbled fragments, those calloused hands had built a new life for me. My grandfather fought divisions but embraced differences. He reached across faiths to find work. His sweat in a brick kiln enabled the first in our family to go to college.

I am indebted to my grandfather. His sacrifice is not mine to waste.

I can’t pay him back, but I will pay it forward. In his footsteps, I will measure wealth in character, not currency. I will find strength in differences, not strength in spite of them.

From shards, I will make mosaics.

— Sumit Malik