Because of the national holiday in America celebrating the life of Dr. Martin Luther King and his efforts to address inequality, I have recently found myself reflecting on my own childhood.

You see, I am adopted.

And like most children who were adopted in the 60's, everything about my biological parents, my genealogy and how I came to be adopted remain cloaked behind a veil of secrecy.

As a child, I often filled in these blanks with my very active imagination, and my poor mother would have to refute yet another wild story of mine about how I'd come to live with my family.

You may be wondering what this has to do with celebrating the life of Dr. Martin Luther King. It is this: because I spent my childhood trying on for size a wide variety of cultures and backgrounds, I still maintain a deep curiosity and desire to understand more about others.

And I believe that it is this desire to understand others who are different from ourselves that is key to tearing down the barriers and biases that perpetuate inequality.

When we pursue real understanding, we can progress beyond knowledge about an issue like child hunger or poverty to being moved to address the core issues that result in so many children not having a home or bed or even a toy to call their own, who wake up or go to sleep hungry, insecure or fearing for their own safety.

I wonder how many of us view it as inherent privilege to have enjoyed a secure, safe childhood.

For those of us who did, we spent our energy playing and learning, not worrying about food or safety. It is one of the first inherent privileges in life that allows some to grow and thrive intellectually. It also becomes one of the first barriers in life for those who do not experience a secure childhood.

But even beyond the basics of food, shelter and feelings of security, there are so many other inherent privileges or barriers that define the course of a life because of myriad factors like race, background, or where we live.

Because of my own work these past few years with organizations and individuals who are in some form or fashion working to address inequality, I have come to understand that many of the initiatives that are often described as entitlements or preferential treatment are usually neither.

Addressing inequality isn't about the privileged handing out coveted opportunities to those they deem worthy like we hand out candy at Halloween.

Addressing inequality is about society working together to preserve or create access to opportunities as a means of rectifying existing and inherent inequalities.

As individuals, we can all use our own good fortune, whatever that may entail, as motivation for harnessing our inherent privileges for good.

We can use our voices to amplify the voices of others to encourage greater empathy and understanding. Each of us, no matter our background, can do that.

We can chose careers or get involved with initiatives or programs where we believe we can deliver a positive impact.

When we embrace opportunities to learn about others through our encounters, interactions or work we do with others who look, act or think differently, we will gain greater empathy.

And when our empathy becomes action, we can collectively address inequalities so that the next generation will start out with better access to opportunities than those that are available today.