Jan 16, 2018 1542 0 Alan Scott

Determination | A True Story

As a young man not yet even 20, I attended college, pursuing a degree in accounting. During my first year, given that I was very shy and introverted, and having had no close friends, I would eat my lunches alone, sitting on a bench on the campus lawn. This enabled me to avoid the hustle and bustle of the dining halls, where almost everyone else enjoyed their meals while socializing.

One day as I approached my usual bench, I noticed another young man was already sitting there. Thinking back to that day, I remember I was quite annoyed. That was my bench. “Go get your own,” I thought. As I walked by him, he must have noticed I was carrying a bagged lunch and he asked if I wanted to sit down. Begrudgingly, I did. We introduced ourselves. His name was David. After I began to eat my sandwich I remember looking over at this fellow and thinking that he looked very poor. His pants had rips (and not the cool kind of rips that many people used to do themselves) and his shoes looked as if they should have been retired many years ago.

A Life-Changing Conversation

I asked him if it was his first year at the school and further inquired as to what he was majoring in. Turns out he was working on his general education classes, with plans to move on to pre-law. I was impressed. I knew that some people do in fact become lawyers, but I had never really met anyone who had the determination to actually pursue it. As we talked and exchanged tidbits from our lives, I learned that David grew up in a small town about two hours from the university—a small, depressed town. In fact, David grew up very poor, much more than I had originally suspected. His mother died when he was a young boy, and his father raised him and his three siblings by himself. David was the oldest, so as his father went to work every day at one of the local factories and after school each day, David watched over his brother and two sisters while doing his homework. He also had a part-time job washing dishes at a local restaurant in the evenings several days a week. I asked David why he wanted to be a lawyer. He told me he wanted to help others who could not help themselves. He wanted to make a difference, for people and for God.

When his uncle asked him at the age of 14 what he wanted to be when he grew up, “a lawyer” was his response. From that day, he said he was determined to make it happen. He came in a tie with a fellow classmate to be the valedictorian of his high school. Between saving the money from his part-time job and being blessed with a well-deserved scholarship he was able to attend college. He was the first in his family to ever do so. David told me he could not afford to live on or near campus, so he drove to school every day from his hometown. It was a four-hour drive, each day, five days a week. I asked him how he had the time and strength to do this day after day. He responded by telling me that God gave him the strength. As I sat and listened to David humbly tell fragments of his life story, and his current situation, my only thought was that he inspired me. Our only connection was that I also grew up quite poor, and my father died when I was very young. But I definitely did not share his determination. At that point in my life, I was clueless as to how to proceed with my life, other than trying to show up for class on time every day.

David definitely inspired me not only with his determination, but also with his humble, kind and peaceful attitude. Here was this young man who, when faced with so many adversities, who had decided this is what he wanted and this is what he was going to do to make it happen. I would like to claim that I was there in the audience when David received his law degree. I would like to claim that David went on to become a lawyer who championed moral justice. I would like to claim that David and I went on to become life-long friends. Regretfully, I never again saw David. I went back to that same bench many times that year, hoping to see him, strike up another conversation and find out how he was doing, but he was never there. Regardless, I have never had a doubt in my mind that he did it—that he became the lawyer he wanted to be, helping people, just as he wanted to do.

A Determination to Persevere

David had a goal from the age of 14, and he worked hard and saw his goal become a reality. I knew it then and I know it to this day. The most important thing I took from that brief encounter is that David has always reminded me that a goal without action is really not a goal at all. David showed me that there is a big difference between saying you want something and actually working to make it happen. In my mind, I imagine that David worked and strived hard, perhaps even harder and with more adversity than other young students who also wanted to become lawyers. Saying you want something is one thing, but actually doing something about it is very different. We prove what we desire most by our actions, not by our words. Where our treasure is, there will also be our heart. We see this and experience it all the time, in others and in our own lives.

Since finding my faith, I cannot help but recognize the determination that each of us needs to live the type of life God wants from us. We want to be forgiving, but how often do we continue to hold grudges? We want to be more patient, but do we truly make the changes in our thoughts and actions to demonstrate patience? We want to start being more charitable, but do we avoid people who call on us for help? We desire to have more gratitude for what we have, but how often do we continue to want more, instead of appreciating what we already have? We desire to love God with our whole heart and soul, but how often do we find reasons not include Him, whether consciously or unconsciously, in our lives?

Less Talk, More Action

How often is what we say we want different from what we actually pursue? Again, saying you want something is one thing, doing something about it is very different. We prove what we desire most by our actions, not by our words. We should ask ourselves: Am I taking the necessary steps to grow closer in my relationship with God, a true relationship? Am I taking the steps to overcome my defects and let God turn them into virtues and strive for continual determination?

Much how David was determined to see his goal become reality, we have to keep going and never give up, no matter how many times we fall and even if we fall hard. We cannot give up. God loves us and is merciful. A desire to be a better person for God, without the necessary spiritual work to become that better person is just wishful thinking. Just how David showed and inspired me, it takes some work on our part—actions, strength, determination. We can do this, together, with God by our side. Never give up.

Alan Scott

© is a writer and blogger. His work has been published on the Catholic Exchange, One Peter Five, The Stream and Catholic Today. His blog “Grow in Virtue” is about the journey towards a life filled with more virtue, faith, simplicity, generosity and far less complexity. He is listed on Top Catholic Blogs and is writing his first book, which he hopes to publish this year.


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