A Life of Service is Success
In 1935, Margaret Bekema was a 17-year-old junior at Catholic Central High School in Grand Rapids, MI.
She had grown up through the Great Depression and had witnessed first-hand what the ravages of financial ruin and poverty could do. Naturally, she wanted to arm herself against them, so she applied herself diligently to her studies. Margaret enjoyed her classes. She made A’s and B’s and had loads of friends. Therefore, it broke her heart when her father told her she’d have to quit school and be a mother to her younger siblings.
Margaret’s mother was diagnosed with cancer and, besides caring for her until her death, Margaret had to cook, clean, keep house, and make clothes for her brothers and sisters.
She agreed to do this until they all grew up and left home to pursue their own careers. Then came the Second World War. Margaret worked for the U.S. Government throughout the war, married, and began raising a family of her own.
During all those years of service, Margaret had to watch her peers advance professionally – while she remained enslaved as a substitute mother to her brothers and sister. To make it all the more painful Margaret was repeatedly forced to explain, at social gatherings or to co-workers, why she was a high school dropout.
Of course, no one understood how much it hurt to give up school and how deeply she sacrificed to care for her dying mother and siblings.
But someone finally did recognize her life of service and sacrifice. It was her old high school, Catholic Central.
In October 2015, Catholic Central recognized that Margaret’s innumerable sacrifices were more than enough to merit a high school diploma. 80 years after she was forced to quit high school her alma mater finally awarded her the hardest-earned high school diploma any student ever received.[i]
You know, many people are forced to put personal, professional and educational goals on hold in order to fulfill life’s greater obligations – to family, to God, and to country. But making such sacrifices does not make us failures.
Catholic Central recognized Margaret Bekema as a success – because she put the needs of others before her own educational goals.
For her deep-cutting sacrifices, they concluded that that she had more than earned her place among its alumni. And when disappointment hits us like a hammer in the chest, neither should we consider ourselves as failures.
Making sacrifices does not make us failures
All of us face roadblocks and detours which divert our path and make our pursuit after goals a much longer one. Or, those road blocks may derail our dreams completely. When this happens, remember, success is measured by how we fulfill life’s greater obligations, not by unrealized aspirations. If you have done what you should for others, then you are a success and fulfill God’s demands.
The Scripture says, “Don’t be selfish; don’t try to impress others. Be humble, thinking of others as better than yourselves. Don’t look out only for your own interests, but take an interest in others, too. You must have the same attitude that Christ Jesus had. Though he was God, he did not think of equality with God as something to cling to. Instead, he gave up his divine privileges; he took the humble position of a slave, and was born as a human being. When he appeared in human form, he humbled himself in obedience to God and died a criminal’s death on a cross. Therefore, God elevated him to the place of highest honor and gave him the name above all other names, that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue declare that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father,” (Philippians 2:3-11, NLT).
Dear Father in heaven, when disappointment comes and when sacrifices cut deeply, remind me that I am merely doing what my Lord has already done and am treading the path He has already trod. Amen.
[i] (Information from http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-3297231/97-year-old-Michigan-woman-receives-high-school-diploma.html)