I believe in the power of every person’s moral fiber to influence his or her actions. I grew up in a world where my moral decisions were never called into question, and one where I was accepted as a good person because that was who I was supposed to be. One spring, everything changed.
I took my first real part-time job at the end of my junior year. I applied, interviewed, and began working waiting tables at a local restaurant. It was my first experience working for tips, and I soon realized the more I worked and the more effort that I put into my work, the more success I had. There was one cook with whom I never got along. She scowled at me, and a minor mistake on my part earned five-minute tirade from behind the concrete partition that separated our worlds. Any interaction beyond that was usually met with unwarranted hostility. I served the food, and she cooked it. One day, the waiter who was usually supposed to give her a ride to work cancelled, so she called me. She asked if I would pick her up from her other job ten minutes up the Tollway and bring her to the restaurant at 3:30. As she was getting out of the car she asked me, “Why do you work? You don’t need the money. Is this just a game for you? If you’re bored, go home. Don’t mock those of us who need to feed our families.” The words hit me like a punch to the stomach. I stood up and replied, “I work because it is better to give than take, and I’m no taker. It is everyone’s duty to work, to be a part of bearing the weight of the world.” This was not the answer she was expecting, and she walked inside the restaurant in silence.
I had never been judged so harshly based on my material possessions before, nor had I ever been asked to give the justification for why my moral compass pointed a certain way. In my corner of the world, good people were good people because that is how they should be. In hers I was a mockery, a spoiled rich kid mimicking her way of life. I did not have to struggle for the words she asked for. I had been taught that certain things should always be done.
The strength of my moral fiber, the fiber my parents worked so hard to give me, keeps me tied firmly to what is right. I work to teach myself the discipline of being responsible for the well-being of others, and to help shoulder the weight of something bigger than myself. Sometimes the very convictions that support me when I need them need support themselves, but together we both stand stronger than apart. I believe in inner strength, and with that strength as my guide, I cannot fail.
If you allow your moral instincts to carry you, nothing can stop you. Even a cook, older and more experienced than I was, learned to respect me. The strength of my moral fiber, the fiber my parents worked so hard to give me, keeps me tied firmly to what is right. I work to teach myself the discipline of being responsible for the well-being of others, and to help shoulder the weight of something bigger than myself. I believe in inner strength, and with that strength as my guide, I cannot fail.
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