What Separates You from the Man Next to You

Zach - West Deptford, New Jersey
Entered on April 22, 2008
Age Group: Under 18
Themes: work

I believe in hard work and dedication. Some people believe it is possible to be born an amazing athlete, and maybe that’s true for others, but I have yet to experience such a phenomenon. What I did experience was an incident last summer that changed my life and taught me the value of hard work and dedication.

I was at a lacrosse camp practicing in grueling heat all day. I was exhausted, and maybe that’s why the speech my coach made that day went straight to my head. He said that in order to go somewhere in life, you had to figure out what separates you from the man next to you. I thought for a moment about this, about what put me on a pedestal higher than the other three hundred kids working hard at the camp, and what I came up with was a painful but simple truth – nothing.

After coming to this conclusion, I realized I needed to truly dedicate myself to becoming not just a better lacrosse player, but a better person and student, too. The innate talent that every child dreams of was not going to happen for me. Through the rest of the summer, I researched good deeds that I could spend my time doing, and came up with an all over improvement plan.

I started with volunteering at a pediatric center where children with disabilities live full time. This effort was immediately fulfilling. Every time I entered the facility and smiled at the children, their faces would light up with joy. I quickly understood that dedicating my time to making them happy would make me a better person because I could help them feel just like every other child.

To improve my athletic skills, I joined more lacrosse camps and leagues, and bought a lacrosse net for my backyard so I could practice in my free time. To get in better shape, I also joined the high school cross-country team, and I got a math tutor, as well, to help me bring my grades up. These things don’t sound like much, but they have paid off. I have lost weight and improved my lacrosse skills, and continue to keep up my grades in school.

Although I’m proud of my athletic and academic accomplishments, it is volunteering that has really made me think differently because now I am consciously striving to be more kind, sympathetic, and helpful to everyone in my life. These days, if I have an opportunity to join a cause at my school, I jump at it. I am also trying to find other ways to be more proactive in my community.

Everyday, my belief in hard work and dedication grows stronger. I have done so much that I wouldn’t have been pushed to do without hearing my coach’s speech at camp that day. And the more I continue to strive to be a better person, the more I see that hard work and dedication have no limits. This I believe.