Katherine (name has been changed) had plans for her life. She would graduate college, give service in a far-away land, attend medical school and help others throughout the world. When she was accepted to the college of her choice she knew her dreams were within her reach.
After a few months at the university, all Katherine’s dreams came crashing to a halt. Diagnosed with a chronic illness, debilitating pain took over. Her health forced her out of school and she spent most of her time at home, in bed.
On a good day Katherine wasn't able to walk more than several steps without resting. Bad days consisted of her in bed, writhing in pain. At first friends visited, but their attentions soon brought emotional torment as everyone around her lived in ways Katherine knew she could never enjoy again.
Dieter F. Uchtdorf, a former German Chief Pilot for Lufthansa Airlines, said, "Our destiny is not determined by the number of times we stumble but by the number of times we rise up, dust ourselves off, and move forward.” Just like Katherine, we often find obstacles in the way of our dreams. However, all is not lost as long as we continue striving to reach our goals.
The number of times we stumble
The next years brought further disappointments for Katherine as her health interfered with her life. Half-dozen jobs came and went while a second attempt at the university ended in another failure. Determined to pursue her education, Katherine transferred out of her preferred university, moved home and attended school closer to where her family lived. But two more university efforts failed.
When met with challenges, we have two options: we can either give up or we can fight for what we want. Often, our trials can be viewed by others as reasonable excuses to let go of our life dreams. Many people, trying to help, may even encourage us to stop trying because they worry how potential failures will affect us. But when we stop attempting to succeed in life we ultimately hurt ourselves, often giving in to the depression that comes with failure and neglected goals. Only when we accept our guaranteed future stumbles will we be able to see them for what they are: merely setbacks along our journey to success.
Eventually Katherine realized her long-distance service opportunity was a physical impossibility, one her body would never survive. Seeing her distress, her mother challenged her to serve those nearby. Katherine volunteered to help her church with projects at home. The oldest child, Katherine found simple ways to serve her family by reading to younger siblings, helping them with homework and spending unhurried time with them.
The idea of serving others while enduring our own struggles can at times seem illogical and unimportant. However, there is a power that comes to individuals who consistently make service part of their lives, regardless of their own personal circumstances. While working toward our personal goals is rewarding, the experiences gained from serving others are lessons impossible to learn elsewhere. The only way to truly understand the soul-magnifying experience of service is to do it.
The service we give others doesn’t have to consist of huge, time-consuming hours. Taking the time to listen, being patient in a long line, or reading a story to a child are small acts most can do. There are opportunities to serve all around us, most of which can be found within the walls of our homes. Serving in our homes isn’t the most glamorous of projects and often is done without recognition. But the relationships we forge within our families are the ones that ultimately give us the greatest peace and enjoyment throughout our lives.
Often bedridden, Katherine changed majors and chose one that would allow her to take distance education classes at home. While she would never become a doctor, she was determined to continue her education.
It can be OK to change our dreams, especially if those dreams mature and change for the better. Changing goals does not mean we’ve failed, it instead means we have chosen a different path. It is important to have dreams so our souls can have something to attain to. No matter the challenging circumstances, not having goals can cripple us spiritually, mentally and emotionally. Good goals help our spirits soar as we attempt to push ourselves in ways to better ourselves and others.
Finally, after 15 years, Katherine became the recipient of a university diploma. The only scholastic consistency in her life was that she never gave up. By the time Katherine earned her diploma she had attended five different universities, had many bouts of unemployment, worked a dozen different jobs, gotten married and had three children. Her path toward education had changed many times, but she had consistently moved forward along it, steadfastly working toward her goal. While Katherine never was able to serve in a faraway land, she instead saw the good that came from her changed plans as an opportunity to forge stronger family bonds.
If often doesn’t matter when we reach our goals, only that we reach them. As we continually stumble and rise along life’s paths we learn from our trials and mistakes. The act of persevering, no matter how slowly, is important. Often, it is only at the end of our road that we realize how those trials actually helped mold us into the courageous people we are. Don’t lose heart; dust off and move forward.