I have a son who had to write an essay for an award.  It asked what event has helped him grow more than any other event.  The essay is as follows.


            The event that I grew from the most during my high school career was definitely the death of my cousin Jake. It was my sophomore year, and Jake was seven years old. He is one of the most remarkable people I have ever had the privilege of spending time with, and he was only seven. He was smart and funny and above all he was loving. He truly adored everybody he met with all his heart. Everyone who met Jake was his friend in minutes. The way he lived his life every day was what made him such an amazing person. He enjoyed almost every hour he was alive. I never really thought about what an outstanding person he was until after he had passed away. When I began thinking about how he lived, I looked at the world from a new perspective. The biggest parts of my life that were affected were my relationships with other people, as well as the way I approach each new day and opportunity.


As I described, Jake was friends with everybody and made everyone smile.   He treated everybody like his best friend and made others happy when he was around. I could sense a change within myself after his death that made me want to live a little more like Jake. I wanted to be happy like he was. I started thinking about other people differently, and I found myself enjoying other people more and more. Jake was better than anyone at enjoying other people’s company. He could find something in everyone that he enjoyed, and he never disliked someone because of his or her faults. I realized something that Jake must have known already. That is that other people’s faults that annoyed me so much sometimes were not really big problems. They were stupid, petty reasons to be annoyed, and I could have just enjoyed their company instead of being bothered by it. After thinking in this way, I began to adore waking up every day, and I began enjoying people more and more. I look forward to seeing friends and family everyday now because of my new way of thinking, but also, because with Jake’s death, I lost a lot of my ego and gained some humility. I recognized that I am really not that big of a deal, and other people have just as much to do with my accomplishments as I do. Without other people, I would not be able to do some of the cool things I have the opportunity to do with music, French, and other things.


Over the past four years, and my whole life, I have had some pretty amazing opportunities that most teenagers, and even adults do not have the chance to experience. I will have been to France twice before I go to college, doing a family stay both times. I have performed a concerto with a professional symphony, and played in some of the most talented high school ensembles in the country. I would not have been able to do these things without some of the superb people I have the joy to spend time with every day. When I started thinking of people as good, instead of annoying, as I described in the previous paragraph, I began realizing how important other people were to me. I discovered what an amazing position I was put in to know amazing people who cared so much about my success. Without knowing my private music teachers and Mr. Kellogg, among others I have worked with, I would never have been able to participate in the musical endeavors that I do. Without Madame Davis asking me if I wanted to go on the French trip my sophomore year, I would have never been able to have that wonderful experience or the new experience in France I will have this coming summer. Without my parents’ support, none of these things would have been possible. This list goes on and on. And the really exciting part is that, at each of these new circumstances, I get to meet more amazing people.   Without Jake I would have never realized how good others are and also just how important other people are in my life. When I realized all of this, my view of everything had changed, and I kind of became a new person. I was excited to go to school every day and see what I could do, and I was excited to wake up every morning with new opportunities in front of me. This change did not happen instantly. It took months of thinking about these things to realize them, and I am still thinking about these things and changing because of them.


I figure now that, if I can live every day like Jake did, then I will end up in a place that I like. The love Jake had for other people was so admirable and splendid, but I might be misplacing the admiration a little bit, because the love he had came from his parents and sister, who loved him more than anything in the whole world. This is another thought that has stuck with me from Jake’s life and death. The love he had came from his family and went through him to other people, then from those people to other people. I try to think about this idea with each new opportunity that presents itself to me. If I can pass the compassion and love I have for music to other people, then maybe their day will be a little better because of it. If I can use my compassion for learning other cultures on to people I meet in other countries, maybe I will learn something, and those people will want to learn a little more about some other culture as well. I hope that someday, if I put enough passion into the things that I do, that other people can grasp that passion and share it with others. To do this I think I just have to live more like Jake and give everything as much time, passion, and love that I can. Every morning before Jake went to school, he would tell his parents, “Today’s going to be my best day.” And I believe he held up to that tough promise every day. If somebody can have that mentality with everything they do, then they will make a positive difference in the world. Jake certainly did, and I hope I will be able to do that with my life.

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