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WINNING STUDENT ESSAYS ON 'THE LAWS OF LIFE'

Editor's note: The following essays are the winners in the 2002 Laws of Life competition sponsored by the Peter Gruber Foundation in partnership with the Community Foundation of the Virgin Islands. The competition was open to students in all four grades at Charlotte Amalie and Ivanna Eudora Kean High Schools. They are being published exactly as submitted to the Source.
ON THE ROAD OF PERSEVERANCE LIES SUCCESS
by Amanda Warner
I'm sure that we have all heard the old, familiar maxim, "If at first you don't succeed, try try again." This saying, although it is passé, describes a quality about me that helps me to stand out. My tendency is to never give up until I accomplish a goal. Persistence is one of the laws that I live my life by, one that has made a considerable impact in my life. Even though I may not be an ace at something, I still tend to stick with it until I become efficient in that skill. One prime example of this is my experience with the JROTC program at my school.
My first year of the program was a little hard to deal with. It was difficult getting used to fellow students like myself yelling orders at me and having the power to give me push-ups at their will. I didn’t like it at all. However, something in me does not allow me to quit anything or give it up. So I stuck with it. I eventually got better at taking orders, and my arms were certainly becoming stronger. In fact, I became so good in the program that I got to go to camp, and I was always chosen to participate in off-island activities. Thanks to my persistence and unwillingness to drop out of anything, my rank is now a first lieutenant, and I am the commander of the biggest company in the battalion. Now, I am the one giving orders.
My persistence has also made me a better athlete. Growing up, I have never particularly excelled in sports. While it was most students' favorite class, gym was my least favorite. There was an option in my school to drop gym and take up another course. I already had the class, so, despite my dislike of gym, I stuck with it and learned basketball. Thanks to my determination, my hand eye coordination improved as well as my speed and agility. If I had never stuck with gym in those days, then I may never have performed as well as I do as a swimmer and soccer player.
I not only use my persistence as an attribute to excel in something that I do not particularly care for, I also use this attribute to obtain something that I strive for. For example, I applied and got accepted to the Junior Statesman Summer Enrichment Program at Princeton University this past summer. I try to always look out for opportunities that will help me most in life, and this was one of them. I wanted very badly to attend, but I could not afford it. I turned to various businesses in an attempt to acquire sponsorships. I want to their offices and I called them on telephones. Despite blunt refusals from my first tries, I refused to give up my efforts. After weeks of trying, I finally got sponsorships from several businesses and a few senators. I was able to participate in the program.
I highly recommend that everyone make one of the laws by which they govern their lives include persistence. It is the key to success. I am not saying, however, to stick with something that you utterly dislike just to try to prove something. You have to know your limits and where to draw the line. I am saying to stick with something you dislike if it is simply because you are not particularly good at it. If you stay with it, you will get better at it, come to like it, and therefore excel at it. All you have to do is set goals for yourself, never give excuses, make time, never give up, and hunker down.
NOTHING IS SO COMPLICATED THAT IT CANNOT BE SIMPLIFIED BY HARD WORK AND DETERMINATION
by Claudelle Mathurin
I strongly believe and live by this law of life, because of my experiences in handling my responsibilities as a teen parent and my responsibilities as a high school student. At first, I underwent a lot of changes, trying to be focused. Then I realized that in order to be successful, I must be ready to make many sacrifices and work hard. It's all a matter of planning, using time wisely, and being prepared to face the challenges that I may meet. I eventually realized that the things that may appear really complicated are not as difficult as they seem.
Becoming a pregnant at a young age felt like the end of the world for me. I wondered how I would be able to manage being a mother, when I was still a child. I wasn't mentally nor physically prepared for such a challenge. Upon realizing that everyone makes mistakes and that everything happens for a reason, I eventually stronger and more determined. I focused on all the changes that were to be made — those that will be made easily, as well as those that would require hard work and determination.
In addition to being a teen parent, I struggle hard with my schooling. I now know that in order to succeed, I must give my best to everything that I do. There is no time to play around. I have learned to manage my time wisely and to live my life in a manner, pleasing to myself.
Though it may be overwhelming at times, I realize that there is nothing that is so complicated that I cannot overcome it. I have become more self-motivated, so now I study harder and longer. I prepare myself to work hard and face the consequences of my actions, which has helped me to stay on task and remain focused on my goals. Most importantly, I pray. This, I believe, shows God that I am willing to help myself.
I know that if I believe in myself I can and will achieve the goals that I have set for myself. Through my experiences, I know that there is nothing that I cannot do, once I am determined and work hard.
THE GARDEN
by Kassandra Sasso
People think that fables are tales from long ago, but just recently right here my own neighborhood a modern fable developed. In the garden of a lovely white house by the sea, there were many species of flowers; all of them were beautiful, but quite different. They had plenty of water and sunlight. No bugs or weeds dared come to annoy them. People from all over the world came to admire them. The gardener was most proud of himself.
Since these flowers had no worries in the world, one would imagine them to all be blissfully happy each morning when the sun rose. But there was a problem: some flowers thought they were more beautiful than others.
One day a little hummingbird flew through the garden, spreading the news of the Annual Spring Plant Show. The roses were budding with confidence already gloating over their victory.
The scarlet rosebush was saying, "I'm the most beautiful flower in this garden and the most important flower in the world." The other flowers sucked their teeth and said, "You wish!" The rose kept on bragging, "People all over the world love me. They pay a lot of money to have me in their bouquets. Just try to imagine Valentines Day without me."
Then the shocking pink hibiscus said, "Get a life Rose! Everybody knows I’m more popular than you. Tourist love me because I'm exotic. They pick me and wear me in their hair. They wear my picture on their T shirts. Every local restaurant has me as the centerpiece. So I'm much more important here in St. Thomas."
The yellow cedar bush by the gate yelled, "Dream on hibiscus! I am not only pretty, I am also not fragile like you. I grow in gardens and on the roadside too. I am so gorgeous and plentiful that they have already named me the V.I. national flower. So take that, you two are nothing but a poppy show!"
Finally, the morning of the Annual Plant Show arrived. The judge stopped to admire all the lovely plants. He stopped first at the hibiscus and said, "You sure are looking beautiful today, too bad you won't last until tomorrow." He told the yellow cedar how nicely he was growing, but he'd have to tri
m off his branches because they were blocking the gate. Finally, he came to the rosebush and he took a deep breath to smell the fragrance. "You really are a lovely flower," he said. Then he started to pick the flower but a hidden thorn stuck him deep in the finger. He cursed and walked to the end of the yard. There alone in a quiet corner, off the beaten path was a rather homely leafless cluster of green spikes. Suddenly, the judge smiled and said, "Come aloe, you can certainly help make my finger feel better. You may not be the loveliest plant but you are the most useful. That is why you are my favorite!" He reached into his pocket and pulled out the blue ribbon. "I declare you the winner of this years Spring Plant Show!"
The Aloe was filled with pride for having been finally recognized for his worth. Late that night while the other flowers wilted and drooped with sorrow, the aloe put forth a glorious golden plume for the first time.
The moral of this tale is "It isn't how good you look, but what you can do that counts. Also we should remember that a kind word will often bring out the hidden beauty in us all."
NEVER TAKE WHAT YOU HAVE FOR GRANTED
by Shalia Moolenaar
As long as I could remember I would always hear my mother say, "You all are throwing away food and clothes and some unfortunate person could get them." When I would hear her say it, I would laugh because I would think to myself that what she was saying was a big joke. I've never been in a situation like that or feel as if I'm going to that way in the future so why should I care?
Last summer (August of 2001) I truly gained an understanding of how important that statement is and how it has aided me in shaping my life to become a better person. Being the president of St. Thomas East Leo Club (a local community organization for children) I was invited to a meeting in St. Vincent for one week where I would meet other members of different clubs from in the Caribbean. Though my trip to St. Vincent was for a probable cause it was a true eye opener for me. It made me realize that not everyone in the world was as fortunate as myself to have loving parents, a house to live in, and food to eat. While there, I witnessed things that by my standards are truly appalling. Where in St. Thomas do you see twelve-year-old girls sleeping with men old enough to be their father just for money to buy themselves clothes and shoes and had to steal to get food to eat?
In St. Vincent I toured and traveled through the capital although I didn't enjoy it on several occasions. I was in town everyday, but on two occasions I saw a little boy who looked as if he were at least five to six years old either climbing through a window and sorting through a trashcan. What scared me so much other than the fact that he was swimming in garbage, was that he looked dirty and miserable but most of all, he was naked with not two but one shoe on. The street that I saw him wondering about on was littered with paper and broken glass and the pungent smell of urine was everywhere. I stared at him in total disbelief thinking to myself that he was old enough to be my little brother or even worse, myself.
On my ride back to the hotel all I could do was wonder…Where was his family? Where was the food for this child to eat? Does he even eat at all? Why didn’t anyone pick him up and offer to give him a bath? So many thoughts were running through my mind like water through a faucet. I later then thought of my mother telling me about wasting water, throwing away food, and destroying clothes. And to think how I just laugh because if sounded hilarious. As my time in St. Vincent winded down the more I thought, "What could I do to make people who are less fortunate than myself live better (So that the next time I would return to St. Vincent I wouldn't have to witness such a tragic sight as the little boy in the trashcan again)?
I've talked to my mother about it, and together we came up with ideas to help people who are lacking the basic necessities of life such as clothes and shoes. Since returning from St. Vincent I made a promise that I will do anything necessary to help those in need. I started taking clothes including shoes that couldn't fit me to The Salvation Army. I didn't have the chance to help the little boy I saw, but I am helping many other little boys and girls who are probably as less fortunate as the one I saw.
Today, I have stopped wasting food and started donated some of my old clothes by giving them to the Salvation Army. I've learned something valuable and it will never depart from my memory, and that is never take what you have for granted because there are others who have it worse. Maybe the little boy's mother died and he didn't have a home, and the window he climbed into was empty and I guess that house was the only place he could be safe away from the street. I'd never know. All I can do is guess. The little boy maybe had it good at one point in his life.
So whatever you are taking an advantage of just stop and think when I have no food the food that I wasted I could have right now. All I'm trying to say is, "Take full advantage of what you have in life because one day it might all disappear."
LAWS OF LIFE ESSAY
by Chevell A. Leonard
Who can you say has been that instrumental person in your life, the VIP on your team, helping you to be the person that you are? I can say that I have someone fitting this description, in my life. She is not my mother in the sense of the word, but she wants the best for me and just as my mother does. This person is my aunt, Virgine Cyntje. She is like my second mother, and I admire her for so many reasons. Although, my aunt may possess many outstanding qualities, it is her determination, perseverance, and love that I admire most about her.
Determination is defined by Webster's dictionary as a firm or fixed purpose. My aunt's purpose in the family is to make sure everybody is ok. Whenever anyone in the family is in need or in trouble, it is "Claymas" (my aunt) that they call on. She takes on the job of being the family pillar of strength in times of need. Even though, it proves to be quite stressful, she never turns her back. When my uncle was arrested, it was my aunt who rallied everyone together to support him financially and emotionally. She was determined not to allow him to feel alienated or alone in his time of need. She stuck by him through the end. The ultimate showing of my aunt's determination is through her four children. She knew that she wanted her children to have an easier life than she had, so she drilled into them the importance of education and values. Her hard work definitely paid off, because all of her children pursued a higher education, all graduated with top honors, don't use drugs, weren't teenage parents, and everyone that knew them always had positive things to say about "Cyntje's children" Therefore, my aunt's determination to make a better life for her family and self is an example to me of how hard work results in success.
Secondly, my aunt's ability to persevere has always astounded me. In spite of any obstacle that can up, my aunt seemed to always see her way through. Hearing stories of how she used to go from house to house cleaning for people, walking from here to there every day with her children when they too small for school seem impossible to believe. When I look at her now, the housekeeping manager at one of the island's major hotels I have an overwhelming amount of respect for her. You can only imagine the demands of a manager in charge of sixty to a hundred people and the housekeeping of over two hundred rooms. Many times, my aunt had to put in very long hours, but she never let that get in the way of caring for her husband and children. When she came home she still found time to prepare dinner and make sure that everyone was all right. In short my aunt never let anything get in the way of h
er responsibilities. Her perseverance is a virtue that I am working hard to achieve someday.
Lastly, "love given is love received" (John Tempelton). For all the love that my aunt has given me I have a tremendous amount of unconditional love for her. For example, from birth to about age seven my mother and I lived with my grandmother, but in 1992 she passed away. My mother no longer wanted to live in the house and without a second's thought my aunt insisted that we come live with her and her family until my mother got back on her feet. You can only imagine how a house with eight occupants was like especially with two under the age of sixteen and tree under the age of eight. Let's just say that my aunt, uncle, and mother had their hands full. In spite of how crowded the house may have been it was full of love, and for the three years that I lived there I never felt like I didn't belong. If my aunt bought something for her daughters I knew that mines was there too. She always treated me as one as her own and showed me unconditional love. In return for all the love that my aunt has shown me I love her as if she was my mother.
Finally, I believe that "the salvation of the state lies in the right training of it's potential leaders" Plato. Through my aunt's example of determination, perseverance, and love I can say that I was trained right to be a leader. I admire her immensely and am thankful that I was exposed to her outstanding virtues. Seeing all that she has accomplished through hard work I will challenge myself in preparation for the attainment of my ambitions in the future. I hope to be as selfless and successful as my aunt so that some day someone will look up to me the way I look up to her.
LAWS OF LIFE
by Megan-Jean Eusebe
From as far back as I can remember my life has been guided by certain unwritten rules. Until now I never quite understood their true meaning. These rules have made me who I am. They have made our family special and unique. Basically, they are what holds us together. These rules, the glue, adhesive or cement, which hold us together are called the "Laws of Life."
It started with my grandmother — Granny as we affectionately call her. She defined our world. She set our limitations, gave us focus and made our lives meaning. Granny told us her life was guided by four laws — love, trust, honesty and the one she referred to as gospel, "respect". Granny had an amusing way of teaching us important lessons. These lessons usually came in the form of stories or riddles. At times, the point of the lesson escaped me, but the story because of the way she told it always stuck in my head. Sometime later I would see the relevance.
Here's my recollection of one of my Granny's stories. When I was six or seven, my Granny told me a story about four brothers. The oldest was named Love. The others were named Trust and Honesty. They lived together quite happy or so they thought. Love always claimed he loved his brothers. Trust said he trusted his brothers, and knew that Love loved them and Honesty was very honest with them. Honesty knew for a fact that his brothers were both sincere in their feelings. Then one day their mother told them that they had another brother. His name was respect.
Respect being the youngest always looked up to his brothers. He observed their behavior and had many questions. "If Love loved us then why did he fight with us so much? Why was Trust always saying things that weren't true? Why was Honesty always taking things that didn't belong to him?" Respect questioned his mother about his brothers' behavior. Why did it trouble him so much? His mother replied in her usual soft spoken manner — "That’s why I had you dear." She said nothing more but continued cooking. Respect badgered his mother for weeks about what she meant, but she only confused him more by saying "They are a part of you-just parts of a whole. Just keep being yourself."
So Respect continued to respect Love even though he fought with him. Respect was determined to show Trust respect even though he fooled him, and he vowed to respect Honesty in spite of the fact that he stole from him. Years passed and the older brothers realized Respect was different. He was different in a good way. They all agreed he was special. It was the first time they agreed on anything, ever. Slowly, one by one the brothers started to become more like Respect. Love no longer fought his brothers. Trust stopped lying; and Honesty found it was much nicer to ask for things rather than steal them.
Granny ended her story abruptly and continued cooking. I asked her "What did the mother mean when she said they were part of him — just parts of a whole." Granny responded "child", and continued cooking. To tell you truth I didn't understand her story then, but as I grew up the meaning of it was clear. In fact, the significance of her story hit me in my years at middle school. The years when friends are the greatest influence in your life. The years when teenagers toss around words like love, trust and honesty. The years when boys say "I love you," but curse you if you don't go all the way. The years when friends say "you can trust me," and the next day the entire student body knows your business. The years when your friends say "let’s go to the mall," and they stuff stolen merchandise in their underwear.
During those years I remembered Granny's story and wondered which brother I would choose to be. I chose Respect. I would respect myself and others. I would change my friends by demonstrating positive behavior. The middle years passed quickly. I went on to high school and despite at times I make poor choices I always remember my Granny's story.
FAITH IN A NEW MILLENNIUM
by Cadwell Turnbull
This is the beginning of a new century. I sit in this comfortable chair as someone somewhere is being brutally murdered. Every hour of my self absorbed life another person's life is cut short. We tend to forget that the world is corrupted when the corruption is not present at the moment. We see death every day, but it never sinks in to our selfish, feeble minds that we all are responsible for what the world has become. Do you pray for things to change or do you just think that eventually these problems will just vanish? Having faith is important if one wishes to see the light of goodness shine upon this silently dying world. I believe love, respect, and a strong will are elements of faith and important laws of life.
First of all, love is often misunderstood. We see love as conditional and something that can be taken away. I don't know what love is, but I do know what it is not. Love is not built on untruth. It is not conceited or deceptive. I think love is having faith in someone because of a strong connection with them. If we had true love for the world we would not be drawn into the evils of the earth. I think we were always meant to love one another, but as we strayed more and more from a good strong religion we become simpler in thought. We are unable to understand love's importance and therefore we replace it with hate. I know when the time comes when my life must end, I will be happy because I have truly loved not only who loved me but others also.
Secondly, respect is also very important. We all should respect one another, but most of all we should respect ourselves. I think respecting myself is having faith that my life can always be turned in the right direction. We mush respect ourselves in order to efficiently respect others. Having respect for myself is important because it helps me to know that I am capable of doing better. We are the masters of our own destiny that we hold in the palm of our hands. I have enough respect for myself to know not to throw my life away.
Lastly, it takes a strong will to have one's faith in something. I have faith that the world will someday come together in peace, but it is har
d to keep this faith. People are now dying by the millions and we are helpless to the fact that no one can be safe. We must live in constant fear that our life can be taken at any moment. It takes a strong will to have faith in what may seem almost hopeless. With faith and a strong will power I will always stand tall with hope when there is none to be found. My strength will rise and conquer insurmountable odds.
Consequently, life is short and precious. We only have one shot at life. Remember that one person can make a difference. No matter how dark it may be there is always a ray of light. Most importantly remember that we must have faith that motivates us to emulate the laws of life. These life laws are love, respect, and a strong will. The enlightenment of these laws of life in this new millennium will bring hope for change.
LAWS OF LIFE
by Alex Dennis
In the following essay I'm going to discuss three (3) values I hold dearly and the reason why I have them. Those values are selfless-service, personal courage, and loyalty. What is a value you ask? A value is a feeling or moral one holds dear.
The first value I'm going to discuss is my selfless-service, doing something for someone even though you may or will not gain form other than a good feeling. The first time I experienced the wonderful feeling of selfless-service was when I was in the ninth (9th) grade. I was attending a function for my class at the Lucinda Millin Nursing Home. We went there to sing and give toiletries. To tell you the truth the only reason I went was because it was mandatory. So as one would think I came there with a negative attitude. I was mad, sulky, and get plain ignorant. My attitude began to change when we began to sing and pass out all the things we brought for them. The thing that made me change my attitude was the fact that the people were happy not for the gifts but for the fact that we were there. When I saw that I began to feel great because I knew we were actually making these people feel good for a change. So from then on I volunteer to go to the nursing home every time I have a chance, even though I do not get any community service hours.
The second value I'm going to discuss is the value I have for personal courage and how I learned I had it. Personal courage is a type of courage that is usually sociological not physical courage. One has to be with a group when confronted with this particular problem, because one has to overcome peer pressure. I was about thirteen (13) or fourteen (14) when I first demonstrated that I had personal courage. One night, while attending a party, my friends and I were confronted with a problem. A group of guys, that we knew, came up to us and asked us to come outside with them. While outside with them, they asked us if we smoked, and we replied no. They continuously ask us and we continuously replied no. So they asked us if we wanted to start. Two of my friends said yes and the other, like me, said no. As all of them began to badger us, the one person who was on my side left me; but I still stood strong. I was ridiculed and called names such as fagot, chi-chi, and mama's boy, but I still stood strong even though I was by myself.
The third and finally value is loyalty. Loyalty is the act of being faithful. The time that I really expressed loyalty was when I was just eleven (11) years old. I was on a baseball team for about a year, we were considered probably on of the best teams around. We worked hard and made it to the playoffs. While there we made it very far and to the semis, but on the same weekend of the semis my sixth (6th) grade class was to go on a field trip to Puerto Rico. I really wanted to go but I had to stay because my team was really counting on me. I decided to stay loyal to my team and play.
In conclusion, values are the things that tell you what to do and how to do it. A person without values has no aims or purpose in life. I say this because if I didn't have these values I would've been selfish, easily persuaded, and unreliable.

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