|BJ and I at Edgar Alan Poe's former abode at the University of Virginia in Charlottesville, VA|
BJ is my oldest son. He filled an LDS Church mission to Japan and graduated in electrical engineering at BYU. Toward the end of his schooling, he was trying to decide if he wanted to stay in that field or do something else. On a whim, thinking of my need for patent legal work and how a law school education might broaden his horizons, I suggested he become an attorney. He fasted and prayed about his decision for several months. One night he called and said he was going to go to law school.
As he applied for admission, he submitted the following story for the essay portion that was required for his entrance. I thought it had some good thoughts so this is my Sunday post:
“One summer afternoon I was driving to a football game with two of my younger cousins. Upon cresting a hill, I found that a large truck carrying alfalfa hay was in my lane moving slower than molasses. Assuming that the truck had just pulled onto the road, I moved into the left lane and hit the gas. All of a sudden my cousin looked at me with wide eyes and yelled, “BJ!” The truck was not accelerating, it was turning left. I quickly hit my brakes and swerved out of the way. Unfortunately, a large wooden fence pole aided my stop. I got out of my vehicle and immediately noticed that my car’s front end was ruined.
To teach me a lesson about cautious driving, my father fixed the car up in a comical fashion. The new bumper was constructed of muffler tubing, there was chicken wire in place of a grill, and I recognized that the new right headlight had been stolen from one of our old tractors. My dad was tickled with himself. I was mortified. Due to my conspicuous position on the high school math team, I felt that my stock with the ladies was already low. This would be the final blow. I had to come up with a solution. After racking my brain for a couple of hours, I approached my father with my fingers crossed. I was scheduled to take the ACT in a month. I asked my dad if he would fix the car up in a conventional manner if I earned a score of 35 out of 36. He agreed and I went to work.
I visited a bookstore and bought some preparation guides. After getting my hands on every practice test I could find, I spent my bus rides and weekends cramming through study materials. Test day came and I gave it everything I had. When the results arrived a few weeks later, I anxiously ripped open the envelope. Upon seeing a “35” in the box labeled “composite score,” I filled the house with a triumphant shout. Mission accomplished!
A few years later I found myself facing another challenging situation. I had been a missionary in Japan for about ten months when I was assigned to work with a young man from northern Japan named Hiraku. I soon realized that Hiraku suffered from depression and a lack of motivation. One morning, as we were planning for the upcoming week, Hiraku went into a funk. He slumped over in a chair with a disconsolate look on his face and would not reply to my questions. We had a lot to do and I was frustrated with his lack of responsiveness, but I held my tongue and told him to take some time off. I began thinking about what I could do to help him.
My father is bipolar and I had observed that he responds positively to honest compliments when in a depressed state. After careful contemplation, I wrote down Hiraku’s strengths and talents. I knocked quietly, opened his door, and knelt by his side on our tatami floor. I handed him my findings and he looked at me in disbelief. Shortly thereafter Hiraku cheered up and we resumed planning.
In the ensuing weeks I offered support, allowed him to progress at his own pace, and did my best to be patient and understanding when he was down on himself. A few weeks later I transferred to a new city and did not hear from Hiraku for a while. Six months later I was surprised to learn that Hiraku had been called to a mission leadership position in which he was responsible for the periodic training of about twenty missionaries. I was later informed by the president of our mission that I was the first missionary to work with Hiraku who did not give up on him. I was thrilled to see that my faith in Hiraku had strengthened his confidence and bolstered his morale.
Another experience in Japan showed me that a positive attitude enables one to rise above any demoralizing situation. I spent the last six months of my time in Japan in the city of Hiroshima. While the city has been completely rebuilt, the devastation of the atomic bomb remains in the minds and hearts of those affected by its wave of destruction.
I remember two faces. The first is the hot red face of an older gentleman. I met him in the parking lot of an electronics store. The bomb had caused him a great deal of pain. He seemed intent on forcing me to feel that pain. I made an effort to calm him down, but he remained incensed. Each time I tried to interject or change the subject his voice grew louder. The graciousness that is normally embodied by the Japanese people was nowhere to be found in this man. I finally had to give up and walk away.
The second face I remember was kinder and softer. It was that of an elderly gentleman employed as a guide at the Hiroshima Peace Memorial Museum. I asked him what he thought about the bombing. His eyes were sad as he replied that it was very unfortunate. He expressed regret for the events that led to this horrible incident. He told me that he had been in Hiroshima when the bomb went off. After guiding me around the museum, he stopped and looked at me with hope in his eyes. He announced that we must learn from the past, forgive, and move on. I have never forgotten this powerful example of hope and attitude. I am convinced that it was this spirit that rebuilt Hiroshima.
These three experiences have taught me to move forward when adversity strikes and to make the best of every day. As there is a silver lining in every cloud, there is a creative solution hiding in every grim situation. My car wreck, Hiraku, and the gentleman at the museum taught me that patience, hard work, and a positive attitude facilitate the finding of those solutions. I want to solve problems and help others. I am convinced that law school is the best venue for me to learn how to do this. I am excited to learn how those who came before me approached the dilemmas of their time and to see how their solutions affected mankind. I look forward to the challenges, relationships, and experiences that lie ahead.”
BJ went to the University of Virginia Law School and now practices law on the East coast.