When I was in elementary school in the early grades I was not a smart student even though my family was quick to point out that if I wasn't smart, they wouldn't let me skip first grade to go on to second grade and catch up with my older sister Ruth. Still, I didn't think I was smart because I wasn't receiving any academic awards. Our school awarded bank books to the two top students of each grade with the top student receiving (if I remember correctly) $10 deposited in a bank account--the second student receiving a $5 bank account. These were substantial amounts in those days. I remember my younger brother Joe receiving one every year. But I didn't get any awards like that. I concluded that I was not smart. I was a dumb kid.
One summer, however, I decided to change all that. I got down on my knees and asked God to help me become a smart student. My request was very simple, yet uttered with all the fervor and intensity I could muster. I said: "Dear God, Please, please help me to be smart. You can do it, can't you?"
Then, I found a science book that probably belonged to one of my older brothers. I made up my mind that summer to read this book from the beginning to the end. I would read it carefully so I would understand everything in the book. At the end of each chapter there were questions to check your understanding of the material covered. I was determined to know the answers to all the questions at the end of all the chapters in the book. The answers to these questions were listed at the back of the book, but I purposed in my heart of hearts not to cheat. I was going to learn everything in that science book. I read that book till I was blue. I read with a passion. I was driven with a passion. I was on a quest for the wonders and mysteries of science and nature.
Toward the end of summer, my classmate Rosa (not her real name) and her family came to visit us one day. Oh, I was anxious to let my friend know what I was doing. I wanted her to drill me on the questions and check the back of the book to see if I answered the questions correctly. Now, Rosa, in my my young mind's assessment, was not even an average student. She was probably at the low end of the academic totem pole in our class. At the end of the first chapter answering all the questions correctly, she looked at me, her eyes were big as saucers that emitted a clear message: Lydia is the smartest person in the world! "WOW!" was all she could say.
I found out that as I studied to acquire knowledge, as I read for understanding, the task became interesting, fascinating, and enjoyable. I was thrilled with my quest and for the first time in my young life, I realized that school and homework assignments could actually be fun.
I applied the principle I used in my science book study with other subjects in school and I found that I reaped the same results. I started having good grades and having fun in the process. I was no longer just gliding along in school with hardly exerting any mental effort and being satisfied with mediocrity. I was determined to apply myself wholeheartedly and reach the top. I would stay focused at all times. By this time the school had decided to terminate the customary practice of awarding bank books to top students. But, it really didn't matter now. I had made a startling discovery that academically turned my life around. That's what mattered.
At elementary school, I was the Salutatorian for our eighth grade graduating class. In high school, I was top seven out of a class of 400 students and a recipient of a scholarship to the University of Guam. When I graduated from the University, I received the Wall Street Journal Award for being the top Business Administration student of the year. A childhood prayer, indeed, was answered for a kid who thought she was dumb.
Motivation, how sweet it is! Sometimes in businesses and workplaces, motivational speakers are periodically scheduled to speak for the sole purpose of motivating employees to be more productive, etc. This is excellent, but I strongly feel that the best motivator there is is yourself. Nobody could make you do anything you don't want to do. But if you decide to do something--if you decide to make something of yourself--then you could do anything; you could be anything you want to be--a doctor, a nurse, a lawyer, an engineer, realizing all the while that the sole purpose of true education is to restore in man the image of his Maker by developing body, mind, and spirit.
In acquiring the wisdom of the Babylonians, Daniel and his companions were far more successful than their fellow students; but their learning did not come by chance. . . They placed themselves in connection with the Source of all wisdom, making the knowledge of God the foundation of their education. In faith they prayed for wisdom, and they lived their prayers. They placed themselves where God could bless them. They avoided that which would weaken their powers, and improved every opportunity to become intelligent in all lines of learning. They followed the rules of life that could not fail to give them strength of intellect. They sought to acquire knowledge for one purpose-- that they might honor God. . . . Conflict and Courage, Page 247.
He who co-operates with the divine purpose in imparting to the youth a knowledge of God, and molding the character into harmony with His, does a high and noble work. As he awakens a desire to reach God's ideal, he presents an education that is as high as heaven and as broad as the universe; an education that cannot be completed in this life, but that will be continued in the life to come; an education that secures to the successful student his passport from the preparatory school of earth to the higher grade, the school above. --Education, pages 18,19.
God has given inquiring minds to youth and children. Their reasoning powers are intrusted to them as precious talents. It is the duty of parents to keep the matter of their education before them in its true meaning; for it comprehends many lines. They should be taught to improve every talent and organ, expecting that they will be used in the service of Christ for the uplifting of fallen humanity... Parents should understand their responsibility, and help their children to appreciate the great privileges and blessings that God has provided for them in educational advantages. --Fundamentals of Christian Education, Page 368.
It is not, indeed, the bare letter of God's word that gives light and understanding; it is the word opened and applied to the heart by the Holy Spirit. When a man is truly converted, he becomes a son of God, a partaker of the divine nature. Not only is the heart renewed, but the intellect is strengthened and invigorated. There have been many instances of persons who before conversion were thought to possess ordinary and even inferior ability, but who after conversion seemed to be entirely transformed. They then manifested remarkable power to comprehend the truths of God's word, and to present these truths to others. Men of high intellectual standing have considered it a privilege to hold intercourse with these men. The Sun of righteousness, shedding its bright beams into their minds, quickened every power into more vigorous action. --Messages to Young People, Page 65.
There is much sterling truth in the adage, "Every man is the architect of his own fortune." While parents are responsible for the stamp of character, as well as for the education and training, of their sons and daughters, it is still true that our position and usefulness in the world depend, to a great degree, upon our own course of action. Daniel and his companions enjoyed the benefits of correct training and education in early life, but these advantages alone would not have made them what they were. The time came when they must act for themselves -- when their future depended upon their own course. Then they decided to be true to the lessons given them in childhood. The fear of God, which is the beginning of wisdom, was the foundation of their greatness. His Spirit strengthened every true purpose, every noble resolution. --Christian Temperance and Bible Hygiene, Page 28.
The ideal of Christian character is Christlikeness. There is opened before us a path of continual advancement. We have an object to reach, a standard to gain, which includes everything good and pure and noble and elevated. There should be continual striving and constant progress onward and upward toward perfection of character. . . . --Ibid.
The great work of parents and teachers is character building--seeking to restore the image of Christ in those placed under their care. A knowledge of the sciences sinks into insignificance beside this great aim; but all true education may be made to help in the development of a righteous character. The formation of character is the work of a lifetime, and it is for eternity. If all could realize this, and would awake to the fact that we are individually deciding our own destiny and the destinies of our children for eternal life or eternal ruin, what a change would take place! How differently would our probationary time be occupied, and with what noble characters would our world be filled! --Counsels to Teachers, Page 61.