Something to Work For
Winner of the Inaugural Msgr. Joseph
James Writing Scholarship Award
By Sara Evans
empties our hands in order that we may work with them. It shows
us that we have something to work for, and teaches us how to work
Thomas Merton’s No Man Is an Island was published in 1955,
and 51 years later, his words still ring true. Not that this should
surprise anyone; hope is one of humanity’s most fundamental
components, serving as a hallmark of every truly successful life.
In my 14 years of attending Catholic school, I’ve learned
a person’s success can be measured by their hopefulness. To
truly have hope - a belief that things can, will and must
continue to get better - requires so much more than just optimism.
You must have the maturity to keep life in perspective, and the
courage to put that perspective into action!
These virtues roll right off the tongue, but they are often so difficult
to achieve. Hope is our most elusive necessity; I once read a quote
by author Graham Greene in which he opined that people are prone
to sadness because “secretly, that’s where we feel we
At first, the quote shocked me; but the more I thought about it,
the more I realized its validity. Certainly, we don’t go through
life thinking, It’s right for me to be sad all the time. However,
as a society, we are conditioned or we condition ourselves to believe
that we could, and should, always be: better, smarter, thinner,
faster or prettier. Our society is too competitive - and I
say that as an admitted adrenaline fan - a girl who once hectored
a teammate during a speed-based review game in religion class with,
“The teacher won’t hear you if you bang on your book
- bang on your desk!”
A healthy competition is all well and good, but attainable standards
set you up for failure, and drain away our world’s most precious
resources: hope, resilience and confidence.
One of my biggest hopes is that my children will grow up in a world
where everyone’s voice is valued and heard. An even bigger
hope? This transformation of our world will come even sooner and
that I will have played some role, however small, in its advent.
I have a lot of hopes for my own life. Some are a bit selfish (a
nice home, a corner office), and some are sweet (a husband, lots
of children). Maybe you really can’t “have it all,”
but I’d sure like to try! As long as my children are my absolute
priority, I don’t see any harm in trying to improve the world,
one global merger at a time.
I know how much closer a good education will bring me to these goals,
and so I can’t wait to start my career at the College of William
& Mary. Leaving Bishop John J. Snyder High School will be incredibly
difficult, but if there’s one thing I learned in my time there,
it was to hope.
I’d gone nearly 18 years without a nickname, and then I stumbled
upon a few during my senior year. One of them was “Lucky Sevans”
(an expanded version of the more common “Sevans,” formed
by my first initial and my last name). During the big “three
days” of graduation celebrations, I did my fair share of reflection
and realized how truly lucky I’ve been. I think that very
few people are able to meet as many strong, intelligent, faithful
people as I have. In terms of role models, my life’s been
an embarrassment of riches, particularly because of Bishop John
Snyder - my high school’s namesake.
At its very core, my big hope for humanity is that everyone will
have hope. When you have hope - the knowledge that no matter
what your past, you have a future that can still be shaped in any
way desired - you have what you need.
You can see your goals, and you won’t be afraid to work for
them; so much of the world’s unhappiness is caused by fear.
Real hope includes courage, but not arrogance. We don’t have
hope because we’re sure we’ll get our reward. Rather,
we’re a hopeful people because we are, at the end of the day,
an extraordinarily lucky people. We have free will and a world that
is still filled with an awful lot of good - the Good Samaritan
movement is open to all - day or night.
To join, all you have to do is empty your hands, of course. You
have to let go of whatever has shielded you from other people -
be they material things, or maybe a tough attitude - and stretch
your hand out to the world.
It sounds intimidating, but you’re not worried. After all
you know that it’s just a matter of time before someone else
empties their hands and grabs hold of yours.
Sara Evans is a 2006 graduate of Bishop John J. Snyder High School
in Jacksonville. She was one of two winners of the inaugural Msgr.
Joseph James Essay Contest sponsored by the St. Augustine Catholic
magazine and awarded a $1,000 college scholarship. Sarah will attend
The College of William & Mary in the fall and plans to major
in Political Science.