The Vanity of Accomplishments


Over the weekend, I visited my parents’ home for Christmas. Before the big dinner, my dad and I went upstairs to play a game of fooseball, while my wife, daughter, and mom stayed downstairs to talk. Upstairs, I noticed I still had quite a collection of old trophies and plaques. I had noticed them the last time I was at my parents’ home, but this time, at Christmas, I began to muse on my vain accomplishments.


For example, the first plaque I noticed was a three-year varsity letter award. That is, in high school, I played varsity football for three years. They put my name on a piece of wood. Amazing, huh?The second plaque was for being a 10-year 4-H member. That is, for 10 years of my young life, I drew pictures, worked with wood, and showed animals in 4-H. Another piece of wood with my name on it. Whoa nelly!

The third plaque was for lettering as a freshman at Taylor University. That is, I played varsity football as a cornerback and received a big purple “T” glued to a piece of  wood. Talk about good compensation!

The fourth award was a trophy I earned for selling a lot of knives. Yes, in my senior year of college, I became a knife salesman for CUTCO, and I was a top-10 salesman in the state of Indiana for the month of February. Can you believe that?!

The fifth award was a “Dean’s List” certificate. That means the Dean of the university appreciated my high grades and hard work so much that he decided to click print on a pre-formatted Microsoft Publisher template. And he signed his autograph on it. Just what I wanted!

The final awards were the two degrees I earned as an undergraduate. That is, I earned an Associate’s in General Studies and a Bachelor’s in Biblical Studies, so the academic institutions each printed a document on vellum and then gave them to a lot of big, important people to sign them. Whoop-de-freakin-doo!

Now please don’t misunderstand me, I’m not trashing a college degree. Nor am I trashing good grades or high performance in other areas of life. What I’m trying to point out is the vanity of the awards that we work for. The two degrees are sitting in $1 frames. The plaques sit on top of a bookshelf and gather dust. I have two more boxes in storage that are full of trophies from winning tournaments as a youth in different sports. What I’m saying is that the awards are not what it is all about. It is about the lessons you learn and the experience you gain through the activities, as you travel along the journey we call life.

What did I learn through these things? I learned…well, where do I begin? I learned commitment, diligence, patience, and the value of pushing your body and mind and soul to the max. I learned how to value diversity, how to form an argument, how to write well, how to teach well. I learned a lot about the Bible, about Liberal Arts subjects, about caring for animals, about the way the world works. I also learned some silly things, like how to tackle someone, how to convince people they need high-performance cutlery, how to build and shoot off a rocket. (I learned that in 4-H, not in college. I’m not a rocket scientist.)

I guess the more I think about, the more I realize I’m trying to get at something deeper. I want to continue learning and gaining experience, but I don’t want to get caught up in earning awards here. I want to get caught up in earning awards that will last. Awards where the dust and moths are not.

Published by omerdylanredden

I write.

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