A few weeks ago I lost my iPhone. It is a stupid mistake, for I lost it at my own home. I had plans of going to the AT&T store to purchase a new one, but with it not being on the top of my parents’ list, and me not being able to do it on my own on account of being 15-years-old, we never got to it.

Then one Sunday my dad came in my room and handed me a brand new iPhone 5s with the words, “Be good to your children.” I immediately tried to find all the cash I had at home in order to repay him, for he had covered my error, and it was my responsibility to make it right, but he denied it. I was overcome with gratitude and disgusted at myself, for I did not deserve what I had been given.

My dad is a local neurosurgeon, and I am a high school student at Black River Public School. He is the kind of man who is an active voice for the life of kids. He stresses things which fathers should such as good grades, character and preparedness for the future. All of these point toward one word: Success.

The word brings about connotations of large sums of material goods. So is having the little extra to buy your irresponsible son a new iPhone success? Or is it what you drive, or how often you can eat out?

Success is no stranger to my dad. He was academically gifted and went to one of the best medical schools in the world. He also went on to have a company he cofounded and went public. He is really good at what he does, so is able to provide grand opportunity to myself and my brothers.

I wait for my coming school year. I am taking a zero hour plus three AP courses and a college level music theory class. After school I build the sets for our student productions and usually have a decently large role in them as well. I also rock climb at a local gym and have ballet classes and rehearsal for upcoming shows. Most of my days will be nonstop from when I wake up at 6 a.m. until I go to bed around midnight. I do all of this, for I have one goal: Get into Pomona College. It is a small liberal arts college in California with some of the best programs available in the fields I wish to pursue. The only problem is that it has a 9 percent acceptance rate. I want to be part of that 9 percent so dearly, so I work tirelessly.

My dad also works tirelessly, but we are in the same boat in another regard as well. What we do with our time does not mirror what we hope for the world, and it does not always make us happy. My dad loves this community, but does not feel as if he serves it enough. I cite large issues such as the use of sweatshops in foreign countries to make most of our clothing, or the general sense of apathy I find in Christianity, and I want to fix them, but I don’t do anything in order to create actual change.

My older brother recently took a trip to Seattle to spend time interning with a film company. There he learned a new definition of success. It did not depend on where you went to college or how much money you made. It depended how much you loved others and sought to make the world a better place. The company he interned with took every Tuesday evening out of their schedules to host a community taco feast. They travel the world making videos to spread the word on what nonprofits are up to in order to support them and their mission.

I am not saying that material wealth is bad — for it often supports the betterment of others — or that trying to get into a good school is an empty aspiration, but maybe if we put friends and family first and work second then we could all be joyful. After getting to that place with those closest to you, you can branch out to the greater community and world, for in the end people won’t remember us by how much money we make but by how we touch their lives. And to me that is success.

— Samuel Lowry is a sophomore at Black River High School and lives in Holland. He can be reached through newsroom@hollandsentinel.com.