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Emily McComas: The example of a successful life

Lately, I've been dreading what lies ahead. I'm 24, at my first job after college, and I'm anxious about being successful. In school, I gauged how good I was with grades, and that was enough to satisfy. Being a good student and on the path to graduate was what mattered.

But now, I feel lost. I look around me and see people who have worked five-day workweeks for the last 60 years, and all they have to show for is bills paid, a home, a car, some nice things.

I just want something more than that. To make a mark that will cut deeper than eking out a living.

Anxious on making that mark and having no idea where to start, a story came by me written by my friend Marlowe Hereford, who's a reporter at the Post Register in Eastern Idaho.

The article, published Oct. 6, focuses on a girl named Keely Lance from Rigby, Idaho. This girl pretty much did it all. She played softball and basketball for her high school, and in February her team took 4A state runner-up honors in basketball their senior year. She also competed in rodeo, which consists of events in western style horseback riding and roping, and was a rodeo queen. She spent time helping girls compete in Miss Teen Rodeo Idaho and was also involved in Special Olympics and 4H.

Her life was chock full of activity, and she had big plans for the future.

At senior night for basketball, post grad goals were read aloud. Keely wanted to go to college, marry a cowboy, have a family and move somewhere warm. The guy reading her card said, "Take me with you," and everybody laughed.

In August, she started those goals by buying a four-door family car and enrolling in Idaho State University for a degree in education. She wanted to teach second-graders, which was the age group she also tutored.

Her life was falling into place, when, on Sept. 2, at only 18 years old, Keely died in a car crash.

In her honor, her community created and held the Keely Lance Scholarship Memorial Rodeo. People donated $15,000 in her name and the money will go toward 4H, Special Olympics and Miss Teen Rodeo Idaho. An academic scholarship is also planned, and the community is hoping to make the rodeo an annual event.

Why would a community go through so much effort to honor and remember an 18-year-old? It was because her life made an impact, and they recognized that and wanted to continue it.

In just 18 years, Keely had figured out it isn't necessarily about how many hobbies or activities one is involved in, but about interactions with people. She cared about everyone she came in contact with and devoted herself to making others' lives better.

This is why she left a deeper mark on this world than most people do with 70 years. She invested her time to teach and care for others in a way that their lives were changed significantly. Those people will never forget her, and because of her example, they and countless more are inspired to continue her work of helping others.

So, even after her death, Keely Lance will continue to change the lives of people she will never meet, through the rodeo and other scholarships her community established in her name. Her memory will live forever because in addition to taking care of herself, her life was about reaching out to people.

That, to me, sounds like a pretty successful life, and Keely's example is one I will aim to follow. In the middle of my anxious thoughts, Keely's story was a reminder that God's commandment to love your neighbor as yourself is an important part of how to make your mark on the world.

McComas is a Gazette editor and may be reached at emilyayres@wvgazette.com


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