Remember the children’s story, “The Little Engine That Could?” First published in 1930, the story is used to teach children the value of optimism, determination, and hard work. The engine, pulling a full load of cargo and facing a mountain, breaks down. Everyone, including the little engine, thinks he won’t be able to pull the train over the mountain. Then the little engine, trying very hard, says, “I think I can, I think I can.” And, sure enough, he makes it over the mountain.

Olympic athletes strive to be THE best, hoping to win the gold medal; to break the speed or distance record. What sacrifices do these athletes make in order to reach their goal? They take steps to practice regularly, pushing themselves to the absolute limit of their strength, day after day.

Sometimes you face a mountain that is not of your making. You find yourself facing a tremendous problem that leaves you with the choice of finding a way to get beyond the barrier or staying in a less than ideal situation. This brings me to the story of Kathleen.

A few years ago I worked in the financial office of a state hospital. The state had established a concession stand in the lobby to offer opportunities for the blind. That’s where I met Kathleen. Blind from birth, she had a ready smile and a strong Christian testimony. I was fascinated by the efficiency with which she operated the stand. She stocked her shelves and could quickly reach for the merchandise requested and make change for the customers, all the while carrying on a cheerful conversation.

One day I was driving into the parking lot and saw Kathleen walking with her cane down the long driveway to the hospital entrance. I had never thought about how she got to work, assuming someone drove her. Later, I asked her about her transportation. She told me she lived in a rural area, about twenty miles from the hospital. She caught a rural transportation bus, came into the city and transferred to a city bus that brought her within a few blocks of the hospital.

I was astounded! I knew where that bus stop was. When she got off the bus, she had to cross a moderately busy thoroughfare, walk a block, make a turn, walk another block, find the driveway into the hospital, and make her way to the door. “How on Earth do you manage that?”, I asked her.

Kathleen laughed at my surprise. She said she had someone come with her one time. She was careful to catch her bus on time. Then when she got to the stop near the hospital, she found the pole that had the “walk” button to push, waited until the light had time to change, listened carefully for any sound of oncoming traffic and started across. Then she counted the steps. So many steps to cross the street, so many steps down the first block. Turn right and count steps to the driveway, then to the hospital entrance. Turn right inside the door, count steps to the concession stand, and she was ready for business.

Reaching your goals in the face of seemingly insurmountable odds is a journey worth taking. Whether your “mountain” is an unavoidable circumstance or a lofty goal you set for yourself, success can only be achieved by determination and by taking one step at a time toward your destination.

Kathleen can serve as an inspiration to all. I believe her determination can best be described by a poem written by Ella Wheeler Wilcox.

One ship sails East, and another West, By the self-same winds that blow.

Tis the set of the sails and not the gales, that tells the way we go.