Helen Hayes was often introduced as “First Lady of American Theater” for her outstanding accomplishments on stage and screen. She is one of only 15 people who have collected an Emmy, a Grammy, an Oscar and a Tony Award.

Hayes also received the Presidential Medal of Freedom, America’s highest civilian honor, from President Ronald Reagan in 1986. In 1988, she was awarded the National Medal of Arts.

Ms. Hayes began her stage career at an early age. With her mother’s encouragement she attended dance classes as a youngster and made her stage debut as a five-year-old singer at Washington’s Belasco Theater, on Lafayette Square, across from the White House. At age nine, she made her Broadway debut as Little Mimi in the Victor Hugo operetta Old Dutch, and at age 10 she was cast in the one-reel film Jean and the Calico Cat.

Early in her life Ms. Hayes’ mother gave her this advice: “Achievement is the knowledge that you have studied and worked hard and done the best that is in you. Success is being praised by others, and that’s nice too, but not as important or satisfying. Always aim for achievement and forget about success.”

According to her daughter-in-law, Hayes took the most pride in her philanthropic work with Helen Hayes Hospital, a physical rehabilitation hospital located in West Haverstraw, NY. She was extremely proud of the strides the hospital made toward the rehabilitation of people with disabilities, saying, “I’ve seen my name in lights on theater marquees and in letters 20 feet tall on Broadway billboards, but nothing has ever given me greater sense of pride and satisfaction than my 49-year association with this unique hospital.”

The life of this famous actor is a reminder that success might make one happy whereas achievement makes one proud. George Washington Carver said, “There is no shortcut to achievement. Life requires thorough preparation – veneer isn’t worth anything.” Dr. Bo Bennett agrees, “The discipline you learn and character you build from setting and achieving a goal can be more valuable than the achievement of the goal itself.”

Writing in Forbes Magazine, Jim Blasingame says that “Today success is synonymous with celebrating at the finish line, holding the trophy or the check, while achievement has more of a work and effort connotation.” However, he suggests that we build “more memories of the journey of work and effort toward your goals than of the high fives at the end.” He concludes by saying, “No one lives their life in the winner’s circle. Strive for success, but focus on achievement.”

As followers of Jesus Christ we are not called to be successful but we are expected to apply ourselves and do our best at everything we do. The Apostle Peter instructs us to do everything so that God will be honored (I Peter 4:11). The Apostle Paul also emphasizes that everything we do should be for the glory of God (I Corinthians 10:31).

Lord, help us to live as faithful disciples striving to be the best we can be always seeking to serve others.

Jamie Jenkins