The Finish Line

He overcame hurdles and stayed on the right track. Now he’s busy relaying the gospel.

Michael Higgins of Coos Bay, Oregon, lettered four years in high school track. He was the first LDS student in his school to be elected student-body president. He has lots of nonmember friends who admire him for his standards. He got a good job working with his dad before he left on his mission to Ukraine in the former Soviet Union.

Is he too good to be true?

No, Michael will be the first one to tell you that he’s definitely not too good.

So is there some puzzle that makes Michael Higgins worth reading about in the New Era? Although he isn’t that different from a lot of other young men in the Church, Michael is worth talking about because he has learned how to have good things happen in his life.

When Michael was in junior high, his father, Calvin, suggested that he get involved in a sport. He wasn’t tall enough for basketball or big enough for football. He went out for track. “I wasn’t very good at it,” said Michael, “but I stuck with it because I thought it’d get better the next year.”

There’s the first clue. Stick with it.

Calvin would watch his son run. The only advice Michael remembers his dad giving was, “Pay attention to what your coach says, and work hard.”

Another clue. Listen to those who know best. And work hard.

It paid off. Michael became the second best man in the distances on the cross-country team. His best friend, Darrin, could always beat him.

Next clue. After you do the best you can, support those ahead of you.

At the end of his sophomore year, Michael decided to get involved in school government. He ran for junior class council. Yvonne, Michael’s mother, said, “He didn’t even tell us he was running. He just did it.”

The next year, Michael ran for student-body president even though someone else seemed more likely to win. He ran and was elected.

One more clue. Try, you never know what you can do until you try.

Throughout his school years, Michael had friends from different groups and with different interests. But there were certain things that Michael had decided and those decisions never changed. He was determined to never miss seminary. Even when he came back from a track meet late, he was there.

And he never let his friends influence him into breaking the commandments. How did his friends react? Michael said, “They sort of understand. They say, ‘This is Michael, and this is the Church he belongs to. And this is what he does.’”

Another point for our list. Stick to your standards.

After graduation Michael knew he wanted to prepare for his mission. His birthday was in December, so he decided to stay home from college and work to earn money for his mission. His dad helped Michael get a job with him working with a tugboat company. As the rookie, Michael got all the jobs no one else wanted—cleaning up, painting, picking up supplies.

Two more things Michael learned. Sometimes you have to put up with jobs you don’t like to earn the goal you do want—going on a mission. And as a bonus, Michael learned to take righteous pride in the kind of man his father is. Michael said, “Working around tugboats is a rough environment. There’s a lot of bad language. But Dad’s not different at work than he is at home. He always lives what he believes.”

Michael has followed the advice of his parents and his Church leaders and made some good choices. He gets a chance to help his younger sisters, Joleane and Elizabeth, and brother, Daniel, with the choices they are making. “He gives us advice,” said Elizabeth. “He tells us what movies to go to. He’s always been that way, telling us what we should do.”

Now Michael is serving his mission in Ukraine. He’ll be going places where they have never heard of the Church. How will he do? Michael knows how to stick with it, work hard, listen to those who know best, try, and keep his standards, which are now mission rules.

Cal Higgins had one more word of advice for his son before he left home—“Finish the race.”

And that’s the last piece of the puzzle. The scriptures phrase it a little differently, but the meaning is the same: Endure to the end. That’s the key to many of Michael’s accomplishments. After working and trying, listening and learning, then finish the race.

[photos] Photography by Janet Thomas and courtesy of Higgins family

[photos] Michael, his dad, Cal, and little brother Daniel (left). Whether working with his dad or working on his track goal (shown here in the ninth grade) it seems Michael has always been in training for the great race of life.

[illustration] Michael’s faith in Christ is reflected in the fact that he sticks to the standards the Savior has set. (Painting Sermon on the Mount by Harry Anderson.)

[photos] Elizabeth, Joleane, and Daniel anxiously check the mail for letters from Michael. (Below) Michael’s first baptism in Ukraine. Branch outing with young people at the theater.