Our life experiences shape us. They can make us stronger, bitter, afraid, joyful...at any moment and as the underlying foundation of our actions. They gather together within us and pop out at either the worst time or the best time. We can let one event shape us for good or for ill. That event then can color everything we are. Sometimes it is the conglomeration of many little events that do the same.
Michael grew up in poverty and knew the effects of poverty. When he was ordained and began serving in a parish, most of which were still devoted to immigrant populations living in poverty, the pain and suffering of his own experience coupled with his experience of the world around him led him to believe in the power of working together to alleviate that suffering.
One family could not support itself when tragedy struck, but all families, giving a little could create enough to offset the tragedy. At the time it was the man who financially kept the family strong and together. If he died then the tragedy of widows and orphans is a society that tucks them away and out of sight is too much for them to bear. Many "benevolence societies" and commercial insurance were developing for just such a purpose, but Catholics were often not eligible to join them.
He also saw that while these men strove to provide financially for their families, they were not as good at providing spiritually for them. He understood that gathering them together for the purpose of support required both feet.
And so was born the Knights of Columbus, an organization that has existed and thrived for over a century, dedicated to "Charity, Unity, and Fraternity", not just in the small parish where he established it but world wide.
So a life of poverty and suffering, dying young of tuberculosis, shaped him not to steal or be bitter toward others but to take up the mantle of Christ and help secure families and souls for Christ.
Then Joshua gathered all the tribes of Israel to Shechem, and summoned the elders, the heads, the judges, and the officers of Israel; and they presented themselves before God. And Joshua said to all the people, “Thus says the LORD, the God of Israel, `Your fathers lived of old beyond the Euphra’tes, Terah, the father of Abraham and of Nahor; and they served other gods. Then I took your father Abraham from beyond the River and led him through all the land of Canaan, and made his offspring many. I gave him Isaac; and to Isaac I gave Jacob and Esau. And I gave Esau the hill country of Se’ir to possess, but Jacob and his children went down to Egypt. And I sent Moses and Aaron, and I plagued Egypt with what I did in the midst of it; and afterwards I brought you out. Then I brought your fathers out of Egypt, and you came to the sea; and the Egyptians pursued your fathers with chariots and horsemen to the Red Sea. If it is displeasing to you to serve the LORD, choose today whom you will serve, the gods your ancestors served beyond the River or the gods of the Amorites in whose country you are dwelling. As for me and my household, we will serve the LORD.” But the people answered, “Far be it from us to forsake the LORD to serve other gods.
-- Joshua 24:1-6,15-16