When I was fifteen years old—to which any of my sons would gleefully add “back when dinosaurs roamed the earth”—my youth choir at church tackled a choral work called “Purpose.” It was a great success when we performed it at church, so much so that our choir director took us on the road to perform it at other churches across Ohio. It was my first overnight road trip with a group of teenagers. I remember the bus being driven late at night after a performance, listening to whispers and giggling and occasional yawns. I sat next to a boy I didn’t know and we talked well into the night. There’s a sweetness to that memory that has stayed with me.
I suppose that’s why pieces of those songs are still stuck in my head and tease at my ears from time to time. “Do you have a purpose in life? You know there really is none, unless that purpose is Christ.” Then there was “What shall I do with my life oh Lord? What shall I do, oh, what shall I do?” (That one has returned to my head at specific and pointed intervals.) The next to final song was about acceptance: “Just as I am, without one plea…”
I think, for the most part, I’ve lived a purpose-driven life. At the base of it, I have always wanted and needed to be of service to others. I have wanted to make a positive difference in the lives of the people around me, often in little ways—and in that eight-year period of trying to influence the infrastructure of healthcare in our country, in one big way.
Directionally, I mostly got it right. But that “directionally” can meander through an awful lot of wasted energy, politics, bad-mood days, just-didn’t-get-it-right days, and failed strategies. In the end, in my career, I probably made more difference than I thought and less than I wanted. So, too, in my family—yes, they knew they were loved, but I don’t think anyone can look back on how they did as a spouse or parent without grimacing a bit.
It is in retirement that I can live into each of my days, fill them with joy and purpose and meaning. I can live into myself, be fully Margie. The freedom of that is expansive inside me; it has given me a blank landscape on which I can paint my next steps.
I am volunteering at an organization called Journey to Hope. Journey to Hope provides coaching and education in a group setting to help people restore physical, emotional and financial well-being when something in their life takes an unexpected turn. Job loss, or a new diagnosis of diabetes, or grief. Although these groups are for anyone, overwhelmingly Journey to Hope’s members are older, often even retired. People that had a purpose, people that had walked one path for so long that they never thought they might have to take another one. People who aren’t used to asking for help, but just aren’t sure what their next steps should be.
Journey to Hope could perhaps be called “Journey to Purpose.” Or even “Journey to Re-Purpose,” because that’s what they’re doing—finding ways to re-purpose their lives to again find ways to derive meaning from each day.
My friend Cinda says that we have to rediscover our purpose within each season of our lives, from the Spring that bursts through in our childhood to the Winter white of our older years. Doing so is what allows us to fully embrace and live for each day.
Don’t you think it’s a little funny that I have found purpose in supporting people who—well—are working to discover their new purpose? It’s given me a smile a time or two. There is a perfect circle in that, though, as I start leading a class at Journey to Hope in September, called “Weighty Matters.” My biggest purpose three years ago was to walk my road towards health and wellness. How right it feels now to coach others who want and need to do the same! Same purpose for me, but a different season.
If you live in Cincinnati and are interested in learning more about the group I’ll be leading, I hope you’ll join me. You can find out more at www.jtoh.org. If you are more action-oriented, you can register for a talk I’ll be giving September 12th or for the eight-week group session at http://www.jtoh.eventbrite.com.
A week or two ago, Marc asked me what I thought my greatest life accomplishment was. I paused for a minute, thinking.
“You know,” I said, “I think it’s still ahead of me.” Isn’t that the best kind of optimism? To know that our best, new purpose lies ahead.
I can’t wait!