I’ve said it before, but it’s sometimes hard to believe that purpose does not have to be grand.
An article published in Centre Daily Times makes that point as well. Written by Anne Ard, she said purpose is as simple as figuring out how to be useful and make a difference in our communities. How that looks in real life is determined by our circumstances and commitments.
“For some, being useful and making a difference happens in the ways we interact with others in our network – driving a friend to a doctor’s appointment, or taking a meal when someone is ill, for example,” she wrote.
Forward From 50 published a story last October about a woman who could hardly walk down the aisle at a grocery store, but interacted with several people in a way that had significant impact on them in the moment.
Anne pointed out how purpose differs for people based on their abilities, but they are all useful in some way.
“There are those who are useful and make a difference through their leadership in civic organizations, or faith communities,” she wrote. “There are others who are useful and make a difference in working with children as mentors, coaches or teachers.
I would add there are still others who work behind-the-scenes and aren’t often visible at all. They may be:
- Walking dogs at the local animal shelter.
- Putting books back on shelves at the library.
- Making sure the refrigerator at church is stocked with water.
- Pulling weeds out of a neighbor’s yard when they are gone for a few months.
- Caring for someone’s pet while the family is on vacation.
- Grading papers to give a teacher a few minutes of solitude.
- Picking up litter at a park or in a parking lot.
Anne quoted theologian Frederick Buechner, who defined vocation as the place where “your deep gladness and the world’s deep hunger meet.”
“It could be anywhere – in neighborhoods, faith communities, friendship groups, our local community or the wider world,” she added. “No matter where we find it…it involves giving oneself to others to make their lives easier, to make the world a better place, to help meet a need.”
Ralph Waldo Emerson wrote, “The purpose of life is to be useful, to be honorable, to be compassionate, to have it make some difference that you have lived and lived well.”
If you’re struggling with a purpose for your life, simply look around. You’ll discover many ways in which you can be useful — even if other people don’t see you doing it. In fact, those are sometimes the best kind of feel-good moments you’ll experience during the day.
Anne’s full story can be found at Centre Daily Times.
After closing his business and enduring several painful years of uncertainty regarding what to do with his life, Greg founded Forward From 50 to help men and women over 50 to live more purposeful lives by pursuing things they are passionate about. A Wisconsin native, Greg currently lives in Arizona.