May 30, 2015 admin

PURPOSE: Kindness Is The Goal

by Elizabeth Young

Age 56. Newtown, CT

 

My youngest child had gone off to college, triggering a seismic shift in my focus. My work life, I am a nurse, remained consistent, my vast array of interests only expanded, but my purpose seemed to have evaporated. No longer the essential player I had been for twenty six years in the lives of my four children, I found myself gasping for purpose like a spiritual asthmatic. I wrote an essay acknowledging that I felt like the high school senior being directed to do what makes me happy, find my passion and live my dreams. Yet I was at a complete and total loss to figure out what they were. I tried all sorts of things, became a doula, hospice volunteer, reading volunteer, all seemed empty endeavors lacking the fulfillment I was seeking. It has been a challenging time.

No longer the essential player I had been for twenty six years in the lives of my four children, I found myself gasping for purpose like a spiritual asthmatic.

I read a story once of an Indian guru of sorts who died. His lifelong friend was being interviewed by a journalist. The friend was proud and excited to show the journalist the gift he had been bequeathed. A banged up tin pot he kept carefully wrapped in cloth as though it was fragile. The journalist was confused, what made this dingy old pot so valuable? The message the friend replied. The message was “we do not all have to shine.” This story resonated deeply. In that moment I was able to relieve myself of the need to do something important, from which I would reap praise and be rewarded with fulfillment. My vision cleared.

I have always wanted to be effortlessly kind. I wanted to raise children who were kind. Children who would become not only good citizens, but people with their hearts in a place that had room for the wants and needs of others. Terrence Des Pres wrote “The Survivor, An Anatomy of Life in the Death Camps,” a study of the characteristics evident in those who survived the holocaust. The predominant quality was generosity. Those prisoners who saw themselves as more fortunate than others, who shared their shred of potato skin, were vastly more likely to survive. Kindness is not only good for our own souls, but good for humanity at large.

I have always wanted to be effortlessly kind.

I am reminded of the story of the woman whose yard was filled with thousands of daffodils. People stopped to look and take photos of the glorious springtime display. Those who were really awestruck went to her front door only to be informed, by a note she had placed there, that this feat was accomplished “one bulb at a time.”

Perhaps the mission is not a mission at all. There may not be some grand quest for most of us, but rather a gradual understanding that if we can just be kinder to each other and raise our children to be kind that our field of vison will enlarge and our hearts a become little more open. We will see need where once we saw weakness, we will find opportunities to grow from inclusiveness. We will see differences we can embrace, appreciate and learn from. Everywhere there are tiny, seemingly inconsequential circumstances that, if explored, provide meaning and a chance for purpose and fulfillment. We grow physically and emotionally in microscopic increments. Perhaps the idea of finding ones purpose should be introduced by first developing a generosity of spirit within ourselves, through this portal, purpose may become apparent.

 

 

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