Purpose is an important part of living a fulfilled life. Having a sense of purpose can help us through the bumpy patches and give us a reason to get out of bed on the days that it seems impossible to talk ourselves into that simple act. As human beings living on this planet, however, it can sometimes be difficult to find what our purpose is here. Are you supposed to help children in poverty? Are you supposed to help your neighbor that has trouble with house repairs? What about fighting against injustice? As people age, and particularly once they've reached the age where they're in assisted living facilities, the question of purpose seems to get lost. It is at those times, however, that it may be the most important piece to a larger puzzle. Without purpose, people tend toward self-absorption and even depression.
Recently I was talking with someone who worked in a nursing care facility. She said that she'd been working with some older ladies to make bags for young girls in Africa to enable them to go to school. The particular village they were sending them to had a large population of girls who were skipping school each month during their menstrual cycle because they didn't have the materials or means to make the sanitary items they needed. It is a common problem in areas of poverty around the world It is also one that can be easily solved. The women in this group (some of which have dementia), are happy to work on sewing up the needed items. Those who have hands that are not able to sew can fit strings through the bags in which they send the items. It has been a great time of bonding for all involved, and has given them a purpose and a way to help in the world that they hadn't been aware of before. It also gives them something to talk about among themselves and a topic of conversation with others.
Purpose can be a tricky thing, but I've always been taught that the easiest way to find it is to practice starting at home. Be sure that you're showing love through your actions to those who are closest to you. Look around in your daily life for other things you can lend a hand to. Ask around if you are still coming up short on ideas. Some people look for something very specific, thinking that their purpose might be to paint portraits of specific people who have lived in the rain forest and learned to adapt in all ways to nature. For most of us, purpose might not be that specific, but rather a good fit while working to help solve a problem that we see around us.
Helping to solve a problem that we find can be as easy as creating a waterproof, cushioned barrier between the ground and someone who has to sleep on the ground. Some groups of people have learned how to use plastic yarn or “plarn” to crochet mats for those without homes who are sleeping out in the elements. It is easily rolled, lightweight, and can add a bit of comfort and even though it is not solving the homelessness problem, it is doing SOMETHING rather than the nothing that is often done.
Solving problems that we see around us can be addictive. Once we see how much little things can help, it makes us want to get involved in many ways. For elderly people, there may be ways that they can contribute items that they've made for door prizes for fundraisers for charities that they support. They may be able to give of their time in helping in other various ways. Perhaps they can't stand for long periods of time, but they may be able to tag clothing for a community thrift store. Perhaps they could help serve food at a breakfast fundraiser. Perhaps they might be able to write thank you cards for an organization that has received donations, or make calls to ask for donations.
Purpose is a funny thing. We spend so much time wondering what our purpose might be when it could be that it is really a very simple activity in our daily lives. The best way to look is to find something that has a positive impact on our immediate sphere of influence or in the wider world. If you're able to pinpoint it, you may find a little more contentment in knowing that you're making a difference, and a little more excitement upon waking in the morning!