My purpose is clear.
My purpose is clear.
Whether it's buying a meal for a homeless person, or helping a client overcome a challenge in life, or simply acknowledging a clerk in a store who has been “invisible” to the last 20 customers, my purpose is to show people that they matter, that their life matters, and that I SEE them.
In November 2021 my community was hit by a natural disaster.
Over a 3 day period in November 2021 my community received one year’s worth of rain. The volume of water was such that our dike system failed. The scale of the devastation to our low-lying farming community was unimaginable.
As the disaster unfolded, I hunkered down at home, not wanting to go out and become part of the problem. First responders, Search and Rescue, and the many others who went above and beyond to rescue those who were stranded in their homes had enough to deal with.
I listened to the mayor’s daily updates, and every day I felt what I can only describe as “survivor’s guilt”.
Why was I safe and dry while just 2 blocks away buildings were being flooded, farm animals were drowning, and people, my neighbors, were losing everything they had worked for their entire lives?
I don’t recall ever feeling so helpless.
The aftermath …
When the rains stopped, life seemed to resume for the vast majority, including me, as if it was all over. It was a case of "out of sight, out of mind". The story was no longer front page news, there were no more daily briefings from the mayor. It all just seemed to disappear.
But I knew it wasn't REALLY over.
Our major highways were so damaged that most were shut down to all traffic. Some had actually been washed away. The supply chain to small communities in the interior of the province was broken.
I could see fields submerged in water, some areas under as much as 10 feet.
My happy place is on some trail somewhere, but all recreational areas were closed due to landslides, fallen trees and generally dangerous conditions.
My community has an airport and I couldn’t help but notice the surge in east/west helicopter traffic. I have no idea where they came from, but the drone was constant as efforts were made to fly supplies to isolated communities and bring evacuees to our local evacuation center.
The stories of good Samaritans coming to the aid of those affected were non-stop.
From the Sikh Temple that prepared thousands of meals and arranged for a helicopter to fly the food inland, to the recreational pilot who did an air drop on an isolated ranch that had run out of food and water, to the strangers that drove around the impacted areas rescuing farm animals and caring for them until they could be reunited with their owners.
The stories were inspiring… and each one reminded me that I was doing nothing to help. I was doing nothing to show those who were impacted that I heard their pleas for help, that they mattered and that what happened to them mattered.
An opportunity with a catch.
Through the mayor’s updates I heard that a non-profit organization had arrived in town to help with the disaster recovery process.
I googled Samaritan's Purse and discovered that this group’s disaster recovery mandate is to provide work crews to do the hands-on work of preparing flooded buildings for rebuild, at no cost to the homeowners.
This caught my attention. There was just one problem. Samaritan’s Purse is a Christian organization, and their faith is the foundation of the work they do. How would I, a non-Christian, fit in? My desire to help was greater than my concern about our differences so I signed up as a volunteer.
What we have in common is much stronger than what sets us apart.
During the first morning briefing, I heard these words from the local operations manager: “I don’t assume everyone here is a Christian. I assume we are all here to help those in need”.
It was heartfelt, I felt it, my concerns evaporated.
As we drove to the first location, I was overwhelmed with sadness.
For kilometers, we drove along roads lined with bales of hay – all wet and rotting. I couldn’t help but think of the 100’s of hours of labor that had gone into growing the grass, cutting it, letting it dry, then wrapping it into bales … all wasted.
We passed acres and acres of berry fields … where all the bushes were brown and dead.
We passed dairy farms … all empty and covered in mud.
We arrived at the work site, a sprawling rancher. When I walk through the front door, my heart sank even further … the filthy water line could be seen halfway up the living room window.
Thus started what turned out to be a total of 7 days of manual labor, stripping down the inside of homes to the studs, preparing them for rebuild; crawling through crawl spaces, ripping out waterlogged insulation; shoveling out mud made of black water.
I would go home at night physically exhausted, my body aching. This was hard work - at times in awful conditions.
And I was happy, and I was fulfilled.
I was easing suffering. That was clear from the conversations I had with homeowners and their tears of gratitude.
Samaritan’s Purse has now left. All the requests for help have been answered.
I was emotional as I said “goodbye” to people I had worked with shoulder to shoulder, that I had laughed with, that I had connected with.
I learned 3 powerful lessons from this experience:
1.There is power in having a clear life purpose.
Mine enabled me to crawl into some of the most awful, filthy, conditions I have ever experienced.
Flood waters are filthy – they contain sewage, industrial fluids, fertilizers, and possibly the remains of dead animals. I would NEVER choose to do this kind of work as a paid job.
But as a volunteer fulfilling my purpose it was a pleasure and a priviledge.
2.What we have in common is more important than what makes us different.
The people I worked with were Christians of deep faith. I am not a person of faith.
Our common purpose was much bigger than the differences in our beliefs, and by putting our differences aside we accomplished the task AND we made human connections that have changed me – I am a better person for it.
3. Having a clear purpose opens the door to finding like minded people and to creating a sense of community and belonging.
Loneliness is all too common in our society. If you feel lonely, discovering your purpose is the first step to finding a community to belong to, to finding your tribe.
"One who has a WHY to live for can endure almost any HOW "
My experience with disaster relief reminded me of this quote attributed to Friedrich Nietzsche.
A clearly articulated life purpose empowers you to do things otherwise unimaginable and to find community and a sense of belonging.
Do you know your purpose? Can you articulate it in 2-3 sentences?
If not, let's chat. I offer complimentary 15 minute consultations. At the end of our time together you will know if what I offer will be helpful and if we are a match.
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