My friend Roy is an inspiration to me every day. He brought us the Hot Chocolate Mindfulness Exercise and has been gracious enough to share some more personal thoughts to help us towards finding meaning and purpose:
I’m a foster parent. But probably not the most conventional foster parent. It kinda fell into my lap when I was 28. I was a single guy, just finally getting my career going, and then this kid pops into my life. Fast forward 6 years and I’ve been a parent to him and 5 of his siblings. Again, I didn’t seek this out. It just plopped into my lap and I had the courage (or the ignorance!) to say yes.
So yeah, I got lucky. This part of my purpose, my reason for living, just came to me. It sought me out of nowhere. But the situations that led me to this part of my life were largely due to me following my calling, my passions.
As a young teen, I noticed that I had a knack for working with children. This was largely due to those around me commenting on my affinity. So here’s my first question for you: What do people say about you?
“I wish I could be as organized as you.”
“You’re such a people person.”
“I could never get my yard to look this beautiful.”
“Where do you find the time to write?”
“You’re so good with details.”
This might be your first clue to find your gifting. The talents we are born with are unique. They might be pointing you in the direction of your purpose. Now, I have to stress the word might. I’ve had plenty of people point out talents or gifting in me. The truth is that went I tried to harness and pursue some of those giftings, I hated every minute of it. I was good at some of those things but I just didn’t enjoy doing them. They felt like work, a job, a chore. Just because you’re good at something doesn’t make it your passion or purpose.
So this leads me to my second question. What do you love to do?
For me, working with children and adolescents became a love and a passion. During my freshman year of college, I volunteered at a juvenile state prison. I worked with youth charged with armed robbery, violent assaults, drug possession, and gang involvement. And you know what? I loved every minute of it.
Throughout my 20’s I continued to study psychology and learned more and more about childhood trauma. I began to work with youth in the foster care system and heard some of the most horrific stories of abuse, neglect, and abandonment. My passion for working with the most marginalized groups of kids grew. Was it hard? Of course. Did my heart break for some of these kids? Yep. Could I make more money working with families with more resources? You bet. But three things happened when I went home each night. 1.) I was using my gifting. I realized I was good at this. 2.) I reflected on the fact that My life was about more than money. I was making a small difference that extended beyond myself. 3.) My passion for my work grew.
So let me ask you again. Where is your passion?
I need to take this moment and emphasize something. It may seem like I’m this selfless, giving, nice, passionate person. I’m not. If you could hear my thoughts, you’d realize pretty quickly that I can be quite selfish. But I will say this, I followed my passions. I realized early that I have a passion for working with kids. I also realized that I’m pretty darn good at working with kids. Could I make lots of money working with kids with rich parents? Probably. In the field of psychology, there’s a lot of different directions I could go to make decent money. But I have a passion for working with the most marginalized and most forgotten youth. Most recently I took a job working with adolescent boys who were not only a part of our state’s child welfare system, not only developmentally delayed, but also exhibiting such severe mental health symptoms that they needed to live in a 24 hour care residential facility. And you know what? I wasn’t sure when I first heard about the job if I would end up liking it or not. Now that I look back, I can’t believe that I didn’t immediately know how much I was going to love the job. It fit my gifting. It fit my passion.
So again…what is your gifting? What is your passion?
Let me emphasize this point clearly. Your passion might be trying to climb the corporate ladder, to be a leader in your industry. Your passion might be in banking, striving to make as much money as possible. Your passion might be in politics, trying to achieve a position of power and prestige. These are perfectly fine passions! BUT (yes, that is in all caps on purpose) your passion MUST extend beyond yourself. It cannot be just about you. If you are climbing the corporate ladder, striving to be a leader among your coworkers, how will you lead well? Will you be ruthless, uncaring, stepping on anyone that gets on your way? Or will you hone your leadership skills, devoting time, effort, and energy to lead your coworkers well? If you are in the banking industry, putting more and more money in the bank, how will you use that wealth for others? Will you hoard your bank account, your material possessions, spending every last dime on yourself? Or will you seek to have your money make a difference, giving to organizations and causes close to your heart? Will you provide financially to those that are in the trenches working practically? If you are in politics, striving for wealth and power, how will you use your influence and position for the good of those you represent? How will you better the lives of your constituents?
Now that I’ve addressed the large audience of CEOs, hedge fund managers, and presidential candidates reading this blog, let me speak to those of you that might not fit any of those above categories! I hope you can see the point that I’m trying to make. There are no limits to what your passions might be. You might be a single father with a passion for sports. You might be a college student in love with the outdoors. You might be a stay at home mom who loves arts and crafts. It doesn’t matter. Just seek for what excites you. Seek for what gets you out of bed in the morning, keeps you up late at night, and fills your dreams in between. Keep a listening ear for the gifting that others notice about you and honor those things that get your blood flowing. Maybe as a single father you find a way to coach your son’s basketball team. Maybe as a college student you get involved in the environmental club on campus. Maybe as a stay at home mom you organize a craft fair for your local community. This is the beginning of your passion. It’s the first steps to living out your purpose.
At this stage of my life, my passion continues. As I care for this ragtag family of mine, I dream about the future. Adolescent males are some of the most difficult youth to find a home for in the foster care system. For some reason my mind keeps drifting to possibly buying a home one day that could offer these youth a place to stay. Crazy? Maybe. But I can’t deny that my passion for working with and caring for those most ignored and forgotten is also a part of my gifting. So even though becoming a foster parent came out of the blue, my continuing to be one will be a choice I’m willing to make. It will be a gifting I will continue to live out. It will be a passion that keeps me going.