“Purpose”; “meaning”; “calling”– these and similar concepts have become very popular in recent times. For many of us, it is no longer enough to work hard to support our family and pay a weekly visit to our place of worship be that mosque or mountain. We want to be a part of “changing the world”; “shifting the needle”; “making a difference”. This is because we are evolving and so is spirituality and faith – thank God.
As it dawns on us that charity (love) should begin at home, but that it certainly cannot end there, we might begin to feel a pull towards something to do that is bigger than ourselves. And we might – especially at the beginning of a year – look to volunteer at a creche or visit the sick or elderly. If we are feeling very brave, we might go on a mission trip or even think to start an NGO.
This can all be very useful, but to what extent is it ego-driven – all about my purpose; my calling; my giving back? Or possibly an appeasement of guilt or a way to shine up my personal brand? In the end, our true purpose – the kind that will have lasting impact – is found and met not by what we do, but by who we are; by how we show up in the world every minute of every day. Is it authentic? Is it about what I say it is? Is it rooted in love? Are my eyes, my mouth, my heart and my hands aligned as I reach out beyond myself?
I have come to this through involving myself in seemingly “big-hearted” works that in the end were much more to do with my ego than the subjects of my seeming love and compassion. This has been a deeply painful realisation.
So now, I am just trying to show up differently. If there is someone selling litchis at the tollgate I will buy the litchis because this is someone’s livelihood. Do I need hangers? Perhaps not – but I can afford to buy the hangers. I will buy them as this will feed someone’s child. If I hear that people have lost everything in a fire in a small town or a flood somewhere, I will send what I can. So, what I am trying to do is meet the need that meets me, whether that is a national news story or a car guard who has perhaps done very little to guard my car.
Please note: I am generally awful at this. I get very irritated and frustrated and I often find myself miserly and tight spirited. But I believe that my weak efforts to show up well are better-intentioned and hence more impactful than my grand gestures. I also believe that they mix with grace to create an impact beyond themselves.