I was waiting at the Philly airport a few weeks ago after returning from my first trip home to Kentucky. I'll be doing a lot of this. It was a pleasant evening, and the safety officer was jovial and conversant.
Suddenly, a burst of noisy engines signaled the arrival of several souped up motorcycles. The riders parked, hopped off, and left the bikes at the curb. A bit indignant, but curious, I wondered, what next?
The friendly officer strode over and offered explanation to me and the elderly woman sitting next to me: "These are the only people we allow to break the rules. They're veterans, and they come to welcome families who have lost a loved one in service."
I turned around and saw saw the four men and one women, variously clad in leather, denim, chains, and Harley insignia, encircle, embrace, and generally envelope an arriving family.
Clearly, they had a purpose.
My younger sister, with whom I live while working here in New Jersey, rescues Great Danes. She can't say no, especially to the old ones and the ones with special needs. The guy on the bed above is L.J. He's not that old, but has kidney failure, and is probably only going to be with us a few more days. She's had him for 5 years. Right now there are four dogs, counting the Jack Russell, and three horses!
The animals take a lot of care, time, money, and energy. But she never seems to get upset -- at least not at the ones who are sick or needy. This is her purpose.
Do we find our purpose or does it find us?
About five years ago, it became clear that my husband Eric and I were going to become parents again in midlife, to a four year old with special needs! (later diagnosed with high-functioning Autism) Seth is my sister's grandson, but needed consistent parenting and a stable home. We have been Mom & Dad since then. I would never have imagined or named this as my purpose for this chapter of my life... but there you have it.
It's been frustrating, challenging, hilarious, touching, infuriating, and very rewarding.
Twenty years ago, upon entering the ministry, I thought my purpose was to be a stellar UU minister, to do amazing social justice work, to help eliminate racism, to end child abuse... I had so many dreams! I had to scale back my big ideas one after one. I'm satisfied now with the work I've done, and I'm at a turning point as I enter a new decade and a new form of ministry. Now I'm a little more willing to let my purpose find me, and to be willing to listen when it does.