Bird Droppings December 23, 2009
Finding our piece and or purpose in the puzzle of life
“We are not all called to be great. But we are called to reach out our hands to our brothers and sisters, and to care for the earth in the time we are given” Kent Nerburn, Small Graces
It has been so many years ago since I was walking along “the path” leading from my neighbor’s home down to our house. The path as we called it was worn from many others walking along the way each person thinking perhaps as I did as I walked. I came to realize back so many years ago as I thought walking along while gazing at sassafras and dogwood trees we are all here with purpose. This was just an isolated thought walking as I did everyday after school or if by chance I had walked up to my friends house on the path.
On one side were fruit trees and a large patch of pines planted on an area of an oil pipe line generally the trick was a tax write off as once every so many years a new line would come through and the pipelines paid for cutting down trees. One fellow actually was taken to court after planting pines a third time on the right of way. On the other side were the sassafras and dogwoods, so come spring time the path would be covered with flowers as I walked.
This thought of purpose was a random thought at the time one of a child walking along and one that over the years has filled my mind, we all have purpose. For nearly fifty years since my journey on that pathway it has been about understanding that purpose.
“Each of our acts makes a statement as to our purpose.” Leo Buscaglia
“The purpose of man is in action not thought.” Thomas Carlyle
I have talked often of the journey as I think of mine personally it often is thinking back to criss-crossing the path in Coatesville Pennsylvania, walking between fruit trees and dogwoods as I would think. As I think back to Kent Nerburn’s passage our calling is reaching out and caring for in our time. For so many years as I was growing up I thought purpose was something great, some noble act perhaps, the slaying of a dragon.
“Men achieve certain greatness unawares, when working to another aim.” Ralph Waldo Emerson
“The purpose in life is to collaborate for a common cause; the problem is nobody seems to know what it is.” Gerhard Gschwandtner
We often do not know and are unaware of what it is we are looking for. Too often we search so diligently we miss what is right in front of us.
“Multitudes of people, drifting aimlessly to and fro without a set purpose, deny themselves such fulfillment of their capacities, and the satisfying happiness which attends it. They are not wicked, they are only shallow. They are not mean or vicious; they simply are empty — shake them and they would rattle like gourds. They lack range, depth, and conviction. Without purpose their lives ultimately wander into the morass of dissatisfaction. As we harness our abilities to a steady purpose and undertake the long pull toward its accomplishment, rich compensations reward us. A sense of purpose simplifies life and therefore concentrates our abilities; and concentration adds power.” Kenneth Hildebrand
For many people purpose is a mote point they choose to simply exist and drift aimlessly wandering about lost and perplexed.
“It’s not so much how busy you are, but why you are busy. The bee is praised. The mosquito is swatted.” Mary O’Connor
“To forget one’s purpose is the commonest form of stupidity.” Friedrich Nietzsche
As I look even those who seek no purpose in life, they have purpose unbeknownst to them and it is integral with all others surrounding them. This took many years for me to break away from being a central focus of purpose to understanding we all are integral all are pieces in the puzzle and each facet does fit together
“Why do I not seek some real good; one which I could feel, not one which I could display?” Seneca
“Be not simply good; be good for something.” Henry David Thoreau
Many years ago I recall on a field trip in a class on Human Development that I took in a small college in Plano Texas. We went on a field trip to a state hospital and in those days, circa 1968 many disabled children and adults spent their entire lives in residential centers. They were wards of the state. We went through units of children with Downs Syndrome and brain injuries, children and adults that really did not look different than us.
We eventually came to a unit that was filled with clear plastic containers much like you see in a nursery in a hospital, each container had tubes going to it and IV bottles hung along side. As we walked through, I was 17 at the time, observing as I have always done, looking at people, some only infant size. I was told all in this unit were near adult in age. These children and adults were here but, all had significant brain dysfunction, were non-mobile and were turned every few hours to keep from getting bed sores. The tubes of nutrition and fluids kept them alive. What was their purpose in life?
Years later as I attended seminary and visited again a state hospital this time in Georgia and a similar room except this time three young pastors to be were the ones in attendance as they walked through. I went to a meeting shortly thereafter and the focus was on the child in the clear plastic tub. The pastors to be were concerned about how they couldn’t do anything for them and they were over whelmed, these children were lost.
“It is the wise person who sees near and far as the same, does not despise the small or value the great” Chuang Tzu
Perhaps the easiest explanation as I see is my late brother John who was born with severe brain injury. He was born with CP cerebral Palsy and at a few years of age suffered an attack of encephalitis on top of everything else. He never attained academics, language, and even potty training was not in his realm of learning. So John really never accomplished much that is what some would say. When you pull an individual piece from the puzzle it is simply a piece but connected with its facets and other pieces and it makes a whole. Because of working with John many young people went on into Special Education and the teaching field. One good friend went into prison psychology and is currently a school psychologist in an alternative school in a near by county. Each person that came into contact was moved in one way or another.
As I look back on my seminary group and those guys who found nothing around them, there were nurses, doctors, and family that were in need. The piece that they missed was the child in the tub touched many people each day and it was the connections that they did not see. All they saw was that one tiny piece. Finding purpose is seeing the facets and the interconnections and that we are all pieces in a puzzle still coming together. My dear friends please keep all in harms way on your mind and in your heart.