Bird Droppings August 16, 2011
Finding our piece and or place
“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
Many years ago when I lived in Coatesville Pennsylvania and would be walking along the pathway leading from my neighbors home down to ours I came to realize we are all here with purpose. At that time this was just an isolated thought walking as I did every day after school or walking up to my friends house on “the path” as we called it. On one side were fruit trees and a patch of pines planted on an area of an oil pipe line. The other side of “the path” was grown over in sassafras and dogwood so that every spring time my walk would be trimmed in flowers. It was a random thought and one that filled my mind, we all had purpose.
For nearly fifty five years since that moment my journey has been one of understanding in that purpose in my own life and trying to assist as I can others to find their own meaning.
“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 and written often of the journey as I think of my own personally as it was often traveling that path in Coatesville Pennsylvania walking between fruit trees and dogwood as I would think.
Looking back to Kent Nerburn’s passage our calling as Nerburn states is reaching out and caring for in our time that which surrounds us. For many years as I was growing up I thought purpose was something great, some noble act that I would do or attain.
“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. 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. 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 Nietzche
As I look even those who seek no purpose in life, have purpose unbeknownst to them and it is integral with all others surrounding them. It took many years for me to break away from being the central focus of my own purpose seeking to understanding we all are integral and all are pieces in the puzzle and each facet does and eventually will 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 while a student in a small college in Plano Texas. We went on a field trip to a state mental hospital. In those days, 1968 as my son says “back in the day”; 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 Down’s syndrome and brain injuries, children and adults that really did not look much different. We then 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 18 at the time observing and looking at people some infant size, all were nearly adult in age who were here but all had significant brain dysfunction and 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?
Years later as I attended seminary and visited again a state hospital this time in Georgia 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 conversation turned to how they couldn’t do anything for them and they were over whelmed these kids 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 brother John who was born with brain injury, he diagnosed with CP, cerebral Palsy. John never attained little in academics, language, and even potty training was not in his realm of learning. John really never accomplished much that is what some would say. But 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.
Many people because of working with John 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. Each person that came into contact with him has 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 the child in the tub touched many people each day and it was the connections that they did not see. All they ever saw was that one tiny piece. Finding purpose is seeing the facets the interconnections and that we are all pieces in a puzzle still coming together. Please keep all in harm’s way on your mind and in your heart.