I have read several articles this week about people who lived their lives with intention and purpose – people who accomplished ‘big’ things for the greater good. Like you, I can think of certain people I’ve either known or know something about who left noteworthy legacies.
Then I thought about the regular, everyday people I have known who have lived with purpose but may never have their name etched on a plaque or mentioned in a book. Each of these people has made a difference in their own way. They have mattered and so do each of us.
The Sweetest Man
Eddie lived in a manufactured home by himself for about 18 years before he moved in with his daughter. Even though he didn’t live with anyone for years, he was not alone. Every Sunday evening, he called each of his grown children to let them know he was thinking of them. Whenever weather permitted, he liked to walk down to the dollar store to pick up some trinkets or candy for the kids in the neighborhood. Sometimes he’d see a small item he liked to buy for one of the waitresses at the local coffee shop. Eddie sort of shuffled as he walked, but he kept moving as long as he could. Just about everyone in his community knew him and greeted him by name.
Eddie loved sweets. He ate cakes, pies, and all the ‘wrong’ food. Someone told me he had slow-growing cancer, but it didn’t seem to slow him down much. Finally, at 95, Eddie’s heart gave out. He lived a full life, a life that mattered.
A Heart for Children
Ginny used to take care of her grandchildren while their mother was at work. When the kids started school, she would take them to the bus each morning and then wait for them at the bus stop in the afternoon. Then she would walk the children back to her house, give them a snack, and help them get started with their homework. During the summers, the kids stayed with her most of the time. Now that the kids are older, Ginny has turned her attention to making quilts for foster care children. Ginny is making a difference.
Every morning and afternoon, Kathy walks her little dog, Joey around the neighborhood. Kathy makes sure Joey has a variety of weather-appropriate sweaters to wear so that he makes a striking appearance while strutting around the block. Joey doesn’t lack for sweaters or affection; he is showered with love. Joey was a rescue dog. Kathy gave him a forever home. Kathy is making a difference.
Faithfully Cleaning Up the Community
Duane also likes to take regular walks around the neighborhood. However, he doesn’t carry a leash. Rather, he carries a trash bag and a stick with a hook on the bottom. Duane is one of those people who faithfully picks up litter in our community. On days when he isn’t walking, he spends some time at a local food pantry where he volunteers his time. Duane quietly serves his community whether anyone notices or not. Duane, Eddie, Ginny, and Kathy have all made a difference and have lived their lives with purpose.
Living Longer, Healthier Lives with Purpose
Research suggests that living with a sense of purpose—something that motivates us and gives our lives meaning—is part of successful aging. Dan Buettner, explorer and author of the Blue Zones confirmed this same finding. Buettner identified five regions in the world where people tended to live longer, healthier lives than in other areas of the world. He then looked at common characteristics that these community regions shared. Having a sense of purpose was something each of the ‘blue zone’ regions shared.
We can live our lives with purpose by showing compassion or doing the right thing- even when no one notices. Each of us matters. Each of us can make a difference in our own way.