My experience has taught me that purpose is found at the intersection of what I care most about and where I can contribute the most by helping others.
“Two are better than one, because they have a good return for their labor: if one falls, the other will help the fallen one.” – Ecclesiastes 4: 9-10
Purpose is the sense that we are part of something bigger than ourselves. Throughout scripture, God’s people continuously realize the call to community, as we are “many parts but all one Body.” Current research shows that people who are driven by purpose – especially a commitment to others – enjoy a lot of benefits, including reporting 42% more contentment overall and living up to seven years longer (Patti Neighmond, NPR, 2014).
I recently saw a meme circulating social media that fits in perfectly to this idea of purpose and community. It is an image of three stick figures carrying a ladder across a crevice. All three are able to get across, but each maintained a different role. When one is riskily hanging over the chasm, the other two are on solid ground, supporting the ladder to keep everyone from falling. The first, the middle and the last person carrying the ladder all have their “moment” of dangling over the crevice and being complete dependent on the others to keep them from falling. All three are part of a different “whole,” and together are the team that gets across the great divide.
In my own understanding of Catholic Social Teaching, upholding the dignity and worth of each individual can mean standing in the gap (or holding on to an end of the ladder) when others simply are not able to provide life’s necessities for themselves and their families. Food, shelter, safety – all of those are possible when we have financial resources, but life’s twists and turns sometimes upend people to a place where they desperately lack these basic needs.
Few people come in to Catholic Charities with the expectation that someone else will continually sustain their life – they just seek help to get over the next hurdle, around the next corner, into the next month when hope springs and they can return to self-reliance. My front-line social worker and resource specialist colleagues help people past those barriers every day. I also meet supporters and stakeholders of Catholic Charities who find that this agency is the place where they belong to something bigger than themselves, where they live out “purpose.”
My experience has taught me that purpose is found at the intersection of what I care most about, and where I can contribute the most to helping others in some way. In my own life, I find that intersection here, in the daily work that happens at Catholic Charities.
I invite you to consider how Catholic Charities aligns with your own purpose as well – the stories and information in this newsletter conveys the impact of what happens here, and I’m always eager to have a conversation about this work and those who are served!