“What isYour Purpose?
“Do You Know Who You Are?”
I recently had the pleasure of meeting Mama K, an 85-year-old elder from Philadelphia. She had honey-brown skin with soft kind eyes and beautiful locs that hung to her ankles. While talking about my experience as an educator in Philadelphia, she interrupted me to ask a thought-provoking question, “Do you know who you are? What is your purpose?” It caught me off guard, and I couldn’t discern where she was coming from. My mind immediately went to a place of defensiveness and fear. Her question hurled like an accusation and seemingly came out of nowhere. She went on to say, “If you don’t know who you are, how can you teach children.” Finally, with a touch of caginess, I replied, “Yes, I know exactly who I am, and my purpose is to serve others.”
After not being satisfied with my answer, she continued to ask me three more times. Each time I responded with, “My purpose is to serve; I know exactly why God put me here.” After skeptically surrendering her line of questioning, I asked her, “Who are you? What is your purpose?” Her response stunned me; she replied with a look of audacity. She was completely taken aback. Who was I to ask her the same question and expect a confident answer? All she could muster was, “I am 85 years old, and I am still learning who I am; I’m on a journey. Finally, an interruption that should have come 30 seconds sooner shifted the conversation and broke the mounting tension. I can tell she was relieved.
On my drive home, her questions continued to linger in my mind. I kept asking myself what she was looking for in my answer. Was it not enough that my purpose is to serve others? To give back, teach and mentor, and to support the people I care about. By the time I got home, I wasn’t sure if I even believed my answer. The truth is the answer to that question is complex. I believe that people can have multiple purposes in life and that we all learn, evolve, and grow as we journey through life’s many twists and turns.
Our purpose doesn’t have to define who we are; it can change with each big decision or milestone. There is no rule stating that we need to be stuck to one path throughout our lives. We can create paths and invent our purposes using our imagination and the unique talents and skills we acquire along the way.
It is important to remember that our purpose in life does not have to be a grand initiative that impacts society on a large scale. It can be something as simple as being a reliable family member or helping out a neighbor by shoveling their driveway on a snowy day. Every small act can positively impact someone’s life.
Before leaving the meeting, Mama K asked me how old I was. I told her I would be 37 next month. With surprise, delight, and a hint of an apologetic smile, she replied, “My goodness, I thought you were in your twenties.” She embraced me warmly, I reciprocated, and we both left feeling like we had made a new friend.
Ultimately this chance encounter with an elder taught me that we are all on a journey of self-discovery, and it is okay not to know the answer to some of life’s big questions -no matter how old you are. By using our unique qualities, know that each one of us has the power to create our own purpose to forge the life we want for ourselves.
As Always, Be Great.
Mishel Williams Copyright All Rights Reserved]
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