Finding purpose in life

iPhoneIt was one of those phone calls that you don’t expect to get. No, it wasn’t a middle of the night crisis, rather an early morning candid confession. “I don’t have a purpose anymore,” said my elderly friend with desperation.

In reality, there were still community events for her to attend, and restaurant lunches or suppers with friends. But there were no longer children to raise or even grandchildren to fuss over. Everyone had long ago grown up and moved away. My aging acquaintance’s body stubbornly refused to allow her to work or even volunteer for all the causes she had once so passionately supported. Quite simply, the fragile widow was searching for a reason to get out of bed each morning.

It is part of the human condition to seek fulfillment through what we do. “The two most important days in life are the day you are born and the day you discover the reason why.” This quote is from renowned humorist and author Mark Twain. Twain died over a century ago, but his wise observation remains relevant.

Purpose Driven Life coverProbably, the most well-known book ever written specifically about the subject is “The Purpose Driven Life” by Pastor Rick Warren. Originally released in 2002, the book had sold over 32 million copies by 2012 when it was reissued in an updated anniversary edition. Publishing experts never predicted this widespread success. The book’s subtitle, “What on Earth Am I Here For?” echoes Twain’s assertion. Apparently, learning the “why” of our existence continues to be a pivotal question for most people.

Besides, for much of the time we spend on this earth, we have defined roles. As a child we discover the world around us, and then assume the job of learning as students. We eventually find a career in the professional realm, and some folks embrace the awesome responsibility of becoming a parent.

Our days can be filled with mundane duties and tedious tasks that bear little resemblance to the lofty dreams of youth. It’s then we can experience burnout or become very disillusioned, which can result in a midlife crisis.

The Urban Dictionary online defines a midlife crisis as, “When a person regrets how they have lived his or her life, and they attempt to ‘correct’ their mental issue in a variety of ways which usually always harms themselves or those closest to them.” The satirical website says those “harmful” decisions could include buying an expensive convertible, or getting divorced. Society pokes fun at folks having a midlife crisis, since they are desperately trying to hold onto their youth.

Life is a journey, and we are all at different places along the pathway. “We may run, walk, stumble, drive, or fly, but let us never lose sight of the reason for the journey, or miss a chance to see a rainbow on the way,” according to songwriter Gloria Gaither.

We don’t want to rush through our days missing the precious moments that need to be cherished. Yet it’s good not to get too comfortable, because often our purpose changes dependent upon the season of life we are in. When things don’t work out the way we have planned, that’s when a wise individual reinvents themselves to discover meaning in each new stage.

Purpose Driven Life anniversary editionEven in unexpected tragedy like Rick Warren’s family experienced in 2013 when his 27-year-old son Matthew committed suicide after a lifelong battle with mental illness. In the past two years, the famous minister and his wife Kay, have become a highly visible force in the field of mental health awareness and suicide prevention. Within the national faith community, they are now championing churches to reach out to those individuals struggling with mental health issues.

Often it is our life circumstances that are the most difficult that result in new direction. The “why” we are here changes, and we have to adapt. Similar to society’s recent trend to repurpose everything from old furniture to broken jewelry, we have to pick up our own shattered pieces and figure out how to make something beautiful out of them.

No matter our age, if we are still on this Earth, there is more for us to do. Like my friend who was panicking because she no longer felt that her existence had meaning. I wish I was an early morning thinker, because in that instant I could have reminded her, “For everything there is a season, and a time for every purpose under heaven.”

Christina aloneChristina Ryan Claypool is a freelance journalist and inspirational speaker. Contact her through her website at www.christinaryanclaypool.com.

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Keeping Safe at the Cinema

photo (19)The movie theater has historically been a place of mindless escape where one can exchange everyday reality for a dramatic get-away complete with a bucket of buttery pop corn. Lately, it’s not as enjoyable. I’ve been wondering how many other folks feel a little anxious, since James Holmes made history killing 12 people during a shooting rampage in a Colorado theater in 2012. During a midnight viewing of a Batman movie, Holmes opened fire on the defenseless patrons injuring 70 others. Recently, the verdict of life in prison without parole for the infamous shooter was handed down by a jury that failed to agree on the death penalty. There was never any question about Holmes being guilty, because he surrendered at the scene. According to an AP article by reporter Sadie Gurman, “The trial hinged instead on the question of whether a mentally ill person should be held legally and morally culpable of an act of unspeakable violence.”

Don’t feel safe now that Holmes is locked up forever, because just this past July in Lafayette, Louisiana, three people including the gunman were killed at Grand Theater. Nine others were injured during the showing of the movie, Trainwreck. Within three years, the third scene of a theater attack occurred in Antioch, Tennessee, early this August when a man armed with a pellet gun and hatchet went on a rampage. Thankfully, the gunman was the only fatality being killed by the rapidly-responding SWAT team. Three patrons were treated for pepper spray unleashed by the assailant with another victim receiving a minor hatchet injury.  These incidents point to one simple truth: a movie theater like a school, mall, church, or even a military recruiting office can be an easy target for an assault. Yet let’s not permit a few violently inclined perpetrators to close down theaters. Instead let’s do what cutting-edge organizations have done and beef up security measures. First, we could bring law-enforcement and first responders to the table to glean their wisdom about the best safety scenario.Movie 3-D

There are also some common-sense steps a theater could take. For example, patrons would have to allow theater employees to search a purse or any bag carried in. Regal Entertainment Group, the country’s largest theater chain recently announced that this is a procedure they have implemented. According to their Website: http://www.regmovies.com/Theatres/Admittance-Procedures, “Security issues have become a daily part of our lives in America. Regal Entertainment Group wants our customers and staff to feel comfortable and safe when visiting or working in our theatres. To ensure the safety of our guests and employees, backpacks and bags of any kind are subject to inspection prior to admission. We acknowledge that this procedure can cause some inconvenience and that it is not without flaws, but hope these are minor in comparison to increased safety ”

Perceptive individuals will readily understand when they are asked to open their purse or bag for inspection. Already underpaid theater personnel don’t need patrons protesting over their rights to privacy when they are trying to ensure their safety. Metal detectors could also be installed at the entrance, and after purchasing a ticket moviegoers would step through it. If the detector beeps, be ready for a pat down just like at the airport. Some weapons can’t be detected, although anyone suspicious could be reported. Panic buttons could be installed to alert authorities about emergencies, and security personnel could be hired. Sadly, this might increase the already escalating ticket price, but keeping folks safe is worth the cost. A very informative article – https://variety.com/2015/film/news/moviegoers-half-pay-extra-theater-security-study-1201571615/ for Variety by Brent Lang, film and media reporter states that movie goers will be willing to pay more for security, but there’s a catch. “However, their appetite for shouldering the extra costs that come with installing metal detectors and armed security guards lessens as the pricetag grows higher. While 48% are fine with paying $1 or more for the additional measures, only 23% said they would pay $2 or more, according to a new survey by consumer research firm C4,” writes Lang.

Times are changing, and admittedly the world can be a randomly dangerous place. Yet it’s our job to live with awareness, not paranoia. So, let’s not stop going to the movies, let’s just be safer when we do.

 

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