When I was in my twenties, I spent a year working for my great-uncle Olen. Drilling water wells, helping take care of a small herd of goats and just helping around his farm in any way I was needed. It was not glamorous work. In fact it was nasty, sweaty work.
Uncle Olen left a very big mark on my life. He wasn’t an educated man, not learning to read and write until he was well into his forties. His father, my great-grand father, was the stereotypical hillbilly. A moonshiner who lived in a shack and refused to let his children go to school. Despite the lack of a formal education, Uncle Olen was, through much hard work, a pretty successful man. At times, he could be very philosophical and wise beyond his lack of education.
When one of his brothers announced that he was going to retire, he seemed unhappy about it. When I asked him why, he told me “it’s not working that makes you old, it’s stopping”. At the time this did not make sense to me, but since that conversation I have come to see the wisdom of his words. Many antique car enthusiasts will tell you that one of the worst thing you can do to a car is to let it sit, not driving it. The parts will rot and rust will spread. We are no different, after-all, we humans are advanced machines.
Uncle Olen was somewhere north of his seventieth year, yet he was still strong and had drive. Many days I wondered how he had so much energy. Here I was, 50+ years his junior and worn completely out, yet he was still going strong.
I have observed many people since then and watched those who retired and lived their dream of doing nothing, only to wither away. Why is this? To me, it seems that Newton’s Law of Motion apply to humans as well as objects. Those who are at rest seem to lose all their drive and desire to get up and get moving. Those that have a reason to wake up and get moving are the ones that remain active and healthy.
So why get up, why move? Especially when we have access to all the information and entertainment that we could possibly ever want right at our finger tips. This is where purpose comes in. Something has to pry us away from that marathon of streaming sitcoms.
I am not talking about the type of purpose that inspires one to change the world. There are many reasons, be it family or just trying to make the world around you better, as long as it gives you a reason, a desire.
I recently met a lady who told me how she volunteered at a local pre-school as a surrogate grandmother. She would read to them, play with them and even bake cookies for them. What she did was pretty simple, nothing that was earth shattering. She wasn’t trying to change the world, just the world of a few children. I could see in her eyes that these children meant so much to her. They were her purpose.
In order to move an object, you need a bigger, stronger object. Such is the case with the human spirit. One has to find something bigger than themselves, bigger than the internet that is calling. We are often so wrapped up in a “me” attitude that we neglect looking at a more panoramic view of the world. We forget how we can affect one another through our actions.