This morning I was stirring my coffee with a regular teaspoon, realizing that I perhaps needed to use a longer spoon that could reach to the bottom of my rather deep coffee mug. I thought about the long handled iced tea spoons I had in the silverware drawer that were created simply for the purpose of being able to reach down into the bottom of a tall glass to stir up the grains of sugar that had fallen to the bottom. Most people like “sweet tea” and so tend to load it up with sugar which coalesces in the bottom of the glass unless you have an iced tea spoon into the stirring up. (Of course it always ends up back at the bottom, but for a time it actually makes the tea sweeter.) So those long handled spoons exist for very specific purpose; kind of like those tiny little forks that came with my cutlery set. I must have 20 of them and I have no idea what I’m supposed to do with them. But there is little doubt in my mind that they were absolutely created for an purpose.
People are like that too. We are each made for a specific purpose. Sometimes the purpose eludes us for some or most of our lives. Imagine how comforting it would be to say, “I know that I am here for a specific purpose,” and to really know what that purpose was and be walking in it. How wonderful would that be? I can remember when I was unemployed and beginning to get discouraged that I was never going to find a full-time job that would meet my financial obligations and draw upon my strengths. Out of the blue I received a phone call from a friend of a friend who encouraged me to have faith that I was fully equipped with exactly what I needed to do the job I had recently applied for. “Everything’s going to be okay, you’ll see.” she promised me. And it was. A few months after she’d called me I took a position for which I was quite well suited. More than once in the months that followed I often felt a sense of “rightness” in what I was doing that let me know that I was fulfilling the purpose for which I had been uniquely made.
I’ve written before about my belief that we each fulfill a unique purpose in the world (see Day 285, written in April, 2012.) It goes deeper than any single “job” we might hold at a given time in our lives and goes to the heart of who we are and why we’re on the planet at this time. I believe there are those fortunate individuals whose life’s work and life purpose overlap and align perfectly, but for many of us that alignment doesn’t happen right away. We may flounder for years to find the place where, as Frederick Buechner says, “your deep gladness and the world’s deep hunger meet.” But if we’re fortunate we find ourselves in the place just right where all those things converge. I have experienced flashes of that over my lifetime, and the more I come to understand my deeper purpose, the more I believe I will be drawn to the work that needs exactly what I have, what I bring to what I do.
“To find out what one is fitted to do and to secure the opportunity to do it is the key to happiness,” wrote educator John Dewey back in the early 1920s. I am grateful to be in a process of clarifying and refining what I am best “fitted” to do and having opportunities to perhaps do the work for which I am well-suited. May it continue to be so as I walk in the power of that awareness. May it be so for us all.