I’ve said it before but I’ll say it again. Reminiscence isn’t just a fun activity; it is essential in our development. The process begins with reflection, leads to meaning and develops into wisdom. This guides us to a life of satisfaction and a sense of integrity. Although I’ve said it before, I think I should say it again. Activities that spark reflection should be fun and they should be valued.
What’s the point? Well, when we are encouraged to reflect, to learn and to grow, we are given the opportunity to find purpose in everyday life. By existing in this world we have the right to find purpose in it. We have the right to matter, to laugh and to find joy. We may all exist but are we given the possibilities to go beyond surviving and into thriving? Are we living in this world of opportunities?
The word purpose has been around longer than any of us. It appears to be on the surviving end of things. Originating around the 13th century, expressing purpose has been on a steady decline for the last two centuries…why? Beginning as an action-oriented intention, by the 1500s purpose signalled a change in perspective. An aim, goal or intention became a reason to validate or qualify an intention, aim, or goal. “I designed that on purpose.” They declared. We began to live in a world of boxes.
Although many are quick to blame society, I feel that our systems have driven this change. It is difficult to place individuals from sixty years old until death within the same category, just as it would be to describe those in the first half of their life as ‘young people’. Our economic system in Canada, driven by the creation of Old Age Pension, labelled those who were over sixty-five as ‘aged’. Our medical system influenced a longer lifespan. Our social systems have influenced the institutionalization of adults based on their age. Prior to specific supportive housing for older adults in Canada, those who lived in institutions were more often there due reasons other than age.
I believe older adults could constitute any age depending on the perspective of those categorizing them. Children have told me an older adult is thirty years old. Adults in their eighties have told me that those who are older than them are ‘old’ and not themselves. One woman in her nineties described those around her as ‘old people’ and not herself. I prefer to avoid the need to categorize someone based on their age, as we all live in this world differently. When we begin to label someone based on a specific characteristic, we potentially project a certain image onto them.
Our purpose isn’t a category. It’s not a particular requirement or that something must be done in order to feel fulfilled, justified or validated. When we confine our sense of purpose with a specific set of skills, tasks or status, we have already lost the point.
I believe our purpose is our own, out of the boxes of those who define our reason to be. I’ve learned more often than not that I feel I have reason to be in this world when I share small joys. Living a meaningful life gives me purpose and when we share our meaningful life, we most certainly have a purpose. From the world at large to within, small joys can be shared anytime, anywhere.
Last month the metro stopped suddenly, no one expected it. I hung on but not all of us did. We all had different places to be, at different times and for different reasons. I saw the sign, a chance to share a small joy. Her experience of the world within her body is different than mine, with 50 years between us, I understood. Together we reflected, first on the present then to the past and ending with the future. Not wanting to be a worry, calm and simple seemed like the way to go. Living in the neighbourhood now but that wasn’t always the case. Her hometown was in a whole other part of the world. We said goodbye as she went off to the hospital with my number for later, just in case.
I didn’t need this reassurance, but maybe it could support the point of purpose. About a week later I received a call from this woman’s daughter. If I could describe the conversation in one word it would be gratefulness. Her mother was grateful to have had someone to share her traumatic experience with, so much so that it still took her mind away from the pain of a bone breaking and healing. Her daughter was grateful to have had someone who showed they too care about her mother, letting me know that in this world she had yet to see this type of kindness from a stranger. I was grateful because it opened my eyes to the most genuine marketing activity I could think of: Good deeds. Sharing small joys with those I do not yet know well, I find meaning in my everyday life.
The small joys we share, like the sweet exchange between two unknown neighbours, offers the point of purpose. When we value each other’s vitality we live outside the box, in the world of possibilities. Welcome to purpose place, where we all have the opportunity to find meaning in everyday life.
“We live in deeds, not years; in thoughts, not breaths; In feelings, not in figures on a dial. We should count time by heart-throbs. He most lives; Who thinks most, feels the noblest, acts the best.” Philip James Bailey