Finding Purpose in Life

Finding Purpose in Life By Jonathan Colvin for American Thinker

Twenty years ago in the summer, I traveled  to Guatemala with my Nazarene Church to build church structures in some remote areas of the country.  We would stay in small towns at the local hotels, if you could call them that.  Early one morning, I was up early and went for a walk as the sun was coming up.  The neighborhood was poor with small homes, many in disrepair with few amenities, if any at all.  There was water and sewer, but the area was not well maintained.

There was almost no one up at the time in the small town, but as I walked, I came upon an elderly man tending to some weeds growing between the narrow sidewalk and the curb of the street.  I guessed that he was probably late seventies or eighties.  He was short, as most Guatemalans are, probably five feet, three inches tall and of slight build.

What struck me was the way he was dressed.  He wore a long-sleeve shirt, the button-up kind with cuffs, and a collar, pants of the same off-white or tan color, boots almost knee-high, with his trouser legs tucked in them.  He had on a leather apron that started at his chest and ran almost to his knees and a straw wide-brimmed hat.  Gloves were on his hands.  My recollection is that he had two tools with him: a hoe, which he was using, and a rake nearby.

The man’s leather apron reminded me of a farrier’s or blacksmith’s apron.  I assumed that he had done something else for a living but could no longer meet the physical requirements of that job in his prior life.  What impressed me most was that this man, in spite of his age, prepared himself for the work that day as if it were his assigned job, fully outfitted with his apparel, as he had done probably every day of his working life.  He had a purpose in life, albeit different from what it once was, but just as important to him.  His wife worked the same way, making sure the space was tidy, something she had probably done for years.

I received a call from a friend yesterday, and we set an appointment to meet for lunch.  He expressed to me that he wanted to see if I had any ideas for him as to what he would do with the rest of his life.  He had been a policeman for thirty-five years, and he worked after he retired in security, but now he is unemployed.  He is married to a great wife, but he is now like a fish in a tree, his mind flopping around, anxious, bored, and wondering how it will all end.  He talked about joining a shooting club and maybe getting involved in politics in his area of the city.  This is all good, but I believe that he needs a defined purpose in life — not just activities to take up time — and there is the difference.

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