After being unemployed for the past two years, I began to make plans this summer to return to Ontario, where I grew up, to teach English as a second language. As I developed my idea, I realized that it was not viable at this point in time. Perhaps I might be in a position to carry it through in the future, but not now. Suddenly all structure and purpose had vanished from my life. Once again I was staring into a murky fog concerning what I would do for employment. I felt cut adrift in a dark sea while everyone around me prepared to return to school and work after our long, hot summer. It seemed that everyone else had a purpose and structure in their lives, but I was this lonely island with no vision, no purpose, and worst of all, no structure.
Where do most people get structure, vision, and purpose?
Let’s meet “Sue Sullivan”, who, to the best of my knowledge does not really exist, but she is representative of most people. Let’s listen to a brief conversation between Sue and Charlie, who she meets at a party.
Charlie: Hello, my name is Charlie.
Sue: Hi, my name is Sue.
Charlie: How are you, Sue?
Sue: Fine, and you?
Charlie: Great. Tell me a bit about yourself, please.
Sue: Sure. I have been married for 27 years to Kyle, my wonderful husband, and have two great kids, Jason, 19, and Sandra, 15. I have a master’s degree in social work and just returned to the field after taking 12 years off to raise my kids and my husband. I am also one of the lead singers in a worship band at our church and I work with the youth. So, tell me about you Charlie.
It is very easy to see where Sue gets purpose, vision and structure in her life. Like most people, her family and job provide a routine and structure. She is devoted to her husband and kids. She also has developed skills and abilities that make her “wanted” in society’s marketplace, whether it is a business or at church.
Sue describes the vast majority of people in our society and our churches, but there is a lost demographic that floats among us. These are people who have never, for one reason or another, ever found a purpose or structure. Our identity is so firmly rooted in our employment and our family. When neither is a presence in your life, where do you get purpose, structure, and vision?
A few years ago I worked as a live-in caregiver. It was, without a doubt, the most meaningful, challenging, and also the most frustrating job I have ever had in my life. Eventually, my parents could not stay in the family home. We sold the house and I moved to New Brunswick. My mother is in long-term nursing care, and my father passed away in July 2010. Since that time I have “wandered” around in a fog trying to find something to do in my life that has meaning, that has value, that makes me feel like I am needed, wanted or of value.
There is one thing that I do know: I am not looking for just another job. I am seeking structure and purpose, and it is not easy to find.