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Path FinderMay 9, 2014
I was giving a brief introduction to The Virtues Project as a service for the local high school here during a staff meeting this week. I had 45 minutes. I shared the story of how the Project started with a desire on the part of my husband Dan, my brother John and I to make a difference. Over brunch at the Empress Hotel in Victoria, BC, we talked about the violence of children and youth toward themselves and each other, and the thought arose that if they truly understood that they have a purpose, it could help them to tap into their idealism, their primary developmental virtue as teens. We wanted to address the epidemic of hopelessness and meaninglessness, to give them meaning. From the seed of that sacred conversation, The Virtues Project was born.
Of course we found that the meaning of life in the sacred teachings of all the world's faiths including the oral stories of indigenous people, are the virtues, like a silver thread of unity running through them all. To love, to serve, to grow in courage and joy, and all the virtues is the very purpose of life. At the very end of the session, an older man said, "I'm just about to retire, and I heard you talk about purpose and joy." He brought his hands together in the shape of a heart. "That would really be what matters, eh? But I am about to retire and I still don't know what my purpose is." Because I was out of time and wanted to be trustworthy, and the students were gathering outside, ready for school, I had to be brief and was unable to companion him. So I simply said, quoting from his Christian roots, "For everything there is a season. That is a question worthy of prayerful discernment. Perhaps it's time for you to go deep within." What a way to end a workshop. Then a young teacher, with tears in her eyes said, "What I got from this today? We all want a good life for our children. I want to be a good role model for my sons, so they will grow up to be good men, good citizens." Her emotions touched me and I went up to her and acknowledged her devotion as a mom.
Whatever season this is in our lives, the reflection of prayerful discernment is needed to know what beyond the material needs, comforts, and health of our bodies is calling to us. What is ours to do or be? Sometimes it isn't about some heroic act. It may be the healing of an old resentment. Whatever we need to purify, to let go of, that is a task our soul requires in order to be free for its true calling.
My brother John was one of the most active men I have ever known. He walked so fast, if we were on city streets together, I could never keep up with him. Like Mr. Toad, his childhood nickname, he loved speed. He was a massive multi-tasker in his work as a Disney Imagineer. Yet, when terminal brain cancer drastically slowed him down, he took it as a gift rather than a handicap. He became thoughtful, more prayerful, reflective and discerning. He spoke of God's transformative power as the craftsman who forges a samurai sword. It has to be heated, molded, melted, and reformed to attain its true shape, sharpness and sheen. He spoke of this change in his life as a "slow miracle." "It's not an emergency," he loved to say. "It's an emergence."
Maybe like my teacher friend, we need to take the time to wonder, what is my purpose? What does this season require? Given the circumstances of my life, what path am I meant to find or create? What virtues am I called to cultivate at this precious time of my life?