Do you ever wonder why you’re here? I know I do.
People need purpose. I’m at my best when my gifts and talents are being put to good use; when I’m on the right track.
Rick Warren’s book, “A Purpose Driven Life,” is the best-selling book of all time, second only to the Bible. Is that because Warren is the most talented writer ever? Maybe, but I think it’s more likely that his success is based on his ability to tap into and talk through a question we humans continually ponder: What on earth am I here for?
Viktor Frankl said he survived the Holocaust because he found personal meaning in the horrific experience. He used his skills as a physician and therapist to help other concentration camp prisoners process the trauma. He went on to write a book called “Man’s Search for Meaning” in which he said, “Everything can be taken from a man but one thing: the last of the human freedoms — to choose one’s attitude in any given set of circumstances, to choose one’s own way.”
He also included in that book these poignant words, “Those who have a ‘why’ to live, can bear with almost any ‘how.’ ”
The times in my life when I have been most deflated were the times when my brain asked my heart questions like, “Do I matter? Do I really have a reason for being on this planet, or am I simply taking up space? And if I am here for a purpose, then how do I find it?”
What do purpose and meaning have to do with kindness? For me, it’s all intertwined. Kindness has everything to do with purpose, because kindness was my avenue to purpose. We think we need to have a long-term plan set in place, that our life marathon needs to be totally mapped out before we take the first step, but it doesn’t work that way.
Let’s flip that illusion and instead of thinking of the end result, think only about the method. How will I reach my ultimate goal of being filled with purpose and meaning?
I suggest we begin by being kind. Courageously kind.
Let go of the continually ticking stopwatch and the heaviness of burdens and the pull of duties and choose instead to see someone else’s load. Then think, what can I do right now to make that person feel significant? Can I surprise them by paying for their coffee? Can I send them a quick note telling them what a great job they’re doing? Can I ask them in passing how their day is going and then slow down enough to actually listen to the answer?
Kindness becomes powerful when we make it an intentional part of our day, every day.
When you are systematically kind, you get to walk around knowing that you were the highlight of someone’s day. Their day was better because of you. That’s pretty heady stuff.
The mean girl in my head still goes back to those questions sometimes. I get tired or discouraged or beat down by the day and wonder, “Do I matter?”
Then I think back and recall the look of surprise or gratitude on someone’s face as I added a little light to their sphere, and I know the answer.
As long as I am living with the intention of making life better for others, I am standing in the midst of my purpose. And so are you.
Please continue to share your stories of kindness with me at firstname.lastname@example.org. Or send a letter to Kindness is Contagious c/o Nicole J. Phillips, The Forum, 101 5th St. N., Box 2020, Fargo, ND 58107.
Nicole J. Phillips is a former television anchor for Fox News in Fargo. She is a writer, speaker and mother of three kids. Nicole is married to Ohio University’s men’s head basketball coach Saul Phillips. Her column runs every Saturday. You can visit Nicole at nicolejphillips.com.