Finding the meaning IN life-We have all heard the phrase “What is the meaning OF life?”…an interesting question for sure, but how about the question “What is the meaning IN life?” It is a question we all ponder in our own ways from time to time and I believe that a meaningful life starts with a sense of belonging, feeling appreciated and being a part of something. After all, where is the meaning if we have no one to share or celebrate with? It would be a pretty bleak existence. Part of what brings life meaning is the people we share our lives with. The ones we love with and the ones we grieve with, the people we laugh with and cry with, the ones that are there for us and the ones that we are there for. Another aspect of our life that brings meaning is having a purpose. I don’t necessarily mean a job or a career, though those things can give us purpose, they shouldn’t necessarily “define” us. One piece of having a purpose is the opportunity to be valued and feel proud of an accomplishment. While that purpose can often be found at work, it doesn’t have to end there. Many people can find purpose in being a caregiver, volunteering to help others, helping to clean up or take care of a community, volunteering for activities at a local school or library, raising money to support a cause or find a cure….the list of prospects is endless.
As the father of a child with physical limitations (and actually as a father in general), I feel extremely fortunate to know that my sons have been able to find some meaning. When Shamus was young, we had concerns about him being accepted by peers, and teachers, and the community and always wanted to ensure he felt he contributes. Luckily, Shamus has been involved in so many programs that have provided him opportunities to get involved, gain confidence and participate, and not simply be a passive observer. Over the years he has developed a close group of friends who look out for him and help him out at school or in the community if he needs it, but most of all encourage him to belong.
One of Shamus’ greatest passions since kindergarten has been Odyssey of the Mind, a creative problem-solving endeavor where his physical limitations simply don’t matter. He can participate, contribute and lead using he power of his thoughts, his ability to dream, think and create. Over the years, his best friends have come from being a part of that team. His enthusiastic participation has helped me to recognize that perhaps we find the most meaning in our lives when “belonging” and “purpose” meet and we are surrounded by people who find both joy and importance in the same things we do. This “deeper meaning” provides us with community, more profound connections with others, and common goals. One of the best thing about Ainsley’s Angels is it “opens the door” to EVERYONE, embodying inclusion and belonging and gives every Angel for purpose, from leading the way in the chairs, to lending legs, to all the volunteer joy behind the scenes…together, we shall accomplish so much more!