Reflections on Purpose
I am always intrigued when a person comes on a Crossing Thresholds trip saying “I want to make a difference”. I get it. In a culture that doesn’t reflect very deeply on the issue of life’s purpose, individuals are searching. They want their day to day existence to amount to more than a random and endless string of experiences. Making a difference suggests a shift away from the self-referential to a larger world. It also implicitly begs for an answer to the question “who needs to be helped”.
So I would like to make a case for a particular mindset to guide the impulse to make a difference. It goes like this: everyone in every situation, materially wealthy and materially poor, is lacking. While opportunity is not equally distributed and some stand in dire need of getting their basic needs met, many of those in such situations are imbued with extraordinary character and spiritual wealth. At the same time, many who have had every need covered have lost the golden thread of meaning and spiritual well-being. As David Brooks has written, “We move through our excessively stimulated lives – frantic but resigned, blessed but cynical.”
Why do I go to Africa? Why should you? I like to think of it as a two-sided coin. The moral argument is straightforward – go and work for equal opportunity. By accident of birth, precious children are deprived and now await a helping hand. The world is infinitely safer and better when opportunity spreads. The spiritual argument is a bit more veiled, but no less real. We stand in acute need of inspiration and spiritual enrichment. We need to draft on the emotional honesty, the courageous resilience, the dogged faith, and the surprising hope of those who live in the world’s shadows. They will give you what you cannot find anywhere else.
Come and make a difference. The difference is of course for someone else. It is equally for you.
Crossing Thresholds, Executive Director