Purpose

Imagine getting up in the morning and having nothing to do. For those of us who work at outside jobs, or in the home, or both; this can sound like a dream. But now imagine it happens day after day, month after month. Nothing to do. Nothing at all. No job, no volunteer position, no work, no puttering around, no people that you have to talk with or connect with, no real reason to enter into the world again and again and again. This is the story that I hear from so many of the people I encounter as a spiritual care provider to those who are homeless or experiencing homelessness. All to often this lack of purpose leads to severe depression, misuse of substances, or even passive suicidality. You may ask why these folks don’t work or don’t volunteer. Many want to, however barriers such as living unsheltered, no access to transportation, health and mental health limitations keep folks from being able to find work or volunteer jobs, or keep these positions long enough to feel successful. Purpose is so incredibly important to our overall well being. Dr. Harold Koenig notes that “purpose gives life direction and meaning, it is the driving force that propels us towards our goals. Purpose energizes. Purpose motivates. Purpose focuses. Purpose structures and fills a person’s day.” “Purpose”, according to Koenig “is one of the most important determinants of mental, social, spiritual and physical well-being.”

I can guarantee you that the folks that I encounter are seeking purpose, either in a job that creates income, or volunteering in a way that best uses their own personal gifts and skills. Imagine if we had more organizations on Cape Cod like Greyston bakery (https://www.greyston.org/) that offers training to anyone who is seeking meaningful employment. What if we had a restaurant like Stone Soup (https://www.stonesouppdx.com/) that provides job skills and training for working in the culinary field. However, in order for folks that have been marginalized for a long time to feel successful we need more than just training, we need to revamp the way we walk with those who are homeless or at risk of homelessness. We need to encourage and support their efforts in making a better life for themselves and their families. We need affordable housing, and for the community to know that housing is just the first step. We need a system that helps these folks to find their purpose and to find meaning. We need compassionate people and businesses that want to do more than make donations or offer a hand-out. We need businesses with specialized staff that can train and encourage folks– in a trauma informed way-that inspires a renewed sense of self, a sense of confidence, a sense of usefulness, a sense of pride in accomplishment, and offers skills and training that can lead to a greater sense of purpose.

Koenig, Harold G MD. Purpose and Power in Retirement. Templeton Foundation Press, 2002

Schippers MC, Ziegler N. Life Crafting as a Way to Find Purpose and Meaning in Life. Front Psychol. 2019;10:2778. Published 2019 Dec 13. doi:10.3389/fpsyg.2019.02778

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