IN SHORT: What is it that gets you up and out of bed, active and focused, every day? Duty? Work? Paying the bills? Guilt? Habit? … Or do you have a real PURPOSE to your life that can’t be diminished and instead seems more compelling as you live it out?
“I am here for a purpose and that purpose is to grow into a mountain, not to shrink to a grain of sand. Henceforth will I apply ALL my efforts to become the highest mountain of all and I will strain my potential until it cries for mercy.”
[Og Mandino, 20th-century American writer & psychologist]
“How old would you be if you didn’t know how old you are?”
[Satchel Paige, 20th-century American baseball player
& the 1st from the 'Negro League' to be inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame]
I want to introduce you to someone who’s been an inspiration to me at various points in my life. That’s not to say I agree with everything he does or says – quite the opposite at times – it’s more the way he goes about doing and saying those things, and basically his attitude to life that inspires me most.
I’ve known him ever since I was a child and in fact I can’t actually recall the first time we met. He was at the church I grew up in and became a family friend, along with other members of his family too.
We even did a tandem ride together to raise money for charity almost 20 years ago now.
He lives with his dog in a mid-sized Welsh town and one of the many activities and initiatives he’s involved with now is working with ‘troubled teenagers’ in his local area – he even has a desk at the local police station and is greeted jovially in the street by many of the locals, including the teens he meets in his work with the police.
He also regularly travels around the UK on many of his other activities throughout the year for both charity and the church.
He always has a cheery word and a good sense of humour despite sometimes getting down from time to time like we all do.
His name is Eric.
But I guess nothing I’ve mentioned so far will strike you as particularly inspirational.
Try this and see if it ups the inspirational ante a little:
Eric is blind.
He trusted me to be his eyes while we were on that 50-mile tandem ride – I was obviously in the front seat! – and the charity we were raising funds for was Guide Dogs for the Blind, from whom Eric has benefited greatly over the years I’ve known him and who he works with too.
When he travels he goes only with his guide dog and takes help only when it’s offered. He’s quite happy getting himself from place to place, often quite literally from one end of the country to the other.
And in case that’s not quite inspirational enough, Eric is also 40 years my senior. For those of you reading this who don’t know me enough to know how much life experience I’ve accumulated so far (my preferred expression for how old I am..!) that places him in his early 80s.
He was in his early 60s when we did that tandem ride, and he’s not particularly lithe either. Even now age doesn’t seem to have slowed him down one bit most of the time, despite several stays in hospital for various problems. After each health hiccup, he does whatever the doctors ask of him, and then once he has the all clear, he’s off again as if nothing happened.
And if you were to ask him what keeps him going like that, he’d probably tell you it’s a combination of several things, including his deep personal faith and the simple fact that he just doesn’t see the point of sitting around all day doing very little.
You see, Eric isn’t spending his senior years gathering experiences for himself like many do at his age, visiting places they’ve never been or people they’ve seldom seen. Instead he’s still, as he has for all of the time I’ve known him, focused on something more expansive, a purpose much grander and vital than just his own existence – he’s out to change the lives of others in whatever way, small or large, that he can.
And that I find unavoidably inspirational.
Whenever I hear of his latest exploits or ventures, I can’t help wonder whether I’ll still be as focused and driven as he is when I reach his age or whether I’ll have cruised into the picnic area of old age with a tartan blanket and Thermos of tepid tea, shaking my head at the world passing me by.
I simply wanted to leave you with a question to ponder over Christmas until we meet in the new year, a question that springs from my ponderings about Eric:
What drives you forward -
what’s your purpose in life?
Until next time, have a fantastic Christmas and a prosperous and satisfying 2011!