Finding Purpose and Meaning - Part One

Finding purpose in meaning in one's life is essential.

Posted May 11, 2011

When bad things happen, it's very human to ask why. Why did this have to happen to me? To my family?  To my community?  Being able to make sense out of tragedy, out of what has happened, and to find some meaning in it is critical if we are to deal with and manage the feelings that a tragedy arouses. For many people, spiritual and religious beliefs and practices are the way in which they deal with, explain and find meaning when bad things happen. 

Meaning and a sense of purpose in one's life is best found before a crisis. Griff is a good example of an individual who understands this and practices it.  He is one of the characters in the novel, Reaching Home, a novel about conquering fear and building resilience

Griff is a large man in his late sixties with a bushy white beard speckled with gray.  He had grown up in Texas and trained for the ministry as a young man. After 8 years, he left the church and moved his young family to New England. Griff supported them through working as a grant writer for local human service organizations. They rented a small hardscrabble farm - a poor man's farm - and home-schooled their children. The two eldest left New England for college. They were good students and found jobs in other places. They did not return to Maine.  But Todd, the youngest one, stayed to work the farm and fish.  Soon after Todd became ill, Griff's wife died suddenly.  Griff seemed to recover from Beth's death, but Todd's illness shook him to the core.  While Todd was still alive, Griff decided to return to the ministry.  He took a position as a pastor of a small church near their home and spent the rest of his time caring for Todd and being an AIDS activist. This was the illness Todd was struggling with. 

In the story, Griff is in Boston with the John Wesley II, a lobster yacht, that he has rebuilt and cared for as if it was his child.  He is in Boston for a conference on AIDS.  Staying at the Parker House.  He has just gotten back from the conference to find a call on his voicemail from a woman whom he hasn't seen in years, Jean Kudrick. She says she is in the hotel restaurant with an old friend of his and wants him to join them...for tea.  As he steps on the elevator, he remembers the article that morning in the Globe about his friend, Lee. Something about Lee being involved in an accident at a nuclear facility in Tennessee.  Jean and Lee had been friends, Griff knows this-well, lovers in the seventies.  He wonders if this old friend waiting in the dining room is Lee.  But that would be impossible.  If he is being pursued by the authorities, the FBI, he wouldn't be sitting in the dining room at the Parker House.  At least Griff assumes he wouldn't.

Griff demonstrates many of the skills of resilience.  He has been able to create new purpose and meaning in his life in part because he has been willing to change.  He, like a number of other characters in the novel, has had to deal with a loss in their life.  He has done this in part by acting on his values, by putting his energy into an activity that gives his life a sense of purpose and direction.