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On Purpose

Deciding to live with purpose rather than letting things happen.

Carrie Knowles
Don't drop the ball! Live with purpose. Pick it up and throw it!
Source: Carrie Knowles

Our two-year old granddaughter, Lily, was recently considering her options regarding toilet training: Should she embrace the discipline of big girl panties, or should she continue with the easy convenience of diapers? There were pros and cons on both sides. It was a lot to sort out.

Lily is an enthusiastic lover of books, so our daughter bought her a Sesame Street book about toilet training in hopes of urging her along this journey to becoming a big girl.

In the book, the young Albie is just beginning the toilet training process and proud to be wearing big boy pants. All is well until Elmo comes over to play and Albie gets so caught up playing with his friend that he has an accident.

Albie’s mother wisely tells him not to worry about having an accident, that sometimes things just happen.

Lily immediately grabbed the concept that things happen and ran with it.

That night at dinner, when she spilled her milk because she forgot to hold onto her cup with two hands, she turned to her mother and said: “Happens!”

When she didn’t want to eat her sandwich and dropped it instead on the floor so the dog could eat it, she looked at her mother, smiled and said: “Happens!”

Numerous things began to “happen” in their home, so a few days later, her father sat Lily down on the couch next to him and had a long talk with her regarding the difference between those things we do that are accidents, and just “happen,” and those things we do on purpose.

Lily listened carefully.

When her father finished, she slid off the couch, picked up a toy and threw it as hard as she could across the room. Then she turned to her father and boldly announced, “On purpose!”

No apologies. Just a matter of fact. She was fully conscious of what she had done. She threw the toy on purpose. She knew what she was doing. There was no accident in it.

She got it.


When accidents happen in Lily’s world, she is quick to get over them and move on.

As for those things she chooses to do on purpose—well, she thinks about them, makes up her mind to do them, does them, and does not stop to apologize for any of it.

Lily’s father told me it was all he could do to keep from laughing when she picked up the toy and threw it across the room, “On purpose!”

I have to confess I would have laughed, and probably would have applauded as well. I loved that she did not feel a need to apologize for her actions.

It is easy to live a life where things just happen because, like Albie, we are not paying attention to what we should be doing. And, of course, believing we don’t have the time to pay attention to every little detail swirling around us gives us an excuse to lead a less than purposeful life.

I watched my mother and her friends let life happen and carry them along, way past the time when they could safely care for themselves. Their children then had to step in and take on the role of caretaker as well as sort through a lifetime of belongings in the home, throwing things away, packing up mementos for family members, carrying stuff to the Goodwill, and deciding what should move on to an independent living unit, assisted living or nursing home.

I wanted to make my own decisions about how my life would spin out. That’s why I pushed for us to downsize. Some of our friends thought it was too early to make such a move, but I didn’t care. It had nothing to do with them.

When we downsized, we freed ourselves of stuff, gave things to our children they wanted, and now have the pleasure of seeing how they have incorporated our things and memories into their own lives.

There is beauty in living with purpose.

No apologies need apply.

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