Thursday, March 12, 2009

Grandpop's Wisdom

Sometimes I wonder, what exactly is the purpose of life? Now, I am not asking this in the philosophical, deep essence of the question - so please don't expect a discussion on religion or philosophy (remember I play sports for a living, I don't think I am even capable of a conversation in those areas). I am simply asking, what the hell are we supposed to do with our short little lives? What is the goal? Is there even a goal?

Some theories I have come across: the purpose of life is to make a lot of money. The purpose of life is to have a lot of kids. The purpose of life is to serve others. The purpose of life is to learn as much as there is to learn. The purpose of life is to find your passion and do it. The purpose of life is to have fun. . . etc. . .

Just call me difficult, but none of these answers really get me. Yea, each theory is meaningful in its own way - but on the whole, they don't do it for me. Ponder this: if you make a lot of money will you feel your life's purpose is fulfilled? Likewise, if you have a lot of fun, have a lot of kids, serve others or learn everything there is to learn, will you have fulfilled your life's purpose? If you answered yes to either of these question, I am jealous. I wish it was that easy for me.

I guess these answers are just too absolute for my liking. They are too action-driven and goal-oriented. There appears to be no continuance once the desired action is achieved. I am seeking a different answer. Perhaps, though, I have already been told the answer.

It was a beautiful Saturday morning in early September. I was back in Berlin. I had just got home from the Olympics and I was making arrangements to head to Holland. It was a bit strange at home on this Saturday morning. Mom and Dad had traveled up to Connecticut to watch Hannah play and Melanie was already at hockey practice.

The house was shockingly quiet. I had no plans, no engagements, and no motivation to really do anything. But the sun was shining, the air was crisp, and my body was demanding some caffeine. So I threw on a pair of my my mom's sneakers that were laying by the front door, and I wondered down Hamilton Avenue. My destination: DUNKIN DONUTS.

I ordered the usual - Large Coffee with Cream and Sugar. Then, I stepped back outside into the beautiful day. If Berlin was the type of town where people walked around on nice days, like Chapel Hill or The Hague, then I would have meandered about the town on foot. But for those of you who have driven down the White Horse Pike, you know Btown is not that kind of place. I needed a new destination.

Since being home, I had yet to visit my Aunt Donna and Uncle Joe, my God Parents, who lived on the other side of the railroad tracks. I decided to take advantage of the weather and make the trek. Off I went, coffee in hand, to visit the Beebe's. I didn't know it at the time, but this decision may be one of the most meaningful decisions of my life.

When I arrived at Aunt Donna's, a whole 8 minutes late, I heard some muted chatter coming from the back yard. Naturally I walked around the house to see who it was. To my liking, I discovered my Aunt Donna and Uncle Joe, along with my grandparents sitting in lawn chairs, drinking coffee and enjoying the sun (much like I was). Perfect I thought.

After the customary hugs, and family banter, I sat down and engaged myself in the conversation. I have always enjoyed conversing with my elders - they seem so wise to me. My Uncle is a Deacon at the church, my Aunt works in the courthouse, my Grandmom, well, she seems to know something about everything, and my Grandpop, well, he is just a sage.

So we were talking about everything from A to Z, and then they started to ask me about my recent experiences in Beijing, and about my intentions to travel to Holland. I spoke about these experiences almost apathetically. To compete in the Olympics had been my dream since I was young - I had achieved it, and yet, I didn't really feel any sense of fulfillment. I only felt a little more lost and empty - the dream that once filled my mind and heart was gone. The dream had faded into a reality. I tried to muster up some enthusiasm about where I was headed - I mean come on, rach, EUROPE - pretty cool. But as much as I tried to pretend, they could see through the guise.

Maybe my Grandpop saw the purposelessness in my eyes as I spoke about the happenings of my life, or maybe he just knew that I was pleading for some sort of advice or guidance. So the sage he is, my Grandpop spoke words that continue to resonate in my mind today.

He said, "Rachel, in all I have gone through recently (my Grandfather has been courageously battling and beating cancer) I have come to realize that life is about all the people you meet along the way."

He continued to speak along those same lines talking about all of the people who he had met in his life and the impression they had made upon him. He spoke of how people can make a lasting impact on your life even when they cease to be "in your life". They may enter for the shortest period of time, a day, a week, a year, or a decade, but in that time they can change you and impress upon you some sort of meaning. And all you have to do is simply open up and share yourself with them.

My Grandpop shared his wisdom with me on that beautiful September day: the purpose of life is to share it. No matter what you do, how long you do it, or how successful you are doing it, share the journey. There is no greater purpose than that.


Dave Dawson said...

What a beautiful thougth.
Love DAD

Alli said...

Nice one Rach, I like this a lot. Thanks to you and your Grandpop for bringing some purpose to my Monday!

Natalie said...

Hi Chel! Love this one. Mom kept asking me if I had read it - she is just so proud of you. And not for any reason other than the fact that you are you. ;-) Love you kid!