It would appear that Monday nights have become quite the world changing evenings for the Perkins family. Last week we got to hear the iconic Pet Sounds album be played exactly how it was meant to be heard. And last night our family teamed up with one of our favorite families and served one of Orlando’s most important families, the residents of The Russell Home. The Russell Home is an Orlando institution and is probably one of the most important, life changing and life giving non-profit organizations in Orlando. And if you want read about why I think its existence is so crucial to what happens in our city, you can read about that here. And if you want to learn more about why The Russell Home exists and who it is exactly that they serve, you can find more information about them here.
But here is the thought that haunted me as I walked through the halls of The Russell Home last night and the one that played on loop in my dreams last night and woke me with a cheery, “Good morning!” this morning: What if the Russell family didn’t do this? What if Grandma Russell all those decades ago in the 1950’s didn’t listen to the little voice in her heart telling her to raise the children of Orlando that no one wanted, alongside her own children? What if the generations that came after her didn’t see the value of their family’s heritage? What if they gave up? Or worse yet, what if they never opened their doors in the first place?
I can tell you exactly what would have happened. Countless lives that were once deemed “worthless” or “too challenging” would have never known their actual worth. Countless families who were raising mentally and physically challenged kids would have had nowhere to turn when the money ran dry and they were out of solutions. And numerous citizens, businesses and organizations would be a little duller, a little less fulfilled, and a little emptier if they hadn’t had the opportunity to give of their time, money and other resources to someone else.
We all have a mission. Every single one of us were created with a mission. And for some people it is instantly and easily identifiable and they wear their mission on their sleeves for all of the world to see. For others of us, our mission seems a little cloudier. We know we should probably “give back” somehow but aside from maybe donating to the local soup kitchen or donating our old clothes to the Salvation Army, we just don’t know how to access our mission. It seems too hard, too inconvenient, it costs us too much. But I’ll tell you what, I am becoming more and more convinced that we are vital to making our world not so terrible. Our governments won’t save us. Our jobs won’t always fulfill every part of us. Our relationships can only go so far. Our mission is what makes us tick. It’s what gets us out of bed every morning and it’s what we truly desire deep down to teach our children to value.
And I’ll give you a hint, for most of us, our mission isn’t that far off from where we already are. More and more these days, younger generations are forgoing making careers solely for the sake of having a job and providing for our families. We are demanding more of our careers. We want to feel as if we can make a difference or that we absolutely, positively love what we do. We are choosing jobs around our passions and interests more than any other generation in the past. We are probably unknowingly choosing careers that are circling around our mission.
But we have to work a little at finding it. It won’t always leap out at us. Sometimes it hides and ducks around the corner the moment we walk down the hall. But it is worthy of pursuit.
Society likes to encourage us to give back and to serve others by enticing us with all of the benefits the act of service will bring you. You will feel better about yourself. You will earn that gold star of being a good person. Heck, you might even get a nice little tax break! And yes, there are so many positives to serving others and finding your mission. But sometimes I think it might also be ok to live in the tension of what happens if you don’t give back, serve others or find your mission.
If you don’t do those things there are consequences as well. Consequences for yourself and for others. National Parks will never be the same if people don’t fight for them. Your local soup kitchen won’t stay open if you don’t donate from your own pantry. Children who were abandoned at birth by parents who felt overwhelmed or disgusted by their challenges will grow up in terrible living situations and will never know just how loved they deserve to be. If you don’t find your mission a corner of the world will decay just a little bit more.
Sit still for a minute. Listen. What do you love? Who do you love? What cause, place, people would you fight for? The answers to these questions are where your mission lies. And if you don’t do it, if you don’t love, if you don’t care, if you don’t fight…well, that’s the stuff that makes me shudder. That’s the stuff that takes the rainbows out of the world. Resist the urge to believe someone else will do it! Fight the traffic across town at 5PM after work one day. Make a meal. Give up a Saturday. Donate the old clothes. Teach the kids. Talk with the elderly. Just do it. Find your mission! I promise it’s so worth it.