Purpose & Perseverance

"You guys... you guys are all the same! The doctors at the hospital, you lawyers... it's always what I'm going to do for you. And then you screw up, and it's, 'Ah, we did the best that we could, I'm dreadfully sorry.' And people like us live with your mistakes the rest of our lives."

--The Verdict, 1982

Do you notice yourself feeling a bit run down these days; more than the usual fatigue? Like maybe it's more than running the kids around, making ends meet, fixing the car, getting dinner on the table and doing it all over again tomorrow?

As depressing as that may get, do you find yourself enduring a longer "recovery" period before your spirits are up and energy is high again? And even when you do recover, do you find that it takes very little to drop you back in that ditch again? That place where you feel almost constantly... victimized? I don't think you are alonne.

The Road Back

Already, in this very young century, this country has endured two overwhelming national crises. We actually began the century in fear of the Y2K debacle (so much ado about nothing).

Perhaps there's no room to complain and we are simply living in a time similar to previous generations when the spectacle of nuclear war hung over American heads or tragedies like the Holocaust unsettled our every thought.

In full respect of those nightmares, I submit what's happening to the spirit of this country currently is just as bad if not worse.

I think part of the reason we worry more today is simply from increased exposure. My parents' view of global problems was pretty much limited to what Walter Cronkite reported in the last few minutes of his nightly broadcast. Today even local news is about half dedicated to global issues.

I'm not advocating that ignorance is always bliss, but how much do I really need to know about South American rainforest devastation and hunger strikes in Tibet? Both undoubtedly important issues in a large sense but not anything I can solve between raking the leaves and putting up the storm windows, you know?

My little corner of the world has me pretty occupied already but I notice a lot of people contracting that kind of work out today so they can be free to raise money for rainforest devastation and Tibetan monks.

And speaking of that, don't you think some of the problems we face have a lot to do with having too much time on our hands and drawing added attention to what is really not a problem but more so a contrived problem. I mean if you watch enough tabloid-TV you begin to think those freak incidents are representative of the whole world. Then one day you hear yourself utter with passion, "But what are we going to do about the cross dressing midget wrestlers of this country?" A sure sign that life's priorities are getting a little foggy, eh?

As generations grow and modernization saves everyone more time we actually find ourselves idle much of the day. We fill the time with distractions such as petitions and rallies and marches, but can you honestly imagine your grandmother putting down the wash to attend a peace march? Can you see your grandfather deciding to take an afternoon off of the job (that he valued like gold) because he was just so stressed out and needed a mental health break? I don't think so.

The difference between us, and those that came before us has one major element -- purpose. That driving force in a person's life is the mainstay of existence and so many of us simply find that after all that education, after all that school of hard knocks, after all that apprenticeship at the master's knee, we still come up pretty empty. We don't have much of a purpose.

We have avoided as much conflict as possible. We quit when the fight got too tough (i.e. "I started out in engineering but I think I'm going to change my major; this stuff is hard.") We have never truly been challenged, tested, or thrown to the wolves. And often our kids are turning out far from what we intended.

But oh my how we can talk and make excuses! I cite Matthew 6, verse 7 here, "They think that they shall be heard for their much speaking."

But people in New Orleans lately are in touch with the wolf at their door. Because you see when the world rushes in your bay window and all you ever had is washed away with the current and your whole world comes down to the wet clothes on your back and the few nickels in your pocket you are suddenly as you were when you came in to the world. Completely unequipped except for the tools within you.

A man looks into the abyss and sees nothing staring back at him. It is at that moment that a man finds character. Imagine what it took for these people to cling to their rooftops and stay optimistic that soon all would be better.

As the hours and days dragged the challenge became bigger and harder. Parents had to encourage their frightened and exhausted children to hang in there and despite their own temptations to mentally quit, they had to find the mettle and character to see it through and believe in a better tomorrow. Because you see destiny intervenes where purpose is tested.

Remember that guy Noah? He was told to build a big old boat. The boss was going to put some animals in there. That boat became Noah's purpose. Did you ever read the story thoroughly enough to know that it took him 100 years to build it? Ever try to stay on track with something for 100 hours or 100 days? Pretty easy to lose interest, to question the notion, to talk yourself into quitting, isn't it?

Noah stayed the course for 100 years, man. Only with the help of his three sons did he build this monstrosity. You know what else? He didn't question the boss. He had purpose and the reason he didn't question that purpose was because he believed his service to something greater than himself was his destiny. Noah had the one thing so many of us seem to lack today. Faith.

It was faith that allowed those Katrina victims to hang on for a better moment to arrive. It was faith that allowed there to ever be Holocaust survivors instead of just victims.

It is that simple faith that a better day is just a week, a day, an hour around the corner. And it is the re-establishment of that elusive faith, mark my words, that will begin the emergence of the reborn society that seeks purpose and finds it in the serving and helping of each other.

You don't have to feel downtrodden my friends. You can't let the wheels of life run you over. Believe that a better day is not that far out of your grasp.

The way to be pulled from that ditch is by reaching out your hand. When it meets the hand of another you'll learn you can rely on your fellow man and pay the debt in full by returning the favor and being there for them. I even bet you could find someone to help on a daily basis. You know… just to make you feel better. Could even become contagious. Keep this in mind. You might not remember what someone said to you, or even what they did to you, but you will always remember how they made you feel.

Frederick L Collins once said, "There are two types of people–those who come into a room and say, 'Well, here I am!' and those who come in and say, 'Ah, there you are.'

I find the latter to be the ones with stronger faith, a better attitude and a brighter look toward tomorrow."

A bit of purpose, if you will.

Ronald D. Ciancutti is the purchasing manager for Cleveland Metroparks. Ron can be reached at rdc@clevelandmetroparks.com