Thoughts of Richard Bleil
Of late, I’ve been watching too many movies. Primarily, it’s background noise. I have the means to work from my room and should do so with greater dedication than I do. Chalk it up to depression.
In one of these movies, don’t ask me which one, there was a line, don’t ask me to quote it exactly, that basically translates to a person must find their focus in life.
I like asking off the cuff oddball questions to people I don’t know. A waitress once asked me if there was anything else that I needed, and I said I needed to know the meaning of life. Yup. At my age, I asked this young woman maybe only a couple of years out of high school what the meaning of life is. I didn’t mean it to be taken seriously; if anything, I was hoping to make her smile and maybe chuckle. But, without missing a beat she shot back the answer, “the meaning of life is to give life meaning.”
I’m told that it was a well-known quote from some self-help guru or something like that, but she was right. The meaning of life is to give life meaning.
There are different ways to give life meaning. I have so many friends who are parents and have found meaning in their life through their children. I always feel bad (and have blogged previously about it) when female friends say, almost ashamedly, that they’re not important because they’re stay-at-home moms, or moms with jobs that society might look down on. But, if raising children to be kind, charitable, and good citizens is not the most important job in the world, then I have no idea what might be.
Finding a career (or job) that is important is a great way to give life meaning, but not the only one. When I was in middle school, I decided I wanted to be a chemist. It has defined me since the mid ‘70’s. I’ve researched anti-tumor drugs (and made an astounding discovery in doing so), educated literally hundreds of students, and may have even saved a life or two. But you don’t have to be a scientist or educator or doctor to have a meaningful career.
My friend sells insurance. It’s her shining example that has proven to me that insurance doesn’t have to be evil; it just, well, often is. But her dedication to her clients, her knowledge of her products, and her understanding of what they can do makes her an amazing human being that truly makes a difference, whether she knows it or not. She makes sure her clients put in claims, even if it’s not clear that they will go through, and since she sells cancer supplemental insurance, when her clients do get their claim paid, it’s at a time that they desperately need it. She has saved the life of another of my friends, and that is not an exaggeration. I’m blessed to have both of them in my life, and their lives both have meaning.
A job can also make a life meaningful. Of late, it’s been difficult for me to get to a store, so my usual supply of my morning drink has been low. On my way to the bus stop, I pass a (way overpriced) convenient store that also sells it. In my streak of loss, I’ve lost my winter clothes. I still have my leather jacket (which I have had almost as long as I’ve been pursuing chemistry as a career), but my remaining winter clothing, including heavier coats, gloves, scarves, and hats, are gone. Yesterday, the man that works at the convenience store asked me why I don’t have a hat. I didn’t want to go into it, but I explained that I lost my winter clothes. He then told me that they sell hats, and he suggested that I take one, and he would not even charge me for it. I didn’t realize that they even sold hats, and they are only a few dollars, so I could afford to buy one, but he tipped his hand. Working in what most would see as a humble job, clearly, he has found meaning in his life. He cares about strangers, even me, and reaches out to them. Caring about others is a great way to give life meaning.
Simple jobs that allow for more time with your family, or volunteering to feed the homeless (as another of my good friends does with her daughter), or even attending church and truly living the life of the gospel (a life of giving, not judging) are all great ways to give life meaning.