After I graduated from college, I traveled for a year and then took a job at a nonprofit. As a staff writer, my job was to train missionaries to blog and help them share their stories with the world.
Every day, I would read inspiring tales of how other people were changing the world, and they would inspire and frustrate me. I realized it wasn't enough to tell someone else's story. I had to start living a remarkable one myself.
My personal turning point
As I shared in an earlier post, I stopped believing the stories I was telling, and this really bothered me. Something had to change.
So I began doing something different: I started hanging out with homeless people as often as possible. I cooked hotdogs for them on Saturday mornings and brought blankets on Friday nights. I listened to their stories and had the privilege of playing a part in some of them.
This changed me.
I found what I had always been searching for: meaning, purpose, and satisfaction — and in the most unlikely of places. I began to come alive and see the world differently. And I was not alone.
Where we find purpose
Turns out, this is where we often find our purpose in life. Not in the easy, but in the hard. In the difficult things that test our resolve and turn our worlds upside-down.
Life, it seems, is not about creating a purpose for yourself; it's about finding one that's already there.
The more I share this, the more I find others who have had similar instances of awakening.
It doesn't matter who they are or what they do. Everywhere, there are doctors and lawyers, engineers and teachers, actors and and handymen — all discovering a call to a more meaningful life through the realization that life is not about them.
Will you be brave?
This is difficult to talk about; these are the stories we don't want to share. They're the ones about a car accident or death in the family, a tough bout of unemployment or unexpected loss that sent you searching for meaning — and eventually finding it.
We don't want to go “back there,” don't want to relive the pain. It's just too difficult. But this is where healing and hope are found, where we find ourselves connecting to a greater narrative — in our stories.
So what does this mean for you? Well, if you can relate to this feeling, I want you to do something courageous: Tell your story. Even if you're scared, even if you don't want to. Do it anyway, because people need to hear it.
This is what my upcoming book, Wrecked, is about — the tough moments that shape us, the ones where you realize you're a part of something bigger than yourself.
An invitation to share your story
In preparation for the launch of my book (which is Aug. 1, 2012), I'm inviting people to share their stories of how they got wrecked — how a broken world slammed into their comfortable lives.
Typically, these moments are unexpected. They're unwelcome but good, ruining your small way of looking at the world and replacing it with something better.
We already have a few stories that have come in — one of a parent who lost a child to cancer, another of a man who experienced real need (and the opportunity to meet it) for the first time in Haiti — and more come in every day.
If you have had a similar experience, one that left you feeling wrecked but ultimately made you a better person, tell us about it.