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Redefining Purpose with Chronic Illness

Most people find fulfillment through work—even the people who hate their jobs still feel fulfilled by working and earning money.

Work has shown to be great for our mental health. The building you go to each day, though you may loath doing so, though you may fantasize about winning the lottery so you can tell your boss to take that job and shove it, is actually good for your mental and physical well-being.

Working provides us with a higher sense of self. Through work, we are able to achieve higher self-esteem. It also gives us a sense of purpose while allowing us to use our skills and develop new ones. Work is often our sense of identity and the very core of who we are. Everyone loves to feel proud about a job well done.

In the chronic illness community, we are often forced to face the fact that we can no longer work. For reasons beyond our control, we have to hang up our hats and come to terms with a life that looks and feels much different than the life that came before it.

This leaves many of us feeling lost and depressed. We no longer feel like we have a purpose. We begin feeling like we are a burden to our caretakers and no longer a viable member of our household or society.

So what do you do, then? How to you regain your lost self-esteem and self-respect? How do you, once again, feel as though you have purpose?

Of course finding a way to earn money from home is a solution—but it is easier said than done and not everyone is cut out for it.

You could always throw yourself into being a good spouse and/or parent—but isn’t that something you should be trying to do anyway?

My solution is actually much simpler than that. It requires no business savvy, and I promise you, it will make you a better spouse and parent without even trying.

My solution can be summed up in three easy words.

That’s right. Be of service! It’s that simple!

Ok, I guess it can’t be summed up in three easy words because now is the part where I go in and explain what I mean by that.

If there is something that is sure to give you a sense of purpose, it is being of service to someone else—or as I like to refer to it as—be a blessing.

You don’t have to give your money, which for many of us is in short supply, to be a blessing to someone else. You also don’t have to make yourself sick by doing it. The good thing about being a blessing is you can pick and choose the days you do it.

There is absolutely no need to do it if you don’t feel up to it—in fact, you don’t even have to leave your home if you don’t want in order to be someone else’s blessing.

Here are a few, simple, ways you can be of service, raise your self-esteem, and feel purpose again—all while brightening someone else’s day.

Give with your talent

If you possess a talent—whether it be crocheting, knitting, sewing, crafting, or baking—find a way to use it to benefit others. You can crochet, knit, or sew blankets for premature babies, make scarves for the homeless, make an outfit for an expecting mother who doesn’t have a lot of money.

Volunteer to create party decorations for a party at your kid’s school.

Make holiday decorations and donate them to a children’s hospital, a nursing home, a church, etc.

Bake a casserole for an overwhelmed single mother or some cookies for an elderly neighbor.

If you have the gift of gab—use it

The saying goes that a picture it worth a thousand words…but words are still important!

Especially to those who might not hear them enough. Phone calls and hand written letters go a long way in letting people know you’re thinking of them and they’re important.

Whether you are calling a grandparent you don’t see nearly enough, a niece or nephew you just want to let know you care, or an elderly neighbor with little family around—that phone call is liable to make that person’s day…maybe even week.

If you would rather write them, the sentiment would still mean the same. You could also send cards or letters to people at the children’s hospital, soldiers stationed far from their families, or find an elderly pen pal to keep in touch with.

Even if you’re a total millennial and wouldn’t know how to send a letter in the mail if you tried, send someone a Facebook message or a text letting them know what they mean to you—who knows, you might just brighten someone’s day!

Your time is worth more than your money

We can’t always give money but that’s OK because we can always give our time—providing we feel well enough to do so, that is.

Volunteering at soup kitchens, food or toy drives, nursing homes, etc. are all great examples of giving your time.

Even still, we are not all physically capable of volunteering away from home. If you find that to be the case for you, consider visiting an elderly neighbor and offering companionship playing cards or swooning over pictures of their grandkids. Consider volunteering to read a book at a children’s hospital. Stay with a friend or relative who is going through a hard time just to let them know you care.

Show love to a stranger

The people you help don’t always need to be those you know. You also don’t need for your generous act to be some big grand gesture. The little things are what matter most!

Help a mom who is struggling with her kids to load her groceries into her car.

Leave a kind note on a stranger’s car to brighten their day.

Give your waitress an extra generous tip or a kind note left on the receipt.

People don’t get to know their mail carriers anymore, so leave them a note and a gift inside your mailbox letting them know you appreciate their work.

There are many heroic, yet often times, thankless jobs. Tell a fire fighter, a police officer, a social worker that they are doing a great job and thank them for working so hard.

Choose a cause

Many people find it much easier to help others if they have a cause behind it because being charitable, for lack of a better word, can be overwhelming—so find a cause!

Whether it be children, sick people, the elderly, homeless, etc., finding a cause can better help you decide how you are going to help that cause. Once you know who you are going to help, it becomes easier deciding how to help.

You may want to help through blogging, through gathering support from others, through crafting or kind actions. No matter how you want to help, finding who you want to help can make it easier to put your words into actions.

A cause is not always necessary, but if you are one of those people who have trouble focusing your thoughts in order to get things done, then choosing a cause might be a good idea!

Keep it quiet!

This may be the most important of all!

I know it’s rare in the age of social media not to share every aspect of your life with the World Wide Web, but that is exactly what I am suggesting you do!

Keep it to yourself! Unless you are trying to gather support for your cause, don’t let anyone know about the things you are doing for others.

There are a few reasons why you should keep it quiet. The first is because if you talk about it, it will seem like bragging. No one likes a bragger.

The second reason is because it will seem far less sincere if you tell everyone about it. Doing kind things for others shouldn’t be fueled by how many Facebook likes the story will get.

That’s not to say that you can’t mention sitting with an elderly neighbor and enjoying your time doing so…but never mention that you were doing it as a “good deed”.

If the recipient wants to tell people about what you’ve done and how it made their day, then let them—but the moment it seems as though you are fishing for compliments or pats on the back is when people will begin to question your whole reason for doing it to begin with.

Kind deeds should come from kind hearts without needing applause.

I guarantee you, the moment you begin to give back, no matter what form it takes place in, is the moment you will find purpose for your life again—it may not be the purpose you originally wanted in life, but it will mean so much more!

If you know of any other organizations or ways where people can get involved, leave links in the comments below.

Resources

  • volunteermatch.org: VolunteerMatch is the most effective way to recruit highly qualified volunteers for your nonprofit. We match you with people who are passionate about and committed to your cause, and who can help when and where you need them.
  • projectsunshine.org: Project Sunshine works with medical centers across the US to transform hospitals, outpatient centers, and long-term care facilities into cheerful places for pediatric patients and families. We design fun, creative, and educational programs that our vast network of trained volunteers implement.
  • elderhelpers.org: The Elder Helpers program, which aims to match volunteers with elders in need of help within their own community.

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