I was standing in the doorway of my 4-year-old’s bedroom this morning. As I was watching Elijah pull out clothes that he would wear that day, he said, “Dad, I love that you’re standing there. I love you.”
He smiled at me and gave me a gift, and I grabbed it.
Standing at the threshold of his room and the rest of the world, that is my purpose in life. It’s one of them, anyway. Watching him get ready for the world, and sending him out into it, that’s what I will do as a father. Being there when he wakes up, being there when he goes to bed. Being there when he doesn’t want to come home, when he wanders. Sending him out into it when he doesn’t want to go.
Let me be the one to say it out loud, parents: This standing at the threshold stuff will not make you deliriously happy. It’s scary and won’t seem heroic. It will require things that you don’t think you have, day after day, and nobody will stand up and cheer when you do it. But that’s your purpose in life. It’s one of them, anyway.
You don’t have to be a parent, or a spouse, or an employee, to find your purpose(s) in life.
You do have to be awake, and honest, and you have to slow down long enough to see what thresholds you are standing in, right now, and you have to decide what you will say, or be, so that you and others can safely walk through them. This is brave work, standing in thresholds, calling people toward something they maybe can’t see. But when you find yourself in those thresholds, and you can see something that maybe others can’t see, you’ve found your purpose, at least in that moment.
That’s what Martin Luther King, Jr., did on that day when he decided to write those words that would become that speech about that dream. He saw how the world was, and what it could be, and he had the courage to stand in that threshold and invite us all into a different way of seeing each other.
It’s what Rosa Parks did when she decided to get up and do something different on that bus that day. She saw how the world was, and what it could be, and she had the courage to sit in that threshold and invite us all into a different way of standing up into who we actually are.
And it’s what you and I can do every day in tiny little ways if we simply notice the thresholds where we find ourselves.
So wake up and notice where you actually are, and see the gifts that are laid out in front of you, and grab them, and be you.
My suggestion is that you maybe do that, instead of asking what your purpose is in life.
And I will do that, too. Then after living that way for awhile, let’s climb back into that little confessional booth, and we’ll talk about it some more.