The other afternoon a friend came by to visit. He wanted to talk to me about a film he’s making about a former college classmate who had gone off to the Sudan to care for an entire community of villagers that have no doctor.
I listened and then watched his footage of this man who had clearly given his life to care for others. My friend explained that his friend, the doctor, had left everything behind because he felt “called” to do what he is doing.
Our conversation has stayed with me all week. And I must say, throughout my life, I have thought a lot about the concept of being “called upon.” I’ve often thought, ‘Does every human being have a “mission” in life?’ A purpose? A calling? Are we each called upon to do something unique and special with our lives? The wisest elders I have met would answer those questions with a resounding “YES!!”
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They would say that each of us do, in fact, have a calling and that our lives — our hearts — are speaking to us all of the time, but that most of us are moving too fast to hear. We are too distracted to listen. Too scared to act.
I have thought a lot about my own calling. Do I have one? Is it journalism? Is it writing books? Is it producing documentaries about people doing good for the world like the doctor my friend was telling me about? Is my calling to gather people to connect with one another and change the world? Am I supposed to be singularly focused on trying to find a cure for Alzheimer’s? Is my calling motherhood? Am I here to raise children who feel happy and loved?
In my morning meditation the other day I focused on this question: What am I called upon to do with my life? The response I got startled me. ‘You are,‘ my little voice responded, ‘called upon to love. Love yourself wholly and completely, the good and the bad. You are called upon to love others. Not for what they do but for who they are.‘
‘Wait a minute, that can’t be,‘ I thought. ‘I’ve got to do something big in the world. For the world. That’s the way I was raised. I’ve got to get going and get doing.’ But that voice, I realized, was an old voice. A critical voice. A false voice. One that is never satisfied. It’s a voice that no longer belongs to me.
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The man my friend wants to introduce to the world feels he is being called upon to heal the sick and the poor. He is being called to love those who are invisible to the larger world. But, they are not invisible to him.
I do believe we all have a so-called “calling.” I hope today, or this week, you can pause and quiet yourself. Ask yourself, ‘What am I here to experience? What am I here to do? What is my calling?’
If at first you hear nothing, keep trying. Keep pausing, keep listening. The answer is there. It may not be to travel halfway around the world and live and work in a dangerous area caring for the sick and the poor. It may be right in your own home, in your own heart.
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In fact when someone once said to Mother Teresa, “Should I come here and work with you in Calcutta?” she said, “Go find your own Calcutta.”
Find your own Calcutta.
You might not have to go far to find it. It may be in your own neighborhood. It may actually even be within you.
Think about that for a moment: Your Calcutta may be within you.
All that poverty and abandonment might actually be within you. So trying to love your broken, impoverished, abandoned self is a monumental task. For some of us, trying to do that is like trying to climb Mount Everest.
After all I have learned, after all of the people I have met, after all of the books I have read, I have come to realize that our worldly callings are empty if we can’t each begin with the hardest challenge of all: To love ourselves and love others for no reason at all other than the fact that it’s what we all need. Love. Unconditional love. That is a huge calling.
[Read more of Maria’s ‘I’ve Been Thinking’ essays]
I’ll never forget, when in the midst of my dad’s Alzheimer’s, when he couldn’t remember my name anymore, he looked me dead in the eye and said to me, “You gotta go internal before you can go external. That’s the only way to go eternal.” I was stunned, but he was oh so right.
Go internal. Find your calling. And work out from there. #PassItForward
[Image by Blake Richard Verdoorn via Unsplash]