Although she lived in New York City, Olivia Bouler became deeply upset because of the Deep Horizon oil spill. Her concern began when she saw in the news a struggling brown pelican covered with oil. She wondered what she could do. Out of a discussion with her mom, she decided to draw pictures of Gulf Coast birds and send them as gifts to those who contributed to the Gulf Coast clean-up and recovery. Her enjoyment of drawing became centered around this project and Olivia discovered a purpose. Before long people began hearing of what she was doing and it grew. In five months time, Olivia had raised $165,000, had 9000 followers on Facebook, and discovered that she loved the study of birds. Her plans now include the study of birds in college on her way to a degree in ornithology.
Her smaller purpose led to a larger purpose. The key in her case was doing what she enjoyed.
To help your child find her purpose, help her discover what she enjoys doing. This does not mean what you do for her, but what she enjoys doing.
One key to purpose pointed out by William Damon in his book The Path to Purpose is simply enjoyment. As Christians, we recognize that God has made us for a specific purpose. Finding that purpose and walking it out enables us to glorify him. (John 17:4) Each child is hard-wired for something by the Lord’s design. The enjoyment of that purpose is already in them. Eric Liddell, Olympic gold medal winner and missionary to China, said, “When I run, I feel God’s pleasure.”
As we watch our kids grow, we can observe the moments and the activities where they seem to feel God’s pleasure. God delights in us when we do his will; His delight multiplies our delight and the result is pleasure without regret.
This kind of pleasure is a clue to a person discovering his purpose.
Our son Jean-Luc entered the Naval Academy this summer. As early as five years old, Jean-Luc was interested in the military. As he grew, he would pore over books about weapons and war. He read books about generals and battles. His interest led him to people who encouraged him, activities that have developed leadership, and decisions that have kept him on course and out of bad company.
Alicia is a young friend of ours who is now a senior in college. At a young age, she felt called to China. She enjoyed the Chinese people that she met and her heart of compassion simply overflowed when she contacted them. Her mother sought ways to encourage her in this direction. When a Chinese mom contacted Alicia’s mom and asked her to teach her daughter piano, Vicki (Alicia’s mom) worked out a barter for Alicia to learn to speak Chinese. That love for China and the follow through of her mom have carried Alicia through high school and college with purpose. Already she has been to China and Taiwan for extended stays.
As parents, let’s keep our eyes open for both our children’s abilities and for their delights. These two things will help us to see connections that move our children toward life purpose.
Next time we will discuss the third element of purpose that may be the most important factor of all.