On my way to class a couple of days ago, I had the pleasure of bumping into a colleague I don't get to see too often. She is lovely, kind, and smart; one of my many acquaintances I've always wished I had the opportunity to know better. Therefore, I wasn't surprised when she told me she'd been reading the blog, and she had kind things to say in support of Simon and myself.
But there was one comment she made, that the more I thought about it, the more it surprised me. It surprised me by how good it made me feel, and how truthfully it resonated.
Being the mother of a child with challenges, I get a lot of well-meaning encouragement and empathy from friends, acquaintances, and sometimes even strangers. Many times, the comments are really nice and I always appreciate the intention behind them. However, there is one comment I hear frequently that consistently makes me wince (inside), and at one point made me doubt myself and my faith. It is the comment, the idea, that "everything happens for a reason."
For years, I struggled with this concept. That there was some cosmic or spiritual reason that my baby had been given brain damage, and that I had been chosen to cope with this particular challenge. That there could be some intention behind it. Could God have done this to us? On purpose?
Well, no. Of course not. It took me some time, but I came to understand that there isn't a reason for many of the bad things that happen in the world. No rationale for the pain and suffering of so many people, for so many causes. They just are. Good things and Bad things happen, sometimes for reasons we can see as the result of action or inaction, but often for no discernible reason. People get sick. People win the lottery. People have accidents. People have "lucky breaks." There is loss, and gain, and joy, and suffering and sometimes there is no one to blame or thank for it.
That's a tough concept to process for many of us, I think because believing it would leave a sort of hole in the fabric of our mental security blanket. We want to believe that there is some kind of control "out there," someone or something directing the chaos so we don't feel at risk ourselves. If we are good people, bad things can't happen to us, right? It just wouldn't make sense. And when bad things DO happen to good people, it must be for some higher cause, like in the stories of long suffering Saints and Cinderellas.
All this is to say that, while I had a rough time with the idea that things happened for a reason, I also had trouble with the idea that things didn't happen for a reason. One concept felt cosmically cruel, and the other felt spiritually vacant.
However, with a little help from a well-placed comment from a colleague, I think I've finally got it. She said she believed that everyone on this earth has a purpose.
Purpose. Now this is a belief I can get behind. Life is about choices, about choosing to exercise our free will no matter the situation, and the intrinsic ability of each individual to do good, find hope, and live well no matter their level of ability or personal situation.
Maybe every situation can have a purpose as well. There are always lessons for us to learn, ways for us to grow, and opportunities for us each to do good, find joy and create love and happiness.
Not everything has a reason, but everything, and everyone can have a purpose. What it is, well that part's up to you.