When my kids were little I volunteered with them at a local nursing home. They would usually dress up in costumes such as princess and dinosaurs and then we would march in and visit elderly residents once a week. There were many wonderful encounters and friendships formed during that time. My oldest friend passed away last year at 107.
I volunteered with my kids because my mom had done the same with me when I was a kid and it had had a profound impact on my life, just like it had had a profound impact when her mom had done the same a generation earlier.
Little did I know that this experience would also sharpen my insights for what I am doing now. I help leaders refine their purpose in life while there is time for big and small changes.
Two lessons I learned from this time:
Firstly: When passing on intergenerational values, kids pick up what is being modelled, rather than talked about. I caught the joy of helping others long before I could talk. I picked it up in the eyes of others and I still long for that joy of seeing the sparkle in other people’s eyes that my sheer presence can evoke. I see the same passion in my growing teenagers today.
Secondly: I have learned what truly matters to people at the end of their lives. In a nutshell I observed that there are 7 areas people want to speak about: (1) The times they have truly lived – usually moments or seasons they have taken great risks, have created something, pursuit a dream or adventure and who they have become as a result (2) The people or animals they have truly loved. Note: it’s the act of loving rather than being loved (3) the regrets they have over things they can’t change (4) unanswered questions and unforgiveness (5) Significance - the difference their life has made and the ways they have contributed and given. They wanted to know their lives mattered (6) Meaningful communities they have been part of (7) Their relationship with God.
Many described this last season like reviewing their lives in a movie with them being the lead actor. This thought excites me. As a writer I have written many scripts. Today I work with leaders who choose to explore their life story with a desire to make intentional choices for their lives to have significant purpose and impact. I am a sounding board for leaders to see what is possible so ‘their movie’ will be a truly remarkable story.