Are you seeing what I’m seeing? I’m as optimistic as they come, but I’m looking out my window into the world and I am stunned and saddened by the infinite amount of hopelessness I see in the lives of so many. Are you frustrated by the hate, hurt, and divide? If so, I’m with you, and it’s easy to get discouraged. Four years ago, I started wondering what my new purpose was. It’s not like I had never visited that question before, but this was different. It was…well, think mid-life crisis on steroids.
I had all of the reasons I ever needed to feel that I had a purpose in life; Two, to be exact; my sons, Nick and Jack. They will always be my primary purpose. But as they have now become the wonderfully brilliant, wise, and talented young men I knew they always would, I took a step back to look at the big picture and got whacked over the head with a mighty two-by-four. The only hypothetically symbolic thing about that sudden wake-up call was the lumber.
So many other things that commanded my attention put me face-to-face with the realities of our time. For me, reality has always been like fly-over country; a fascinating place to see on occasion, but I wouldn’t want to live there. It was like a flashback to when my little 6-year-old, blonde-haired, blue-eyed, little carefree-self got so wrapped up in using finger-paints to decorate the walls (and furniture, and windows, and dog) and my mom walked in and yelled, “Look at this mess you’ve made!” I stood there in shocked silence thinking, “I can’t believe you didn’t say anything nice about my artistic creations?!”
But I wasn’t six anymore. As much as I had tried to avoid it, I was an adult and my inner-voice, concussed as it was from said metaphorical two-by-four, yelled the same words that my mom did when I was six, “Look at this mess you’ve made!” Yep. It took a short while to sink in, but as my attention had been on raising those little buggers, I had turned my back to most everything else, and in doing so contributed to making a mess of a world I didn’t want my kids, or any kids for that matter, to inherit.
I wasn’t in charge! It wasn’t my fault the world was falling apart! Besides, I was doing just fine in my own quirky, out-of-the-box, and denial-drenched ways. My initial thought was probably the same as when my mom walked in and discovered me discovering my inner Michelangelo – only this time I knew more words: “Somebody better clean that s*#t up!”
But there was just enough adult in me to recognize that I should probably help clean up that mess, too.
Off I went on my well-intentioned journey of good will, hoping to find a renewed purpose in helping to “fix things.” My exploration took me many places, including back in time from the lessons I had learned from the greatest teachers, coaches, and scoutmasters on earth, through the dark paths of dysfunction and addiction, into the minds and actions of my “bucket ‘o heroes,” and through the entangled webs of religion and politics. And then, Eureka! I found it in the most obvious of all places – the same place I always find my “other” sock!
There it was, HOPE, sitting right in front of me. In fact, it was me. If you’ve ever heard the “Starfish Story” or believe in the concepts of “pay-it-forward” and “be kind to others,” you are already totally on board with this movement. It’s you and I collectively that will change the world, one supportive act, smile, and positive action at a time.
That’s it, folks. That’s what I have to offer. The rest of this book is filled with nudges, winks, and prods that might help you. You’ll get some juicy details of my life and a few others as well. Stories connect us because of what we have in common, rather than what we don’t. They usually fall under one of what I call “Hope Dealer Principles.” What matters most is that we each do our best to be a Hope Dealer, because if you need one, chances are, you’ll be one. And that’s a purpose worth living for.
~ Billy Soden