Saturday, April 12, 2014

What Makes a Full Life?

For a year and a half I taught a class to high school seniors about careers and college. (I always felt it was a little late to be doing this with seniors, but that was the task before me.) It was a welcome change of pace from my usual math classes, but even more than that, working with the young adults as they learned about and planned their very lives was a blessing.

I created several lessons and activities throughout that time that helped students get in touch with their passions and goals. I would ask them what they want most for their future. So many times I'd get the answer that they wanted to live life to the full.

I never doubted their sincerity when they'd tell me that. It's not like they just said it because they didn't want to give it any thought. Still, as a teacher I was not content with those words alone. They could mean anything, really, and I wanted to push for something deeper. I also wanted to better answer the question for myself.

I know that, to some extent, a full life would look different for each of us. That's the beauty of being human. Still, wouldn't it be of some benefit to get closer to the heart of what it means to be fully alive? At least we'd have a target to aim for when it felt we were off or when big decisions would come along.

Just because it's difficult to pin down doesn't mean we shouldn't try.

In listening to the students, dealing with my own longings and reconciling all of this with my personal faith and life experiences, I formulated some thoughts that have been a guide to me ever since.

I submit that a full life consists of enjoying the blessings and fulfilling the responsibilities that one has been given.

It is twofold, though we so often forget the second part. I know students were quick to forget it. When I listened to them, a full life looked like a lot of fun, a lot of spending and a lot of "sucking the marrow" from life. But I believe that's only half of what could make us fulfilled. 

We also have to find what we are supposed to do and give that all we've got.

Some would point out that finding one's place is also a blessing, and I suppose there is often truth to that. I don't always find it to be the case though. Sometimes there is a responsibility that is just plain old work. A blessing may come in time for doing it, but if we are only looking for the gift or reward, or turning away when our reasoning doesn't reveal the possibility, we'll miss so much of what it means to be alive.


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