What is your life’s purpose?
There is a sign in airports that says, “if you see something, say something”. My unique gift of observation coupled with my desire to act on my observations is what has driven my primary purpose in life: when I see something, I do something.
How are you living your purpose?
I have often been told that I see things that others do not. Even as a young child, on our many family car trips, I was the first to spot the bald eagle or the sign to McDonald’s. I also have a bias for action—in other words, I have an instinct to act on what I see. The following are stories of how this has played out in my life.
Several years ago, on my way to the grocery store, I rounded the corner near my home and I saw a young boy who had fallen off his bike and split his knee open. I recognized the overwhelm in the face of the boy’s mom. Seeing that she had two other young children in tow, I immediately pulled over and offered an extra pair of hands. It was obvious that stitches were needed so I helped her safely load all her children into the car, securing the knee in a way that there would be no additional trauma. We don’t always know what is going on for someone else at any given time, but with observation, it can be inferred.
There are times when the stakes are higher than a split knee. For instance, I was returning from an airport drop when I saw a woman precariously perched on the ledge of a bridge railing and realized that no other passerby seemed to acknowledge what was happening. Unable to reach 911 on my cell, I felt a responsibility to try to reach this fellow human who was clearly suffering. Unfortunately, I didn’t make it in time, but I tried.
I have an affinity for wanting to help others who struggle, a helpless animal or an individual who is subject to discrimination. Just recently, I found a red-shouldered hawk which seemed distressed. It could not fly and, after observing it for several hours, I realized it needed help. I contacted Wildlife Rescue, who transported it to their facility for care. Happily, after two weeks, the hawk was able to be released back into the wild. In our busy lives, it is easy to overlook less prominent things that are out of the ordinary as something that needs attention. I could have easily moved on with my day and not returned to the hawk.
Many experiences are random and involve being alert to what is in your presence day to day. Other things are more personal. When I consulted an expert about high school placement for my identical twin daughters, she candidly responded that someone needed to start a high school for students with learning differences because one did not currently exist. I interpreted this as I was somebody and so I cofounded a high school to meet the needs of students beyond just my children.
How did you find your purpose?
Growing up my family had two mantras: “Leave things better than how you found them,” and “‘If you think someone should do something, then realize you are somebody.”
First and foremost, my parents modeled this for my siblings and me. They were very active in public and private education, setting a higher bar for what should be expected. In addition, they felt passionate about how important curiosity is to education, so they helped to start a Children’s Museum in Topeka, Kansas, our hometown.
I also experienced this firsthand. When I was in high school, a good friend of mine was hit crossing the street in front of our school. I was outraged by the extent of her injuries and wanted to do what I could to make sure this would not happen to anyone again. To this end, I petitioned the city to put in a pedestrian crosswalk, which they did.
What advice do you have for purpose seekers?
Be mindful of what skills you inherently have and seize opportunities to engage in these experiences where you can use your skills naturally. Stay open to the unique life experiences the Universe presents to you and watch for scenarios where you can use your special powers in your response to them.
The first step is to see things and then it is to pause long enough to engage with what you see. There are examples around us all every day. I am regularly thinking of ways to leave things better than how I found them—which gives me a feeling of purpose.
Contact Kim Garlinghouse
After a career as a Clinical and Research Oncology nurse, Kim has spent the last 15 years advocating for her identical twin daughters with a seizure disorder. In 2006 and again in 2016, she learned that she herself had two significant cancers which forced her to navigate the scary and complicated choices associated with accessing treatment. In her work with Good Medicine between 2009 and 2013, Kim advocated for families caring for loved ones with serious medical illness and degenerative diseases. In 2013, she founded Compass High School, an independent school serving the needs of teens with learning differences. And in 2014, she launched C2it Health, to provide resources and guidance for families facing medical challenges.
What an inspiring reminder. Thanks, Kim!
Have you ever felt like you “reacted” or got involved in something you thought needed your assistance and regretted in afterwards? Meaning you ended up doing more harm than good because you didn’t know all the facts?