On Meaning and Purpose of Life

by Charles LaFond, ISR Development

On weekends I make pots on a potter’s wheel in a loft studio looking out over this green, lush island. I work my body hard, carrying clay and water up flights of stairs – turning 25 pounds of clay into 25 mugs on a Sunday morning. As I approach 60 this summer, the stairs seem to be getting longer – the clay and water heavier. But like any passion, I must make pots. I have no choice. The words I write in books, the fundraising I do for Island Senior Resources, and the pottery I make for kitchens all soothe me giving my life meaning. When life gets hard, I hold onto meaning with white knuckles.

Another artist, Pablo Picasso, once said that “the meaning of life is to find your gift.” 

But finding one’s gift is only half of what Picasso said that day. He said that while “the meaning of life is to find your gift,” he added that “the purpose of life is to give it away.”

After 40 years of non-stop fundraising, I decided to come to Whidbey Island, only months before the pandemic hit, to raise money for Island Senior Resources. I help people give their money to support their neighbors who need help; indeed, the money we raise is a side benefit. We are weaving threads that weave a cloth of community care. So why did I come to this little island? Why did I choose to raise money for aging seniors, adults with disabilities, and caregivers?

The answer is simple; like any gift, it has a story.

My mother, my grandmother, my aunt, and my great-uncle all needlessly suffered in their final decade of life. They did not know where to get information about aging. Nobody talked about aging. My mother suffered from Fibromyalgia, her mother from arthritis, her sister from a neurological disease, and her uncle with dementia. Watching them suffer from diseases that beset them in their 70’s, I made a vow that one day, I would help other people’s mothers, grandmothers, aunts, and great-uncles. And so I do.

The gifts given to me were tools to make pottery, write and raise money. Having found, cultivated, and used those gifts, my life has meaning. 

But to life’s meaning, one must add purpose if life gives us that opportunity. In the 70s and 80s, my mother, grandmother, aunt, and great-uncle did not have access to the resources that would have helped them age healthily. But these are better days. Every night after a cup of tea in one of my own mugs, I head to sleep knowing that the work I did that day helped somebody’s mother, somebody’s grandmother, somebody’s aunt, or somebody’s great-uncle because, although the meaning of life is to find one’s gift, the purpose of life is to give it away.