During the past week I talked with four people of different genders whose ages span six decades. There was a penetrating reality in every one of those decades. Each person needed to have something worthwhile to do, needed to be needed, to be valuable, to be important. I realize that seems like a “Duh!” statement. But think about it.
How often do we look at a “30-40 something” person and see a busy, involved, vital individual? We make an assumption that, with or without children, they’re running circles around and through activities. We make an assumption that they have a home to take care of. We make an assumption that they have a job.
How often do we look at a “middle aged” person, the baby boomers, and see a worker bee–a busy, involved, vital individual? We make an assumption that they have a home to take care of and that their children are old enough to take care of themselves. We make an assumption that they have a career, and that they maybe even volunteer somewhere.
How often do we look at a “retired” person and see someone who successfully completed their years of service in their chosen profession? We make an assumption that they have a home to take care of that’s ready and waiting for grandchildren to visit.We make an assumption that they fill their days with reading, travel, hobbies and golf.
How often do we look at an “elderly” person and make assumptions that they’ve lived a full life and that they are content with the way things are?
In reality, most of us look at these same decade groups of people and also see many opposites of the things we often assume. And pretty much everything on the continuum in between.
The “30-40 something” who feels trapped in a job or career because they’re too busy, too tired and too broke to pursue something else.
The “middle aged” who doesn’t have a career because they’ve taken whatever they could to pay the bills, and couldn’t volunteer because there are no hours left after working the jobs to pay the bills. And they’re still trying to help their children finish college or navigate the increasing costs of living.
The “retired” who because of different circumstances don’t have extra money for reading, travel, hobbies or golf, and they don’t have grandchildren to visit.
The “elderly” whose full life was laden with hard work and then displacement, and now there’s physical limitations that keep them from doing even normal daily activities.
At the core, no matter what our age or physical, social or economic position, every one of us needs something worthwhile to do, we need to be needed, to be valuable, to be important. And it has to be validated internally and externally.
What to me is worthwhile to do may be different from what is worthwhile to you. What I need to feel needed, valuable and important may be different from what you need. But in my search for doing something worthwhile and feeling needed, valuable and important, I just might be able to help you in your search. And in your search, you just might be able to help me.
Because, at the end of the day (and at the beginning of the day), all of us need to feel that we matter — to ourselves and to others.