A Sense of Meaning

By Derri Smith, Founder

What provides meaning in your life? Remembering it might save you confusion, discontent, and detours.

I started my work fighting human trafficking many years ago, full of passion and determination, with outrage over injustice and a strong sense of calling. Perhaps you started volunteering and/or donating or joined our staff from a similar place.

Through ten+ years starting and leading a nonprofit, I faced personal opposition, financial setbacks, survivor overdoses and a survivor suicide (giants!); empowered people who hurt themselves and others with that power (gnats), and so much more. I doubted whether I really was called to this mission.  Each person on staff can share their own giants, gnats and doubts. Excitement diminishes for volunteers and donors too, along with disappointment, not feeling adequately appreciated or feeling inadequate for the job.

As obstacles come, large, small and seemingly relentless, passion and determination can wane. “What good am I doing anyone?”, nags at the mind.  

This work is not easy.

Self-care advice abounds, and it is absolutely needed. But at the very core it comes down to retaining the sense of meaning in what we do and the way we do it.

My daughter Amy recently faced a ten-hour virtual mountain climb— editing her dissertation. Weary from the pressures in her pursuit of her doctorate, she found encouragement in this quote:

Meaning …strengthens us, not by numbing our pain or distracting us from our problems or even by comforting us. It heals us by reminding us of our integrity, who we are, and what we stand for. It offers us a place from which to face the challenges of life.”

Rachel Naomi Remen

As I survey what might contort my sense of calling and mission, I am responsible to reconnect with my sense of meaning. For me that might mean recalling the way God clearly called me into this work or the transformations in survivors we’ve served.

For you it might be something completely different. But I hope you join me in taking a moment to remember why you do what you do, and what it says about who you are and the integrity with which you live your life.

Then take one more step, in your long obedience in the right direction, and find ways to strengthen that sense of meaning in each other.