Why? The practice of purpose

Earlier in my life, I thought there was one particular thing I was supposed to do with my life. I thought that God had a purpose for me and my main job was to discover what it was.
– Barbara Brown Taylor


Hank (not his real name) confused me.

Week after week he wandered inside Manna House mumbling, sometimes singing. He’d carry boxes. He’d unload fruit. He’d return a cart to the back (and you best get out of his way).

Everybody knew him. And I too finally understood: locked inside this 70ish year old body was the intellect of a young child.

But then Hank disappeared.

On a night away from Manna House, Hank was crossing the street as usual from his low-rent apartment complex to a nearby convenience store.

This time he didn’t make it across.
He was hit by a van and fell to the ground.

A few neighbors in his complex were looking out their windows that night. And witnessed not only the hit, but something else. Something very eerie.

The neighbors knew Hank because he loved them. When he volunteered at Manna House, it wasn’t just to serve the people who lined up there. It was also to help his neighbors back home. When he’d load up his own box of food to take home, he always packed extra to distribute to others. (I learned early on not to touch anything in Hank’s box. It was his to give away.)

But on the night of the accident, Hank was the one needing love.

The intoxicated driver and passenger in the van got out. They saw Hank motionless on the pavement. And made another bad decision that night. Instead of calling for help, they decided to do away with the evidence.

They lifted Hank’s body to load him in their van.

They couldn’t have imagined that eyes glaring through windows wouldn’t allow that for their Hank. Fingers quickly dialed 911 and the police arrived before the van got away.

Things looked bad for Hank. Because of the jostling, his injuries were now even worse. He was in ICU day after day after day. No one knew if this grown man with a child’s mind would ever recover.

But friends came. Friends prayed. Friends loved. Little by little, Hank got better. And lot by lot, God did a miracle.

Last Wednesday night before we began the food distribution at Manna House, Fran prayed about Hank. As she was thanking God for his recovery, I heard shuffling feet around the corner.

There was Hank.

Oblivious to any attention on his account. He wore a neck brace, and he wasn’t mumbling to himself or singing like I had been used to him doing, but he still was Hank.

He still had purpose. He was gathering cans of food into a clean garbage bag. His driver asked if he needed that much, and he said he had to take it to his neighbors. She said okay. Because she knew he would.

This was how he loved his neighbors. And they loved him for it.

Hank isn’t finished here yet. An old man with a small mind but a big heart is still in use. Nobody can take that away before its time.

For the month of September, I’ll be exercising the Practice of Living with Purpose. I’m learning by watching people like Hank.

And learning that loving is our purpose, regardless of who we are, where we are, or what we have.

Because we’re not done here yet either.

* * *

What menial task can you do today with the purpose of love?

41 thoughts on “Why? The practice of purpose

  1. Dianna

    “And learning that loving is our purpose, regardless of who we are, where we are, or what we have.” Oh, my dear Sister, loving is our purpose! And how I know it. Sometimes it is really hard to love (especially when He started me on this journey of loving REGARDLESS of the way a person looked, or acted) because of present circumstances, but then I remember that those He’s put in front of me are there because HE’s given me the purpose to love them. It is then that I lean in a bit harder into those arms that love me with an everlasting love and it becomes so much easier. I can love ONLY because He first loved me! xo

    1. LisaNotes Post author

      “those He’s put in front of me are there because HE’s given me the purpose to love them.”

      Beautifully spoken, Dianna. I’m glad He’s put me in front of you because I love how you’ve loved me, friend. 🙂

      (Haven’t checked out the links from your last email yet, but will soon. I SO appreciate your info!)

  2. Susan Cottrell

    LOVE this. So true. My purpose now after 5 grown kids with husband of 26 years is to love LGBTQ community and help the church love them. Church needs to be known as Hank and neighbors instead of the van driver. Thanks for what you do. Susan

    1. LisaNotes Post author

      I also want to improve in that area, Susan. There’s definitely lots of room for growth there in our learning to love all people better. Thanks for sharing and helping lead the way.

  3. Linda@Creekside

    This, Hank’s story, is one of the most meaningful pieces I’ve read online in a long time, Lisa. Thank you for sharing your friend with us. We are now connected with him. And that makes our lives all the more richer.

    1. LisaNotes Post author

      Your words make me happy, Linda. I wish I could share Hank more with all of you. He’s a character like no other. 🙂 I’m so thankful God spared him to stay here awhile longer. He still has purpose among us.

    1. LisaNotes Post author

      Yes, Mia. I’m thankful God doesn’t measure “success” like we do. If we even give a cup of cold water in his name, he is honored. And even with Hank’s limitations by the world’s standards, he’s still able to show love in very meaningful ways.

    1. LisaNotes Post author

      When I first heard what happened to Hank, I was so shocked. Definitely a heart-breaking story. But God redeemed even this tragic circumstance. He is more powerful and wiser than we can ever imagine! And gracious too. So thankful.

  4. Beth

    So many worries and cares will fall away when we make “loving” our purpose daily. What a beautiful story, Lisa. I always love the peek you give us into the ministry you do and are a part of there. It’s always inspiring and reveals what is most important and needed in this life. So I am challenged to “love” on purpose today, my friend!

    1. LisaNotes Post author

      It does amaze me how we can see love with fresh eyes when we strip away much of our distractions and cares that comes with all our stuff and wealth. Working with those who have so much less than I do (in terms of material goods anyway) has been more spiritually enriching than I ever could have imagined. God’s economy is definitely upside down from the world’s, just like Jesus showed us.

      “I am challenged to love on purpose today”
      Love how you put that, Beth. I’ll carry it with me!

    1. LisaNotes Post author

      So true, Elizabeth. I’m ashamed when I think about how I first viewed Hank. (Hopefully one day I’ll fully learn to stop judging a book by its cover.) It took being around him several times before I uncovered more of who he really was and what he was doing. And then I was humbled and amazed.

    1. LisaNotes Post author

      I think we would all be amazed if our eyes were opened to how many people around us are doing loving things, often unaware. May we catch them more often and encourage them in it! And copy them ourselves.

  5. Brenda Maddox

    Beautiful story. I am like you. When will I quit dismissing someone from my mind because they are different than me. When will I focus on looking through God’s eyes at people. I am thankful for the Hank’s in this world. God is using him to touch others.

    1. LisaNotes Post author

      He definitely can teach us a lot. When I think back to the first first times I saw him, I never would have imagined how much I could learn from him. Lord, have mercy on me. Hope you’re doing well, Katie!

  6. Ceil

    Hi Lisa! What a shocking story! I guess you hear this kind of stuff on the news, but just don’t expect it right in front of your face. Thanks be to God that the culprit was found, and that Hank could get medical attention. What a world.

    I love that you see this as a declaration of purpose. We are all here for a reason, this very minute (and I’m HERE!). Best to live it out for the Lord 🙂

    Good to see you!

    1. LisaNotes Post author

      It was very surprising to me when I first heard it. I’ve learned to listen differently to the news now, never knowing if one of the people in the story (good guys or bad) will be someone I know.

      Yes, I’m very grateful that God was able to see Frank through this. It was really a miracle on many levels.

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  8. Sheila at Longings End

    Your beautiful story, Lisa, brought tears to my eyes and thanks to my lips for God’s restoration of Hank. God bless that man’s sweet, sweet soul. And how God can use “the least of these” who are truly the greatest of all to teach us profound lessons.

    And this is what we always say at Longings End…And learning that loving is our purpose, regardless of who we are, where we are, or what we have.

    Thank you, dear sister, for sharing love through your words…

    1. LisaNotes Post author

      Yes, it’s always a good reminder to me when I see the “least of these” teaching me great lessons that God really works when we are weak and when we let HIM be our strength.

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  10. Karmen M.

    “And learning that loving is our purpose, regardless of who we are, where we are, or what we have. ”

    Thank you for sharing this. I am going to repost it, because that last line says it all. We ALL have something to give. May I give love generously this week and all the rest to come despite all of life’s despites.

    1. LisaNotes Post author

      Giving love generously–that is indeed the goal! It’s not always easy, but praying you’ve had a great week doing that, despite whatever distractions tried to get in the way.

  11. Nancy Sturm

    Your story about Hank is such a wonderful reminder that we are called to servanthood. Oh, that we with “large minds” could serve as well as Hank with his “small mind.” Thanks for sharing.

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