How to Practice Your Purpose

What Happened to Hank?

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 treated him with care.

I finally got it, too: 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.

But this time he didn’t make it across the street.

Hank was hit by a van. He fell to the ground.

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

Something very eerie . . .

Put Him in the Van

The neighbors knew Hank because Hank 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 this hit-and-run, Hank was the one needing love.

The intoxicated driver and the passenger stepped out of the van. They saw Hank motionless on the pavement.

They then 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 into their van.

Watchful Eyes

But what the driver and passenger couldn’t have imagined was this: many eyes were watching from the windows of Hank’s apartment complex. They wouldn’t allow this to happen to their Hank. Their fingers quickly dialed 911 and the police arrived before the van got away.

Things still 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 visited. Friends prayed.

Little by little, Hank got better. And lot by lot, Hank received love.

A few months later, on a Wednesday night before food distribution was to begin at Manna House, Fran prayed about Hank. As she was thanking God for his recovery, I heard shuffling feet around the corner.

There came Hank.

Still Has Purpose

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

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

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

Practice Your Purpose

A few years later during the pandemic, Hank’s health deteriorated. He eventually had to leave his beloved apartment and friends, and move into a nursing home.

It was there one afternoon that a friend was visiting with Hank. After they talked a bit, Hank said his goodbyes. His soul left his body.

But his spirit lives on. He is still remembered at Manna House and at his apartment complex by those who loved him and by those he loved.

Living with purpose is being like Hank. It is loving with purpose.  

Loving is our purpose, regardless of who we are, where we are, or what we have.

And as long as we’re here, we’re not done either.

* * *

Loving others is one way to practice living with purpose. Share in the comments how you live with purpose.

Read more spiritual practices here:

revised from the archives

63 thoughts on “How to Practice Your 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.

  7. 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.

  8. 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.

  9. 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.

  10. Lynn

    What a wonderful true story. It also shows people’s hearts. We really are here to serve one another exactly how God made us–each of us unique just as God planned.

  11. Lynn D. Morrissey

    What a beautiful reminder. I’m so glad you got to know Hank and be blessed by him. Every person is sacred, so each has a sacred purpose.

    What was not living their purpose were those people who committed a grave sacrilege, dishonoring and jeopardizing this sacred man. Hank is with the Lord, and may many like you continue his purpose as you fulfill your own. thank you for this beautiful sharing, Lisa.

    1. LisaNotes Post author

      I’ll be honest that it took me a bit to appreciate Hank’s style. 🙂 But learning what he did for his neighbors was very touching and totally changed my view of him. It’s amazing how knowing more can help us love more. (Well, not in every case, but in most).

  12. Bev Rihtarchik

    Beautiful and poignant story to remind and convict us(me) of the fact that loving is our purpose. Oh how quickly we(I) tend to forget this truth. This line, at the end, really jumped out at me: “And as long as we’re here, we’re not done either.”
    Thanks for a post I needed to read,
    Bev xx

  13. Richella J Parham

    Wow, Lisa. What a touching story, and what a good example for us! Thank you for honoring Hank’s life by sharing his story here.

    And thanks so much for joining the Grace at Home party at Imparting Grace. I’m featuring you this week!

    1. LisaNotes Post author

      Thanks for the feature, Richella. So glad to hear that your husband is improving! Such an ordeal you all have been through. Praying that he continues on the recovery path full-force.

  14. Cheryl

    What a sweet story, Lisa! Wow! Bless his heart. He will never know how many lives he touched. I enjoyed visiting you tonight. It has been a while, and I saw your feature on Richella’s link-up and had to stop by. I hope all is well with you!

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