I've never volunteered at a soup kitchen, though I've wanted to. Not that soup kitchens hold the key to the world, but there in the outstretched hands, grateful mouths, pots-a-stirring for all the right reasons, we find something obvious: a purpose for being. I am here because I am helping. I am here because I am needed. I am here because I am good at this something I've been tasked to do. Maybe my heart returns to the practicality of soup in an effort to quantify my existence: if I did that, helped like that, served like that, I could tell myself the reasons. I could tell myself the results.
For many of us, and certainly for me, meaning is more elusive than that. Why do I work in this office, why do I commute, why do I file these papers, plan these events, sign these documents? "For the paycheque," comes my immediate response. This answer leaves me feeling cheated, though I need the paycheque. "Because you like the job," comes the secondary reply. This feels insufficient, though I like my job.
Perhaps the meaning in my work comes not from the work itself, but how I handle myself while learning it. Maybe I am here to be gracious, hard working, and patient. Maybe I am here to learn how to stay, or steady the boat, or set up boundaries against those who'll never like me. Maybe I'm here to let those boundaries come crashing down.
Whatever the reason, I am here. It is the right place because I am in it, can choose how to be in the midst of it, can learn to love when the unforgiving gossip hits. I can learn to be better than I am, here. My soup may not be served in bowls, but in pleasant conversations, absolute bends toward restoration, and hope. I can find my reason there, in that last sentence.