I’d like to start the week with a bit of “odd” story about me, my bike, and a squirrel. Yes, a squirrel. I promise I will connect this back to living with authentic purpose. I remember it was a busy work day this fall, and I needed to head home to grab some lunch before attending back-to-back meetings in the afternoon. It was a gorgeous day, temperatures in the 60’s; perfect for biking to work.
I started biking my usual route home, and was mentally preoccupied by calculating the precise timing of everything I had to do in the near future (get home, let the dog out, make my sandwich, unlock my bike, get back on my bike, head back to my office, eat my peanut butter and jelly sandwich) and if I would be able to make it back in time for my next meeting. My calculations didn’t quite add up to what I had hoped so I started biking faster, completely focused on myself.
Meanwhile, the universe was up to something.
As I passed a cross-street I noticed a moving, gray object in the road. As I came to the stop sign, I looked down and I noticed it was a squirrel that had clearly been hit by a car. The squirrel was bleeding, and struggling to get to it’s feet.
My immediate reaction was to look away, keep going, make sure I could meet my time calculations to get to my meeting, eat my lunch, and continue with my day. I decided to ride past, but I didn’t get far before I felt and heard that little voice that we all have inside of us, and we all try to silence in the spirit of practicality.
I stopped at the next stop sign and looked back. Internally, I had a feeling, a tug, that would not let me continue on my way. I could not stop thinking about that injured squirrel on the road. I literally, physically, tried to continue on but something inside me was pulling at me to go back. Something that was stronger than my desire to continue on with my planned day. To be honest, I don’t know where this feeling came from, I mean in all honestly I am not particularly passionate about squirrels.
But I am passionate about making life better for others, even if that “other” in this case happened to be a squirrel, and that was enough to pull myself away from my tight grip on my self-centered motives for the rest of my free half-hour.
The night before this incident, I had given a talk on authentic purpose to a group of college students, and I could hear my own words echoing within me, “How often do we say ‘no’ to that inner feeling, how often do we ignore that internal energy and drive and make excuses?”
So, I forgot my plans and went back to the squirrel. Now, what to do? Well, the first thing was to call the local humane society. Check.
Now, since they would be, you guessed it, 30 minutes, I had to stand in the middle of the road and make sure that this squirrel did not get hit a second time.
Think about this image: A guy on a bike that is already too small for him, in the middle of a busy road, guarding a squirrel from other motorists. And the strange looks started coming. Someone even asked me if I was “okay.”
And no, he was not asking about my physical well-being.
This all got me thinking. So often, when we follow our true authentic purpose and inner calling… we look… well… strange. Others can’t understand. Not our parents, not our coworkers, not society, because this purpose, it is ours, that only WE feel.
I truly believe that this inner calling is the one element that makes us independent and different. When we exercise this difference, we look, well… different. And that is what authenticity is about.
Needless to say, the humane society arrived to my makeshift accident scene and took the squirrel. When I asked the handler what would happen, he told me, “We’ll do everything we can to save this little guy, and if we can’t we’ll make sure he won’t suffer.” I smiled to myself. Not because I “did a good deed” and it made me feel nice, but because of the internal peace I felt from listening to that inner voice telling me to “turn around.”
I have to say I feel good that my inner calling led me to making part of or the end of a squirrel’s life, well, better. I had true purpose in that moment, because I listened to myself. Something that my peanut butter and jelly sandwich and urgent 1 p.m. meeting could have never evoked.
So, this brings me to the lesson I learned: listen. Listen to yourself. Listen to your inner voice. Listen to that feeling, that energy that makes you think twice, that voice that motivates action, that space between inaction and action.
Somewhere in there you will find your true purpose in that moment, and it just might lead you to feeling peace; the peace that comes when we listen to ourselves, no matter how squirrely it may look (I am sorry, I had to).