Vietnam is on holiday now, and the last week at Blue Dragon Children’s Foundation before the Tet (Lunar New Year) break was a difficult one for staff and kids alike.
The sudden death of one of our boys, Tu, shocked us all and we are still grieving the loss of someone we cared for so deeply. At Blue Dragon, we don’t have ‘beneficiaries’ or ‘clients’; we have family, and Tu was a much-loved brother.
His loss and the experience of coming together to say goodbye brings in to focus the important things in life: the stuff that matters.
In the end, whatever we can accumulate makes no difference. How well known we are, or how popular we become, means nothing.
The search for meaning has long occupied philosophers and theologians, and in more recent years I see it also becoming a concern of a wider spectrum of society. Aaron Hurst’s The Purpose Economy argues that our world is starting to move on from being an ‘information economy’ to one in which our primary motivator in all we do is achieving our life’s purpose. Simon Sinek’s TED talk on putting purpose – the ‘why’ of your life – at the heart of everything you do has been seen more than 30,000,000 times online. The very idea of having a purposeful life is becoming mainstream.
My work at Blue Dragon puts me in the incredibly fortunate position of waking every day with a purpose, and knowing that what I do really counts. For all of the challenges, losses and setbacks, I can’t believe how privileged I am to be doing what I believe in.
Last year we set about looking at Blue Dragon’s mission statement and considering whether it needed to be updated. For many years our statement has been about ‘providing tools and opportunities’ to escape poverty; we concluded that while it represented some of what we do, it certainly didn’t get to the heart of why we exist.
Here’s what we came up with:
Blue Dragon’s purpose is to
provide exceptional care to Vietnamese children and families in crisis
while creating long-term change for a better world.
Written as a ‘purpose statement’ rather than as a mission statement, we’ve put into writing that we are here to care. For every homeless child we meet, or trafficked person we are called to rescue, our purpose is to show ‘exceptional care’.
In practice, that means something different for every person we meet. For one it may mean no more than a warm smile or a shared meal. For another, it may mean an elaborate rescue plan followed by legal representation and a new home in a Blue Dragon shelter. The how will always be different; the why stays the same.
Each of us can find a purpose that drives us; something bigger than ourselves we are passionate about. Events in the US over the past 2 weekends have led to floods of people protesting – out on the streets and in airports, as well as online. These are all people identifying with a cause that aligns with their own purpose and values: justice, equality, freedom, fairness.
A single tweet that’s being shared around the internet sums up the call to purpose with succinct precision:
There are times and occasions that call for protest, and there are times that call for the simpler, quieter, touch of human care. Looking back, I’m glad that Tu came into our lives so that, even in 9 short months, he could know what it was to be cared for as part of a family.