Finding Purpose

Lucy Holsten poses for a photo at Parengo Coffee, where she works in Sikeston, Mo., on July 30, 2021. Holsten works at the coffee shop for two hours each day.
Sarah Yenesel ~ Southeast Missourian

For Lucy Holsten of Sikeston, Mo., dealing with the changes that come in life such as her children growing up and moving away, her spouse dying, her circle of friends getting smaller and moving from her life-long home to a place with less upkeep left her with a void, often feeling lonely and without direction. Holsten knew she needed something to do. With the encouragement from her daughter, she accepted a part-time position at a local coffee shop.

Lucy Holsten pours hot water over coffee grounds at her job at Parengo Coffee in Sikeston, Mo. Although she's not a coffee drinker, Holsten says she enjoys learning how to create the coffee drinks featured on the menu.

“I noticed a pattern of not just boredom, but feeling like she didn’t have purpose,” Dana Self, Holsten’s daughter, says. “My kids are older, so there aren’t as many activities or sporting events to attend. The coffee shop seemed like a perfect fit.”

Holsten works at Parengo Coffee in Sikeston for two hours each day Monday through Friday. She says it gives her something to look forward to and a reason to get out of the house every day. She loves to clean and be around people. And while she’s not a coffee drinker, she enjoys learning how to create the items on the menu, like frappes and smoothies. Though she’s only worked there for a month, having a place to be with people who are counting on her has made all the difference in the world.

“I’ve had pity parties,” Holsten says. “Don’t get me wrong. But there’s always something you can do. You might not like it at first, but try it. If [the coffee shop] plays out, I wanna do something else.”

Getting a part-time job isn't the only way to find renewed purpose, however. Camille Lancaster, a speech and language pathologist from Sikeston, worked in several long-term care facilities between Jackson and Kennett, Mo., for close to 10 years. During her time of employment, she often noticed her patients losing their zest for life, their passion and purpose dwindling. Around this same time, Lancaster’s grandparents were also adjusting to life in a nursing home, often feeling lost and misplaced. Hearing them say, “I don’t know what I’m supposed to do,” encouraged Lancaster to think outside of the box, offering a solution for the older people in her life that would give them a mission and purpose.

Using her faith to guide her, Lancaster reminded her patients that even though their situations, homes and health had changed, they still had a job to do.

“I want you to pray for me and for every nurse and therapist,” Lancaster would say. “Can you do that? Then that’s your job.”

Intercessory prayer is extremely important to those who believe, Lancaster says, and she says her patients would often get a twinkle in their eye because they knew they could do it. All they needed was a little reminder, some encouragement and a bit of motivation to keep moving forward. If a patient’s health declined and memory loss settled in, sometimes prayer was no longer an option. But Lancaster knew information was still bubbling up inside. Using familiar hymns like “Amazing Grace” or well-known verses from Scripture like John 3:16 or the Lord’s Prayer, Lancaster helped their families find a new way to connect with them.

“It’s important to remember that people in the elderly generation were raised really tough,” Lancaster says. “They didn’t talk about depression and anxiety. And many don’t have the tools or language to talk about those things, even if they are feeling that way.”

Continuing to find ways to maintain a routine and a schedule offers purpose to daily living. Without it, days can run into nights, and suddenly people stop participating in activities that feed their soul. Basic hygiene goes out the window, meals start getting skipped and boredom settles in. But it doesn’t have to.

No matter your circumstances, you still have a circle of influence. Building relationships with people is still what matters most. We all have a story to share and wisdom to be learned from each other.

According to Brett Cheek, spiritual formation and teaching pastor at La Croix United Methodist Church in Cape Girardeau, part of finding purpose is “Knowing we were created to be a gift to others. We aren’t just in the world to receive from it. We have things to give,” he says.

And that statement remains true no matter how old you are. There is still work to be done.

Finding your purpose during retirement and for seniors who are homebound or in a nursing facility doesn’t have to be elusive. Start where you are. Use the gifts you have. Fix a meal for a neighbor. Bake a pie. Say a prayer. Get involved with a church. Try a new hobby. Take care of yourself. And share your wisdom with the world.