Finding Purpose in Life

Josie Fast, Author
Past program Director, EIS

July 24, 2018

Read Time: 5 minutes

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“What is my purpose in life? Where am I headed?” Marcel needed to understand this for himself. Life had many twists and turns over the years, ups and downs were something Marcel could count on but still these questions haunted his mind.

At the age of 20 Marcel found himself a very wealthy man because of an inheritance that had come to him and his wife. They lived the life many would expect when someone suddenly becomes wealthy. Young and free, Marcel and his wife decided to move to London, England to try life there. After five successful years in London with a brief intermission back in Brazil Marcel decided to move his family back to his homeland and enjoy the life they had left.

They arrived in Brazil, chose one of their three apartments to live in and one to sell so that they could fund their next adventure – owning a franchised ice cream store. After 3 years of legal fees, business regulations and draining a large part of their resources for living expenses, owning the franchise did not work out. Their credit card became a monster card. Debt overwhelmed them. The lifestyle that they had become so accustomed to had to change.

As a last-ditch effort Marcel, through talking with a friend, decided to head to India. The intent was to start a clothing store with Indian clothing which was a very popular product in Brazil. After racking up his credit cards and adding another loan to his debt load Marcel purchased a ticket to India, boarded a plane and headed towards a life changing experience he had no idea was in his future.

Marcel’s friend had been actively working in India to help children get the education they needed to be successful in life. As he stood in a small school in rural India, Marcel could see something meaningful. His friend lived purposefully. Helping people find their place in community appealed to Marcel. He stood there taking in all that was around him aware of the effect it was having on him.

Something changed that moment, perhaps it was the way Marcel viewed the world or maybe it was the way Marcel viewed himself in the world. Nevertheless, Marcel knew what his purpose was – to help people from different nations find their place in community.

When Marcel arrived home from his trip he and his wife discussed the possibility of moving to another country to work with international people. They decided that this would be the future for them and their children. What better purpose than to help people find a new life in a new country. They had experienced this themselves and knew some of the challenges that would be faced. Canada, open to immigration and a nation of immigrants itself, seemed like the perfect place to pursue this dream.

The plan was put into motion. Both Marcel and his wife would pursue a nursing degree because nurses are what Canada needed. During his time in school, Marcel also took on a position in a local NGO in the city they were living in Brazil. It was not long before Marcel became the director of the project which helped children in difficult situations find meaning in life. The project was very successful and gained notoriety among influential people in the country.

And then, in a single day, all the dreams and hopes were gone.

The diagnosis came swiftly. Marcel needed to act fast. If he didn’t, he could lose his life. The day after the cancer diagnosis Marcel stepped down from his position as director of the organization that he had grown so successfully. For the next two weeks he went from doctor to appointment to test to find some answer that would save his life. At the end of those two weeks he had surgery to remove the mass and was submerged in an array of treatments. These treatments lasted months and were both physically and emotionally draining on Marcel and his family.

Marcel wondered about his dream of working with international people in Canada. With health concerns such as his, Marcel knew that Canada would never allow him into the country. Would he have to give up his dream? Would he have to let this new found purpose go? This also pressed on his mind as he struggled to find meaning in all that was happening to him.

After nearly two years of uncertainty Marcel was cleared of cancer. The purpose that he had found in India was still with him. Now, he waited anxiously to hear if Canada would accept the application that he had put in years earlier. Doctor reports about his health were sent from Brazil to Ottawa to help with the final decision.

A letter from the Canadian government finally arrived. He wondered what the decision would be. He felt his chances of going to Canada were small. He held his breath as he opened the letter. The medical report had been approved. Relief flooded over Marcel. The letter confirmed that he could live and work in Canada temporarily. Marcel was excited about what was waiting for him and his family as they prepared to pack and move on to another adventure in a far off country.

Three years after the cancer diagnosis and the uncertainty of not knowing what would become of life, Marcel is sitting in a coffee shop in a community in rural Manitoba telling about his experience of finding purpose in life. Not long after arriving he landed a job in the field that he had so hoped to work in – as a settlement worker doing exactly what he had purposed to do in that life changing trip to India – helping people from around the world find a new life in a new country.

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