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    Finding Meaning in Life

    In a quest to find out what makes life meaningful for Americans, the Pew Research Center conducted two separate surveys in 2017. The first asked people to write in their own words what makes their lives feel meaningful, and the second asked respondents to rate how much meaning and fulfillment they drew from different sources.

    After reviewing thousands of responses from a diverse range of Americans across the country, in both instances, the most popular answer was clear and consistent: Americans were most likely to mention family when asked what makes life meaningful, and they were most likely to report that they found “a great deal” of meaning in spending time with family. 

    Family was ranked first by two-thirds of respondents, career or job came in second place, followed by money. One in five cited their religious faith, friendships and hobbies, all of which came in fourth on the list.

    What’s perhaps most interesting about this survey is that it mirrors the results from a study commissioned by the YMCA of the USA, Dartmouth Medical School and the Institute for American Values in 2003. Science has consistently demonstrated that people are hardwired to connect to other people, and to moral and spiritual meaning. They don’t just want these connections; they need them. 

    The evidence is overwhelming that we are hardwired for close attachments to other people, beginning with our mothers, fathers and extended family, and then moving out to the broader community. Meeting these basic needs for connection is essential to health and to human flourishing. 

    Large and growing numbers of people in our country and around the world are suffering from a lack of meaningful connections to other human beings, especially in today’s digital age. In fact, studies show loneliness is at epidemic proportions in America. However, when people are committed to one another over time and model what it means to be a productive person in society, everyone benefits.

    During the holidays, people often evaluate what makes life meaningful for them. As you gather together throughout the holidays with friends and family, don’t underestimate the power of the connections you’re making. Despite the inconveniences that may come with planning for holiday get-togethers, the time you spend with loved ones provides a type of connectedness that is irreplaceable, and it has the potential to impact future generations.

    Click here to read the entire article, which was originally published in the Chattanooga Times Free Press on December 16, 2018.

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    Living Life With Meaning

    Joseph Hernandez and his wife of 47 years were preparing for retirement and discussing how they would celebrate their 50th wedding anniversary. At 67, Joseph was full of life and had just received a clean bill of health from his doctor.

    Joseph loved people, and he devoted his life’s work to helping others build strong families. While attending a conference this past July where he was teaching on how to help families thrive, Hernandez became ill and passed away. In the blink of an eye, an undetected aneurysm took him from his bride, his family, friends and colleagues.

    In the midst of tragedy, meaningful moments can offer powerful takeaways about living life.

    When Mrs. Hernandez realized something was wrong and called the ambulance, team members and colleagues who had become friends immediately surrounded her. Some put their dinner plans on hold when they realized what was happening. Friends rushed to the hospital, orchestrated phone calls and tried to thoughtfully anticipate potential needs.  Although they had no idea what to expect, they wanted to be there and offer support.

    Joseph left this earth doing what he loved, surrounded by the people he loved. While remembering him, many felt it was amazing that he died doing what he was most passionate about. They discussed the importance of doing what you love and making the most of every day. “Life is short,” they said. “Make what you are doing count.”

    While it is hard to believe that Joseph is gone, it reminds those left behind to focus on what really matters in life – relationships.

    At the end of the day, the relationships we cultivate make life rich. Life’s pace seems to move faster and faster. Relationships are often neglected while people pursue career aspirations, take care of children and fulfill community commitments.

    Have you told your loved ones how you feel lately or taken time to catch up with a longtime friend? Have you forgiven those who have offended you? It is easy to assume there will always be tomorrow, but there is no guarantee.

    Have you ever felt the nudge to visit a sick friend or provide child care for a busy parent? Have you thought about calling someone just to check in? If so, did you talk yourself out of it because it would throw your entire schedule out of whack? Or maybe you thought you weren’t the right person, wouldn’t know what to say or that it might have been awkward somehow. Perhaps you look back and wish you had taken the time because everything else wasn’t that important. You might even understand that whether you had the words or not, your presence would have been comforting.

    During the ordeal and its aftermath, Mrs. Hernandez said it meant a lot that people came to be with her, knowing they had stepped away from important work.

    Simply being willing to show up says you care. Life is short, so make your moments count.