The Meaning in Our Lives

I have the pleasure of teaching Life Span Development at local university. As part of this class, I instruct students to interview someone over 65 years of age. They ask the senior at least 11 questions. I want to tell you about two of the questions:

  1. What has been your greatest accomplishment thus far?
  2. As you look over your life, what is most gratifying? What has been the meaning in your life?

Family having a big dinner at homeAfter reading between 25 and 50 of these interviews every fall and spring semester for the last 15 years or so, I have noticed a pattern. At least 98% of the seniors who respond to these interviews gave an answer related to family for at least one, if not both, of these two questions.  When all was said and done, “family” had given these respondents their greatest sense of accomplishment, gratification, and meaning. Sometimes I am absolutely amazed at the adventures and accomplishments of the seniors interviewed. They had fought for their country in World War II, endured torture at the hand of dictators, become the first wave of female news anchors, made great strides in careers, invented things, created works of art, and participated in some of the most fascinating life experiences you can imagine. Many times their personal accomplishments and sacrifices brought tears to my eyes. Yet, when they think about the meaning in their life, their greatest accomplishment, or what brings them the greatest gratification, they speak of family. Family was a greater accomplishment than any extraordinary personal accomplishment. Family provided greater meaning to their lives than fighting for their country or immigrating from an oppressive country to the United States. Family brought them the greatest sense of gratitude. In family they could see their greatest achievement and their most personally significant legacy.


Every semester, reading these interviews reminds me of the importance of family. They remind me to reassess my life and my priorities. I hope my sharing this will encourage you to do the same. Creating a marriage that brings joy to our spouse, our children and our overall family will rank as our greatest accomplishment. Raising children of integrity who pass integrity on to our grandchildren will remain one of our most gratifying experiences. When all is said and done, family brings the greatest meaning to our lives. If you doubt the truth of this statement, ask several hundred people in late adulthood. For you and me, that sense of meaning and accomplishment is being achieved right now as we love our spouse and raise our children. Don’t let this family time pass you by. Make it your greatest accomplishment in life.


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