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Have you ever thought “What is my purpose?” During your regular, everyday routine, have you asked yourself, “What is my passion?”

I say these two things to point out it is not always clear to us what our purpose and passion is in life, but when we find them, life is so much more fulfilling.

Ever since I was a little girl, I have felt compassion toward people who had a handicap or a learning disability. Other people were not so quick to be around them or be a friend to them. When I was around them, I felt comfortable and natural. I did not see a difference.

At the time, I did not understand why. But as I grew up and became an adult, I realized that I needed to be on a path toward working in the human service field. Life sometimes deals you unexpected circumstances, changes or expectations you have set for yourself taking a complete opposite turn. I am grateful that the turn that has taken place in my life has been a learning experience.

I have worked with people who have special needs for more than five years. In my earlier years, I worked primarily with preschoolers diagnosed with autism. This was challenging for me because I have an outgoing personality and the children I was working with did not want anyone in their space, did not want to look at anyone or interact with anyone. It took months for me to build a relationship with one particular girl in the class. Eventually, she began to interact with me and smile at me. Then one day, she gave me a hug. She let me in. When that happened, I said to myself, “I am learning so much more from them than they are learning from me.” My position at that job working with those children forced me to look at myself and perceive things in a different light, not my way but their way.

The experience and introduction to working with children who have autism clarified my passion and my purpose in life. Later in my career, I worked with children who were more emotionally disturbed with underlying behaviors. It was interesting to me because I wondered why or what triggered those behaviors. It took a lot of critical thinking skills and implementing behavior modification plans with a team to begin to understand.

Then I moved forward to expand my knowledge and interest to working with adults. I now work at Heritage Center at 101 Oak St. in Buffalo. My purpose has increased and every individual there holds a special place in my life. The passion I have for them inspires me to want more for them and to think less about myself, because I know they have challenges far beyond my own.

When you have the opportunity to get to know people like the men and women at Heritage Center, a part of your life is changed and what you thought was so bad in yours is nothing compared to their day-to-day challenges.

If you find anything close to this in life or recognize what your purpose and passion is in life, embrace it. If you do not know yet, never stop searching.

We all have a purpose and a passion in life. As for myself I sit back and recognize all my dreams, and the prosperity present and to come is directly aligned with me knowing what mine are.