I’m sitting at a table at one of my favorite Italian restaurants. Mary’s my waitress. At the end of the meal she brings me the check and we engage in some small talk about her major and what she wants to do after college. I sense the lack of enthusiasm in both her voice and in her course of study and, as I’ve been known to do, I hit her with one of my favorite questions:

So what are you passionate about?

Af first she seems kind of stunned, not expecting such a penetrating question from a customer she’s never met. After a moment she tells me that she loves horses and physical therapy. I tell her about equine therapy programs and suggest that she look into them as a way of doing work that she would love.

Mary’s mood lightens significantly as we talk more about doing what she loves instead of what is expected of her, and then she says something very sad. She tells me that she often studies with her friends until 1 or 2 in the morning, and then they all sit around and talk about what they would really like to do with their lives. We talk for a couple of minutes more and, as I get ready to leave, she thanks me for talking with her and says she’s feeling inspired.

My question is this: Where does Mary go from here? If she doesn’t act on the inner voice that is nudging her in the direction of her dreams, what’s the result of our conversation?

Me holding a box of leftover pizza
Mary pulling an all-nighter with her friends after work and then talking about what she wishes she could do, while the dream of a life built around passion and purpose is delayed until it disappears

It doesn’t have to be that way. You, me and every Mary has a purpose for being here! We have talents and gifts that we’re not using. And we have an inner voice that is calling us to move in the direction of our dreams. Whether we’re 19, 99 or any age in between, we can get from where we are to where we want to be, regardless of what has happened in the past. Sure, it will take courage. And a shift from fear to faith. But we can do it!

So let me ask you this:

What are you passionate about?