Spiritual vision and the Meaning of Life: A Reflection

Paul T. P. Wong, Ph.D., C.Psych.
Coquitlam, B.C., Canada

The Salvation Army is one of the most visible and successful community service organizations in the world, equal if not superior to the Red Cross in terms of prestige and recognition.

What makes Salvation Army such a great and enduring organization? One of the secrets of their success is their spiritual vision - They firmly believe it is not enough to "take people out of the slums," but we must also "take the slums out of people," as their founder General William Booth used to say.

Their passion to serve the hurting people and introduce them to the bounty of spiritual transformation has been the driving force behind the continued growth of the Salvation Army. The officers, staff and volunteers of the Salvation Army have learned that it is only through serving others' physical and spiritual needs without any selfish agenda that they can truly find meaning and fulfillment in life.

This morning I had a very enjoyable visit with Major George Evans, Director of The Salvation Army's Vancouver Community & Family Services. Before I left, he loaned me a book entitled "The Most Effective Organization in the U.S." - Leadership Secrets of the Salvation Army by Robert A. Watson and Ben Brown.

As I opened the first chapter tonight, the first sentence really caught my attention: "We want this to be one of the most important books you'll ever read. It is about the meaning of life."

Wow! The Salvation Army is about the meaning of life! I just spent the lunch hour this morning trying to explain to Major Evans my meaning-centered approach to counseling and social services. Maybe that's why he wanted me to read this book.

A couple of paragraphs down on the same page, the authors explain more fully the importance of meeting people's spiritual needs for a transcendental purpose:

"What are those needs? We believe the most important one is for connection with a purpose that's bigger than one person's - or one organization's - material ambitions. It's the need for a set of guiding principles, an anchor when everything is in flux. It's the only way the world makes sense. People cannot be truly happy or productive over the long haul without acknowledging an overarching purpose for their existence and without harmonizing their lives' efforts toward realizing it."

Very well said! It sounds very much like a good summary of what Viktor Frankl's logotherapy and my meaning-centered counseling attempt to accomplish. No wonder I feel a kindred spirit with their philosophy of community services.

In the final analysis, many people would endorse the importance of serving God and serving others, but very few people actually make it their life-long calling and chosen lifestyle as the Salvation Army. This is the key to their boundless spiritual energy.