Intentional living

There is a line in the movie “Apollo 13,” when Tom Hanks, as astronaut Jim Lovell, asks his crew, “Gentlemen, what are your intentions?” The question comes just after their spacecraft is crippled, no moon landing is possible, and that they will be lucky if they can make it home.

That has always been one of my favorite movie lines because of its depth of meaning. Hanks’s character is really asking, “Do you intend to survive this?” More importantly, he’s saying, “I want to survive, and I’m ready to do what it’s going to take to get us home safely — are you?” I don’t know if it’s something Lovell really said during that fateful flight, but it certainly seems a likely inquiry on his part. What are your intentions?

Intent is an important part of day-to-day living. People often speak of a life with purpose, but rarely about the intent even though it carries great weight in our society. In the legal world, it refers to the mental objective of our actions, one for which we can ultimately be held responsible.

I recently met a young woman named Kimberly Brown who started an online clothing business during the pandemic which she refers to as, “fashion with a purpose.” As an African American woman concerned with social struggles of the day, she wanted to offer those who shared that anxiety a unique way to express it. Under the brand she created, “I Am Inspirational,” each item offers a message that is, as her website explains, “deeply rooted in social impact, empowerment, and inspiration.”

As she told me about the motivation behind this work, her passion and energy were inspirational, and no passing fad. She intends to be successful, which is a challenge. She already has a lot on her plate. Kimberly is a caregiver to her ailing mother, holds down a full-time job, and operates a second side business as well.

It was clear that intent was at the very essence of her nature. To have such a clear presence of mind and understanding of purpose are rare qualities. But isn’t it possible that each of us has the capacity for such intentional living?

There isn’t a day that goes by where I don’t look in the mirror and think, “what am I doing with my life and who am I helping?” Life shouldn’t be about mere survival, but neither must it have to be altruistic all the time either.

Personally, I believe intent requires conscious effort. According to the dictionary, the word means to be resolved or determined to do something. But I don’t think it’s that simple. Intention needs direction, purpose, and, above all, a plan.

To live intentionally I think you must first know where you’re coming from. What brought you to this point? Then you can identify your intentions and plan to carry them out.

If we go back to the “Apollo 13” quote, it’s clear that the character of Lovell was asking about the crew’s willingness to do what had to be done. But he was also making sure they understood their place in the plan that would ultimately save their lives.

Nobody can tell you how to live intentionally. I believe that comes from within. It may spring from faith, morality, a sense of social justice, or whatever drives you. Everyone’s motivation will be different.

Needless to say, there is no amount of intent that will solve the world’s problems. But if your personal intention can be found and applied, you might change some things in your little corner of it.

I will leave you to contemplate this story of Kimberly’s determination to make a statement in the world, while giving others the opportunity to do the same with their own style and heart. Like her, we all face the day-to-day challenges of life, some good, others not so much. Sometimes simultaneously. Our intentions spring from how we deal with all those situations, our place in society, how we affect others, and they us.

Like the crew of Apollo 13, sometimes we have to take a moment and ask the question before we can move forward. My question to you is, what are your intentions?

Gery Deer is a Greene County resident and columnist. He can be reached at