A Higher Purpose
Laura Van Zeyl

I recently had a conversation with a retailer where she was lamenting that she didn’t feel like she had a “purpose.” To put our dialogue in context, we were attending an event where cancer researchers were talking about breakthroughs they were making on the long road to finding cures. In that crowd, I didn’t feel like I had a brain, let alone a purpose.

Even outside of such intimidating company, it’s easy to succumb to the mindset that what we do doesn’t “matter” as much as other callings — perhaps professions that make life-or-death decisions on a daily basis. Some days, maybe it doesn’t even feel like a calling. We just sell stuff. Really pretty stuff, but ... stuff.

What we do may not be “life or death,” but it is very much about “living” and quality of life. As I proudly said to that retailer in response to her concern: We create inspiring spaces to enhance people’s lives. Don’t you feel nobler already?

Our business transcends the purely decorative to perform a very important function as well. Proper lighting has an effect no less profound than how we literally see the world. Evolving technologies and unfamiliar terminologies only make our role more critical in the selection process as consumers seek to illuminate and beautify their homes.

Without even knowing it, we may very well be behind the more significant contributions to society that we so admire, whether it’s a genius toiling late at night by the light of his trusty task lamp or simply by enabling the residential relaxation that’s needed for optimum performance the next day on the job — whatever that role may be or influence.

To put some additional context around the initial discussion I had about purpose: The event we were attending was for the H Foundation, which was co-founded by Hortons Home Lighting, a retailer in LaGrange, IL, after the store lost two employees to cancer 12 years ago. Hortons started the H Foundation to fund basic science cancer research with an ambitious goal — a “purpose” in the truest sense — to find a cure for the disease. The primary fundraising vehicle for the organization is the annual Goombay Bash, a casual Caribbean-themed antithesis to the typical black tie gala. To date, with generous support from both the lighting industry and the local community, the H Foundation has raised an impressive $4.5 million for the Robert H. Lurie Comprehensive Cancer Center of Northwestern University. These donations have also provided seed money resulting in an additional $35 million in grants.

As 2013's Goombay Bash nears on Aug. 3, I am humbled by what can be accomplished by our industry. And encouraged that our collective “purpose” touches many lives in many forms every day.

About this author

Laura Van Zeyl

Laura Van Zeyl is the Publisher/Editorial Director of Residential Lighting and Home Fashion Forecast magazines, and has been covering the lighting and home furnishings industries since 1993. In 2014, she was named one of "100 Women of Inspiration" by Today's Chicago Woman magazine.

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