My post on retirement brought a myriad of rebukes. Some about the disappearance of “retirement” for Baby Boomers, others about my inability to say no. Rereading parts of it, I realize I sounded petulant and put-upon about being asked to help out with projects. I didn’t mean to sound that way at all. The vast amount of available “opportunities” just becomes a trifle overwhelming at times. But would I stop helping out? Not on your life!
For the past twenty years I have tried to live up to our University motto “The Measure of a Life is its Service.” With the help of (and funds from) wonderful mentors and supporters like retired Provost and VP David Payne, or Dean John De Castro, or my most beloved boss and History Department Chair Jim Olson, I was able to provide “opportunities” for my students to become involved in dozens of projects in support of our university and our community. In my retirement, how could I do any less?
This weekend, the majority of the churches in Huntsville came together to create a “Journey Through Bethlehem.” Ours is a small community and none of us could have put on this production alone. We needed trucks and trailers to move the flats that formed the walls of the town that we set up in the dust of our County Fair Grounds. Volunteers lined up racks of costumes for anyone who wanted to participate. Others brought food and drink for those who took the parts of soldiers, shepherds, townsfolk, and, of course, a rotating set of parents who supplied a baby Jesus and angel on high every half hour.
Each church had its own shop or activity to help visitors learn what Bethlehem might have looked like. Fruit, spice and vegetable vendors, clay pots or basket making, brick-making or wood carvers, blacksmiths and bread-makers. A wedding festivity with dancing and a synagogue with stories by the rabbi. Just to add to the din: two grunting camels, four baying goats, and a pony. No donkeys this year.
It takes hours of effort by volunteers from not just the churches but the community as well. We get about 1,500 visitors. Not many by Houston standards, I’m sure. But is it worth it for just two nights? You bet.
As my sister reminded me, to be able to help and serve others, whether in our community, church, school, or state, can be both fun and fulfilling. To share time with others in selfless pursuit of a goal brings its own rewards—happiness, satisfaction, enjoyment, peace, pleasure, and getting to spend time with friends and make new ones.
I have frequently been berated by friends, colleagues and acquaintances for not saying ‘NO’ more often. But if I say ‘No’ what opportunities will I miss? How will I know what I didn’t learn or didn’t explore or didn’t get to enjoy? What new friends could I have made and didn’t? By saying No, what new experiences did I forego that might have benefited me or helped others?
I’ll be the first to admit that I like the adrenalin rush of back-to-back
meetings or the excitement of solving problems and finding solutions, often under pressure. It is exhilarating to take on challenging projects that take effort; to overcome difficulties, big and small, against great, or even not so great, odds. Life should be about facing and conquering problems, not about insulating ourselves and refusing to engage in the battle. What makes a life worth living?
I think it is just saying ‘Yes.’