The Birthday Club
October 15, 2013
One of the things I admire most about my husband in our retired years is his commitment to "getting things done" each day. There's never a day that passes when he isn't awake and thinking of what needs to be done and what can be done. In the beginning, in that first year of marriage when you are learning to adjust we were both also learning to adjust to the realization that we were retired and no longer going to follow the schedule of get up, get coffee, get a shower, get dressed, get to work. The "gets" were no longer defining our daily lives. But with them gone, I was of the simple mind that nothing needed to replace them.
I had worked 40 years of my life and not doing anything was fine with me. That was not the case for him. He woke, had his first cup of coffee and I could see the wheels spinning. "Now let me see", he says as he thinks aloud. "What is it that I need to do today?" Many nights the day ends with a self evaluation of sorts. While he watches tv and a commercial comes on I hear him say, "Well, I got some things done today. Let's see. I replaced those light bulbs in the bathroom. I refilled the bird feeders and put corn out for the rabbits." And on he goes with his list of accomplishments. With time I have come to realize he's smart. He is a man of purpose and accomplishment in life. He measures his worth by how he continues to get things done and though light bulbs and feed seem like menial tasks, they do two things. He is focused on "home" being a place well kept and cared for because "home" is never taken for granted. And a purpose filled life is a rich life of gratitude and joy. He finds joy in doing things. I learn slowly, I admit, but I do learn. He's taught me to find joy where I am and to do things with a purpose to remain joyful.
As we age, we have to reshape our definition of important. Our neighbor was once a nuclear scientist. Another worked 30 years for Anheiser-Busch. Another built ships in Virginia and so on it goes. Now, we are past those years of being able to define ourselves by our profession where we knew what we were going to do everyday and scurrying to get them done because we are retired. But retired should be changed to another word I believe. We are re-purposed. When Bill retired the first time from the Washington, DC Police Dept, he went to work with the Marshall Service and finally as head of security for Brookgreen Gardens. He continued, with time, to re-purpose himself to meet his needs and abilities. If we wake up with a purpose and a joyous attitude about what there is to do and what we can do, not a day that God has given us is wasted. But as the years continue to pass and the challenges knock on our door, we have to hang on to that determination and desire to "get something done today."
When my mother was still living I had taken her to a doctor's appointment. While we were in the waiting room, I met this delightful lady in her mid-eighties. Mom was lamenting about days going by with nothing to do. The tiny octogenarian said, "I am a member of The Birthday Club at my church and I just love it!" Her face was filled with joy and her eyes sparkled. "Yes", she went on to explain, "five other ladies and I meet once a month at the church and we write birthday messages on cards for folks with birthdays or anniversaries that month. We get their addresses from the church secretary along with an updated list of new members. If we are having a "little trouble" the others send a package of cards and addresses to us at home and we do them there. We haven't missed anybody, yet." She hesitated, "well, no one that we know of!" She laughed out loud.
"I am part of the "News Prayer Group" too," she went on. "Every morning I listen to the news and write down people who are struggling in my community and around the world. I pray for the government and bad things that are happening." I got tired of worrying about things on the news and listening to people complain about how there's nothing on the news but bad news and decided the news was a great place for a prayer list." On the way home my mother asked me what I thought about "that crazy old lady" and I softly replied, "she was wonderful!"
Bill has taught me not to waste a single day with no purpose. Start the morning with a simple plan for what can be accomplished and at the end of the day, take a minute to evaluate what has been done. It confirms that I am still part of this world and have a purpose. God has so many opportunities for us in our communities, our church and in our home. Even when the time comes that we might be infirmed or confined to our homes, we can still have a purpose. We can still serve and do. I have learned their secret. When you do, you find joy. Without a focus on achieving simple tasks each day, there is an opportunity for self-pity and loss of self-worth. There is too much time for, as my dad would say, "one big pity party."
God challenges us to reach out, to serve, to care for others, to find a purpose and in doing so, to receive joy in serving. No matter how old or infirmed we might be, we can serve and do. Working with a purpose makes a difference in others lives but it also makes a difference in our own. So I have decided, I am no longer retired. I am re-purposed!
Dear Heavenly Father,
We live in a time when 'elders" are no longer looked to as sources of wisdom. Our society celebrates youth and does all it can to keep looking young and acting you to the point where they ignore and reject the elderly. You know differently! You know that time is a gift that allows us to transform from the foolishness of youth and to seek Your face. Guide those who face retirement or infirmities or other challenges inspire them to fill their days with service. Speak to their hearts and show them ways they can touch others lives in a positive, joy-filled way. Enlighten others to reach out to our elders with projects which give them purpose. Teach us to love and appreciate each other as we serve You.
In Jesus' Name,