January 5, 2018

Retirement and Humanity


Maybe it is because Christmas with its serious doses of family love and good cheer is still fresh in my mind. Maybe because it is I am so tired of reading and hearing about all the division, hate, partisanship, and violence that we accept as part of daily life. Maybe it is a dawning revelation that, as a group, retirees, could be a powerful force for so much good and change in our fractured world.

Whatever the genesis, I wanted to step off the normal topic list of this blog just for today to try to make a point and stimulate a meaningful discussion. Those of us on the other side of the working world divide are well aware of the need for prudent financial planning and control. All of us are quite aware that our health, or lack thereof, will play a large part in how satisfying our retirement will be. Those in any type of serious relationship understand that love between two people is the foundation of everything. That includes single folks: relatives, friends, even caring neighbors can fill that role. Bottom line: we are not built to be alone all the time.

I am a Christian. That said, there has been a lot done in the name of my religion that disturbs me, causes me to wonder if some people who wear the same label have actually read the Bible. The acceptance of the central message of my belief is not that hard to understand, but difficult to live day after day.

I will assume that some of those who follow a different faith, be it Jewish, Islam, Buddhism, Hinduism, whatever, have some of the same feelings: that the core of their belief system has been hijacked, politicized, or in some way perverted from how it began. I guess an atheist would also struggle with core beliefs and how the world is functioning, even without belief in a god.

This is not a post about religion, or its power to do good and evil. But, I had to set the stage for what my main point is: the time of life we are so privileged to enjoy should come with a moral or ethical obligation to make the lives of those not so lucky just a little bit better.

As I look at my 2018 budget and worry whether the money set aside for vacations, or Netflix, or dinners out will be enough, I ask myself about my priorities. If I believe what I profess to believe then I have three simple marching orders:

1) Feed the hungry
2) Protect the weak
3) Welcome the stranger

There is nothing in there about vacations, re-doing the bathroom, buying a new car, or even refreshing my wardrobe for spring. Nothing. They don't make the list. Yet, I live as if they were actually somewhere in the top 10.

I am asking you to consider a simple question: as a retiree should we have an outsized sense of responsibility for engaging in the world's problems? Should we be using our gifts of time and freedom to do more than just make our own lives satisfying? 

Is retirement a time when our humanity can really exert itself? Is it the phase of life to get back to work - living like our bounty is meant to be shared to ease another's burdens?

Honesty alert: My answer is yes, but I am not putting that into practice. Shouldn't part of my retirement be a more active living of my faith?


I apologize if you came to Satisfying Retirement for the first time today, and wonder whether you have been taken to the wrong site. NO, you are where you want to be. The next post will be about one of the subjects that form the basis of a retirement blog: relationships, health, finances, whether to move, how to use your time, and so on.

Every once in a while, though, I must address my inner demons and express a strong feeling.

Thank you for reading.






41 comments:

  1. Bravo, that was a lovely post. Totally agree about people having hijacked the Christian identity for their own selfish purposes that are so inconsistent with the faith's basic tenets.And bravo to you for resolving to live more consistently with what the Bible tells us to do. Our own selfish natures work against what we are meant to do and be, but it can be done; we can witness many self-sacrificing Christians who are great models for the rest of us. One step/one decision at a time is the way to go...

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    1. Besides raising this issue to be smack in front of me on a daily basis, my wife and I have reworked our budget for this year to increase the cash available for helping others. I think of these steps as absolutely our responsibility and ones I hope I can approach gratefully.

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  2. Oh yes! You've written about what I SHOULD and thought I would be doing more of at this stage of my life! I also feel that's what our government should be doing with our tax money! Maybe if all the ads I see were pushing me to help those less fortunate than me, it would be more than a glimmer of an occasional thought in my mind! I think I'll put those 3 things on my "ToDo" list at the top today and see what happens!

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    1. I have a post-it note with the three needs on my desk so it is hard to ignore. As our government seems intent on turning its back on the poor, the young, and the disadvantaged, it will be up to us to pick up the slack.

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  3. We all have to let off a little steam once in a while Bob. You rarely do it while I do it probably too much.

    1) Feed the hungry
    2) Protect the weak
    3) Welcome the stranger

    That sounds like being a "brother's keeper" to me and isn't that what Jesus told us was out top priority. I really hate it that the Christian label has been so tainted by politics in our recent times. It will take the rest of us to bring it back to where it belongs through our actions and not their hate.

    I'm sure your readers here understand you passion and won't abandon you if you let it show once in a while..

    God be with you my friend...

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    1. Thank you, RJ. Yes, this blog has pretty amazing readers so I hope I've earned the right every once in awhile to leave the retirement topic and not run anyone off. But, if I do send some folks scurrying for the exits, I still have to say what's on my heart. That is a cost I am more than willing to pay.

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  4. As a Unitarian Universalist I don't have any one holy book or dogma guiding my inner compass, but I believe that human nature is inherently good. In spite of the noisy news about those who want to prove me wrong!

    I think the answer to living one's beliefs and principles is simple: just start where you are. I'm a huge believer in volunteering in one's own community. There are homeless shelters,crisis nurseries, my church feeds and shelters homeless women once a week, there's volunteering in schools,hospitals, soup kitchens. I'm probably just scratching the surface of how many ways there are in our area to help those in need.

    As a retiree, I have time,so I do give a portion of it to these efforts. I'm careful where we spend MONEY, as I want to be sure that the organizations we support use the money directly for the cause, not admin and salaries!

    We can't change the whole world all at once, but we can do what we can, one by one!

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    1. One person, one hurting human at a time - exactly. We don't give money to any national charity except for the young man we "sponsor" in the Philippines. Local causes that I personally know get our money and our time.

      The list of ways to use this stage of life to make things better in our little corner would fill a book. We just have to act.

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  5. Agree completely. There is so much experience, wisdom and ability that has gone to waste with retirees leaving the work force. I am one of those. I must say, however, that once I retired, my level of confidence has decreased. I no longer feel that I can speak with "authority" because I am "only" a retiree. I am never sure where to volunteer, what to do to alleviate suffering. So far I have made only financial donations, which is good, I suppose, but I come from a tradition where faith needs to be put into action. I just am not sure how to do that at this point. It does take a bit of bravery to step out into the unknown. My two cents' worth. :)

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    1. Yes, it does mean taking a bit of a "leap of faith" to get involved. I hope the comments on this post will give you the nudge you need to get in the game. Being a retiree is a powerful place to be. We have the freedom and time to really make a difference.

      And, yes, giving money to organizations that make a difference is a very good thing.

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  6. Today's post actually brought out a very strong emotional response. I found myself with tears in my eyes, and saying 'Yes' as Christians we do have an obligation to carry out your three marching orders. What a difference we can make, like a continuous drop of water that can smooth out a rough stone. Thank you for encouraging your readers to think outside of our 'wants' and to ask ourselves how we can put into practice your three marching orders. God bless you, and a happy healthy New Year to you and your family!

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    1. Thank for you the email, Marilyn. If you continue to have problems leaving a comment directly on the blog, feel free to send it as an email anytime. I have no problem moving it here.

      I am so happy that my words touched you and I love your analogy of the continuous drops of water that have the power to smooth a rough stone. We have remarkable power to make someone's life better, we just have to make the effort.

      God bless you and yours, too.

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  7. One of the things my husband always wanted to do was volunteer at Habitat for Humanity and, I'm so grateful that his retirement gave him that opportunity. H4H is one of the most amazing organizations we've ever been involved with. I don't volunteer 'physically' as he does but, I support any and all their efforts to help the community. It's a privilege.
    b

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    1. Betty and I have helped build a few houses with H4H; it is a tremendous organization that has helped so many families. You and Dave are making a difference.

      BTW, hope you are surviving the killer storm and cold walloping your part of the country without any real issues as I type this.

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    2. We've survived the storms and sub zero temps, so far. It is up to 40 degrees today, a veritable heat wave! But there's more snow on the way before the end of the week but, it won't be much and will melt as we hit 50 on Sunday! Crazy weather!
      b

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  8. Thank you for this, Bob. I came here originally for the retirement discussions but have enjoyed your occasional excursions into the political and moral arenas!

    I was raised as a Christian, but am now one of the atheists (agnostic, more accurately) that you spoke of. It concerns me that we are often seen as somehow lacking a moral compass, and doing anything we want and behaving poorly because there is "no consequence" for our actions. In fact, we get that compass from the society around us - we are simply concerned about how we will be treated in return by our neighbours or by the law if we act poorly, and not how we will be treated by God.

    Personally, I continue to do and believe the same things I always did regarding how we treat others. I give to a variety of charities and volunteer, and hope to do more with my new-found time once I sift through the various options available to me. In part that is because I would want people to do the same for me. That outlook probably came from a combination of my family upbringing and from living in a country (Canada) that generally does a good job of looking out for those less fortunate through things like universal healthcare.

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    1. "Do unto your neighbor as you would want him to do unto you" is a pretty simple guideline that is easy to recite, much more difficult to live.

      Thanks for your input, Dave. I had to do a little research for this post, such as the differences between an atheist and an agnostic. I appreciate your explanation in terms of the moral compass argument.

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    2. You're welcome. And I want to clarify. I did not mean to suggest that the only reason religious people do good things is that they are afraid of what God would think if they don't. That is a sweeping generalization that I know is not true. I also don't think all or most Christians believe atheists have no moral compass. Also a generalization. My apologies if anyone took offense, and I will be sure to think things through better next time before clicking "publish"!

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    3. I didn't interpret any of what you said in a negative way at all, Dave. My intellectual side can understand the agnostic approach and see why it can be appealing.

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  9. I reference a book by Barbara de Angelis - Real Moments. In this book, Barbara says, "Your job is what you do to survive physically & to support yourself & your family. It is the profession you choose, the skills you develop. It's being a (carpenter, bus driver, etc). Your work is what you do to survive emotionally & to support your spirit. It is the lessons you are here to learn, wisdom you are here to gain." I think we each need to define what is our work vs what is our job. So many things we do in retirement are continuations of life before retirement in that finances, relationships, time, health, purpose need management. Being of service has always been important to me; maybe that's why I was a nurse for 34 yrs. Being of service continues to be important to me in retirement so I have various volunteer interests. Some may apply Christianity/religion to helping a fellow man but for me it's about being the best version of the human being that I am, retired or not. I like what Madeline says about doing what we can one by one. The multitudes that need assistance can be overwhelming so we can only do our part by helping one. I think that came from Mother Theresa.

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    1. Looking at the problems of the disadvantaged as a whole can be completely overwhelming. You and Madeline (and others) understand that often we can only see ourselves as part of a solution if we focus on one person or family at a time.

      Where that may not apply is serving meals at a homeless shelter or child care at a women's shelter, for example. But, even in a group setting like that, each person who passes by you deserves a smile and recognition. That helps reduce the masses back to the individual.

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  10. Yes, I believe that as Christians, this is our responsiblity. I hesitate to say the obligation is greater in retirement as such, but the bottom line is tha retirees have the time when others do not. One of the quotes I am most fond of (paraphrasing here) has to do with the idea of "show me your checkbook and I'll show you your values". That said, time can be just as important currency is money. I do believe in the idea of tithe or ten percent minimum, in both areas, although I'e been knwn to fail on the financial side more than once.

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    1. Betty is a good example of someone whose most valuable currency is her time. She does give very generously from her own financial sources, but her greatest gift is of her time and self. The number of children, in particular, who have benefited from her generosity of time is certainly well into the hundreds if not thousands. Being able to do that is a constant joy to her.

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  11. One thing that stood out to me in your post is how clear and simple the "instructions" are in the Bible. There are the three you mentioned. And a simple two word instruction -- "Judge not." These are not obscure or complex concepts. But I'm much better at embracing the idea than I am of putting it into practice.

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    1. Aren't too many of us in the same fix.

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  12. I like Galen's two word instruction "judge not". I, too, am a Christian and yes things have been done in the name of Christianity that are disturbing. But I think that is very much the exception rather than the rule.. at least in modern times. It just gets most of the attention. While there is much room for improvement I find that most Christians are not mean-spirited, uncaring people. Even the fundamentalist/evangelicals (and I am surrounded by them) spend much time, effort and money administering to the needy. And with no questions asked about legal status or life styles etc.

    But I agree with you that as followers of Jesus we need to examine our lives. I have given that a lot of thought recently. But I have the same problem as your commenter "Lovely Lady". I am in my late seventies and find that some of the volunteer work that I have done in the past is difficult for me now. So I am wondering what I have to offer other than money. At this stage in life this is my last chance to close it out well. And I say that not out of fear, but out of love. Does that make sense?

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    1. It makes perfect sense and is a dilemma. The United Way in Phoenix has a list of volunteer activities that can be done at home, for people who are unable to easily get out much anymore or do much in the way of physical work.

      Depending on your interests volunteer work at a library or museum might suit your physical capabilities. Volunteering to make someone else's experience more pleasant is just as meaningful as something more active.

      I do agree with your first paragraph, too. The press goes to the loudest and most extreme, though those people are leaving a terrible impression with non-Christians (or any faith community) by their hypocrisy. We need to speak out when a false message is gaining traction.

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  13. I think this is a wonderful way to begin the new year- - on a contemplative note. I believe you have been reading RJsCorner on your website who is also quite contemplative about being a Christian. He seems very frustrated with his religious heritage and the way being a “good Christian” is being hijacked by other so-called Christians. I share your thoughts although I am not a Christian.

    At our age, we see many things that have gone awry. Much of this comes from our DC leadership. But we still have the gut feeling that something is out of order. I try to guide our family through this mine field by talking about everything and adding guideposts to what should be.

    Again, God bless you this year and all whom you love.

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    1. Thank you for your warm wishes and your support, Jack.

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  14. What a lovely post - thank you. I don't have much to add to what others have said other than my/our giving and time is governed by three themes:

    - Although sometimes giving may be public, what and when and how I give can be done privately. I don't need recognition or to let others know what I am doing.
    - There is no such thing as deserving or undeserving when it comes to charity. That's not my judgement to make.
    - Giving doesn't have to be big or flashy or time-consuming. Even the smallest act can make a profound difference, and can be practiced every day.

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    1. Your three themes are keepers. They fit perfectly with this post's points and all the comments above.

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  15. Bob-

    I would disagree [with your paragraph] that this is not the subject of a retirement blog. I suggest it is exactly what we need to hear.

    I retired 2 years ago. For many years we lived in a smaller town where a Sun City brand retirement community was being built. I have never heard a bigger bunch of whinny people (we used to call them WOPs - whinny old people). Their common theme mostly expressed in letters to the editor of the local paper was that they were "entitled to a good retirement" and whatever was annoying them was interfering with that.

    I think largely they did not contribute much to the community (there were individual exceptions) beyond spending money there and seemed to think they had paid their dues and were entitled to just lay back and enjoy life. They just seemed to bitch about everything.

    Is it any wonder the younger generations seem to resent the current crop of retirees.

    I agree with your post, and we try and live this the best we can, that this is a time to give back, volunteer and try and provide some help to others. The idea we are not valuable or somehow not "with it" and have nothing to offer is largely bull in my opinion.


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    1. No argument from me!

      Happily, I don't think the tendency of some retirees to feel entitled, against any change, refusal to pay school taxes, and so on is the majority attitude. Living in the Phoenix area I am surrounded by Sun City-like communities. I've had the chance to visit and speak at a few of them and the residents have been delightful. Of course, if they come out to hear me they are likely to not be the whinny ones.

      People who behave the way you describe were probably just as anti-social and unhappy during the rest of their lives. That feeling of entitlement or aggrievement starts pretty early in life. Regardless of age, I try to avoid their type.

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  16. This is a great post, Bob. I'm also offended by things that are being said and done in the name of Christianity.

    Istruggled for the first couple years of my retirement to figure out which volunteer work I would be best at. After trying some food sorting and rebagging of donationas at our local food bank (on concrete floors for hours...ouch!), I realized my body wouldn't allow that and went back to sending money. But I also went through a hospice training program and I really like that volunteer activity. Granted, I haven't had a client pass away yet, but it is quite different than I expected. Having utilized hospice in our family more than once, I was in fear of sitting with a dying person, but it's quite different when it's not your family. And not all of them are at the very end even though they're in hospice. Overall, I think it's a good fit, although I'm thinking this year I may add one more volunteer activity. Not sure what that is yet, but I'm working on it.

    I was raised to give back and retiring really made me feel I needed to up my game on that front now that I have the time. Thanks for a great discussion.

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    1. Thanks, Hope. I have been very impressed with the hospice organization and people involved in the last several months of my mom's life. They were so kind and dedicated. You have found a volunteer activity that can be so meaningful to someone in a terminal situation.

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  17. Since having to take an early retirement our healthcare insurance increased so much we did have to adjust some of our donations. Even so we continue to support our church which has a school that educates poor children in the community. We actually travel into an urban poor area in order for the church to continue to thrive and be a beacon where there would be none. We also donate to the Salvation Army. We live fairly modest. Trips for us are normally trips to visit out children. I believe if possible we do have a responsibility to be there for our family and for others. In the end life wouldn’t have much meaning for us if it was just about traveling and going out to eat. We certainly aren’t pious but we’re aware and very thankful we’re able to make a bit of difference.

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    1. I salute your attitude and agree 100%: life isn't meant to be solely focused on us as individuals. Certainly, we should enjoy our life and do what makes us happy. But, to build barriers instead of connections to others who are worse off is wasting the potential each of us was born with to make a positive difference in the world.

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  18. Hi, Bob. I just wanted to chime in and say I appreciate you addressing this issue. Personally, my belief is that the later stages of life ought to be devoted to spiritual growth. That's what ultimately matters. And as far as I can tell, spiritual growth is characterized mostly by the increasing ability to love, which is not primarily an emotion but an act of the will -- specifically, willing the good of others. Of course we shouldn't neglect our own good (you can't "love others as you love yourself," unless you love yourself), but doing good for others is a key part of all spiritual/religious paths.

    Of course, it's easy to say, but real love costs us something. Sure, it gives back in spades, but in the short term, it can be difficult to over-ride self-interest and use time/energy/money to help others -- at least it has been for me.

    As some others have said, I think this is a HIGHLY relevant subject for a retirement blog, not something off-topic at all. After all, as we are freed up from career and family obligations, as we are given lots of free time, and as we see that the end of our life here is approaching, it is entirely natural and right that we turn more seriously to spiritual questions, e.g., how might I best use my time and energy? What is the best (most meaningful) use of it?

    It can be a touchy subject, but I'd encourage you to post more about it, not less. It's hard for me to think of anything more important. I should clarify that I'm not just talking about doing good works, but about turning attention to spiritual matters in general.

    Cheers, and keep up the good work.

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    1. My only comment is to ask everyone to re-read what you wrote. You have summarized the issue extremely well. I don't want to detract from the power of what you have written.

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  19. Bob, what a great focus for discussion. During my life and career, one central factor that always motivated me was to contribute to society in some meaningful way. In deciding to retire, that was one of my worries. Would I cease to contribute? I did not like the idea of focusing my latter years primarily on myself. Yet, I also no longer could sustain working very long hours as I did at my job.

    I still have not really found an answer to this question. I have joined a local service group and volunteer weekly. I continue to donate to charitable organizations. I still do some academic work in an unpaid capacity. I help my family, for example, by babysitting the grandchildren. But I do not feel that I am doing enough, or using the skills that I acquired in my career in a very effective way. I am a new retiree, and trying not to recreate the excessive time commitments of my past work life, or take work away from paid employees. I hope I can figure this out as time goes on.

    Jude

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    1. You sound rather involved, Jude.

      For me, I have volunteered for several different things to find out the best way to be involved and help others. Some have been highly satisfactory and others not so much. I like to stay fresh so I try new things on a regular basis. I don't think there is just one "perfect" fit. for me. As time goes on, though, teaching in some form seems to always rise to the top.

      Keep looking, steer clear of excessive time commitments,and you will figure out what are your best choices.

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