volunteering

Good citizenship starts young

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Operation Good Citizen: Teaching Kids to do the Right Thing in 2015.

Colorful hands of helpA recent article in Parade Magazine spotlighted the efforts of older adults mentoring children on how to be good citizens.  Specifically, Veterans and Congressional Medal of Honor recipients volunteer as mentors in schools across the nation.

The article emphasizes the point that parents and other adult family members should be the main source of such teaching – teachers have enough work to do just getting our children educated – but with a little bit of reinforcement at school, the lesson becomes that much more vital to the young learners. Read the rest of this entry »

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Positive community activism

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Seattle Profile – Volunteering and Civic Life in America.

The Seattle Times newspaper posted an article touting Seattle’s stellar volunteer rate for 2013:

34% of Seattle area residents volunteer ranking Seattle 4th among the 51 largest volunteer locations.  After researching that article, I found the attached report detailing my area’s community service activities.  You can locate your State and city in the report to discern the degree of your community’s civic life.

Community hands together to volunteerThis report shines a light on content that I recently provided in two articles posted to this blog:  Restless in retirement? You don’t have to be, and The importance of good neighbors.

38.7 percent of Washington State’s Baby Boomer population volunteered in 2013, ranking my state’s volunteering Baby Boomers 6th out of 51.  See?  You’ll be in good company when you turn your retirement restlessness into service for others.

64.9 percent of Washington State residents participate in “informal volunteer activities” defined as doing favors for neighbors.  Wow, that’s a lot of people getting to know their neighbors and “having their backs.”

You don’t have to give up all of your free time to help others.

Community and the world volunteeringI’ve heard people say time and again that they can’t spare another 40 hours a week to become a volunteer.  Who asked you to?

There are countless volunteer opportunities that only require a couple hours a week.  My best friend volunteers as a companion to a disabled person who needs transportation assistance to shop and/or to attend doctor appointments.  A fellow Bar Method exerciser volunteers once a week at a local food bank to provide much needed sustenance to those in her community.  Wow, such a small commitment of time that provides a service for which others cannot do without.

Thank about it: if you spent two or three less hours a week watching television, or two or three less hours working on home projects, or two or three less hours sitting at the computer (point taken), you’ll still have oodles of free time left after spending a fraction of your week focused on someone else.

Wow, when put that way, volunteering sure sounds easy, doesn’t it?

(All images courtesy of Pixabay)

Dragonfly: a well-lived brief lifetime.

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I read in the Seattle Times newspaper recently that a dragonfly, in its nymph stage, lives in the water for up to four years while it is growing & developing.  When it finally emerges from its skin, it only lives a few months.

I know there are other insects who have an even briefer adult life, but this substantial insect caught my attention for one specific reason – although its post-nymph life is brief, it goes for the gusto during its brief time on Planet Earth.

English: Broad-bodied Chaser (a dragonfly) Lib...
(Photo credit: Wikipedia)

It’s believed that dragonflies have existed on Earth for approximately 300 million years – wow! – that’s older than us humans!!!  I guess they’ve had a great deal of time to learn how to make their individual lives count.  As nymphs, growing & developing under water, a special appendage on their head helps them to spear their food – small fish, other insects, yum!  When full grown and ready to emerge, the dragonfly climbs out of the water, sheds its skin, and waits for its wings to dry before getting down to business.

By the time their wings are developed, they are considered full-grown adults and have only a few weeks remaining of their lives.  Their primary goal during this winged stage is mating – so when you see two dragonflies flying through the air attached to one another, it is almost always a male and female mating.  I guess they are able to fly while “distracted” because they can see nearly 360 degrees around themselves at all times – no obstacle will get in the way of these industrious bugs!  And I can’t help but state that they present an entirely new definition of the mile-high club.

But this article isn’t really about dragonflies and their mating-in-flight capabilities.  It’s about how you and I choose to live our lives because in the grand-scheme of things, our life span is just as short as an insect’s, if not – relatively speaking – shorter.

Considering how old the world is, even if we live to be 100, it’s still a drop in the bucket compared to the years that have preceded us, and the infinity that will carry on after us.

I wrote two articles on this Blog site about making the most of our lives – especially as we near retirement.  Retirement Planning – it’s not what you think; and Creating the next chapter of your life explore whether “the rest of our lives” post-retirement will bore us and benefit few; or excite us and benefit many.   This topic interests me greatly because I witnessed first hand what an unplanned retirement can look like.

A few months into my father’s retirement, my mother started to complain about my dad’s inactivity – phew, not fun!  Before long – and in the midst of great boredom on his part – my father got the hint, climbed off his golf cart, and pursued volunteer opportunities with AARP.  You see, he realized within a few months of retirement that he wasn’t satisfied not contributing to the larger community around him.  The long and the short of it is that both my mother and father eventually established a state-wide volunteer program to help the elderly and low-income individuals with their annual tax returns.  My parents recruited other like-minded retirees, put them through training, and by the time of my parents’ real retirement, this tax-aide program had helped more than a million people in the course of 20 years.

But that was them.  That’s what my parents could do and enjoyed doing.  We have to discern what an appealing retirement looks like for us.  I don’t begrudge anyone a relaxing and enjoyable retirement – I’m all for it – but let’s not waste our previous employment skills by putting them on hold as soon as we leave our J-O-B.

My husband surprised me the other day when he stated that he’s already thinking about what he’ll do when he retires – four years hence.  I’m thrilled that he’s already considering his options, and who knows?  Maybe we’ll team up and do something meaningful to both of us, just as my parents did many years ago.

Solo Caregiving.

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My recent blog, “Caregiving: The Ultimate Team Sport” assumes the person providing care for a loved one has a wealth of family members upon which to draw for support.  When that is not the case it can be difficult to find willing team members to provide that support. This article provides advice to the solo caregiver and to his/her friends, business associates, neighbors, and community contacts.

Garage Sale fundraiser for the local Alzheimer's Association.
Garage Sale fundraiser for the local Alzheimer’s Association.

CAREGIVER: BE BOLD – ASK FOR WHAT YOU NEED.

Those people with whom you have contact probably know that you’re the only one carrying the ball when it comes to caregiving but they can’t possibly understand the degree of difficulty you’re experiencing.  Assuming that to be the case, your friends, business associates, and neighbors may not feel the need to reach out to you with assistance.  Now is the time to be very transparent with them and tell them what you need.

Having dinner with my dad and his late-in-life Bride.

DINING ALONE IS A DRAG – NOW’S THE TIME TO ASK FOR WHAT YOU WANT.

There is no shame in inviting yourself to dinner.  If these are true friends/acquaintances of yours, they will welcome you into their home.  Once you’ve invited yourself a couple times, true friends and valuable neighbors will start to invite you into their dining room on an ongoing basis.  Besides, they’ve probably been wondering what they could possibly do to help you out in your situation and you’ve just presented a very easy way in which they can do so.  Heck – they’re going to cook dinner for themselves anyway; one or two extra people aren’t going to throw a huge wrench into their meal plans.

My wonderful Dad, circa 1960’s, being a jokester.

ATTENTION WELL-MEANING FRIENDS & NEIGHBORS!

I think the rule of thumb in these situations is to assume that your friend the solo caregiver needs a hand with something, so ask him what he needs.  Let’s look at the difference between the following offers of assistance.

  1. “Hey Sam, call me if you ever need some help.”
  2. “Hey Sam, could you use a little extra help around the garden?  I’m all caught up with my yard work and would like to help you in any way I can.”
  3. Hey Sam, we always cook for a crowd and always have some leftovers.  I’d like to give you some leftovers in disposable containers that you can freeze and use any time you don’t feel like cooking for yourself.”

In the 1st example, you’re leaving it up to Sam to feel comfortable enough to inconvenience you (in his mind) with a request for help.  You’re basically forcing him to ask for help.  In the 2nd and 3rd examples, you’ve given Sam an offer of tangible, definable assistance that shows that you really mean it when you say you’re willing to help out.  If neither of those offers fit within Sam’s current needs, you’re still making it easier for him to ask for help with something else: “Wow Larry, thanks so much for your offers but what I could really use is help figuring out the health insurance issues that have kept me awake at night.  How about having a beer with me, and between the two of us, maybe we can make some sense of this mess in which I find myself.”

Friends, work associates and neighbors – your solo caregiver friend needs help and you could be just the right person with the skill that he needs.  Some day you may find yourself in a similar situation and will know first hand how difficult it is to be a solo caregiver.  If it takes a village to raise a child, it must take at least that to help someone with the burden of being a solo caregiver.