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August 20, 2011

From the office: What will I do now? A lot depends on decisions of others


Daily Star

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By the time that this column is published, I will be retired.

After 34 years of employment with Delaware County, I decided earlier this year that it was time to step down and allow someone else to take over the directorship of the Office for the Aging.

Also in mind was my growing sense that if I wanted to discover who I was, aside from who I've been, this is a good time in my life to start.

The possibility that we may be on the verge of a worldwide depression notwithstanding, I still feel fairly confident about this decision.

Because of some publicity about my impending retirement, I've been congratulated by dozens of well-wishers and have predictably been asked the same two questions: "What are you going to do now?" and variations of "how will your wife deal with your being underfoot every day."

My response to the second question has been that unlike many conventional households where "the wife" has a strong need to rule the roost, my wife is viewing the retirement phenomenon as merely having another hand on deck.

As for the first question, now this is something that scares me a bit.

I believe that there is a purpose behind each and every circumstance that we experience.

I believe that every choice that we make has a consequence that hinges on whether this choice smacks of self-indulgence or is done to benefit the world around us.

These consequences are not necessarily good or bad, but may lead to our having to "learn the hard way" if we've failed to be mindful about the impact of our choices.

This belief system has led to an increase of sleepless nights as I've battled my retirement options out with my subconscious.

In a prior column, I referenced humanitarian Albert Schweitzer and his advice: "I don't know what your destiny will be, but one thing I know; the ones who are really happy are those who have sought out and found how to serve."

I guess this is one example of how an opinion can be expressed, noted, and then proceed to ripple through time to hunt down and eventually impose philosophical quandaries on unsuspecting strangers. The more noble part of my character is holding up none other than Albert Schweitzer as a role model for my destiny. Apparently "Joe Noble" has intentions of holding me accountable to my belief system.

Then on the other hand there's the "rolling stone" in my personality that keeps leading me back to eBay, reviewing auctions on secondhand RVs, dreaming of the open road, and promising to reunite me with my carefree persona from 40 years ago.

There are visions of returning to the golf course and playing incessantly until I can get my handicap down to single digits.

There is the allure of cloistering myself into the workshop and finally crafting those "objets d'art" that the world has been deprived of for all of these years.

To some extent, at least until the money runs out, the world is my oyster.

Do I want to have a carefree, great time on the one hand or be "really happy" on the other?

On the 25th of this month we (a group of like minded people) will be convening our fourth annual 4C Camp for adults at Camp Shankitunk in DeLancey.

There will be between 60 and 80 adults of all ages sharing four days and three nights of camp activities. Most will have expectations of reconnecting with their youthful nature and recharging their respective spirits in preparation for whatever life has in store for them next.

This has been a powerful event for all of us and promises to grow and continue as campers share their experiences with their friends and neighbors.

4C Camp is not all about playing, however. The 4C stands for "Camping to Create Caring Communities." The camp planning committee has envisioned this event as a vehicle to sensitize campers to the need to import the sense of community experienced at 4C Camp back to their respective neighborhoods and communities.

In these troubling times when opposing ideologies threaten to tear this nation apart, a little injection of civility at the local level just might take wing and help alienated neighbors find common ground.

From this we are beginning to develop a grander vision. At the August camp we will begin a conversation about the creation of an umbrella organization that would promote community building activities in the area as well as to enrich already established initiatives.

It might be called something like: "Coalition to Create Caring Communities" and might offer services such as a best practices newsletter, grant funding, and networking opportunities for member organizations. This organization would be free from government funding (something that in this economic climate we probably won't have to worry about), relying on community resources themselves to grow the concept.

The reason that I've introduced the 4C Camp piece into this, my little retirement soliloquy is that I think I do have an answer to the "What are you going to do now?" question.

Much, though, depends on others and their buy-in of this vision and much depends on how effective "Joe Noble" is in influencing my quest to recapture the "rolling stone" days of old.

I guess this promises to offer more sleepless nights in the future, unless of course I can make peace with the hounds of nobility that are fresh on my heels.

Stay tuned!

Tom Briggs is former executive director of the Delaware County Office for the Aging. 'Senior Scene' columns can be found at www.thedailystar.com/seniorscene.