Golden Ager

Golden Ager Wisdom: Teachings from Childhood

When I was a kid heading out to a party my mom would ask, “What do you bring to the party?” This was her way of reminding me to be a participant, not an onlooker. My mother’s belief system included the notion that if you accepted an invitation to a party you were obligated to contribute something to it.

When I got home she’d ask, “What did you bring to the party?” I’d tell her, “I told that joke that had everyone in stitches at Thanksgiving.” Or, “Sally  was sitting by herself and looked miserable, so I talked with her and brought her into the group.” The fact that I had “given” something to the party pleased Mom.

Her gentle jibe, “What do you bring to the party?” has stayed with me. My perspective has broadened and now I view life itself as the party. As I go through the days, weeks, and months, I wonder, “What do I bring to the party? What’s my contribution?”

As we get older, time becomes our most precious commodity. Most of my friends, golden agers all, don’t want to waste any of it. They want to make the most of the rest of their lives. They want their lives to count for something.

Kitty O’Malley Maffei, Walnut Creek, CA, is a Golden Ager. A few years ago she and a friend started an organization to help the homeless in her town. They got funding from the city and private donations and made arrangements with a church so that homeless people could come in once a week to take a shower, wash their clothes, and get a hot meal. Last October she celebrated her 88th birthday by cooking and serving a spaghetti feed to “her people”  in the park.

Not everybody needs to do something on that scale. Golden Ager volunteers are welcomed with open arms. There are plenty of service organizations in your area that need you. Food banks, Boys & Girls’ Clubs, Big Brother/Big Sister, etc. You can volunteer at the school near your house: read to kids; listen to them read; tutor; lighten the teacher’s burden.

Golden Agers like to teach what they know. Plenty of places – senior centers, community colleges, Parks & Rec, etc. — would probably sponsor your class on whatever knowledge or skill you’ve acquired over your life: knitting, woodworking, geology, Chinese cooking, electronics, self-hypnosis, photography, container gardening, astrology, et cetera. Or teach it to someone in your neighborhood.

Do you knit or crochet? Make a hat for a homeless person or a poor school child. I have a friend who knits over 100 hats a year, and another who makes a hat every evening through the winter months while her significant other watches sports events on TV. She takes it to the homeless shelter next morning and searches out someone with a bare head. You could even organize a group to provide handmade hats for the hatless.

Are you a gardener? You could donate some of your harvest to a food bank or “soup kitchen” that feeds the hungry. Or you could organize a neighborhood group and start a garden in a vacant lot or your front yard. Or propose a garden at the nearest school.

Do you sew? You can change the life of a little girl in Africa with a simple dress made from a pillowcase or scrap of material. www.littledressesforafrica.org. Their motto is: “We’re not just sending dresses, we’re sending HOPE.” (They also accept shorts for boys: any size, style and material.)

Are you grateful to our deployed service men and women? You can show your appreciation to an individual or an entire platoon (25 – 50) through www.adoptaplatoon.org You may request the size of platoon you’d like to support. You’ll be asked to send letters and packages. A list of suggested items is provided.

Are you an animal lover? Your local animal shelter can use you.
Or if you have the time and the commitment, you could raise and train a service dog for a person with disabilities. Raise a puppy; change a life. Contact www.caninecompanions.org. or www.assistancedogsinternational.org.
Or become a Therapy Animal owner and take your animal everywhere. Dogs are the most common ESAs (Emotional Support Animals), but such diverse species as birds, pygmy goats, potbellied pigs, llamas, and horses, also qualify. After the recent Boston bombings, ESA dogs were flown in to give comfort to the injured and traumatized. Many Golden Ager (a.k.a. senior) residence facilities welcome ESAs.

Do you love babies? Some hospitals need “cuddlers” to hold “preemies” who need human touch.

Like kids? Organizations such as Big Brothers & Big Sisters always need volunteers. You’re needed if you have a couple of hours a week to be a good role model and show a child that you care.

Do you love books? Children who are not exposed to books as infants and toddlers have little, if any, interest in them, which affects their success in school, and in life. You could volunteer as a reader at a daycare center.

Are you concerned about the environment? Be a conservation advocate. Teach others how to “live green”.

What about animal sanctuaries? There are gorillas in the (Georgia) mountain mist and West Maui. Elephants live in San Andreas, California and Hohenwald, Tennessee. Go online to find out about Best Friends Animal Society in southern Utah – www.bestfriends.org — which pioneered the no-kill movement and has saved millions of pets. With branches in other cities, too, it has a plethora of volunteer opportunities for golden agers.

A house-bound Golden Ager’s life can be brightened by your weekly visit. Find out what organizations are available in your community at “Senior Services in (your town or county)”.

Do you sing or play a musical instrument? Nursing homes and senior residential facilities will welcome you to share your time and talent with their residents.

Are you bi-lingual? Why not help an immigrant’s assimilation by visiting with him/her over a cup of coffee or tea once a week or so? Show him/her about life in America (or the country where you live). Communicate in whatever ways you can. Be a friend. You’ll learn fascinating things about his/her culture.
Not bi-lingual? – You can still help. My most rewarding volunteer activity was with a refugee family from Eritrea. The husband/father learned to speak English and about American culture at work, and the children at school, but the wife/mother was isolated at home. I joined a group organized to help immigrant women assimilate into their community. We did not speak the same language but found ways to communicate. I began the process of teaching her to speak and read English. I became “Mom” and “Grandma” to her and her family. She is now fluent in English, has a responsible job, is an American citizen, and has blossomed in confidence.

So you see, whatever your interest or passion, there’s something you can do. You can operate as an individual or within a group. These are just a few of thousands of opportunities to show you care.

When we accepted the invitation to live on this planet, an obligation came with it. Contributing as a Golden Ager to this party called LIFE may turn out to be one’s most rewarding “career”. It gives purpose and meaning to life. It opens doors to friendship and camaraderie.

In helping others you will probably find that you’re the one who benefits the most. It’s a wise and rewarding way to spend your time and make your life count.

Hey Golden Ager, what do you bring to the party?

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