Retirement! Retirement? Retirement brings up a lot of emotions and reactions. For some it’s the looking forward to leaving the daily grind of work and can’t wait to retire. For some it’s a loss as they hit that age of required retirement. For others it can be scary and what the hell am I going to do with my time. For all it’s certainly an opportunity, to explore new avenues. For me, and my husband, it’s been our greatest time of spiritual growth. A huge factor that has contributed to that has been our branching out and giving of ourselves, volunteering. But, and here’s the really important but, not at the expense of draining and giving our lives away. If it doesn’t bring joy, fulfillment, or other good things it’s not for me.
I’ve been semi-retired for over ten years now, my husband fourteen years. Both of us, professional people, he an attorney, me a nurse practitioner (NP). He headed up one of the legal departments at NASA. Me, I worked in the second busiest ER in Los Angeles County. Neither of us wanted to give up our professional work, all those years of education and experience. We weren’t ready to let go. I researched how we could put our expertise to good use without the stress of commitment, obligation, or work drudgery. We both had a need to be of service, a heart’s desire to contribute and give back for all our years of the great fortune of living where we do, having meals on our table, gaining an education, and being geographically safe.
My husband set out to connect with the Self-help legal clinic in the county courthouse where we live. He’s been there now over ten years. From that he’s branched out to becoming a volunteer small claims court pro-tem judge. When he’s not involved in his work at the courthouse, he gives his time to the Westminister Free Clinic as a pro-bono attorney. I also volunteer at the aforementioned clinic as an NP, working alongside other NPs, doctors, dentists, chiropractors, and health educators who freely give of their time to service the poor. Every Wednesday night over a hundred and fifty people ascend on this clinic, in a church in Ventura County, CA. as their only means of support. It is non-government funded and an absolute blessing to work at. I call it our own little Peace Corps in Ventura County. It has filled me with a sense of well-being to be able to show up and help, expecting nothing in return other than a thank you or smile from someone in need. Volunteers there range from receptionists, kitchen workers (the diabetic patients are fed from food donated from restaurants throughout the county), pharmacist, nurses, greeters, etc. There’s always room for someone to come and help and be a part of a great team of compassionate people.
Why the mention of this particular clinic? It’s just one example of what’s available at the other end of looking into what can I do to volunteer. There are hundreds of other similar places where one can go to help. Hospitals, libraries, schools, museums, homeless shelters, animal rescue groups, emergency rescue groups—like the Red Cross, and a lot of other similar places.
My husband and I took a class in mediation and both of us go to the court every Friday morning and volunteer our time doing small claims court mediation. We work along side a group of other retired professionals helping people settle disputes. That’s extremely rewarding. Opportunities like this exist all over the world.
I also love to write and have published a novel and am about to release my second one. All the profits from my work go to save dogs from kill-shelters. What does this have to do with volunteering? I volunteer my time as a writer; my end product is to be a small part of the solution to end the suffering resulting from the overpopulation of dogs. I do volunteer blog posts and give of my time this way. For those of you who love to write or who have always dreamed of writing here’s a way for you to marry volunteering and giving of your time with helping further a cause. The feeling I get from doing this is worth gold to me. Writing is a way for those who are homebound or have limited activity to contribute. Other things to do at home as a volunteer are helping non-profits with mailings and phone calls. No contribution is too small.
Ever dreamed of being on television, on a movie set, connected with radio shows? There are volunteer activities connected with these as well. After having the great fortune of being interviewed on a public TV station, I asked about volunteer hosting positions. I was interviewed, did a trial run hosting two shows, and am now on the on-call list as a public TV host. A lot of fun!
The possibilities of fulfillment and enjoyment are endless with a little research, a few phone calls, and showing up. If it’s not for you, you’re not committed and can try another thing until you find your fit. For me, and my husband, volunteering has enriched our lives. It doesn’t stop us from traveling, spending time with family, as we set our schedule, show up when we can—responsibly—and do what we can to help make the world a better place.