“We must develop a compelling vision of later life: one that does not assume a trajectory of decline after fifty, but one that recognizes it as a time of change, growth, and new learning; a time when ‘our courage gives us hope.’” —Sara Lawrence-Lightfoot from The Third Chapter
Like so many of my friends in their 50's, I find myself facing a new chapter in my life. My children are away at school, and my perception of what I want to do next has shifted. In my case, I am interested in working within the field of loss and grief, and the Interfaith Volunteer Caregivers (IVC) is the perfect avenue for me to pursue this dream. I have other friends who are taking skills from previous jobs and applying them in new directions which seem better aligned with where they see themselves headed. Still others are going back to school, or contemplating going back to school. While others are taking up more creative outlets now that they have a bit more time on their hands. It's actually quite exciting to hear about what people are considering in their "third chapter." The third chapter, according to Sarah Lawrence-Lightfoot is the period of life between fifty and seventy-five. She is a sociologist and considers this period to be perhaps the most transformative and generative of our lives. That's certainly encouraging.
Tomorrow I will begin working at the Interfaith Volunteer Caregivers. This small non-profit is dedicated to helping the most vulnerable amongst us-the elderly and the disabled-as well as assisting overburdened caregivers who need a break from their difficult and stressful responsibilities. It's an organization with a huge heart and I'm honored to be working there. I look forward to meeting both the care receivers and the caregivers, and helping to facilitate connections between the two. I also look forward to recruiting new volunteer caregivers, as the need grows. It's a win-win for all involved.
A hundred years ago, there wasn't really a need for an organization like the IVC. But today, since so many of us do not live close to our extended families, we are often left feeling isolated in times of sickness, or as we get older. This is the reality of American life, and I'm grateful to live in a community that has an organization that steps up to fill the gaps. The IVC provides in-home services such as companionship, light housework and reading to the homebound. It also provides volunteers who run errands, as well as help transport people to health-related appointments. All of these services are because of generous volunteers who recognize how a seemingly simple task of reaching out can be so beneficial and life affirming to someone in need.
I feel a certain rejuvenation as I head into my new job, and continue my own studies of grief and loss. More than anything I wish it was due to a different reason that I find myself here, But I know that as my family and I begin to emerge from the darkness of grief, we do so as changed people. Much of who we are now is due to the transformative power of grief, and the work that I pursue is done in Matthew's memory. I will end with a quote by Frederick Buechner:
"Vocation is the place where our deep gladness meets the world's deep need."