To Be of Use
“The people I love the best
jump into work head first
without dallying in the shallows
and swim off with sure strokes almost out of sight.”
So begins Marge Piercy’s poetic panegyric on work entitled, “To Be of Use.”
Several years ago, the keynote speaker at a conference for educators introduced me to the concept of “the encore years.” Living longer and more vigorously than previous generations, many baby boomers are delaying retirement. Others, however, who retire in their sixties, can look forward to two or more decades of full strength. The speaker urged us to think of these years in terms of our life’s encore. It might be an opportunity to use well-honed professional skills in new ways or to develop new skills, he suggested; and it might be an opportunity for meaningful volunteer work.
UJA Federation of New York has established Engage: Jewish Service Corp to this end, specifically, to provide boomers with opportunities to be of use. Fortunately, the North Shore hub for Engage is located at the Sid Jacobson JCC in Roslyn. At the invitation of our Partners in Care social workers, I met with Susan Berman who is the community organizer for the program. Susan is as enthusiastic and well-organized as she is personable. She spoke to me about the many issues that Engage addresses – education, poverty, hunger, joblessness, the isolated elderly and children with special needs – and about the agencies (both Jewish and non-Jewish) with which Engage partners. Some volunteer opportunities are episodic, and others are scheduled weekly or bi-weekly. Some are performed one-to-one (e.g., a home visit to a senior), and others are part of a collective effort. Susan also spoke about the opportunities for volunteers to meet together for special programs held at the JCC.
It is both a privilege and a responsibility to belong to a generation that has the opportunity to continue to contribute to the community’s good by building social capital retirement. How fortunate that the address for such significant volunteerism is in our backyard. For more information, call Jodie or me at the synagogue office (627-6274), or contact Susan Berman directly at the JCC (484-1545, extension 202).
“The pitcher cries for water to carry / and a person for work that is real,” Piercy concludes. Consider Engage if this sentiment speaks to you.