I have a good friend who is involved in all kinds of statewide civic causes that reflect the wide variety of her interests—The Texas State Historical Society, the Texas Institute of Letters, the Texas Folklore Society, alumni organizations and boards, state committees on the humanities and other such. She’s been president of a lot of those things, and every week finds her flitting to Austin or some such. Now she says she’s accepted a spot on the board of the Dallas Public Library. And whatever she does, she does it full throttle. And then tells me her schedule is going to do her in. I chide her for spreading herself too thin, but the truth is I’m proud to know her and a bit envious of the contributions she makes to the state, particularly to the humanities.
One of the things I thought I would do when I retired was volunteer. Over the years, feeling the need to make some sort of contribution, I’ve tried various things: a stint at the Museum of Science and History, giving kids talks on beach trash and its dangers, a session with an on-line volunteer program that had me coaching young writing students via the internet—it turned out to be so poorly administered that I gave up. My vision of volunteer work is working more at my church (there was a period when I did a lot of that), making sandwiches at the local night shelter, being a museum docent, the hands-on kind of stuff.
But it has dawned on me that I do a lot of volunteer work, for causes I care about, right here at my computer. I am a volunteer monitor one day a week for the Sister in Crime listserv; I am a member of the steering committee and membership chair for Guppies, the Going to be Published sub-group of Sisters in Crime (publication does not mean automatic expulsion from the group). I edit my neighborhood monthly newsletter, which often runs into a 20-page publication, and each week I welcome first-time visitors to University Christian Church—by phone if I can catch them and by email if not. I actively promote rescue dogs and sites on Facebook because animal welfare is a subject I am passionate about.
And I’ve done my bit in the past, as president and longtime board member of Western Writers of America, chair of Church and the Arts Committee at my church, secretary of the Texas Institute of Letters.
So maybe it’s dawning on me that I’m not the sloth that I thought I was. I do contribute to my own special world and more important the things that I do keep me involved. That, besides having meaningful work, is what I hope will keep me young in spirit as my body ages. I truly believe being involved in the world is essential to the happy life.