Now that You Have all That Free Time …
By Maureen Smith
There are those so wedded to their jobs that they dread retirement. Others count the days when more time will be available to enjoy travel, gardening, quilting, afternoon bridge, enrichment classes, golf, tennis, yoga, painting, more time with grandchildren or elderly parents and on and on.
You may be surprised to discover that there aren’t as many extra hours as you had anticipated. We have to make a conscious choice of how to spend these new-found hours. I have done all of the above, but my greatest satisfaction has come from giving back to our community. There is an endless list of organizations with worthwhile projects, all begging for our help.
The Assistance League of the Chesapeake has filled that need for me. I have definitely found my niche with this group of dedicated ladies. Encouraged to get out of my box, I have emceed a puppet show called “Kids on the Block,” which takes us to elementary schools to perform the puppet show on bullying and learning disabilities. It’s meant to encourage dialogue between students and teachers dealing with these important school problems.
The assistance league also volunteers at two Title 1 elementary schools to encourage literacy. Our members serve as classroom volunteers, one-on-one tutors and guest readers. Each child in both schools receives a book and those cannot afford them are given uniforms. In addition, over the past few years we have sponsored a fifth grade Pen Pal Club writing to children in Florida and Texas. This has been successful because the children are excited to be writing to real people. There is a cultural aspect to this program since the children are encouraged to share facts about their town. The satisfaction from helping these children cannot be measured.
AARP’s magazine recently featured an article about Baltimore Experience Corps members, a majority of whom found that after a year of tutoring, they had increased strength and energy, no matter what the state of their health was when they started. It has been very gratifying when our volunteers report how satisfying it is when one of the children they work with says, “Oh, I get it.” There is no better feeling.
We also have members who supply food and emergency items (battery flashlights and radios) and deliver these boxes to seniors living in their homes. Other members bring cheer to nursing homes with sing-a-longs, all of which is described at www.ALChesapeake.org
Another interesting way of giving is through the Annapolis & Anne Arundel County Conference and Visitor’s Bureau in downtown Annapolis. This is an excellent way to learn more about our town and pass it on to others. There are many ways a person can experience Annapolis: walking tours, boat tours, Segway tours, kayak tours and even tours on e-cruisers. You will be amazed at the number of people who make Annapolis a stopping point while visiting this area. In one day I have met people from Israel, China, Paris, Korea and Germany, not to mention all parts of the U.S. Whether their plans are to stay a few hours or a week, it is fulfilling to guide them on how to best spend their time in our town. I make a point of checking out visitors centers when I travel, and I’ve yet to find one that offers the variety of activities the Annapolis center does. I fondly recall overhearing one woman say to her husband after speaking with a volunteer, “See, I told you we should come here.” (VisitAnnapolis.org)
These are two volunteer organizations that have given me a great deal of satisfaction. Every week the Annapolis Capital features many organizations that need support. Our community is full of opportunities to give back, and by doing so, we enrich the lives of others and ourselves.
Maureen can be reached at email@example.com