GIVING BACK

Here we talk about how we can give back (even more) to society, our family, and to others during our Super Second Life.

We actually get more back than we give, so the title might be misleading. But you get the idea...
 
 

NEW INFORMATION from the
Super Second Life Newsletter

3/1/02: Playing TAG for life…

Usually, when I’m writing (in this case a novel to see light in 2003), I don’t show others the text before the final editing because specific segments end up drastically rewritten or even deleted. But I thought you might enjoy sharing a secondary idea that Lian, the main dude, explains to a mildly cynical reporter (if that’s possible) named Reginald Wilson.

     “And if I were foolish enough to believe this malarkey, that I could right a tilted world?” Reggie asked.
     “You could play TAG.”
     “TAG?”
     “To us, T-A-G means a ‘Turn at Greatness.’ We believe that every person knows something that others would benefit from knowing. The TAG is sharing that knowledge or helping put it in motion. Or it could be finding a new path to perfection, clearing it, and guiding others on it.
     “Every such action is one more TAG, another turn for that person to display and share their true greatness. Even more important is the sense of joy and power it gives them and the positive effect their sharing has on others.”
     “So the greatest person is the one who does the most TAGs?” Lincoln asked, shutting off the recorder and putting down his notepad.
     “No, it’s much more than quantity. Quality counts. So does their sincerity, even their persistence. It’s not a race or a contest. It’s a life direction, a dedication to something bigger than the TAGs themselves. In fact, we seldom mention the acronym at all, other than as an example for newcomers to help them better grasp our frame of mind."
     “So you think I could mend my ways by piling up some TAGs?”
     “We’ve just met. For all I know you are already a champion TAGger, Mr. Lincoln. So it would be a case of doing even more for a truly grand reason. That reason would be an almost unbelievably better world for our grandchildren’s grandchildren.
     “… I know you are cynical. How couldn’t you be reporting the news and getting lied to a dozen times a day, half the time for no purpose…”
     “How would you know that?” Lincoln asked, surprised.
     “Because I heard a newscaster say it yesterday,” Lian replied, and they both laughed.
     “And I know that the words ‘Perfect Human World’ are far from reality, even here in a land that’s about as close to that goal as any on earth, ever. I know that makes you suspicious…”

     … Lian leaned back on the bench, paused a moment, and looked straight at Lincoln. “But I am serious about you helping. On your own, later, after our group has moved on. Just find somebody taking a TAG and let others know, in a feature story or a filler. You needn’t use the letters TAG or talk about us or a perfect human world at all. Just honor somebody doing something right. That has an amazing multiplier effect.”
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7/15: The Peace Corps at my age?

When a feisty lass or itchy buck turns 55 or 60 (or even 65 or more), could their future plans include the Peace Corps? Why not? Ask Mary Jane Lucas, 62, who started Malawi’s first-ever hospice program.

When I read Susanna Loof’s AP article in the local Santa Maria Times, it unleashed memories of the two years I spent directing the CARE program on Colombia’s northern (Atlantic) coast, from Cartagena. CARE also administered the Peace Corps (South America’s first) since community development was our shared area of expertise.

Our volunteers were mostly eager college grads long on idealism, mediocre on language, and weak on practical experience who mostly spent at least half of their two years becoming effective. But the older the volunteer, the more that was reversed: they arrived ready to work, with a kitbag of failures they had learned from.

Mary Jane Lucas was living comfortably in Sheridan, Wyoming, when her son, 23, moved to Alaska. Divorced and tiring of her homecare nursing job, she says “There was something missing. I needed to do something more in my life. I needed one more big bang.”

Her job? To improve rural health care in the bone-poor African nation. On her “big bang” did list? She created a mobile clinic that brings medical staff by bicycle to remote villages, laid the groundwork for an orphan training program and volunteer AIDS testing and counseling program, helped raise money for and oversaw the construction of six bicycle ambulances, and started the nation’s first hospice program.

Mary Jane’s reward? A monthly living allowance of about $130, no running water, a hole in a cement floor outhouse, and a bumpy 18-mile hitchhike by truck to the nearest telephone. Not for you? Couldn’t do it?

“I’m a heck of a lot tougher than I ever thought I’d be. I feel like I can do anything, anything I really want to do. I’ve empowered myself,” says Lucas.

Mary Jane will leave Malawi this month when her two-year term ends. She says her life will never be the same.

“There’s something inside,” she says. “I’ll look at all these people in an airport or in a Wal-Mart store and they didn’t do it. They didn’t do what I did. Inside I know it. I call it inner attitude and it’s there.”

Is the Peace Corps for you (or a friend) trying to extract more meaning from what you’ve done and learned? Let’s continue this, for those interested, at http://www.super-second-life.com/peacecorps.htm).

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7/1: Looking for something exciting to do in your dotage? Or now?

Then join Jane Alexander, from Marin County (north of San Francisco), who began her first job in her 80s and now heads Citizens Against Homicide. (Check their newsletter at http://www.murdervictims.com/CAH.htm dedicated to catching killers and keeping them in jail.)

According to CBS’s “24 Hours” on 6/18, Jane was forced into employment when she was bilked by her boyfriend, Tom O’Donnell, of her home and more than $300,000. She then learned that he had also killed her aunt. But Tom, now serving a 25-to-life sentence, hadn’t counted on Jane’s Irish dander. It took her 13 years to find and help convict him.

In the process of pursuing O’Donnell, she also put another murderer in the slammer. Now she’s busier than ever, having helped solve 12 more murders while pursuing some 40 cases at a time.

The book Citizen Jane describes her exploits. Dan Rather sums it up: “We could use a lot more Citizen Janes.”

7/1: Want to join two crusades with life-saving benefits?

Crusade # 1: A crisis may be lurking in your hometown that could affect you, your spouse and family, and your Second Life friends. Some 14% more Americans used hospital emergency rooms in 1999 but the number of hospitals providing emergency service didn’t increase in the 1990s, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. That meant 35,000 more patients each day, with an average wait time of 49 minutes to see a doctor.

Why the increase in use? More people and more seniors. Most people came for stomach pain, chest pain, and fever, but adverse reaction to drugs and other complications from care were also up.

Something has to give. If by misfortune you are emergency room-bound, you want there to be a hospital with emergency care in existence while you’re still kicking. So if you’re hunting for a need to fill, you might check the status of hospital emergency rooms where you live. If a problem exists or will in the near future, you might join with others to rectify it now, then continue to monitor it in the years to come...

Crusade #2: America’s Blood Centers are in a pinch!

“The blood supply is very fragile,” says Jim MacPherson, the CEO of America’s Blood Centers, which represents community blood banks. The culprit is mad cow disease or the human variant, which has killed 100 people in Europe. There is a recent ban by both the centers and the American Red Cross for those who spent time recently in the United Kingdom (usually for three months) or Europe (six months), despite the fact that that there is no proof that the disease can be transmitted through blood transfusion. (Since the ban varies by center, check first if you wish to donate blood and it may apply.)

When I ask my audiences (while discussing Second Life community activities) how many donate blood, I’m always surprised (and of course pleased) at the high percentage of hands raised, almost always in excess of 50. I was even shocked to discover that among my three golfing buddies, two are in the 100+ club—and both have had serious heart operations! (It doesn’t seem to hurt their golf scores either, as my dime-a-hole losses can confirm.) So here’s a way almost any of us can quietly contribute, particularly with a shortage looming.

In both cases, the life you save may be your own! (And mine, for which I thank you in advance.)

7/1: Even speakers can have a Super Second Life!

Almost any profession will have its second-life peculiarities and advantages, assuming, of course, that its practitioners survive into a long, healthy second life. That’s a safe assumption for speakers--I know dozens of them older than me (I’m now 63), most of them fit and reasonably sane--so let’s use their profession as an example which could be easily modified for plumbers, clerks, teachers, and coopers.

Since I’m also a professional speaker, our key question seems to be: how can we continue to share our passion, message, and the decades of accumulating knowledge as we age, to the degree that we want to, until that becomes unwise or impossible. (If a person has been waiting 30 or 40 years to escape and wants never to hear of their vocation again, bless them: there are other, new worlds out there to explore and conquer, or at least enjoy.)

I’ve been thinking about this subject for quite a while. Six ideas suggest themselves.

(1) Keep speaking. Many speakers are every bit as effective and exciting until their last days. Given the voice, legs, message, and memory, we can simply shape our schedule, travel, and availability to fit our desires and ability. A prudent fear, though, is of eventually riding our own coattails, of exhausting weary old tales and parroting grossly outdated or currently irrelevant data; of becoming our own parody. So we speakers need a friend or two whom we respect who will have sufficient mercy (and diplomacy) to tell us when the time has come to let others carry the message.

(2) Train other speakers. Become a patient, loving teacher who helps new or budding speakers develop the topic and skills needed to speak themselves to confidence and success. This can be done at many levels: to high schoolers, through class or debate clubs; for businesses or corporations; with speaking groups, like Toastmasters or the National Speakers Association; as a consultant or coach… With imagination, the scope of assistance can be as broad as the field itself. Beyond teaching the speaking and presentation basics, help is needed with marketing, visuals, use of the new electronic tools, voice use, dress and appearance, story-telling, movement, and much more.

(3) Become a mentor. Ally ourselves to a person in whom we believe and want to succeed, then provide as much assistance and guidance as they request and can honestly give. This is a delicate relationship that works best when liberally bathed in good will on both sides and is built around achieving a well-defined goal or set of goals which both accept as desirable and attainable. Often the most difficult step is the matching. A professional organization is usually the best medium to establish mentorships. Yet it can be as easy as either of the participants simply asking the other. (Training, in [2], often involves some fee payment; mentoring is almost always voluntary, can be terminated by either party at will, and is free.)

(4) Share your experience and ideas about speaking by other information dissemination means. In other words, bottling your genius so others can benefit through the ages. Use a different bottle for each means. Whether you have one global message about speaking or 150 specific facets related to the art and skill, your words might be shared as articles, books, audio or video cassettes, by disk or CD-ROM, downloaded as email attachments, in a newsletter, by barker or town crier, or other means I have forgotten or have yet to be created.

(5) Share your experience and ideas about your area of specialization by other information dissemination means. Often speaking is but a means you have perfected to share information about a topic that is the fuel of your fire. Here, you share that topic knowledge by the appropriate means suggested in (4).

(6) Develop new areas of expertise (and new cores of passion) in which to exercise (1) through (5) above. When you’ve simply said all you have to say, you might apply the same skill and discipline that made you a success in speaking to another topic. And when you master that, again consider the ideas above!

There is more general information about becoming a professional speaker at http://www.sops.com/prospeaker.htm and about my speaking at http://www.super-second-life.com/speech1.htm.

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6/15: Book Report: Marc Freedman’s Prime Time: How Baby Boomers Will Revolutionize Retirement and Transform America. (See more information below.)

This is an extraordinarily good book, a term I seldom use.  Marc lays the rationale and process for a coming groundswell in senior community service, really a salvation to a nation starving for care, wisdom, and time-free attention to its social needs. That’s a two-way road: America benefits and we benefit, using our knowledge and resources to be better people.

Freedman first explains the phenomenon of the "30 extra human years," then shows the tensions that creates: are we new old people, living beyond our procreative use, going to drag society down or elevate it? He champions the latter, then shows in detail how that might be done.

Most important, this isn't guesswork from academia. He's one of the vital players in the field. His solutions will appeal to all political stripes.
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6/1: According to the Independent Sector, roughly half of all people over 55 do some volunteer work, and the number is increasing. Average weekly commitment is 3.3 hours.

6/1: (In Charles Schwab's book You're Fifty--Now What?), particularly instructive were the chapters about “Giving Something Back” and estate planning.

What do you get when you give time, talent, or money? “A lot,” says Schwab, “You get a certain focus and perspective that come only when you manage to step outside yourself and see your role in the larger scheme of things. And you get the chance to be with people who share your values and interests. Giving reminds us that we are part of a larger community, and while it’s true that the institutions or causes that you hold dear may do fine without your help, it’s you who are the poorer by not giving. In fact, there even seems to be a connection between well-balanced individuals and the practice of giving. Giving seems to set good things in motion.”
 
 

More from the Freedman Book report in the 
6/15/01 Super Second Life Newsletter.

It's worth taking a more detailed look at Marc Freedman’s message in Prime Time: How Baby Boomers Will Revolutionize Retirement and Transform America, not only because he has so much to say but because of its reasoned tone and fine writing. (See a thumbnail review below, from the SSL Newsletter.)

Freedman reviews the swelling numbers of second lifers (there are ten times as many 65+ now than in 1900) and captures its uniqueness in one sentence: "The addition of three decades to the average life span in less than a hundred years--an increase in longevity greater than the total change over the previous 5,000 years--is surely one of the great wonders of the twentieth century."

Not only can we expect to spend a third of our life in retirement, this new stage is as long as childhood or the middle years! Add that to the phenomenon of "downaging," or having the health and vigor of a person 20 years younger, and we have a huge and grossly underused pool of people, all educated, skilled, and bristling with life-earned knowledge.

But there are many who are less than enthralled with our presence. "Physicians (warn society) to brace for an exponential increase in dependency, disease, and dementia" and warn of the immense burden we will inflict on families, human services, and the health care system. Even gloomier are the economists and financiers, seeing us as a "demographic time bomb," using our "entitlement ethic" and lack of productivity to "sink America and take the whole civilized world down with it."

Rather than argue with the doomsayers, Freedman flips the argument upside down, saying that this huge, underused, schooled segment may be America's greatest increasing natural resource, offering as much an opportunity to be seized as a crisis to be solved. How this is done is the crux of Freedman's message and book. How the 80% of Americans 55 plus who are no longer on the job have the one thing that others desperately lack: time (to care).

Retirement frees up 25 hours a week for men and 18 for women. Match the free time to our need for purpose and meaning in our lives and second lifers could gave the country a new social face. Freedman says that the "older population is poised to become the new trustees of civic life in this country. Society desperately needs them, and ... older Americans could reap tremendous mutual benefit in the process."

But there's the hitch. We lack the mechanism to integrate older volunteers (and older part-time workers) into a bureaucracy that is barely functioning without them. So those 65+ volunteer less than any other age group--less than a third volunteer at all, and they average less than two hours a week. Nobody asks. Nobody quite knows what to do with them. So instead they recreate. And spend one half of their time watching television. A majority lament their loss of usefulness.

Instead, the public view of the second lifers is that of Sun City, facelifts, busyness rather than work of genuine significance, and
desperate vegetation. Marc notes the "burgeoning mismatch between demographics and opportunities--and the demographics are way ahead."

(The "they" above are us. We're reading these pages because we want to plan our second life to include purpose and meaning. Are we on the front edge of righting this social lag? And is planning a key element in making that happen?)

I found two other aspects of the book particularly engrossing. Freedman is a superb social historian, and his early chapters describe how seniors (then mostly in their 40s) were considered by others during our nation's history, and how they fell behind the esteem and worth curve after World War II. His explanation of the Sun City concept and Del Webb's role is excellent, with the same wry humor used throughout the book.

The other was the one-on-one interviews with extraordinary people doing rather ordinary, extra things during their 50+ years. They ranged from top surgeons to jobless widows and gruff union bosses. If we doubt that there's some vital role for all of us that's begging to be filled for a few hours a week, then read this book.

Sorry if I seem overly enthusiastic but I stumbled upon this book in the town library (between tomes about website construction and devil worship), blinked a bit at the title, and sort of dared it to make me a believer (which is no easy task). What I didn't expect was such a sweeping, complete summary of where our generation is and can be, all with meticulous research. Nor to be so touched by the examples.

I'm adding the resources that Freedman cites under volunteering at http://www.super-second-life.com/ssllinks.htm.
 
 
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Gordon Burgett
gordon@super-second-life.com
(800) 563-1454