Dedicate some of your life to others. Your dedication will not be a sacrifice. It will be an exhilarating experience because it is an intense effort applied toward a meaningful end. …Dr.Tom Dooley
Introduction The coming wave of Boomers are the “rebels with a cause” who brought enormous change to society in the 1960s and 1970s. Many of them, it is expected, will look to continue their pioneering social efforts into their later years. The current population of older adults, most from the “Greatest Generation,” are already demonstrating their strong commitment to society by engaging in a wide range of civic endeavors. So, with that being said, we’ll now examine the connection between lifelong learning and meaningful community service-how lifelong learners get involved and help society better serve us all.
In earlier columns, we talked about how becoming involved in lifelong learning can lead to other things. Meaningful community service is one of those “other things.” Lifelong learning, combined with meaningful community service, so engages all your senses that it produces a natural “high,” a feeling so unique and exquisite that you will find yourself looking for other ways to keep that exuberance a permanent fixture in your “After 50” years.
Meaningful community service is different for each person. It’s all about engaging in whatever endeavor makes you feel complete and useful. It’s all about whatever activity enriches and stimulates you life. For some, meaningful community service might mean getting involved at higher levels with volunteer organizations. For others, something entirely different.
Whatever it means to you, however, you can be sure that by using your wisdom and experience, you can soar to greater heights and deliver even greater impact in whatever project you undertake. Volunteers routinely encounter new perspectives and ideas that challenge as much as they enlighten. Your involvement in meaningful community service will help add yet another facet to your lifelong learning quest.
According to the Wall Street Journal, however, a growing number of mature volunteers are seeking positions that offer something more–more influence, more authority, more power. They are taking leadership positions in volunteer organizations ensuring that their skills, wisdom and knowledge are being utilized to the fullest.
A 2006 estimate by the Independent Sector says that the dollar value for volunteer work is $18.77 an hour. Given that number, can you imagine what an incredible resource the 76 million Baby Boomers will be to our society, if only a modest number of them engage in community service work? If that’s the case, than what this generation of older adults will give back to society far outweighs what they will take out, thereby negating the doomsday economic predictions of what the retirement of the Baby Boomers might mean to our society.
Lifelong learners who are already offering their skills to the public sector, however, have set a wonderful example for the coming wave of older adults on how to engage in community service. To set the stage for the further exploration of community service, in the next column we’ll give you some concrete examples of how these current-day lifelong learners engaged in meaningful volunteerism. Then, later on we’ll talk about the many aspects of community service, and give you resources to help you decide how community service can fit into your life and your goal of being a complete lifelong learner.