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Wednesday, January 7, 2015

"What Can You Do With A General When He Stops Being A General?"

Lessons Learned

“What Can You Do With A General When He Stops Being A General?”

“White Christmas” is, by far, our family’s favorite holiday movie. The lines, the songs, the choreography, the gestures, the elaborate sets and costumes completely engage each and every cousin, aunt, uncle, and grandparent gathered around the living room watching and listening and singing along to this classic  with full smiles.  And if a gentle snow begins falling outside our home at the end of the movie, just like the final scene of the movie, well then, all the better. Fabulous. Absolutely fabulous. In the story, General Waverly retires from the Army and struggles a bit to find footing in the new life of retirement after a very busy and decorated life in the service; hence the song, “What can you do with a General when he stops being a General?” Retirement is a chapter, a season of life that many eagerly anticipate for years and years, as the thought of increased discretionary time is unequivocally alluring. The thought of even available time outside the typical spin cycle of life’s frenetic daily pace is the longed for daydream that frequently tickles one’s imagination while galloping on the treadmill of climbing and achievement in a job or career. But then it finally arrives, retirement that is, and regardless of how giddily anticipated  it has been and for how long, it still arrives like the screeching halt of touchy brakes. Boom. Stop. Fini. With your box of belongings draped over your arms, you head to your car as your cubical is dusted off and prepared for the next player who has been charged to pick up the ball and run. The drive home is washed with emotions ranging from jubilation over the “my time’s my own” reality to a pinch of concern in response to the perplexing and confusing question bubbling up inside wondering who exactly one is apart from a long time job or career. Hello. Redefining or reinventing one’s self requires some deep contemplative time, so right now in this exact moment on this awkward drive home, a pinch of emptiness douses the jubilation.  Tomorrow morning, lounging in a bathrobe until 10 AM may be great medicine for the heart and soul, but will it feel so decadent morning after morning after morning after morning? Somehow I feel as though we are innately wired to want to regularly bring our gifts to the table of need and offer our best to tackle challenges that exist around us.  No two individuals are the same and the gifts possessed by one are the gifts needed by another. By sharing and serving in this manner, growth and progress occur. In bringing home the box of belongings, one is essentially withdrawing from the exchange of gifts for the enrichment of all, and that simply cannot be; not permanently anyway.  I retired last June. Thirty years in the classroom for this teacher, and it was unquestionably the career of my dreams and of my heart. But it was time. Time for a change. Time to breathe. Time to reassess. “ What can you do with teachers when they stop being teachers?”  For a short while, one can busy busy hands with part time jobs and engage minds accustomed to spontaneously creating exciting plans and activities that magically build bridges of learning for learners of all ages and all ability levels all of the time with various good and meaningful projects, but at some point, the desire and need to serve and share consistently, deeply and significantly will become overwhelming.  Teachers are meant to teach; it’s who they are. But the where, the when, and the how, that would be the trick. Needs most assuredly abound in our families, neighborhoods, and communities, and the skill set of a veteran teacher could provide valuable support when reaching into these needs to offer hope and help. Retirement is a change, not a checking out.  Even in retirement, especially in retirement,  teachers must continue to teach, minister to individual needs, build a warm collaborative esprit de corps, open the doors of possibility, and lead the charge of encouragement and affirmation regardless of the classroom or arena in which they serve. There’s much work to be done; no time for the bathrobe today.