Saturday, April 17, 2021

If You Do What You Love

My paternal grandparents were not a significant part of my childhood. Grandmother (Margaret) died when I was very young. What I remember of Grandfather Bauer was his residing in a Boarding House. In its day it was a type of combined assisted living and "old folks home."

Maternal Grandparents
My maternal grandparents lived much longer. They each died when I was in my early twenties. I remember many visits, holidays, and conversations with them. However, I do not remember either of them working outside of their home for income. Yet, they bought basic items they needed to carry on daily life.

Retirement, "the act of leaving one's job, career, or occupation permanently, usually   because of age," was not modeled by my grandparents. I was not ignorant of the   concept. I remember hearing the expression, "I cannot wait until I reach retirement."   Yet growing up with my father's occupation being farming, there was no set timeline to   mark the end of his labors. Even into his seventies, he continued to work at a variety of income producing jobs. He eventually sold the farm and went to work in an assembly plant. He also bagged groceries and stocked shelves. My mother was heavily involved in church volunteering after she ended her career as a Registered Nurse. In his mid-nineties, my father continues to reside in his own home. He is fairly mobile, independent, has hobbies, keeps up on current affairs, and provides for his dietary needs. He does not earn income, but appears financially stable. My parents provided some modeling, but they were not the traditional "now I am retired" people.

Dad with dark glasses
3 Generations at his home

So, I have limited familial role models of retirement. I have seen aging along with a variety of activities. I have yet to find a common theme or path other than simply the passing of time. I am officially too old for AARP to send invitations to their group. I am still young enough to receive calls regarding extended warranties for my vehicle. Overall this concept of retirement is more illusive than ever.

The popular quote, "If you do what you love, you'll never work a day in your life," resonates on many levels of my life. An aspect of pastoral care which I cherish is flexibility. From walking dikes and tossing sandbags, to driving harvesting equipment, to hiking experiences with youth in the Rocky Mountains, and being a volunteer Emergency Medical Technician my career has been diverse and fulfilling. There are facets of the vocation which cause chafing. As another pastor said, "I like being a pastor if it wasn't for the people." Overall the people are honest, caring, and supportive. Even the bad times are nothing in comparison to the college job of using hot asphalt to seal flat roofs!

Sunset - Is that retirement?
 So, what is retirement? Is it getting a monthly check from the Social   Security Administration? Is it receiving healthcare from the Federal   Government? Is it a season in the continuum of life? For some the word   "freedom" is used. Other people say, "The Golden Years are not very   golden!" I ponder how to describe this segment of my life. I catch myself   not wanting to say, "I am retired," or "I am semi-retired." Some of it   expresses a denial of aging. A more powerful aspect comes in not having a   vision of what it entails. I do not remember a time when I have been this   uncertain about the expectations of life. I am still earning an income. I work   part-time and have a few side hustles. I continue to enjoy each day looking   forward to what I will experience. 
Maybe retirement is not pretty?

I invite comments, perspectives, and sharing about any aspect of retirement. It is through the collective sharing where insight is gained. Is there an ultimate definition and structure to retirement? Please, share your thoughts, observations, and wisdom. You can do so on the comment section of the page.

Saturday, April 3, 2021

Fulfillment Center

New Amazon "Fulfillment Center"
North of Fargo, ND
 The March 31st, broadcast of Fresh Air featured an interview with a journalist and author, Alec MacGillis. His recent book is titled, "Fulfillment: Winning and Losing in One-Click America." In listening I learned that Amazon has "Fulfillment Centers," not distribution centers or warehouses. What is in a name? A great deal, I believe.

Ever Given in Suez Canal
(Suez Canal Authority)

It was only days ago that a large container ship, the Ever Given, was dislodged from blocking the entire Suez Canal. The vessel is about 400 metres in length. Fully loaded it carries approximately 20,000 shipping containers. These are the same colorful containers that are seen on freight trains, pulled behind semi-tractors on Interstate Highways, and stacked at seaports. 

The Ever Given is only one of hundreds of container ships carrying items from one continent to another. The lines of semi-tractors at ports, as well as moving along highways seem endless.  Where are all of these products headed? You guessed it, "Fulfillment Centers." We want what we want when we want it! The supply chain better not break. I will not tolerate another toilet paper shortage. One click and two day delivery is a way of life. One click and I am fulfilled, Or am I? If I am fulfilled, why do I constantly click for more of the products flowing across the ocean?

Fulfillment according to is, "the state or quality of completion or realization." Completion? When do we sense our lives are complete? If Amazon had its best year in 2020, we are all clicking more than once to achieve fulfillment. More distribution centers are being built (the one pictured above has 1.3 million square feet), storage units are highly profitable as we need to warehouse stuff that is meant to satisfy us, and we panic when supply chains are weakened or cracked.  

It is the weekend when the majority of those following Christian traditions mark the death and resurrection of Jesus of Nazareth. In other words, it is Easter weekend. Yup, the time of ham dinners, egg hunts, online or in-person worship, and decorative baskets. It is a "holy time" when we again fill our lives, our stomachs, and our hours with stuff.  Jesus did say, "I came that they may have life and have it abundantly." (John 10.10  ESV). So, fulfillment must be achievable. What will it take to make that a reality?

It is revealing to me that New Testament resurrection accounts have no description of fullness. Those coming to the tomb are filled with disappointment, fear, and grief. What they experience is emptiness. The tomb is empty. Jesus even left the death shroud inside the tomb. Life cannot be realized in that which is full, whether it be a tomb, a container ship, a fulfillment center, or a storage unit. That manner of fullness leads to dissatisfaction, disappointment, anxiety, and death. Life is experienced by being empty. It is found in being liberated from all of the expectations, the desires, and the stuff. It is in rolling back the stone that ensnares and entombs us where we find the freedom to live. 

Fulfillment is not boxed in by walls nor carried in containers. Fulfillment is freedom to experience, explore, and live each day unencumbered!