Pam Rainey: Toss the old roll, embrace new role

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For unto whomsoever much is given, of him shall much be required: and to whom men have committed much, of him they will ask the more.

— Luke 12:48

 

You can learn a few life lessons if you study a roll of toilet paper.

For example, have you ever noticed that the closer you come to the end of the roll, the faster it goes? It is sort of like the end of the year. When fall festivals and pumpkins arrive, you might as well start gathering your income tax documents for your accountant.

I noticed another similarity between life and a roll of toilet paper. Many people look at life as if they can only see “the big picture” through something the size of a toilet paper cardboard roll. They have one eye closed as they pass through life, the other eye squinting as though trying to see everything through one of those little rolls.

The “same old, same old” routine becomes normal and comfortable to them. All of life, it seems, is the stuff seen at the end of that tunnel.

So, how big is your world?

Years ago I went to Germany. When we landed in Frankfurt, I looked out the window and saw scores of people. I thought to myself, “These people are like me. They must get up every morning, go to work, have families, watch television, eat, go to the grocery store,” and on and on.

Until I got out of America and had that “aha moment,” it was hard for me to imagine that anything existed other than what I knew. Meeting people from around the world is an eye-opening experience.

Throwing away our toilet paper roll lens is frightening, as is opening our minds and hearts to new experiences.

When I walk into my office every day, I pass a large sign. It reads: “The journey is the reward.” I wonder how much of the journey I missed in 2012 because I was so involved in “my world.”

Good thing January is here and a fresh calendar waits, as do new experiences.

As seniors, when we are asked to travel a different road, we say: “I’ve already done that.” Often, we have.

But that excuse is not always valid. We can recycle it, wondering if a new commitment might leave us stuck doing things we dislike. Or maybe we have other issues come up that prevent us from giving our all.

Before we say no, we should remember the talents, life skills and compassion that we’ve developed over the years. They are too enormous to waste.

Retirement can be enriched by lending those talents, skills and compassion to an avocation.

For example, a retired teacher can offer wisdom by mentoring a new teacher who is at the end of her rope. Schools are desperate for readers — and listeners — who can serve students, and a senior can lend a few hours each week to the task. A retired banker could volunteer in a high school class, teaching students how to manage credit cards. Or a senior who has survived financial ruin — and has flourished in the aftermath — could teach a high school class about credit scores, and how to keep a score that makes them a safe risk for lenders.

And don’t worry if a volunteer commitment doesn’t go your way. The opportunities are unlimited. Volunteerism can be as creative as you are.

Before we know it, it will be the end of 2013. We will be lamenting again over getting our financial documents to the accountant and ringing in another new year. Will we regret we have not allowed the journey as our reward?

Hopefully, we will be counting the times we put away our toilet-paper-roll-size viewfinders and stepped into a bigger picture — one in which we still have a lot to give to others.

Happy New Year, my friends.

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Note to readers: I am in the process of interviewing physicians as to how the new health care laws are affecting their practices. Watch for an article sharing their viewpoints in a few months.

PAM RAINEY is a longtime Denton resident and a real estate agent who has helped many seniors make decisions about living arrangements. You can reach her with suggestions at rpmrny@cs.com or 940-367-1188.


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