I turned 65 last August.
There’s something about suddenly becoming eligible for Medicare that’s like a smack up the side of the head. It’s a turning point in which we find ourselves doing a life review; thinking and talking about where we’ve been, where we are, and where we want to go from here, the gods willing.
I’ve had a wonderful life up ‘til now, although it sometimes didn’t feel like it at the time. I’ve been allowed to participate in a number of world-changing activities and events, whether that world was just a handful of friends, or my community, or my town, or my state, or, in a few instances, the real world-world. I think that’s true, to varying degrees, of all of us. Sometimes we’re leaders, sometimes followers, usually a bit of both, but always, there.
As for where I want to go from here, the only thing I know for sure is that I want to keep showing up, and to continue to be willing to participate and to push the envelope of my own comfort zone.
Whether you’re 65 like me, or 18 or 80, that’s the key to being able to look back on a good life that’s perhaps a bit richer than average. Keep showing up.
If you have some spare time and don’t have your own particular place to show up and pitch in, I want to make a plug for one of the most rewarding places I’ve ever participated: It’s apolitical, has a huge impact on the lives of children and families in your community, and can be done anywhere in the United States. No special skills or experience required.
I’m talking about a program called “CASA”, which stands for Court Appointed Special Advocates. Throughout America (and the world, for that matter), each year we’re finding more and more children being taken out of their families and into the care of state as the result of abuse and neglect. The System—the courts that oversee the process, and the children and family services agencies that become become responsible for the welfare of the taken children—is finding itself buried under the sheer number of cases it has to handle. Children in the system are being lost, sometimes never to be heard from again.
Enter CASA: CASA volunteers are trained in the child welfare laws of their state and community, familiarized with the official agencies that are the legal guardians of taken children, and introduced to the local facilities and individuals that provide the services necessary to improve the lives of the children in custody, the ultimate goal being to return the kids to a home that’s become a safe, supportive place to live and grow up.
After training, CASAs are appointed by the court to oversee the resolution of one individual case. They go out into the field and meet the children, the parents or other adults who are raising the kids, and the community in which the kids live. They don’t become social workers. Rather, they act as the eyes and ears of the court in supervising the progress of the case. They make regular reports and recommendations to the court, and those reports and recommendations are the basis on which the court makes its final disposition.
If you think CASA might be for you, whether as an Advocate or as a little cog in the CASA program, call your local CASA office and tell them you’re interested. If your area doesn’t have a CASA program, get together with some like-minded friends and start one! To find your local CASA office, or get more information about starting a CASA program in your community, visit http://www.casaforchildren.org. I can’t think of a better place to show up and be willing.