Taking the next step

Posted: November 21, 2013 in Musings, Personal
Tags: , , , , , , , , ,

Outside our window are a number of bushes.  The cold winds of fall-turning-to-winter have stripped all but one of them of their leaves.  That one, lone bush, a meeting place for birds, still stands fully-leafed, taller than the other bushes.  As I glanced at the bushes this morning, the wind whining around the house, I realized those bushes are the perfect metaphor for the way we choose to react to circumstances in our lives.  Some of us lose our leaves, while others stay green and useful.

I’m turning 60 mid-March of next year.  Sixty sounds quite old to me, much older than I feel, hopefully older than I look.  I haven’t any qualms about celebrating that birthday.  In fact, I’m thinking I should throw a big party and celebrate that, at an age that many people not so long ago never attained, I, like the Energizer Bunny, am still going and going and…

But  as I think about what I want to do next, now that our girls are either out on their own or nearing that halfway point of college, I realize with a frisson of shock that some people or companies might discount me because I’m “too old.”  That seems incomprehensible to me.  In an era where too many think to grow older is to grow useless, I think they’re mistaken.

Some are old before their time; some avoid what age tries to thrust upon them.
My paraphrase.

Of course physical ailments and diseases can take their toll, but many people push beyond the limits of what might be expected of them, refusing to give up the fight.

Time is what we want most, but… what we use worst.
~ William Penn

What I’m thinking about these days is what I want and can do next.  Because I love to read and I know how important reading is to success in life, I’d like to tutor children or adults who have a difficult time reading.  The idea that so many students can escape our public school systems without being able to read, fills me with anger.  And as I beavered around for information, I came across the following startling statistics.

The Washington County Literacy Council (in Pennsylvania), http://washingtoncountyliteracycouncil.org/WCLC.htm,  says that:

As many as 23% of the  adult American population (40-44 million) is functionally illiterate (Level 1 according to the National Adult Literacy Survey), lacking basic skills beyond a fourth-grade level.  Illiteracy is widespread, a problem in every community, not limited to any race, region or socioeconomic class.


    The rate of illiteracy in America’s correctional systems is over 60% (National Institutes of Health).

They quote a number of other horrifying statistics as well.  DoSomething.org (http://www.dosomething.org/tipsandtools/11-facts-about-literacy-america) says, among other things:

Two-thirds of students who cannot read proficiently by the end of 4th grade will end up in jail or on welfare. Over 70 percent of America’s inmates cannot read above a 4th grade level. 

1 in 4 children in America grow up without learning how to read.

I don’t know anything else about these organizations and am not endorsing them in any way.  All the welfare programs in the world, well-intentioned or not, aren’t likely to help in a lasting way someone who can’t read.  Children are being passed through our school system without the reading (and other) skills necessary to have any chance at a decent life.

But I’ve digressed from my original discussion.  Or maybe I haven’t.  There’s no reason why someone “my age” can’t teach someone to read or to read better.  Perhaps I’d need some direction, perhaps not.  But it’s something worthwhile I could do.  And there are plenty more things.

Even the bushes in our front yard that don’t have leaves right now, will have them again in spring unless the bush dies completely.  In the same way, each of us can keep reinventing his/herself throughout the seasons of life.  I’m figuring out my next invention.  What’s yours?

  1. I’m forever evolving into what I’m going to be when I’m grown-up 🙂

  2. Thank you for that – your post is insightful, humane, and so true. Your comment about illiteracy rang a bell with me – I tried to convince a young mother to learn to read a few months ago, and failed. I hope she will make the step one day. Your decision is generous and useful to society – and it will be rewarding. Now I’m off to check out that my leaves are still green.

    • If you’re even checking, your leaves are most likely still green. 🙂 I’m glad you enjoyed the post. There are really many ways in which to help people but I think teaching them to read, and hopefully to think, is one of the most useful, as it allows them then to take their lives into their own hands.


  3. Allan G. Smorra says:

    Your post touches on some very real issues that many of us in this generation are facing in the very near future: What am I going to do with the rest of my life?

    I applaud your plan to teach children to read, as it opens untold worlds for them. I will be retiring sometime around next April and I am making plans to join a Mentoring program that my Union is starting for our apprentices.

    I think that many of have had a look around and realized that we have a knowledge-base and skill set that may help the next generation move into our spot in the workplace and take it to another level. The School-of-Hard-Knocks has its place, but so does a compassionate ear to talk to.

    Good luck with your endeavor,

    • Allan, good luck with yours as well. Apprenticeship-style endeavors are a great way to teach, as the knowledge and the compassionate ear, as well as encouragement, are hopefully all together. A knowledge and skill base prepares people to weather the School-of-hard-Knocks much better.


  4. When my kids were in elementary school I was on the auxiliary PTA board. In other words I was one of three parents that were in house mothers. We had a reading program for children that were having difficulty reading. Maybe you can do that. Last year when I had my grandson with me I would take him to the library on Saturdays, there were teachers and college students that tutored kids for a little as $20 an hour. Just a suggestion. You’re right about people thinking older people have lost their usefulness. My health has made me older physically but I still think like a young person. I keep pushing and I plan to as long as I can. Throw yourself a banging 60th Birthday party show the youngsters how to do it. 🙂

  5. A quick note to let you know that there will not be a challenge next Monday due to the U.S. Thanksgiving holiday. Hope to see you on 02 December for the next challenge: Nature. Have a glorious and relaxing Thanksgiving.

  6. ImeldaImelda says:

    I think your goal is great and very helpful to the community at large, and to the individual most especially. I wish that your dream will be realized. And I think 60 is a great age, and worth celebrating. 🙂

  7. vastlycurious.com says:

    My leaves are still green though my age would contradict this . Sometimes I sprout new ones even in the winter. My age is also becoming a bit of a detriment in some ways but I carry on and also look for renewed purpose . Your post suggests some great ways to contribute and I would love to help a child. However , I also have to keep working which minimizes my time.

    Nice post Janet. Keep your young spirit!

  8. Imagineer says:

    Perhaps there is a two way gain. You can teach others to read and they can help you feel needed. The more you put in the more you gain. 🙂

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