Busy, busy, busy. I first met Chris and Emmett while they were on a walk in our neighborhood. It was clear they were very friendly but very busy. For more than a year we were unable to coordinate our schedules for a meal together. But when it worked out to attend a gathering in their home, I learned what they were up to. It was at this event that I began to understand why their time was limited. The couple has adult children and grandchildren whom they travel frequently to see, and, in their retirement, they fill their lives with social activity and an incredible devotion in service to others.
Emmett was the first to retire of the two of them and he immediately signed up to volunteer to deliver meals for Meals on Wheels, following in the footsteps of his parents. Emmett describes the work as rewarding saying, “The people are so appreciative.” For many meal recipients, the volunteers are their daily contact to another human being and they eagerly look forward to the delivery.
As a former Navy man, Emmett was also attracted to regularly volunteering at the USS Midway Museum in San Diego, which he describes as “pure fun.” Moreover, he belongs to a men’s weekly cycling group and volunteers with his wife, Chris, at Showers of Blessings North County. Showers of Blessings provides weekly showers in a portable trailer along with haircuts, food and clean clothes to those in need.
Chris began volunteering as a teacher at the USS Midway after her retirement and said it helped her make the transition from a full-time teaching career. She truly enjoyed her work at the USS Midway but eventually, she became involved with Showers of Blessings closer to home and now leads the Carlsbad operation the charitable organization. The showers are available once a week and many of the local homeless population are becoming regular attendees. Both Chris and Emmett agreed that they are building a community with this organization and they often recognize the homeless people they work with when out and about.
Chris relayed a touching story about a homeless woman named Ellie. Chris said she walked into a store and saw Ellie reading a magazine inside. Chris approached her and said hello to her the same as she would a neighbor. She said Ellie’s face lit up into a huge smile. After Chris checked out her purchases, she said Ellie approached her and said, “Thanks for noticing me.” I was struck by how Chris and Emmett and their organization are helping people to feel human, people who are ordinarily on the fringe of society and do not enjoy the decencies most of us take for granted such as bathing or being positively acknowledged.
Both of them feel that the work they are doing now is highly fulfilling and don’t plan to retire from it. They appreciate having the freedom to choose how they spend their time and try to balance their lives with activities and relaxation so that they don’t become overwhelmed. Chris advised that others beginning the retirement life try to not to become discouraged and to take the time to explore the right fit when deciding what to do. It’s better to take on activities a little at a time to see if you enjoy them before committing to too much. You don’t want to end up overwhelmed or resentful of your responsibilities. This stage of your life should be about living purposefully in a way that makes you happy and, at the same time, makes a better world. Chris and Emmett are doing just that while ticking off the following quality aging goals:
1. Physical activity
2. Mental stimulation
3. Emotional connections
4. Community involvement
5. Spiritual growth
These are some key factors to happy and purposeful aging. Chris and Emmett are nailing it. As pleased as I am for them, they also inspired me.
On a recent rainy afternoon, I left a store and noticed there was a homeless man seeking shelter from the rain under the store overhang. My boyfriend keeps a few dollars in his car in the event he sees a homeless person looking for some help. I took the dollar from the car and approached the homeless man. I think he was surprised to see me walk up to him and I asked him if he wanted a dollar. He said yes, thanked me, and then wished God to bless me. I returned the blessing and got into my car. As I drove past him, I wanted to be sure to acknowledge him as I would a neighbor, so I waved and smiled. He also waved back. I often give money or food to others but I have not taken a step beyond that to help them realize that I see them as a neighbor and fellow human.
When I left that store, I had one more errand to do and there was a homeless man keeping dry outside that store. I purchased a soda and some beef jerky for him and offered them when I exited the store. He joked with me that he had bought his own soda an hour ago and asked why hadn’t I shown up earlier? His face was beaming with a warm smile as we spoke. He blessed me and told me I was beautiful. I returned the sentiments and began to walk away. “Hey!” he shouted, and I turned around. “You know, you’re only the second person to speak to me today? One other lady talked to me earlier.” I was deeply moved by this exchange. I hadn’t done much at all. But I had acknowledged two people who seemed to have been starved for that. What a simple but impactful thing to do.
When you choose activities in your life that fill you up, you never know how many people you will touch and inspire with your words and actions. Chris and Emmett have created countless ripples of kindness with their charitable devotion and I am so thankful to be a part of that energy.
If you are interested in becoming involved in Chris and Emmett's causes, here is the contact information:
Showers Of Blessings North County https://www.facebook.com/Showers-of-Blessings-North-County-492957161107061/
USS Midway Volunteering
Meals on Wheels https://www.mealsonwheelsamerica.org/americaletsdolunch
Jail Ministry: Contact your local church to see if they have an organization. There are many resources for this work.