When I was growing up my father always reminded me that it was important to “give back”, that there were others who were less fortunate. It was a responsibility to share and to give back to my community. That message has been with me throughout my second act although as a career woman and mother, I didn’t have much time to volunteer. Those of us who surged into the workforce working hard to prove ourselves equal to men while we also raised a family, changed the traditional practice of the stay-at-home mom. In addition to mothering, those were women also used their abilities as a volunteer for the PTA, the church, the Junior League , the Scouts or many other organizations.
Now, as women and men of the “silent generation” and the “boomer generation”, we are launching our 3rd act. It is the time to think about how we can contribute in new ways. Sara Lawrence-Lightfoot suggests that we should call it “giving forward” as we think about making a contribution to the future of our communities, our country, our world. We want to be useful, to make a difference, to have our lives mean something. As we search for ways of working and living that are generous and altruistic, useful and engaged, we often look back at experiences or messages from our past, like the one from my father. Lawrence-Lightfoot suggests that we “look back” to those memories which lay the foundation for “giving forward”.
Members of the baby boomer generation in their youth wanted to change the world. The responsibilities of career and family took many of us in a different direction from that calling. In our 3rd acts we have the opportunity to renew those earlier passions. Ralph Nader offered a clarion call to us when he said at a White House Conference on Aging, “A generational stirring is rumbling among those who grew up in the 50’s when America was number one in just about everything and who now find their land in deep trouble on almost all domestic fronts. With their children raised and some financial security achieved, more of them are looking outward to help solve the country’s problems.”
We have learned how important it is to have meaning and purpose in our lives. When career and raising children may no longer provide as much fulfillment in our lives, we can design our 3rd act portfolios to include volunteering, giving forward. It provides such a win-win. This is our opportunity for learning and growing, finding new experiences and building relationships with diverse people and younger generations. It is a 3rd act portfolio that offers us energy, engagement, purpose and passion while organizations and communities receive the gift of our skills and experience, our maturity and wisdom. I am finding my commitment to “give forward” in my 3rd act brings many dividends—new learning, new friends, increased self understanding and meaning in my life.