I understand why some people retire… why they look forward to retirement. They hate their jobs and dread getting up each day and plodding off to endure another day of suffering. One of my dear friends and fellow firefighter, J. C. Long, dutifully, daily went to a job he hated. He did it to support a family he loved. I admired his love, courage and tenacity. What I don’t understand is why he chose to live like that?
We have choices. It may not seem so, but we do. We get our heads down, stumbling step after step until it becomes next to impossible to look up and around to seek a way out. But the truth is, one could always get another job. Doing that may be difficult. Perhaps it calls for some more education or training. Perhaps changing jobs calls for some short-term challenges and sacrifices, but it is doable. My thought is, if one is going to spend 1/3 of one’s life at work, why not go to the trouble to make it a pleasant experience?
With that said, if my health permits, I will never retire. There a couple of reasons I have reached that conclusion. The first is, I am called to the ministry. It is not a job, it is a calling. It is how, I believe, God wants me to invest my life. And that calling doesn’t end just because the culture in which I live says that there is a retirement age and when I reach it I should just retire. Along with this calling is the fact that it is only recently, through years of practice, of trial and error (The emphasis on the error thing.), I have finally figured out how to do this thing God has called me to do. Successful and healthy ministry is rather complicated and difficult and though I spent many years in school to prepare myself, very little I was taught in college and seminary has proven to be applicable and useful. So, why quit now?
My second reason comes from observing retired men around me. The first was my father. Dad had a type A personality, a go getter, an organizer and a high-powered executive. He was a boss and had many employees looking to him for leadership, and he supplied it. He was loved and highly respected. Then he retired. The first odd thing I noticed, the rare mornings I joined him for breakfast, he showed up at the table wearing, as he had for decades, a white dress shirt and tie. He was going nowhere. He had no meetings or appointments. So, I am wondering, what’s with the shirt and tie? I would drop by and find him randomly calling people (Whom he didn’t know.) to chat. One day they were snowed in so a came by to shovel their front walk. I found him armed with the Henry County phone book calling strangers and saying something to the effect of, “Hi, this is Bill McConnell. Just thought I would call to see if there is anything I could do for you.” Mother mumbled, “What in the hell is he doing? He’s snowed in. He can’t even do anything for us, much less anyone else.” They were quite a combination.
When considering the second reason I won’t retire I noted that many retired men lose their minds and become colossal pains in the butt. As my mother so well put it, “I took him for better or worse, but not for lunch.” She began devising ways to get him out of the house. I have a retired preacher friend who has so little of meaning to do that he posts on Facebook exciting items such as: how many days he has been retired; fish he has caught and where he is eating lunch. Just shoot me.
Every kid who has grown up in a neighborhood has had a grumpy old man neighbor. An old retired guy who had nothing better to do than make every kid on the block miserable. Hit a ball in his yard, it was gone forever. Step a foot off the side walk into his yard and get screamed at. Go to his house trick or treating – absolutely not. With nothing else to do, retired men expend what little energy they have on things that really don’t matter. For many, their lawns seem to become their center of attention. Their lawn and your lawn, which is not as well kept as theirs because you are incumbered by things like kids and a job and a life. They don’t approve of your poorly kept lawn and are happy to share with you their unhappiness.
Our one-time next-door neighbor was a retired postal worker… double trouble. Sam spent a huge amount of his time and energy defending his borders. If a man’s home is his castle, Sam’s yard was his fiefdom. We had been moved in less than a week before Sam dropped by to tell us that our fence was a couple of feet over on his property. I suggested he have it surveyed and if that was so, we would have the fence moved. After several weeks I asked Sam about the survey and he admitted that the survey had shown that the fence was two feet over on our property. Sam complained when we parked our cars to close to the edge of our driveway. OUR DRIVEWAY!! Sam didn’t like our teenagers parking in the street in front of his house, so he called the city. They said it was public parking and could do nothing about it. So, Sam went out one afternoon and painted the curb in front of his house bright, “no parking” yellow. Of course, within 48 hours, the words “Park Here” were painted on top of his yellow paint job. My kids still swear they didn’t do it. And I believe them. I think they talked the younger kids who lived next door into doing it.
I recently read of Kentucky Senator Rand Paul being attacked by his next-door neighbor. The neighbor was upset with Senator Paul because the Senator wasn’t keeping his lawn up to the neighbor’s standards. Leaves and grass clipping were blowing off Paul’s property onto his. The neighbor’s response was to tackle Paul as he was dismounting his lawn tractor. The Senator suffered several broken. Having recently fractured one of my ribs, the Senator has my full sympathy. That hurts, and it hurts a lot for a long time. The man charged in the assault is Paul’s next-door neighbor, Dr. Rene Boucher. Dr. Boucher is a retired anesthesiologist. Emphasis on retired.
My conclusion is, I will never retire because I am already crazy enough and a big enough pain in the butt without intensifying the problem. Plus, right now I do give a hoot about my yard and I like it that way.
Copyright © 2017, William T. McConnell, All Rights Reserved
Bill McConnell is the Interim Minister at Norwood Christian Church in Cincinnati, Ohio, and is a Church Transformation consultant and a Christian Leadership Coach. He is a frequent speaker at Church Transformation events. His latest book on church transformation is DEVELOPING A SIGNIFICANT CHURCH and is available at Westbow Press.