Retirement doesn’t mean retiring

Our guest blogger is Caroline Coxon from Quirkyworks .  When 60, 65 or 67 starts looming into your horizon it can feel as though you’re entering the world of retirement, paid work is coming to an end.  But that’s not the end as Caroline tells us.

I can’t do everything, but I can do something

Making a difference – pathway to empowerment

Go on any social media platform and there are always, everywhere, those uplifting quotes that might inspire you – or might make you reach for the sick bucket because they’re so tearfully sentimental. At risk of causing an instant bout of nausea, here’s one that’s important to me:

“I am only one, but I am one. I cannot do everything, but I can do something. And I will not let what I cannot do interfere with what I can do.” 

It was written in the late 19th century – not by a woman – but by an American author, historian and Unitarian clergyman, called Edward Everett Hale. Fine words indeed.

A little about me first, to put all this into context. I’m 63 and I recently retired so I found myself with considerably more time on my hands. At first, I really enjoyed waking up every morning thinking that, beyond the household chores and looking after the animals, I had nothing that I had to do. After a while, that thrill wore off and I began to feel lethargic and unmotivated, which isn’t like me at all. What to do? This. Take some actions that would make a difference in the world.

Just to be clear, this blog doesn’t set out to enrol you the causes I care about. Everyone has different things that they’re concerned about and how good is that? Life wouldn’t work too well if everybody cared about the same thing.

As for me, for several years I’ve been involved with a grassroots organisation which supports refugees stuck in Northern France with no safe passage to the UK even if, in many cases, international law says they’re entitled to have their claims for asylum heard.

This found me, on a bitterly cold New Year’s Day, plunging into the sea at Brighton to raise money for and awareness of so many people, including young children, who had drowned attempting to cross the Mediterranean of the English Channel to seek sanctuary in another country. It’s also found me collecting clothes and supplies to send out to the camps there, to provide a little comfort for some desperate people.

Until February, all my work for had been carried out in the UK. Going over to France to volunteer wasn’t something that I thought of particularly, but more and more, I wanted to see for myself what the situation was so I could report it first-hand.

Believe me, it was at the same time the most uplifting and the most distressing thing I’ve ever done. I worked with the Refugee Community Kitchen for three days. There, not only are 1200 meals a day provided for people scattered in small enclaves around the area, but clothes, tents, sleeping bags and other supplies are distributed. And distributed again, because the French national police have been tasked with creating a ‘hostile environment’ for them, so their tents are slashed, they are doused with freezing water or tear gas, and their warm clothes and shoes are confiscated. Night after night.

I can tell you it was a tough environment, even as a volunteer – and I was lucky enough to be able to retreat to the comfort of a little hotel every night and have a glass of wine and a satisfying meal.

The point is, the experience left me empowered. I was working amongst a group of wonderful people, mostly women, who had seen a need and wanted to do what they could to make a difference. To me it was inspiring. We were told never to assume that just because someone was female and slightly built, they hadn’t the strength to carry out physical tasks. So, one day I worked in the woodyard, breaking up pallets andoperating a powered chop saw – the sort that my dear husband wouldn’t let me go near at home. How formidable and fulfilled I felt!

I was exhausted when I got back, emotionally and physically, but without doubt it made me feel less impotent and useless, even though my contribution was only tiny. Rant and rave all you like about issues that upset you, no matter what they are, but nothing beats taking action. Even tiny ones.

 

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