A little over a year and a half ago I retired rather abruptly from a job I loved.
I had planned on hanging in there a while longer. I was a director at a nonprofit that did a lot of good for a lot of people.
We helped the homeless, single moms, working poor and a host of others who needed a boost to keep them from falling through the cracks.
I worked there 16 years, and under my management thrift store sales grew from $180,000 to $1.3 million. We were able to assist over 100 families a day, give away $100,000 a month in financial assistance and provide 9 tons of food a week.
People said things like, “If it weren’t for you, my children would have gone to bed hungry at night….If it weren’t for you, we’d be homeless…if it weren’t for you, I never would have survived breast cancer, job loss, divorce….”
It was extremely gratifying to know we were making a difference.
Yet like any job, this one wasn’t without its downside.
I finally got tired of the constant pressure from our board of directors to make more and more money. They weren’t bad people and it was a worthy cause. But the harder my team worked and the better we did, the higher they jacked up my forecast.
We were supposed to continually increase sales by 20 or 30 percent without additional resources such as staffing, store space or donations. I felt like I was in corporate America instead of a nonprofit.
Nothing against them. I just got burned out with it, so I retired. There are different seasons in our lives, and it was time for me to move into a new season.
I was fortunate to be financially independent and spent a blissful year traveling, writing, exercising, spending time with family and friends and doing a lot of other things I had wanted to do for a long time.
Then I began to feel the stirrings of restlessness.
I kept thinking of this story:
“The farm of a certain rich man produced a terrific crop. He talked to himself: ‘What can I do? My barn isn’t big enough for this harvest.’
Then he said, ‘Here’s what I’ll do: I’ll tear down my barns and build bigger ones. Then I’ll gather in all my grain and goods, and I’ll say to myself, Self, you’ve done well! You’ve got it made and can now retire. Take it easy and have the time of your life!’
Just then God showed up and said, ‘Fool!’ Tonight you die. And your barn full of goods; who gets it?’
That’s what happens when you fill your barn with Self and not with God.’” (Luke 12:16–21)
Traveling and enjoying life are good things. We have a beautiful world to explore and each day is a gift. But there is also a world of need and a lot of people who don’t have the freedom, means and opportunity to make the most of their lives. My restlessness told me it was time to start following my heart and reaching out more to others.
I didn’t want to fill my barn with Self and forget that there is a whole world of people who matter.
Some people retire and say to themselves, “I’ve worked hard and earned the right to take life easy from now on.”
Other people climb the ladder of success and find it to be a lonely pinnacle.
I believe we’re put on this planet to lift others up, help them out and do as much good as we can for as long as we can.
Nobody is too insignificant or too untalented to impact the world for good. What we do depends on our circumstances, our gifts and our passions.
One person might decide to work in a soup kitchen or house refugees. Another person could be in a position to encourage others in the workforce and help them attain their goals. People who love animals might assist with animal rescue organizations and people who are passionate about a cause could become an advocate for what they believe in. I know an elderly woman who can’t leave her house, but she sends encouraging notes to people.
Filling the barn with Self ultimately diminishes us. But casting the net wide, finding ways to help and lift others up, enriches us in ways we never imagined.
I’ll continue to enjoy the gift of every day, traveling, writing, and relishing leisure time. But I’ll also use my time to reach out and improve my small corner of the world.
I doubt I’ll do anything earth-shattering or grand. My feeble efforts might not have a noticeable impact. But a rock tossed in a pond creates a small ripple that widens into larger rings. You never know when you might be making a difference.
“While it may seem small, the ripple effects of small things is extraordinary.” Matt Bevin
It’s never too late to cast a rock in the pond. All we need is a kernel of passion, a bit of determination and a little willingness. It’s a new season.