“I would also like to enter into dialogue with the many elderly persons who are a storehouse of wisdom forged by experience, and who seek in many ways, especially through volunteer work, to share their stories and their insights. I know that many of them are retired, but still active; they keep working to build up this land.” (Excerpt from Pope Francis’ address to the U.S. Congress on Sept. 23, 2015)
This statement from Pope Francis affirms my own train of thought as I read about and on reflect on the Third Chapter of Life–or a some call it, “the second maturity.” A wonderful book by Zalmon Schachter-Shalomi called From Age-ing to Sage-ing directly addresses the importance of making a contribution to society that can only come from those of us who have gained wisdom from decades of life experience. Rather than seeing ourselves who have moved into retirement as a liability on society–using up resources from Social Security and Medicare on an extended vacation–we have the opportunity and obligation to make a vital contribution to the welfare of our country and our world.
By using our minds and hearts to grow in wisdom, we are able to contribute perspective that comes from viewing life over the long haul. When we are no longer under the urgent pressure of providing for families or building careers, we can begin to see what is really important. What is it that our children and grandchildren most need? What is the nature of true happiness? What is the legacy I am called to pass on?
We need not become a burden on society if we assume our proper role as the wisdom-keepers and wisdom-sharers in society. Let’s accept Pope Francis’ challenge to “build up this land.”