“So . . . what’s next?” It’s a common question, often asked after we cross off an item on a to-do list, or when we think about the next activity during a vacation. But those words can take on a special urgency when we’re thinking about how to approach the next stage of life, especially our elder years. What if the second half of life is not a destination but an invitation, a time to uncover creative energies for personal growth and the common good? Could it be our destiny to use those years to help those whose first acts are just beginning? Marci Alboher hopes we will answer that question with a resounding yes.
I met Marci a few months ago and learned about her work as V.P. of Strategic Communications at Encore.org, a small nonprofit driving a growing movement around “second acts for the greater good.” This was my first introduction to Encore’s nationwide commitment to mobilize people in their second half of life to become change-makers; to leverage their time, talent, and experience in ways that can shape other lives for the better. Since I find myself in this demographic, I was especially eager to hear how Encore might help me to imagine my second act to bring about both personal and social benefit.
We welcomed Marci to Round Hill Community Church on October 27, and were drawn to the passion she feels for her work and what it can make possible. And it was inspiring to hear from Ruth Wooden, another Encore guest, who has experienced firsthand the renewal of energy and purpose that can emerge from a second act. After retiring from years of a demanding career in advertising, Ruth discovered the engaging world of theological education at Union Theological Seminary in New York City. Having already served as a board member for Encore, she found a way to blend her support for that organization with new horizons of learning. Union has given Ruth the opportunity to teach a class for people who are making the transition into a time of life when they are eager to find fresh purpose and meaning.
When asked how a person can begin to take steps in the direction of an Encore vision, Marci encouraged a patient and thoughtful approach. Rather than rush into a project that might not prove the right fit, why not take the time to read and explore options? A good starting place would be Marci’s book, The Encore Handbook: How to Make a Living and a Difference in the Second Half of Life. And the journey to insights about how best to live an encore life can also be helped by reaching out to local community leaders whose knowledge and expertise may reveal areas of need where we can make a positive difference in the lives of others.
To coincide with Marci’s visit, we invited representatives from several local groups eager to bring in the time and talent of this encore generation. Our congregation is developing relationships with Inspirica (a visionary program serving homeless families), United Way’s Reading Champions program, and Simply Smiles (a Connecticut-based nonprofit working to encourage the well-being of children in Oaxaca, Mexico and on the Cheyenne River Sioux Tribe Reservation in LaPlant, South Dakota). With this new lens, we see these relationships as our way of joining Encore’s Generation to Generation campaign, mobilizing the elders in our community to stand up and show up for the next generation.
There are second acts for life . . . and as life spans continue to lengthen, there may be third and fourth acts as well. I’m grateful for the guidance of Encore, for the passion of Marci and Ruth, and for the inspiration of those who are discovering in the second half of life a whole new and beautiful way to make life worth living.