At the turn of the 20th century, the concept of retirement emerged. Like weeds in a garden, older people were being removed from the work force to accommodate the burgeoning industrial age which required the quickness and agility of the younger generation. After World War II, when soldiers returned to the United States needing jobs, those over 65-years of age were expected to move over. Retirement became an industry, and within two generations, society’s consciousness had adjusted to the indoctrination that retirement is desirable, even deserved. But the axiom, to work is to live still pulls clout and some rethinking is beneficial.

Happiness is shared with the fortunate retired people who get to travel and take up new hobbies that totally interest them. However, the 20th century invention of retirement, marketed as the American Dream, more resembles a large cache of unused wisdom and aplomb. One can’t help but recall Moses, Buddha, Paul, Mary Baker Eddy, Colonel Sanders, Billy Graham, and a host of other human beings who implemented world shaking, mind provoking, body moving ideas at ages now lumped in with senior citizens.

Senior citizens are commonly associated with meal discounts, complacent entertainment, and folks leisurely enjoying the fruits of their labor. But this picture comes attached to a heavy burden. Because the American public has so completely internalized retirement, older people fall prey to senility and disadvantages, even older people who still work have a difficult time keeping up. Many lack vision. For example, retired couples get on one another’s nerves. Retired individuals take up the job of becoming chronically unhealthy. Some act as if they are now only responsible for maintaining a status-quo.

The pressure of retirement has forced humankind to rethink its purposes and goals. Although my heart cringes when I pass by a titanic retirement facility, as a young mother, I made the goal to take our daughters and visit the facilities near our home. We sang. Our daughters played the piano. They showed their art projects or favorite rock and so on. The residents would liven up and sure enough amazing conversations would result from which we learned about history, culture, and humanity.

Later in life, shockingly, both my parents died from illnesses after they retired, leaving me to rethink retirement again. It takes effort to know our job is not our life. God is our life. Love is our life. To retire is to withdraw but we can step up our efforts to live love, live life.

Legislation and policies are made to oversee retirement however under the law of Love, Life, we still can work prudently and effectively. I recently met two retirees, Ms. Mario and Mr. Russell. Ms. Mario joined a fitness center a few years ago and built up the strength to backpack the John Muir Trail for 22 days. Mr. Russell, a retired college professor now volunteers to teach reading and strategy skills to the disabled.

Nearing in on retirement age myself, I will continue to rethink work. Is my job to clean house or express harmony and creativity? Am I retiring from bad habits? Am I enjoying the fruits of the Spirit? From the Bible, “The fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faith, gentleness, and self-control. Against such things there is no law.” (Galatians 5:22 23, The Pacific Bible)

Cheryl Petersen’s book is 21st Century Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures. Cheryl blogs as Everyday Spirituality on Beliefnet.

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