It’s Our Turn

It really is, you know. Now is the time for the Baby Boomers and those traveling close behind who are retired or have more flexibility in their schedules to keep things going. It’s our turn to make sure the symphonies, the regional theaters, the dance companies and choirs, the Scout troops and the civic and philanthropic organizations—all of the non-profit entities that enrich our lives and communities, survive. Because those organizations lift us up, and Lord knows, we need that right now. Those of us of a certain age must get in the weeds, get our hands dirty, and make it happen for the next wave coming after us.

People ask what my husband and I do all day, besides dealing with pets. We sit in front of the computer writing grant proposals to fund a drum corps or promotional materials for a choir. We make calls and send emails to obtain copyright permissions for music to be performed and surf the web to find the best chairs and risers for a church concert series. We develop succession plans for the artistic director of an organization and write copy to update website pages. We spend a lot of time figuring out the best way to sustain organizations we care about—whether that means asking people for a fifty-dollar program advertisement or a five-figure endowment. Sometimes it’s frustrating work and we don’t get paid and that’s okay, because it’s our turn.

It’s easy to be resentful and whine that younger people don’t do their share, and that’s because it’s not their turn yet. They’re overwhelmed with just getting through the day, meeting the constant demands of jobs and family. Even without kids of my own, I didn’t have the time or energy to do this kind of work when I was teaching, and yet I still participated in and benefited from organizations for which others did the grunt-work.

So, I’m not sure we should wring our hands too much because our boards of directors are not filled with thirty-somethings. I think, when the time is right, they will serve because like us, they loved being part of the Youth Symphony or the choir or the theater. Or they loved being in Girl Scouts or playing volleyball at the YMCA or taking art lessons or participating in any of the hundreds of opportunities available in this community alone. Choose what you love or what changed your life—for us, it was music– and work hard for it when the time is right.

Recently, my husband and I attended the Harrisburg Symphony’s spectacular performance of Porgy and Bess. I thought of all that went on behind the scenes to make it happen—everything from the people who raised the money to the staff who cleaned the restrooms. Thousands and thousands of hours of work, much of it unpaid, just so we could sit there and hear a world-class baritone sing, “Bess, you is my woman, now.” We cannot lose those moments, or shy away from the work needed to sustain them.