So What’s Next…

The following is a guest post by Dr. Edward Horstmann, Senior Pastor at Roundhill Community Church in Greenwich, Connecticut.

“So…what’s next?” It’s a common question, often asked after crossing off an item on a to do list, or when we’re contemplating the next activity during 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 on behalf of those whose first acts are just getting underway? Marci Alboher hopes we will answer that question with a resounding yes.

A few months ago I had a chance to meet Marci and learn about her work as the Vice President 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 life’s second half to become change-makers. Until I met Marci I was not aware of this movement to leverage the time, talent and experience of people in the encore stage of life in ways that can shape lives for the better. Since I find myself in that demographic, I was especially eager to hear how the work of Encore might enable me to create a second act of life in ways that might yield a personal and social benefit.

We welcomed Marci as a speaker to Round Hill Community Church on October 27 and were drawn up in the passion she feels for her work and what it can make possible. In the Encore vision I see a dream coming true of people devoting less time to watching news in ways that foster discouragement in order to find more time to create good news with their commitment to the common good.

It was inspiring to hear from Ruth Wooden, another Encore guest, who has experienced first hand the renewal of energy and purpose that can emerge from a second act. After many years of a demanding career in advertising, Ruth discovered in her early retirement 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 aimed at people who are making the transition into a time of life where they are eager to find fresh purpose and meaning.

When Marci was asked how a person can begin to take steps in the direction of an Encore vision, she encouraged a patient and thoughtful approach. Rather than rush to a project that might not prove to be the right fit, what about taking time to read and explore options? Susan, my wife, and I have made a commitment to read Marci’s book, The Encore Handbook: How to Make A Living and A Difference in the Second Half of Life. We plan to map out our dreams and hopes for the coming years and to enjoy some one on one conversations with community leaders that can help us make connections that may well lead to commitments.

To coincide with Marci’s visit, we invited representatives from several local groups hungry to bring in the time and talent of what I now see as the 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 non-profit 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 reason to make life worth living.