So many experiences in our daily lives help to foster the allusion that we are employed full time in the human species game of life. Our childhoods go on for an interminable amount of time and it seems that from Christmas to Christmas takes about five or more years! Then we are focused on our education and the successful completion of it can take 20 years! Then there is the student loans to pay and the starting of a family and the mortgage and taxes and insurance and food and transportation and all of the rest! We look up one day and we are in our middle years.
When I began at Southern Illinois University @ Carbondale I was at the end of my 20th year. Joe Ragsdale, a counselor, at what was called in those days, Personnel, told me that I could elect to stay out of the state retirement system for up to three years if I chose. The annual retirement contribution was 8% and I made $11,000.00 per year. I was sure that I was making a brilliant move by stating out of the retirement system for as long as I could as I did not think that I would ever retire!
After 32 years and three months at SIUC I was standing at my retirement reception and it dawned on me that my career had gone by like the blink of an eye! So many of my friends were there and when it came my time to speak I could do little more than give into the tears that welled up in my eyes!
I had a heart condition from birth and I remember a team of doctors in Chicago talking to my parents as I sat on a table. I can still see my dad’s eyes full of tears. At times I wondered if I would see adulthood and at other times I worried that I would get my boys raised. Both have happened and I have enjoyed almost nine years of retirement…and hope to enjoy many more!
As I walked the Campus today I reflected on the many vagaries and challenges that the University that I love has undergone! I have witnessed it at it’s enrollment zenith and at the lowest enrollment that it has had in many years. I have confidence that it will rebound and return to the glory and mission that has been it signature and hallmark!
‘O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, thou that killest the prophets, and stones them which are sent unto thee, how often would I have gathered they children together, even as a hen gathered they children together, even as a hen gathereth her chicken under her wings, and ye would not!’ Matthew 23:37 KJV
‘My days are swifter than the weaver’s shuttle, and are spent without hope.’ Job 7:6 KJV
I have likened this life as the audition or the foyer for eternity! As my grandmother Askew often said, ‘if you live to be 100…life is short!’
There are countless shiny baubles that distract us from our brief time on life’s stage. The procurement of money is one of the big ones! Also the nativism and prejudice and bias and xenophobia and misogyny that we are taught! We are easily distracted by faux fame and fortune and notoriety! Petty jealousies and personality differences can seem to be all important, at the time, and a few years later it is difficult to remember what the disagreements were even about.
While all of the distractions are happening before our eyes and assaulting our ears and keeping us awake at night as we plot and scheme and plan our enemies destruction…our limited time on the stage…our audition…is coming to a close.
‘If we could look into each other’s hearts and see the challenges each of us faces I think we would treat each other with more love, kindness, compassion and patience.’