Tribute to Retirement: Not Just What We Do, But How We Do It
My dad is retiring
today…sort of. He
retired once already about 10 years ago, from his original career
with his original employer. Which I found odd, as he would no longer
be making a secure salary the same year I would start college.
In any case, he worked for 32 years for perhaps the world’s
most well known computer corporation. Since he started at a young
age, in one of the company’s original locations, he was able
to take a thirty year retirement package at a fairly young age
as far as retirement goes. But he and most of us knew at that point
that wasn’t the end of his run in Corporate America.
After some private consulting, an opportunity arose at a non-profit
organization (NPO) in Manhattan, which he took. Over the past eight
years, he has fulfilled officer duties at both that and another
significant NPO in Manhattan. So now, after some 40 years of corporate
employment, commuting, extensive travel, having bosses and being
a boss, today, he will step out of his office for the last time
and make his final commute home.
I got off the phone with my dad a few
minutes ago. I simply wanted to call him early in the day and
welcome him to his last day of “work.” He
chuckled and appreciated the gesture, and then as we hung up he
was back to cleaning out the office. Returning things from his
office to some people, giving other things he wouldn’t be
needing anymore to others and packing up what he would be taking
home with him after the reception they’re having for him
at the end of the day. Sounds good… maybe I’ll start
the same now! Unfortunately, I have another 35 years to go.
It may sound like I’m bragging a little bit about my dad,
and well, maybe I am. I’m proud of my dad. I’m grateful
for how God has blessed my father, and my family through my father.
I’m thankful for the opportunities and experiences I’ve
had through my father’s career; as extravagant as living
in a foreign country and traveling the world, and as simple (and
underappreciated) as having a college education without years of
tuition loan burdening me and my wife. I’m also thankful
for his example, and what pondering 40 years of work can teach
After I hung up the phone, I was in a
daze. I couldn’t stop
thinking about what 40 years of work must feel like. What it must
feel like to be going through your last day of 40 years of work.
Minus weekends and vacation days, that’s approximately 9,840
days of work and this is the last one. Tears welled up…what’s
that about? It’s no secret that I’m an emotional guy.
This is really that significant. Like most things in life, there
are several area’s we can draw from here that might encourage
our faith and life. What we do in life is one. How we honor our
elders (parents or not), and the significance of their accomplishments
is another. And so, that’s what I’ll share with you.
“Hi-Ho, Hi-Ho, off to work we go…” We might
not like it, but we have to work. It’s a part of life. It’s
one of the things we were created to do. In Genesis 2:5, God realized
there was “no man to work the ground.” Within ten verses,
the problem was solved; “The Lord God took the man and put
him in the Garden of Eden to work it and take care of it” (v.
15). It gets worse. Later, in chapter three, when Adam and Eve
were being punished for disobeying God, we find that our work will
really become a pain in the neck! The food that we work for will
bring us pain (3:17-19). Originally this is directed toward our
work with the ground that the food comes from, but it has certainly
seemed to transfer over into the many areas of work we find ourselves
in today. Work can really be a bummer. But it doesn’t always
have to be. Over time the “fruits of our labor” (what
we can accomplish in our careers) can be purposeful, successful
Forty years! Forty years is a long time. Think about what you
could accomplish in forty years! You could have two or three different
careers in that time. You could probably initiate a career no one
has thought of yet. You could start multiple successful businesses
and other profitable ideas in that time. You could become a well
established politician or even the President. You could become
a well known author or screenwriter, musician or artist. Are your
imaginations running yet? What do you think you could become in
Of course we think of the glamorous things
right away and that’s
ok. But the reality is, most of us won’t become any of the
above. The glamorous stuff is always in the minority. More than
likely, most of us will be teachers or business people; little
known scientists and local journalists; obscure artists or musicians;
employee’s or volunteers of various ministries or even pastors.
Please notice in any of these more common
careers, I never said average, ordinary or unimportant. The odds
are against us being well known to begin with. Amongst six billion
people worldwide, we’ll ever really come into regular contact with a fraction
of a percent of them. Those are the people we make our mark with.
Even though our career network will be relatively small, that doesn’t
mean our impact will be. With forty years, even the reaches of
the networks we’ve been in will stretch larger than our imagination.
My father is a people person. A majority
of his working years have been spent in human resources. This
is the field that takes care of the people of the organization.
There are certainly difficult aspects to this area of work. It
does involve letting people know when they’re wrong, and even firing people. But it is at
the core, assisting people through problems and assuring their
well being while a part of the given organization. It involves
encouraging and affirming as well. Think of just one person my
dad might have had a positive impact on thirty-five years ago.
Now think about all the people that person has come into contact
with over the course of thirty five years. The indirect contact
and effect of playing a positive or helpful role in a person’s
life becomes exponentially important.
You don’t have to work in just human resources for your
efforts and attitudes to affect people. Most corporations are in
business for the benefit of large numbers of people. In addition,
you’ll be working with people in some way your whole life.
Often this can be challenging, but it is important. It’s
what we were made for. Our attitudes and action’s toward
people will forever be the most important thing about what we do
in life, no matter what.
God made us “people,” which clues us in right away
that “people” are important and how we treat them even
more so. Genesis 1:26, 27 tells us we are made in God’s image,
which gives us an idea of our worth. Matt. 22:39 says we are to
love our neighbors as ourselves. 1 John 4:1 and 19 tells us to
love others in God’s example, and that if we say we love
God and don’t love others we are liars. I get the feeling
that other people and our actions toward them are pretty important.
In addition to the people we will encounter
over the course of our career, the things we seek to accomplish
and what we do to accomplish them are also very important. In
forty years, a lot could be done to make the world a better place.
Figure out what your strengths are, what your passion is for,
and find a company or organization where you can combine the
two to help make the world a better place. Even if you find yourself
flipping burgers (which is serving people), sorting mail or keeping
track of finances for a large, non-humanitarian corporation,
remember, your attitude and demeanor for those jobs still goes
a long way. We are encouraged of this in Colossians 3:17, “And
whatever you do or say, let it be as a representative of the
Lord Jesus, all the while giving thanks through him to God the
Now, forget about what you want to do
in life for a minute. Think about what others around you have
done or are doing. Maybe a grandparent has retired recently,
or a parent will be soon, depending on the timing of your birth.
THANK THEM for what they’ve done. Celebrate
their decades of work in some way. Even if you don’t think
they necessarily did it for God’s glory, work needs to get
done, and people do it every day. Most likely you and your family
was the reason someone dragged themselves to a job they didn’t
like every day. Even if they did love it, they did it to support
you in some way. Maybe the people you’re thinking of are
only half way through their career and have another twenty years
to go. Thank them for what they’ve done and what they’ll
do. Make them feel your appreciation for what they are doing, remembering
again, that much of it is to support you and keep you alive.
I wasn’t nearly this emotional ten years ago for my father’s
initial retirement. Probably a little because we figured he’d
be working again. But most certainly also because I just didn’t
understand the significance of it. After all, I was still essentially
a “high schooler” then. No offense to many of you
reading this, but that’s why I wrote this, to help you
understand a bit more the significance of a career, what you
do in it, and it’s relation to life in general.
I’ll get my dad some simple things to help celebrate; a
card, some balloon’s, gift cards for him to use in his soon
to be abundant spare time. I can’t afford much more, unfortunately.
Let’s face it, I’m a pastor and will unlikely ever
be able to repay my father for his support (at least monetarily).
But I can be respectful of his certain attitude that I don’t “owe” him
anything. I can show him my gratitude for his hard work to support
my mother and me for all these years. I can show him my appreciation
by happily giving him all the time he wants from me now that he’ll
be free most everyday (after all, we live in the same town)!
What I and hopefully you can certainly
take away is the example, the example of working hard for a good
cause, or at least working hard just because it counts. Even
if what you’re working
for is nominal, your attitude speaks volumes about your passion
for life and people, your faith and countless other things to your
colleagues and peers who witness it (and have to bear it); the
example of setting goals to achieve something over your 40 years
of working; the example of balancing family priorities with your
career, and making sure your family sees you, knows who you are,
and that you’re involved in their lives, no matter how “important” what
you’re doing is or how “significant” you are
at work. The fact of the matter is, you always will be and need
to be more significant to your family, even if you’re the
President, or dare I say it, a pastor.
So, in closing, I say, “Thanks
Dad. Thanks for giving me something to write about. Thanks for
being an example to me, and to those through me who read this.
I pray that we may all be encouraged to be an example to those
younger than us through our lives and what we do in them. I love
you, and am very much looking forward to your retirement.”