On Sept. 25, the United States gained another Baby Boomer retiree. Our own 8th District Congressman and Speaker of the House of Representatives, John Boehner, decided that it was time to move on to something else in his life.
I understand that it would be purely speculative of me to get into any deep discussion of why the Speaker decided to hang it up when he did. But the imagery of a deeply moved Speaker listening to Pope Francis addressing Congress just the day before his announcement surely isn’t lost on me.
It’s no secret that the Speaker has been working for decades to have the Pope speak to Congress. He achieved that goal. Perhaps there was nothing else to achieve in Washington. Talk about going out on top.
Like many Baby Boomers, the Speaker will probably now be actively looking for his second act in life. Or at least, I hope he is. For someone who is still decades from retirement, I can’t imagine that it is an easy process to go through.
It seems like for the first 20 or so years of our life, we seek our identity. Our stories are a blend of experiences and relationships that are completely unique to us and for many of us lead to a vocation that becomes a large part of our identity. Whether we like it or not, our jobs become one of the ways we describe ourselves.
I can imagine that pressure could be pretty immense for someone like a sitting member of Congress. When the Speaker wakes up on Nov. 1, he will no longer be Speaker, no longer Congressman. The words to describe him in the past no longer apply.
And that can be a good thing. As the Speaker looks for his next path in life, I would hope he would take some time to assess his talents and skills and look for ways that can have a positive impact on the lives of others.
For an example, he could look at former President Jimmy Carter. Regardless of how you feel about his job as president, his impact on the world since he left office in 1981 is undeniable. In fact, it could be argued he has done more after his presidency than he did as president. Working for fair elections and providing decent housing for people, President Carter is truly an example of what an awesome retirement could be.
I would encourage the Speaker to go back home to West Chester and take some time to enjoy his growing family and perhaps play a few rounds of golf. The Speaker should take some time to not only understand who he is without the big job he has, but also to look around his own community. I’d encourage him to serve, volunteer, and find those groups that could use his unique talents and strengths to make his own hometown a better place.
Perhaps there is no better vision of someone who is trying to leave things better than they found it than the Pope himself. Universally regarded as a leader who seeks humility over ego, he seems to work to comfort the afflicted while afflicting the comfortable. His message of the Gospel is built on a foundation of care and concern for others. The Pope is always ready to lead the charge against those things that break the heart of God; he just needs devoted followers.
And while this advice might be a good piece of guidance for a former Speaker, I’d argue it’s good for anyone that is looking at retirement. Right here, right now in your hometown, there are groups that are looking for those people that are looking at their next stage in life. There are groups that help people get clothed, get fed, get educated and get help. And there are people of all walks of life that are being part of the amazing stories of lives being changed in our communities right now. You can be part of those amazing stories.
William (Bill) Lutz is executive director of The New Path Inc. He can be reached at [email protected]