I’ve been pitched retirement since I was in college. It usually starts with me being asked to think about what I want to be able to do with my free time when I get there, how much money would I like to have in the bank, and and the type of lifestyle I want to have. The sales pitch usually includes being able to play golf, travel the world, and be able to afford the house that I always wanted. Not all financial planners are pitching that story, but we can agree that sort of narrative dominates. While I do believe being prepared for that phase of life is responsible, the way it has always been pitched just never settled with me. It simply seems to lack any sort of purpose other than leisure and I find leisure pretty boring. But, I’m only in my late 30s and a lot can change and I certainly have a lot to learn before I ever get to that point.
What’s is encouraging me regarding that discussion is how NeighborLink has benefited greatly from men and women who enter retirement with intention and purpose with a desire to use their time, abilities, and resources to help other neighbors through their life’s circumstances in tangible ways. For nearly 10 years, NeighborLink has had small communities of retirees, folks between jobs, or those under-employed with free time who intentionally organize by getting together weekly to take on projects that find our website. Each year, 300+ tangible home repair projects get completed because of a collective group of around 40-50 people throughout the year through three different groups currently. What they’re able to do, and what they choose to do, is absolutely incredible. So, I ask a lot of questions about their lives, their careers, how they get connected to NL, and what their motivations are when they could be doing anything other than helping.
I sat down with Mark Schmidt on this episode of Neighboring to discuss his personal journey. We take time to talk about how he navigated his 30 year career at one company, how he did or didn’t manage work/life balance, his family, the role faith plays in his life, and how he’s chosen to retire early from a professional career after his company moved away from Fort Wayne to take up a career as a volunteer. Mark is an extremely humble guy and doesn’t love answering these personal kind of questions because he wants to make sure that credit is given to God and those he serves with. I think anyone that has spent time with Mark knows that he’s as genuine of a guy that there is. He has always cared deeply about people and lived a live of service whether it was serving his co-workers during his career, his fellow volunteers with Carpenter’s Sons, or now neighbors with tangible needs. We hope to tell some stories of our other retirees soon as well.
I was encouraged to hear that things haven’t always come easy with Mark when it comes to trying to manage work/life balance or the fact that he’d say that volunteerism wasn’t as core of a priority during most of his working years outside of coaching his kids’ soccer teams. Proved to me that he’s just a normal guy trying to do the best he can with what he has and is in need of grace just like the rest of us. I’ve not met a person who has the work/life balance or integration thing figured out completely, and I’m not sure it’s even possible. I’m personally finding it hard to find time to volunteer at my phase of life, and I even run a volunteer organization. Things ebb and flow, and Mark’s story reminds me that there are all kinds of avenues to be a “good neighbor’ and serve others. That service to others is as much about how we perceive our responsibilities to others around us wherever we are as it is about “doing things.” Being a good neighbor is about being, not just doing.
I hope people find this podcast encouraging because there are a lot of people in our community that are nearing retirement age without a plan in place of how they’re going to spend their time who also lack the community to navigate a radical change in “time” well. There is no right way to spend retirement, but there are ways to spend it if caring for others, using your hands to help, or if you want to keep working but in a different context. NeighborLink is benefiting from Mark and dozens of other men and women’s lifelong investment into honing their profession as they bring it to work with them on projects. They’re organizers, leaders, builders, creators, communicators, teachers, and compassionate people that want to love others with their gifting.
I’d love to connect you to Mark or other leaders at Nl who would welcome you to join them. Simply send me a message at Admin@Nlfw.org.