Volunteerism has always been part of my DNA. From the time I was little, all my family members were helping out and sharing their time, talents and generosity with neighbors, friends, church and school communities and, many times, strangers. It was through those early experiences that I realized how wonderful it felt to have a sense of purpose…to make a difference. No matter how large or small the effort, it always felt good. It was a natural high.
So, when I retired almost eight years ago, I looked for opportunities to continue the passion that was in me to learn, grow and help others. Sometimes it was with a human rights effort, a religious group campaign, a political issue or simply serving a meal to a homeless person. In those moments, I truly felt that I was making a difference.
So, how does this relate to Osher, our Towson University-based organization that promotes lifelong learning?
I have always needed to stay active both mentally and socially and one of my personal goals after I left my intense professional career was to continue learning. I wanted to research, explore those subjects I was interested in and those I had yet to discover. So, I started taking classes at a local community college and senior center. Through those experiences, I met a lady who introduced me to the Osher Lifelong Learning Institute at Towson University. We became friends and she encouraged me to attend an upcoming Preview and see if I might be interested in some of the sessions. I did. In fact, I was immediately hooked and became a member that same day.
From the start, I was impressed with the quality of the curriculum and instructors compared to my other recent learning experiences. Instructors were articulate and highly educated as was the audience. I was impressed by the extent of the knowledge base and intelligence that prevailed in the dialogue during these classes.
As time passed, I registered for more sessions as well as the one-time lectures offered between semesters. And, by doing so, I developed relationships with more and more members. That is a positive and healthy side benefit to the experience…expanding one’s social circle, delighting in the similarities and respecting differences of our membership.
The friend who introduced me to Osher recommended one day that I should take advantage of other opportunities within the organization. She encouraged me to use those professional skills that I had honed over my career by joining one or two committees and to offer my name in nomination for an at-large member slot on the Coordinating Council. Could I make a difference? She certainly thought so.
Fast forward, I joined two committees that were searching for new members and, subsequently, my nomination as an At-Large Member of the Coordinating Committee was approved. Currently, I serve as Vice-Chair of that Council and, in July, I will assume the Chair role for a two-year term.
I followed the volunteer path and haven’t looked back. There is so much opportunity to participate in mind and spirit, to build relationships and to honor the cause of TU’s Osher program.
Granted, not everyone desires to be as involved as I feel the passion to be. However, based on my experience and recognizing the benefits of both personal and organizational engagement, I encourage all members to be receptive to volunteer opportunities. Make a difference, whether one-time or long-term, for Osher and yourself.
Trust me, you’ll be glad you did!