Extraordinary Ordinaries

So, what kind of people seek out a second-half of life adventure?  Who decides simple retirement isn’t for them?  That sleeping late and golf and such are all well and good but they would rather use their lifetime of accumulated skills and resources to change some corner of the world? 

Well, as it turns out, lots of ordinary people. And some pretty extraordinary ones as well.

You would probably consider Charlie extraordinary—unless you also grew up in a mafia family.  Charlie knew two things: power and money.  Early on, he learned how to get what he wanted, often through intimidation.  As an adult, he started a financial planning business, and it was extremely profitable. Charlie was a tough guy, he had money, and he had power.  True, at forty-three his third marriage was about to end, but he would see that it ended on his terms.  Then a strange thing happened.  Charlie’s wife went to church. He mocked her and he ridiculed her, but she went anyway. When he saw that she wasn’t going to stop, he grudgingly agreed to attend with her on an Easter Sunday.  And—miracle of miracles—Charlie encountered God.

When Charlie discovered church people have the same money problems as everyone else, he offered to donate his financial services.  He also started teaching classes on financial responsibility.   “Most people are surprised to learn there is more in the Bible about money than any other subject,” Charlie says. 

But Charlie did more than just teach; he lived his lessons. Within two years, he and his wife were debt-free.  He sold his business and committed to work full-time with Crown Financial Ministries—an interdenominational organization dedicated to teaching biblical financial principles and helping people apply them.  “Christians should model good financial stewardship,” Charlie insists.  “Imagine what could happen if we pointed the way in these hard financial times by living without debt!”

Okay, so Charlie isn’t ordinary. But Kathy would certainly describe herself that way.  When her engineer husband was tapped to go to Venezuela with a group from their church to make a business presentation to university students, Kathy decided to tag along.  At the last minute she put together packets of a quilt block she had developed and stuck them in her suitcase.  Fifty of them.

Kathy’s husband never got to give his presentation.  But to everyone’s amazement, an entourage met the American group at the airport.  It was there to meet Kathy.  “We heard about your quilt and we’ve got a lot of women who are interested in it,” they said.  “We hope you have enough supplies for ninety.”

Kathy didn’t.  So her husband put away his presentation notes, picked up a pair of scissors, and got busy helping her cut out the twenty-five-piece-sets, each piece representing an element of Jesus’ story of the Woman at the Well.

On second thought, Kathy and her husband aren’t so ordinary either.  Kathy’s self-assurance and her husband’s gentle refusal to insist but-I’m-the-one-with-the-valuable-skills-here! are rare traits indeed.

Now, John, though—he insists no one could be as ordinary as he.  

John spent his entire life working as a bread delivery truck driver whose day started at four in the morning.  Two years ago, he retired, but a lifetime routine of getting up so early isn’t easy to change.  John is still out of bed at four a.m., but now he immediately sits down at his computer and logs in to his personal site at GMO, an organization that uses cutting-edge technologies to respond to spiritual questions from people around the world.

“I’m never lonely,” John says of his early morning sessions.  “Somewhere in the world, someone with a pressing question is always up at that hour.” And, thanks to the training GMO gave him, John feels comfortable offering answers.  Even to people in Ghana… or Ethiopia… or India…

Come to think of it, second half adventurers are all ordinary people.  They just become extraordinary because of the way they choose to define their lives.

The Second-Half Adventure

 (Moody Press, October 2009)

The sub-title of this book says it all:  Don’t Just Retire– Use Your Time, Skills & Resources To Change The World







“If we boomers decide to use our retirement to change the world, rather than our golf game, our dodderdom will have consequences for society every bit as profound as our youth did.”

Nicholas Kristof 

New York times Op-Ed columnist 



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2 responses to “Extraordinary Ordinaries

  1. Kay’s book is a great read – inspiring and motivating too. I recommend it! Come on, baby boomers…let’s make a difference!

  2. Thanks, Jeanette! You are certainly doing that.

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