How to Make a Home

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Should you move after retirement? If you do, you will want to make a home. And if you stay in place, you will want to deepen and secure your home. Here are five steps that will help:

1. Keep a context in mind. I watched a public broadcasting show over the Internet last evening. It described the “retirement crises.” Many Americans are losing pension benefits, are not saving much for retirement, and are experiencing long periods of unemployment. Many young and middle-age workers have already tapped what meager retirement accounts they had.

Those who are saving money face a staggering assortment of investment choices about which they feel largely ignorant. Most don’t know that they pay excessive fees to financial advisors, mutual funds, or other financial service providers. Their accumulations for retirement are building at slow rates, and will likely be inadequate.

Of course there are parts of American life that merit optimism, but our economic performance and the consequences for retirement have not been among them.

2. Times away help establish context. For three months over the winter we were in Vermont and I tended not to keep up with economic news and special reports. In an unfamiliar place, we lived largely as observers of Vermont life, free from genuine involvement. We were on vacation, and we spent large chunks of time recreating. But now we are home and I again feel part of ongoing things.

3. Engage in your community and have more than one context in mind. Back home, I rejoined the “Men’s Group” at our Catholic church. The Group plans to work through a book by Marcus J. Borg that comments on and presents the writings of the New Testament in their order of creation. Borg is an unusually liberal protestant theologian who believes that faith in the bodily resurrection of Jesus distracts from the real meaning of Easter.

Easter isn’t about an afterlife. Instead, Easter means that Jesus is Lord and lives. He is Lord in the sense that his teachings call us all to the kingdom of God, which is a transformed world in the here and now, not an ethereal afterlife. Jesus lives in the visions of living mortals, such as those of the Apostles in The Gospel of John, or that of St. Paul on the road to Damascus. These visions, writes Borg, are like today’s Elvis sightings.

I wonder if our Men’s Group, which is conservative in almost all meanings of that word, understood Borg’s theology when they picked his book? Our upcoming meetings may get exciting.

4. Engage in your community in more than one way. I also returned to a role as volunteer photographer for the web site sponsored by our local newspaper. This past weekend I photographed the Twilight Criterium, our annual bicycle race. The Criterium started in 1980 as a local race and has grown into a professional event of national stature, one of ten in the USA CRITS Championship Series. The Criterium now includes over ten different races for different categories of riders, and the finals are watched by thousands of fans who line the streets and perch on top of buildings to see the racers fly around the one-kilometer course in downtown Athens (a few photos at the end).

5. Take a long-term view. There’s a new book by Rod Dreher, entitled The Little Way of Ruthie Leming … His book is a tribute to his sister who died of cancer in her early forties. She lived her entire life in the small town of St. Francisville, Louisiana. When she attended Louisiana State University, she drove the thirty miles to home each weekend. She married her high-school sweetheart, had two children, and taught in a local school. The book chronicles forty-two years of her giving to her family and community. She loved her town. When cancer hit, the town loved her back—she experienced huge outpourings of community support and affection.

I am thinking now that home is where you are present in life, both nationally and locally, working within your family, your community, year after year, decade after decade, giving of your spirit. Many of us are in temporary living arrangements, having traveled hither and yon in pursuit of one goal or another. Are we ever home?

My wife and I have been in Athens nearly sixteen years, and it is just beginning to feel like home.

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Wipe out at a day event preceding the Twilight Criterium

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Twilight Criterium goes into the night. Here is the pack on a straightaway.

 

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The leader flying into the night.

 

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Lone rider

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Fans atop a parking deck

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Young women watching the Criterium: at home in Athens