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Contributing for a lifetime

(ran TP edition)

A few years ago we gave all our volunteers bumper stickers featuring our Retired Senior Volunteer Program logo and the words "Proud To Be A Senior Volunteer." At the time I didn't think much about it. However, driving home from work last week, I developed a new perspective.

I was sitting in traffic on Hillsborough Avenue, along with thousands of other commuters, hoping the car ahead of me would start moving. If I was lucky, I might just get home in time to relax for a while and watch the 6 o'clock news. It was Friday evening after a long, hard week, and I knew I would never stay awake for the 11 o'clock news. After all, I was one of those "productive members of society," working long hours, paying my bills and my taxes, and generally epitomizing what an "American" should be.

Suddenly, ahead of me, I noticed one of our "RSVP Proud To Be A Senior Volunteer" bumper stickers on a brown Toyota. Inside the car sat a woman appearing to be in her late 60s, well-dressed and, like me, sporting a somewhat bored, somewhat annoyed look on her face.

As a matter of fact, she was quite a bit like me. I imagined that, just like me, she was coming home from a hard day's work. Just like me, she had spent that day _ and many others, past and future _ challenging herself physically and intellectually to contribute to this society in her own way. The only difference was that, unlike me, she didn't get paid for her contributions.

Just as I realized that I am a typical American, one of millions who live productive lives, so is she a typical older American, one of millions who live productive lives every day.

Typical older Americans do not fit our many stereotypes. Typical older Americans are just like every other American, each in his or her own way contributing to our community. Some may be RSVP volunteers and some may not be, but hopefully they are all proud to be senior Americans because I am proud to share our community with them.

Larry Johnson is director of the Retired and Senior Volunteer Program in Hillsborough County. You can write him c/o Seniority, the Times, P.O. Box 1121, St. Petersburg, FL 33731.

TO VOLUNTEER:

Retired Senior Volunteer Program (RSVP): 272-5031

Volunteer Center of Hillsborough: 274-0909

Citizen Volunteer Services: 272-7232

HRS Volunteer Services: 871-7097

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