May 2, 2017 by Jean
This past weekend, I stepped outside my comfort zone to participate in two events. The first was the People’s Climate March on Saturday. Of all the political and social issues that concern me, climate change is the one about which I feel the most passion and the most urgency. When I first heard about the proposed climate march, I toyed with the idea of going down to Washington, DC for the main event. I quickly decided this was not a practical plan and started looking around for a local march to participate in. I found what I was looking for in Augusta, Maine – the state capital and about 45 minutes away from my home.
The problem was finding someone to go with to the march; most of my friends and acquaintances don’t seem to feel the same urgency I do about this issue (a great frustration to me). The point of participating in a march is to feel part of a collective effort, and I worried that going alone would make me feel alienated. In addition, driving alone in my car (even a hybrid Prius) to an event about protecting the environment seemed wrong. And I worried that if I planned to go alone, I might find a last-minute excuse to back out. (And if I couldn’t get myself out to this event, I felt that I could no longer claim to be a committed environmentalist.) A couple of weeks before the march, I sent out an email to a fairly long list of friends and acquaintances asking if anyone was interested in car-pooling to the event. For more than a week, all the responses I got were negative – people weren’t interested, had other commitments on that day, or had health issues that prevented them from marching. Just when I was close to despair, however, I got a response from one of my colleagues on the town Conservation Commission, saying that he and his wife had room for one more person in their car and they would be delighted to have me join them.
It was indeed a delightful day. Travelling with my colleague and his wife gave me an opportunity to get to know them better. I also enjoyed meeting the fourth person in our carpool group. It turned out that we are all retired educators and have a lot in common. Once I got there, I also ran into quite a few other people I knew – some from my garden club, some from my choral group, and some academic acquaintances. The weather was perfect for marching, and the event was well-planned. I enjoyed seeing the signs people had created (my favorite sentiments included: “There is no Planet B;” “There are no jobs on a dead planet;” and “I can’t believe I’m out here protesting for reality!”) and I appreciated the variety of speakers, which included legislators from both sides of the aisle, a high school activist, a Maine lobsterman, and local Native American leaders.
I wasn’t done with moving beyond my usual routine of people and places. On Sunday, I took myself off to a community theater production of the Rodgers and Hammerstein musical Oklahoma! I first learned about this production about a month ago from two women in my choral group who were part of the performance. I acted and sang in Oklahoma! when my high school drama club put it on more than 50 years ago, and I thought it would be fun to see it again. Then I got an email offering $10 tickets to Senior College members. I asked a neighbor who is also a member of Senior College if she was interested in going. When it turned out not to be her cup of tea, I decided to be brave, buy a ticket, and go on my own.
It turned out that this was an outing of a club associated with the Senior College, the “Night Out at the Theater Club,” and by buying a ticket, I was joining the club. There were more than two dozen in the Senior College group, and a block of seats (excellent seats, front and center) had been reserved for us. Those who wanted to car pool were invited to meet behind the Senior College. When I got to the meeting place, I quickly spotted several people in the group that I have had as students in my Senior College classes. Others in the group have been classmates in courses I’ve taken. I ended up riding with one of the latter, who is an organizer of the theater club, and another woman I had not met before and whom I thoroughly enjoyed. The theatre club always combines their theater outings with dinner out, so I joined them at a local restaurant after the performance, sat with a group of people I had not met before, and had a delightful time.
I’m not likely to become a regular participant in this club. While I wanted to see this musical, their usual theater fare isn’t that interesting to me. Their favorite restaurant isn’t a draw for me either. I seldom eat out; and when I do, I like it to be something special. This food was okay, but nothing great. Nevertheless, I’m glad I went. It was fun to see the play in a group (and my choral colleagues were delighted to see me there). And when I next encounter some of the people I met on Sunday at other Senior College events, it will be easier for me to strike up conversations with them. Once again, retirement turns out to provide opportunities for personal growth.