OK, maybe it’s not completely involuntary, but it’s certainly a case of old habits dying hard (minus Bruce Willis and the gratuitous explosions of course).
The Jaycees are an organization for people between the ages of 21 and 40. Once you turn 40, you’re out. It’s not like Logan’s Run mind you, none of this stuff where the day you turn 40 you go off to “Carousel” to “Renew”; it’s just that the year you turn 40 is the last time you can renew your membership. (So your Jaycee membership does go off to “Carousel”; in a manner of speaking anyhow.)
Having been there first hand, I can tell you that it’s a rough on the individual, but it’s good for the organization because it means you can’t have the same people doing the same thing forever. Sooner or later, the organization is forced to let someone new take over. Turning 40 didn’t bother me much, but hitting 41… that one bothered me a lot.
Of course, even after you turn 41, you don’t have to just go away. That’s where “associate members” come in. That’s the old folks who are still around to help out with things, but are no longer involved in running things on a daily basis.
There’s a strong temptation to tell people how they should be running things, and maybe even try to force your way back in, but I try to avoid that. I’ve seen too many cases of old folks sitting around complaining how things aren’t the same as they were “back in my time.” Yikes!
One of the best bits of advice I’ve ever been given was 15 years ago when a new group was taking over an event I cared a great deal about. My friend Sam told me, “You know, they’re not going to do things the way we think they should. It doesn’t mean they’re wrong, just different.” I’ve tried to take that to heart, if someone asks for advice, I’ll give it to them. If they don’t follow it, that’s their choice. It’s sometimes painful to watch the result, but I seem to recall some lessons from my own painful learning experiences. (Burning your finger on the car’s cigarette lighter is a lot more convincing than just being told that it’s hot. Not that I’d have any experience with that kind of thing mind you.) Similarly, if asked for help, I’ll provide it, but I try to avoid “parachuting in to save the day.” (Which is a heck of a colorful metaphor even if I don’t remember where I first heard it.)
But sometimes people do ask for advice, and then they follow-up by asking questions. That’s when you get to be a mentor. And that’s kind of cool. You don’t run the project for them: you answer questions, you give advice, and you help out. But you don’t take over. (It’s gotta be rough for momma bird when the baby bird takes that first step off the branch!) And most important (and as I’m finding, sometimes darn difficult) comes the part where you make sure the person who just learned all this stuff is also the person getting the credit for it.
So far, so good. It’s been nearly a year since I held any official role in the Jaycees. But in the past 10 months I’ve mentored a new person in the role of supplying food and beverages for a local high school’s AfterProm party and I’ve mentored someone to run the Paint-A-Pumpkin booth. With a bit of luck, this year’s “mentee” for each project will go on to become a mentor to someone else and so on down the line.
But my work here isn’t done quite yet. A couple months ago, the Board of Directors asked me for help with publicizing events. I’ve convinced a few people to write Jaycee Press Releases (and written a few myself).
Now I just have to find someone to take over keeping that torch lit too. It’s not supposed to be my turn any more.