Sacred Encounters

A few years ago, while walking on the beach early one morning, I saw a beautiful, nearly full moon fading in the sky. Just before the moon dropped below the horizon, the sun peaked over the ocean in all its glory. I’ve walked on the beach a lot, but this was the first time I’d experienced a rising sun and a setting moon almost simultaneously. It was a sacred encounter.

I’ve been reflecting on our volunteer engagement seminar with Tobi Johnson last month. One of my takeaways is the importance of the interactions we have with our volunteers. Volunteers, including older adult volunteers, have many opportunities to use their skills, talents, and passions for good. As a result, many want to use their volunteer time for sacred work. It’s not about the tasks they necessarily do for older adults and hence the delivery of our mission. Rather, it might be about being a good listener, not just a volunteer driver, as someone shares their anxiety about a medical appointment. It might be about being a friend, not just a handy helper, as a widow shares her grief that her husband used to take care of that type of household chore. Or it might be shared laughter with others, not just learning something interesting in a class.

Our work, and the work of our volunteers, is sacred because regardless of the task, it is more about the listening and caring during the encounter. Sacred encounters teach us about the quality of intention and attention given to the moment. People engaged in sacred work often report they gain more than they give. Is this a familiar comment from your volunteers?

As we engage more volunteers to help connect more older adults, we might want to remember that our experiences are the collection of hundreds, maybe thousands of individual encounters. We hope all those connected with our network somehow experience the individual and collective encounters as something distinctive and sacred. We might not always see it directly, but it is happening.

We are honored by all of you across the network creating sacred moments for older adults, beautiful new beginnings like the sunrise and the moon’s reflection splashing on the water.

Sarah Cheney

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Aging Forward National Office
5559 NW Barry Rd.
Box #333
Kansas City, MO 64154

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