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Written by Susan Frego, Summer 2023 Intern
At this point we begin to wonder, “what’s next?”
Presumably, retirement is a time when we have a little money set aside and we’re able to do more of the things we want to do. Maybe that’s consulting, maybe it’s travel, or maybe it’s golf. For me, it was a chance to do something so incredibly different, so totally “out there,” that many of my friends and family said, “what the heck?!?!”
For over 30 years I worked for one of the largest automotive companies in the world. During that time, I held a number of management positions, all of which paid very well. I had benefits and bonuses, cars and expense accounts, but in all honesty – very little of what I did had long term significance. In fact, more often than not – things that I spent time, effort, and energy putting into place were often set aside when a new management team, wanting to showcase their own talents, took over.

But this summer, two months before I turned 60, I decided to spend 7 weeks working as an intern with Amigos for Christ because rather than consult, travel or golf - I wanted to do something “meaningful”.

Now you may be saying, “What can a 60-year-old bring to the table?” and to be quite honest, it’s a question I asked myself. I mean – I don’t speak Spanish, I am not a teacher or a nurse, and I’m a whole lot less physically active than I was at 20. So, in thinking through the “what do I offer” question, the simple answer was: MYSELF.

I decided early on that I would do whatever Amigos asked of me. If that meant I’d be cutting up fruits and vegetables for meals, changing bed linens, working in the office, or swinging a pick axe, so be it. I was going to give whatever they asked of me – 110%.

Getting off the plane in Managua, I met a group of young people from Wisconsin all wearing their JUNTOS t-shirts. As a way to make conversation, I asked a few, “how old would you think you were if you didn’t know how old you are?” For me, the answer is always 27. 

And so, that first week, I worked hard alongside the team – foolishly trying to connect as a group member and peer. But the truth is – I WASN’T part of their group, and as someone at least 20 years older than their oldest person – I wasn’t a peer. And it wasn’t until the following week when I was being introduced to someone who said, “Oh, you’re the MOM!” that I realized I had a different role to play. 

There is a huge difference between growing older and growing better.

EVERYONE grows older – but the trick is to grow “better” by finding opportunity in each new season of life. For me, embracing the fact that I was the older, on-site “mom” opened a whole new world of possibilities.

In this new role I could try to set an example by living out my faith – loving God, and serving others. I could work hard, and try to surprise people with my stamina. I could offer an ear to someone who wanted to talk, life experience to those who were seeking wisdom, or a hug to someone who was feeling a little blue. I could look for opportunities to help – washing dishes, making PB&J’s, filling thermoses – wherever help was needed. In this role I could grow BETTER.

And now, sitting back at home with September just a few weeks away, I find myself envious of the students going back to school, because I would love to write the paper, “What I did on my summer vacation.” If I did, I might conclude that you’re never too old to dance, smiles are a universal language, God is in all things, and doing something that positively impacts people’s lives for generations to come is the BEST way to spend a summer.

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