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MAKE A NEW YEAR'S RESOLUTION
THAT MAKES
A DIFFERENCE
by Frank Kaiser
New Year's resolutions. Do people still do that? I used to. At least until a couple years back when I smugly resolved never to take a submarine ride, only to break it when I had the opportunity to spend a day at sea aboard the USS Phoenix.

Most resolutions are petty and fleeting. A diet, forgotten. An exercise program, abandoned. Let me suggest a resolution for 2004 that's both enduring and doable.

Let me suggest that you resolve to help save the world, at least a little corner of it.

Interested in the environment? Many retired Americans work with organizations like the National Audubon Society, Earth Watch, and the US Forest Service repairing public facilities in wilderness areas, building trails, planting and restoring parks.

Others go into the inner city to build homes for the poor with Habitat for Humanity.

Still others join AARP's successful Long-Term Care Ombudsman Program, working in nursing homes protecting the rights of frail elderly.

There's the Peace Corps. VISTA. RSVP enlists more than half a million seniors across the country tutoring in schools, environmental watchdogging, assisting in clinics and courts, and helping shut-in elderly.

All are good for your mind, your body, and your community.

We're not talking about serving Thanksgiving dinner to the homeless once a year. That's strictly an ego game. We speak of commitment here. Doing the right thing for an entire year, be it resolved…

Up for Saving Democracy?

Hey, aren't you the one who complains that the world is going to hell? Get your butt out of that Lazy-Boy, stand up, and be counted.

We seniors are about the only citizens around who still remember when Americans truly cared about one another and the community in which we lived.

Geez, I even can remember when we trusted our government. That's really showing my age.

Today, we swim in a sea of corporate exploitation and amorality so pervasive that younger people think it is normal. Like goldfish in water, they can't even see it. It may be up to us geezers to actually save democracy for our grand kids.

How's that for a little retirement project?

If you have the passion, resolve to get involved in politics. Run for election to your local school board. Attend city council meetings, beefing loudly at any shenanigans.

Protest something!

Doris Haddock did. A few years back, this 92-year-old granny decided to protest the betrayal of democracy by money in politics. How? By walking across America, drawing attention to campaign finance reform every step of the way.

For over a year, she walked 10 miles every day, telling everyone she met of Washington's failure to do anything to curb the legalized and institutionalized bribery that allows the highest bidders to shape the laws that run our country.

Doris has emphysema. A case of arthritis requires her to wear a steel-ribbed corset. By the time she marched into Washington DC, she had brought awareness of our current system of government by the wealthy elite to hundreds of thousands of Americans across the land.

No Such Thing as Impossible Causes

You don't have to walk to run for office. Ray and May Chote resolved to help put citizen representation back into the House of Representatives. Ray, a 78-year-old Naval Academy graduate and Corsair pilot, and his wife, May, decided to break up a cozy arrangement in the Florida Keys where no one ever bothered to run against the incumbent.

Last election, they not only ran against such candidates, but also enlisted 23 others from around Florida to do likewise. They were "shit disturbers," as May, 79, puts it, stirring up long-established procedures that keep citizens from voting.

FYI, Ray spent not a dime against his opponent's $600,000+, yet got 39% of the vote.

So don't just retire, give up, and fall into invisibility. Get involved. Help out. Be instrumental in change for the good. Resolve to help save the world.

Asked why she trekked across America on a mission some have called a fool's errand, Doris Haddock said: "Let me tell you about impossible causes. There are none on this earth if they are good causes."

* For some of Doris Haddock's pithier remarks, click here.

Copyright © 2003 — Frank Kaiser


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Read last week's column:

GIFTS FOR THE SENIOR IN YOUR LIFE

When you've lived as long as most seniors, you've got everything — and then some. Here are some helpful hints for gifts seniors will never [admit to] buy for themselves.


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