Overwhelming joy

This week, I had the privilege of reading drafts of my sons’ college application supplemental essays.  In one of them, he wrote:

One way my mom shaped who I want to become is through her non-profit organization… She adopted [Bridges Together] as a full-time job a few years ago and until then, I had never thought about working with or for non-profit organizations. But I can see through my mom’s overwhelming joy that I may want to pursue a career in making the world a better place for everybody.

Andrea and her sonMelt my heart!  And what a window into my life.  My husband and I have established an office for me in our home.  Our dining room has become “the Board Room.”  I’m often fielding phone calls, wrestling with the organization’s growth, responding to emails, meeting with wonderful people, running out the door to do trainings… I sometimes wonder what our four sons will learn from all this.  And here it is: what my son sees as the overarching message is “overwhelming joy” as I help “make the world a better place for everybody.”  And perhaps he is correct about the overwhelming joy!

Last week, I experienced such joy as I met with “veteran” Bridges volunteers and met new ones.  Some of these men and women have been building Bridges with me for 23+ years!  (“I remember when you bought your first house and had us over for tea.” “I remember when your son was born! How can he be going to college?”) Likewise, I have watched them raise their grandchildren or find their rhythm of retirement.  I have mourned with them at the loss of their adult children.  I have celebrated with them on their 60th wedding anniversaries.  And I have learned from them.  So often I say, “When I grow older, I want to be like you!”  The latest piece of advice I received from a 90-year old “sarcastic sage” who holds a very special place in my heart:  “Don’t smoke and drink as much as your ‘wife’ will let you!”

This week, I’ve been overwhelmed with joy as I collaborate with new colleagues at Bridges Together.  Their support is made possible through monies we received specifically earmarked to hire staff to help the organization efficiently and effectively.  Their support has taken so much pressure off of me, enabling me to spend more time with my family.  In addition, it is truly delightful to be able to collaborate and create with so many wonderful women.  I am no longer alone in the daily toils of growing Bridges Together (our board has been invaluable!) and helping people create intergenerational (IG) opportunities in their own communities.  What a gift.

I was joyful yesterday when a friend emailed with a question: What book would I recommend for a grandmother to read to a fourth-grade class?  I love that someone reached out with an IG question.  And I love children’s books – especially those that celebrate IG relationships.  My top favorites (and there are more in the Books section of our website):

  • The Keeping Quilt – or anything by Patricia Polacco.  Check out her brand new biographical story – Fiona’s Lace.
  • How Old is Old by Anne Combs is out of print, but you can scoop it up gently used on Amazon.
  • Dream Something Big: The Story of the Watts Tower by Dianna Hutts Aston and Susan L. Roth.  I was bouncing for joy when one my dearest friends bought that book for me.  Now I’m able to use it in our new Bridges: Our Stories program.

I experience so much joy through the people I meet and the opportunities I have to effect change, to empower people to create intergenerational opportunities in their own families and communities.  My heart leaps when I get an email, note or call from a volunteers who says how much they are enjoying a Bridges program.  Or when a professional thanks me for helping them to bridge the generations.

And so, yes, I must agree with my son.  I have “overwhelming joy” as I make the world a better place for older adults and children – today and for generations to come!

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