This testimony is a presentation made by Ignatian Volunteer Robbie Sabin at IVC Baltimore’s Advent Evening of Joyful Anticipation.
Good evening, my name is Robbie Sabin. I am an Ignatian Volunteer in my second year of service. This year I am teaching math to women at Caroline Center (at the Gibbons Commons–St. Agnes Hospital campus). Caroline Center is the next-door neighbor to IND at its original and continuing Somerset St. campus. As many of you know, Caroline Center was founded 20 years ago to assist economically disadvantaged Baltimore women in becoming professional women. Currently, there are programs that prepare women to become nursing assistants, geriatric assistants and pharmacy aides.
When I retired from Loyola University 3 years ago, I gave little thought to what I would do in retirement. Being a workaholic for almost 50 years, a perfectionist, and something of a control freak, I assumed that I would keep busy. I had the good example of my already retired and always engaged husband, Ed. Through good friend and former colleague, Ed Sommerfeldt, I had heard about IVC and had attended several monthly meetings before I retired. I was attracted by the possibility of community coupled with doing good all with a familiar to me Jesuit-Catholic vibe. I believe that in IVC, I have found both.
Volumes have been written about aging and the health and well-being of retired folks. November’s AARP Bulletin has the headline “What Is Your Good Life?” accompanied by a photos of a pair of borderline seniors (probably only in their sixties) golfing. This was an immediate turn-off for me. Retirement as “fun” does not attract me—though I seem to spend lots of time pursuing fun. Interestingly though, inside the Bulletin a checklist of what makes the “good life” could easily be inserted in a recruitment brochure for IVC. On that checklist of factors that make for the “good life”, I found
- having close family or friends
- staying connected with others
- contributing to a better world
- learning new things or experiences
- having a community that shares values similar to mine
- having things that make you smile frequently
Joan Chittister in her book The Gift of Years says:
Generativity—the act of giving ourselves to the rest of the world—is the single most important function of old age.
The homepage of the IVC website says:
The Ignatian Volunteer Corps® (IVC) provides men and women, most age 50 or better, opportunities to serve others and to transform lives. IVC matches the talents of experienced Volunteers with the greatest social needs of our time.
I believe that the transforming mentioned on the website does happen – surprisingly perhaps, most obviously among the volunteers. So I suppose I am saying that I am in IVC for selfish reasons. I am able to use some of the skills I honed in almost 50 years of teaching to help women I would never have met otherwise. The challenges in their lives are new to me and I am in awe of the determination and resilience of these women—truly beautiful in their royal blue scrubs. Most of these women are mothers; many are caregivers for other family members; some hold multiple other jobs; most live in unsafe areas, depend on public transit to get to and from the Center, and are products of an educational system that did not serve them well.
In return for my small efforts, I get lots of strokes: being told that “math just pours out of you” and “I need you” and “I wish I had you in middle school.” I get to hang around young people, help them achieve (there’s no high like getting the correct answer to a math problem). And I get to smile very frequently.
God is indeed very good. I, and my husband, also an IVC volunteer in his second year, are healthy physically and mentally (we think). We have time, mobility, and financial security. The IVC in Baltimore consists of approximately 30 men and women. We have found among them active, dedicated, intelligent, spiritual people. We thank God, and we thank the Ignatian Volunteer Corps, its leadership (especially Steve Eberle, our Regional Director), and its members for the opportunity to learn and spend our time in thoughtful, prayerful service.