Archive for November, 2003

Retiring in Grace

November 12, 2003

By Samia Khoury
Wednesday, November 12, 2003

I have chosen a different angle of liberation and justice for my article this month. The liberation from work, from the routine of waking up every morning to get to work, and very often without even having enough time to get a hot drink. No wonder there are so many extra gadgets in new cars these days where one can fit a mug to drink coffee or tea en route.

Personally I would rather do away with my cup of tea than to have to sip it while I drive. Driving is crazy in our area these days, and one certainly needs both hands and both eyes to arrive safely. The all-too familiar Ford shuttle minibuses have become as much of a menace on the roads as the Israeli roadblocks themselves are, and the Occupation military forces that guard them.

For me there is a ritual for preparing a teapot, and it is much more enjoyable to drink tea with company or while reading or simply relaxing. But everything comes instant and fast these days, and is tasteless like a teabag. No wonder life itself has become just as tasteless, since human lives and moral values don’t matter anymore.

I look at retirement as a form of liberation. Liberation from the daily routine and from responsibility. It is an acquired freedom to do whatever you feel like doing, when there was never enough time for those hobbies or for reading all those books waiting on the shelf. So much was left undone. But many people cannot cope with retirement. In fact, in many societies and countries the laws regarding retirement age are being reconsidered. But will they be doing justice to the younger generation if the retirement laws are completely eliminated?

I had an eternal argument with the late Sameeha Khalil, founder and president of In’ash El-Usra; a good friend and a great leader and activist who had challenged Mr. Arafat in the first Palestinian elections. She could never absorb the principle that we followed at the YWCA, where I had served in different capacities on the local and national level. “When someone is doing a good job, why do you change her?” she continuously asked. I always tried to explain to her that it was important as a women’s movement to empower women and train young leaders. If there was no mechanism for change then our younger members would not be encouraged to run for elections, and the older ones would find it difficult to admit that it is time to go.

Of course I am not an expert on the subject, and my work experience in life was always as a volunteer, even when I was working professionally at Birzeit University in its early years of development from a junior college to a university. But my father, the late Musa Nasir, who was president of the college and one of the founders of Birzeit, was a lovely role model for me. He graciously started relieving himself from responsibilities, encouraging the younger generation to run the institution. His sister, my aunt Lizzy, who had founded Rawdat El-Zuhur, also saw the potential in the young members of the board and surprised us with the announcement of her retirement in 1986. I had the honor of being chosen by the board to head the organization, until last month when we had new elections. 17 years were more than I had expected to serve as president, and I did not realize how privileged I was to have been able to carry on the legacy of dear Aunt Lizzy until it was time to say goodbye. But I said it with pride, dignity; love, and the determination to bless a healthy and positive change.

Working with the children was the most rewarding part of my long years of volunteer work. All through the different stages of the development of Rawdat El-Zuhur, we continued to have big dreams for this small educational institution so that we could bring up a new generation with a commitment to moral values, discipline and public welfare. I continue to feel very strongly that no change can be brought about in our society if there are no radical changes in our educational system.

I remember when we were preparing for our 50th anniversary celebrations in April 2002, I got sick and as I was being rushed to the hospital I kept praying for a grace of time to see us through those celebrations. Indeed the Lord was gracious. And despite all the obstacles, we managed to have the special musical with the graduation at the end of that year. So what more can I ask for but to retire in grace, and watch over the school and its new leadership and say: “That is good.”