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Contribution

Many of us feel that our life has purpose if we are able to contribute to something greater than ourselves. I would argue that such a sense of contribution is an important reason why many people find meaning in the world of work. They are contributing to a greater good, albeit one that is often measure only in terms of profit and loss. Stopping work too often results in concerns about continuing personal value and worth. We're no longer contributing as we once were.

I've concluded that contribution is still possible and important, but not contribution through working for money. For me, it has become contribution to communities that I value. I find reward in contributing to my neighbourhood. I find reward in contributing to discussion communities, online and in person at places like The LIFE Institute. I find reward in contributing to my personal community of family and friends.

How might one contribute? There's no end of ways in which one can volunteer for good work in support of one or another community. Social agencies are always looking for volunteers, for a wide range of contributions. Churches and formal social groups are also looking for volunteers. One friend found personal value in taking the time to visit those close to death – too often an impending death turns away those who knew you only in health. The range of options is wide.

And those of us in the Third Age are almost uniquely positioned to be of service. We have the time to really dig into an activity. In my own case, working on local city planning issues has been a way for me to contribute. And, it's important to note that effective contributions to city planning requires a considerable commitment in time. Decisions are multi-faceted, with multiple stakeholders. Acquiring the knowledge needed to help shape decisions takes a real commitment in time. It's a natural way for Third Age members to contributed.

The opportunity for us to contributed to places is open to almost all of us. Places are important. Places need attention. The actual places can range for a family backyard to a neighbourhood parkette to a local public park to something like the Great Yonge Street. But our contribution will have the greatest impact if the places we support have the greatest (social) value. What is a meaningful place? What makes it meaningful? How might we successfully engage in placemaking?

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