“Graduation” of Sorts

By now all of the young people whom I work with, and their parents have heard officially from me (via US Mail) that I will officially retire (Graduation?) from the position of Youth Advocate for the Town of Dartmouth (MA) by September 30, 2015.

This has been a tremendously difficult decision to make for me personally, professionally and spiritually. Unlike many people who have worked in one position for thirty-one years and can’t wait to leave and retire, I have loved my work and continue to enjoy the work that I do greatly each and every day. However, having just turned sixty-five, it seems that the timing is right for me personally and professionally. It’s also a favorable time for the Dartmouth Youth Commission, the town agency that I work for, which is now in its forty-seventh year of providing support to the families of our community.

Once I knew in my own heart that the time was nearing, I shared this with my family members, then with the members of the Dartmouth Youth Commission, followed by my administrative superiors.That was the easiest part.

But sharing the news individually with clients, with parents and with young people who attend our support groups was the hardest of hard work ever for me. (Meaning, I’d rather talk and walk a kid through a serious crisis than share the news that I’d be leaving in three months.) There were tissues, anger, sadness, “how comes,” and the hardest of all…silence from more than a few. For decades I have counseled and helped young people to understand change and to cope with loss and grief, and this time with the news of my departure I have hand delivered a slice of it to each of them myself.

Thus far, the most meaningful comments and lessons
received from young people have been:Marble works photo (1 of 1)

● “Kevin, you need to buy more tissues.”
● “My mother said she wasn’t surprised because you’re getting old.”
● “I’m mad at you.”
● “I can still make an appointment to see you though, right?” (No.)
● “Everyone has to retire sometime, Kevin.”
● And my favorite…from a second grade boy in a compassionate tone and with a serious face said, “Maybe after you retire you will have more time to practice getting better at playing the Marble Works Game?”

So far, comments from adults have run the gamut from heartfelt joy, jealousy, words of wisdom to playful jabbing:

● “I am so happy for you!”
● “What? You’re leaving us here with all this? Thanks a lot!”
● “Your grandchildren will see more of their grampa.” (They will)
● “Are you sick?” (No. And I’m prayerfully thankful for that.)
● “What will you do? Play golf?” (Seriously? No.)
● “Where do I send my resumé?”
● “I know you Kevin. You’re not retiring. You’re graduating. And good for you.”
● “Take it from me, Kevin. I’ve been retired eight years. And once you announce your retirement, everyone will have an opinion on what you should do next.” (Dan, you were right!)

Come fall and for the year to follow my plan is to take on no new thing. At least I’ll try not to. My passion for writing and photography will move from jammed in here-and-there pursuits to a daily devotion to and practice at Rise This Day. While I am still becoming friends with the word retirement, I know in my heart that I am ready to graduate. And I know too that any one of our six grandchildren living nearby will, come fall, be ready to hone my skills at the Marble Works Game.

Author: Kevin Lee

In a nutshell, Kevin fesses up to the following: He's a retired youth advocate-counselor, a blogger, writer, photographer, rower, Friends Minister, grandpa of six and married to a terrific woman for 43 years and counting!

8 thoughts on ““Graduation” of Sorts”

  1. You will be sorely missed. You have an amazing talent with our young people. My childrens lives have been better for having met you <3

    1. Alice, thank you so, so much for all your support in oh so many ways down through the years, too. From the cookies and other goodies you used to drop off, to your front-and-center support during political firestorms, etc! Whatever I may have accomplished down through the years was always made manifest by the support of so many. As I “graduate” onward, and being aware of all the many ways that so many others like yourself have offered support, I’m filled with me an enormous sense of gratitude for the work made possible and the gift received as well. Come fall, I’ll begin to pray into whatever my “post-graduate” life will be!

    1. Thanks Eric. It’s interesting; as you know, I retired two years ago from running the JYM Retreat Program, which came to life by following a spiritual leading that brought a new program into being that carried me for 26 years. Even though it was time, the emotional and spiritual process of letting go of that “baby” was not easy. So I knew that stepping down from a 31 year run as a youth advocate, a job I have greatly enjoyed, would also be an emotional and spiritual process as well. I know too, looking back, that I’m better at beginning new things than ending them! But, I’m feeling my way around the transitions, trying to listen for the lessons, to intentionally enter into a gentle, fallow period of time to see and be ready for what comes next.

  2. Kevin, its been many years since I was that teenager sitting in your office. I will say that as I stand here today at 40 years old (can you believe it), I know that I am a productive member of society because of you. You are a remarkable, trusting, healing man. Although I no longer sit in your office and fiddle with your awesome toys, I still feel a sadness to see you go. The sadness is only because I am sad for the young people to come that haven’t had the pleasure to work with you. I can only hope for a miracle that there is another being like you in the right place at the right time for them. Thank you for all that you have done for me which includes counseling me as a young person, officiating my wedding, and for dedicating Jada. Thank you for showing me your beautiful soul…You SO deserve the opportunity to relax and play with marbles now!

    1. Hello Julie, I am struck with the kindness of your words here….thank you. And thank you especially for giving voice to where the real work unfolds and validating that heart and soul have indeed been an equal part of whatever skills I have been able to bring to my work, my life really, of being present to and caring about the youth I have worked with.

      Indeed, it has been a long and glorious run for which I am especially grateful for as well. Still, I too have been living with and feeling my way around and through considerable sadness as well, since last fall when I knew that my time was nearing to bring this chapter of my life to a close. The gifts received for me have been rich and overflowing as well, especially having had the privilege of staying connected with many near and far as they grew into their adult years and their careers. That part, which shall continue, has been a blessing for sure.

      I’m also grateful that I stand a pretty good chance of having time to “play marbles” before I begin to lose my marbles! Love to you, and your whole family…. Kevin

  3. Hey Kevin, I am just now getting around to sending you this. Thank you! Our family and especially ME were blessed to have your comforting and wise words during some very very difficult times. Grief became a process that was easier to understand and acknowledge. Showing me how to help my son was huge. Some of these lessons stayed with me during more recent stressors. The gift that keeps on giving!
    My son is a wonderful. centered young man. I give Dan and myself ALL the credit for that of course. But we certainly benefitted from your kindness and advice. Thank you.
    I have looked for you on the beach but I guess I am sitting at the wrong end! Please know you made a difference in my life, I know there are many more .
    Enjoy your days ahead… My advice? Get to the ocean as often as possible, winter, spring, summer and fall. I have never had a moment when I wish I had taken the opportunity. Peace ….. Faith

    1. Hello Faith, Thank you so much for your kind words and comments here. It’s been a privilege to have had the opportunity to work with others for so many years…. which will continue in ways yet to unfold, I’m sure. (But I’m attempting to follow the Buddhist practice of “no new thing” for a period of time. For me, one year, so we’ll see.

      I am a huge believer in the healing power of being near, and seeing, water every day, which I do, actually. As for the beach, we have been going over to West Island in Fairhaven now for several years because all six grandkids live in Fairhaven and go to that beach!

      Wishing you and your family the best of health into the years ahead.


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