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Tom Rademacher Resized 5

My Encore Is Now Official

Wait a minute; did I just transform into an Encore story myself?

Actually, I think so.

Though I’m the guy largely penning stories for the Grand Rapids Community Foundation’s Encore initiative that celebrates “Second Acts For A Greater Grand Rapids,” it occurred to me that – as of a week or so ago -- I’m also part of the party.

For the better part of 40 years, I wrote news and columns for the Grand Rapids Press, the first and only full-time job I ever had, right after narrowly graduating college in 1978. Since accepting a buyout in 2009, I’d been writing for the paper on a part-time basis. But nothing lasts forever and over the course of the last couple weeks, I decided to part ways and put more oomph into other projects, including the Encore effort.

In making the break in order to pursue other possibilities, I’ve discovered for myself what men and women I’ve interviewed for Encore stories have to say about the process: Though saying goodbye to something you’ve loved is difficult, it’s also liberating.

I’ll certainly miss the readership I cultivated while at the newspaper. But I’m exited to team with the Grand Rapids Community Foundation as it expands its reach into a widespread audience inspired by Encore stories. For me, writing profiles for Encore isn’t too far removed from what I did before, because the stories tend to focus on people both struggling and soaring, with a common denominator that often puts others first.

After all, how can you not be moved by an Encore story about two retired nurses, Linda Fish and Martha Brooks, who volunteer weekly at Health Intervention Services in Grand Rapids and tote along their husbands, Fred and Larry, who pitch in on maintenance issues there?

And, who wouldn’t be inspired by Sarah Brooks, who’s volunteered nearly 60 consecutive years at the Grand Rapids Home for Veterans? And the list goes on, which you can see for yourself by visiting grfoundation.org/encore

Though the work I now do isn’t all on a volunteer basis or nearly as profound as those I write of, it has an Encore flavor because I’m choosing to re-invent myself in ways that certainly transcend playing golf or going fishing every day. Not that there’s anything wrong with either!

As someone now flirting with age 62, I have more than a few friends who have retired or are considering second acts. And my advice is the same I’ve heard from those I’ve interviewed for Encore: Find the “something else” in your life that has always mattered, but for which you either couldn’t or wouldn’t find the time.

At the end of the day, you can consider the way you conquered the golf course or the fishing hole.But my guess is that there’s just as much or more satisfaction in connecting with another who appreciated the gifts you still have to give and making a conscious decision to share them.

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