When a boomer has no more volunteering to do

One of the beauties of retirement for many baby boomers is volunteerism. Suddenly, we have the time to “give back,” or at least, to “pay it forward.” That’s what Susan Reid has been doing for a 55-and-older outreach center in Baltimore City, Maryland. Or maybe we should say, had been doing. But it’s over. And she’s going through withdrawal.

It ain’t easy. You just have to say no to those habits that have become addictive, even if they are fun.

I know. My job as a volunteer fundraiser for a nonprofit’s annual fundraising party had come to end.

My boss and I agreed, we had enough donations of gift certificates for restaurants, spa treatments, and hair styling services. We also got books, antiques, and other stuff to make some serious bucks at the party’s silent auction.

I had to stop making calls.

Sounds easy, right? Believe me, it wasn’t. I was in a fog not knowing what to do with myself, now that I no longer had my daily stimulant of letters to write and calls to make. You baby boomers who have retired or ended a part-time gig can relate to this, especially if you have a tendency like others in our generation to be afflicted with workaholic tendencies and have a need to give 100-percent of what you’ve got.

I came down with what I call Calling Withdrawal Syndrome, a condition a person develops when he or she suddenly stops making calls they are used to making and goes through physical withdrawals.

I got CWS bad. Out of habit, and without any real reason, I drank my coffee and looked at the list of business names on my legal pad, as I used to each morning before the roosters cock-a-doodle-dooed. I picked up my android phone and began clicking in a phone number.

Being in a daze, I barely remembered yesterday’s conversation with my boss: no more calls! I put down the phone.

Picking up the legal pad, I glanced at the page. One name on the lined yellow paper stood out. “Call me, now,” it demanded. My hands and the pad started shaking. I was hallucinating.

“Oh, maybe just one call,” I thought. But then, I reminded myself, “No, I’m stronger than this addiction.”

I steadied the legal pad with a firm grip and read the name of an upscale hair salon. I began clicking in the numbers again. I just knew someone would love winning a gift certificate for a trendy bob or a buzz cut during our silent auction.

Susan Reid
(photo by Tasha Cornish)

“I can’t,” I said, in a quivering voice, no matter how much I craved the fix of hearing someone say, ‘Come in, we will have a $100 gift certificate ready for you’.” My face was hot. Sweat poured out. I started breathing rapidly. “It’s anxiety,” I thought.

Then, I grew weak. I needed help. I wiped my face with a tissue yanked from a box on my makeshift desk set up on an antique dry sink and called my boss. I told her what I had been going through since we last talked.

“I totally understand,” she confided. “I’ve already been through what you are going through.”


  1. Great Story! You enjoying calling to ask for money is crazy to me, but I salute you. Maybe you should look to volunteering for a Presidential Candidate. I get calls and emails all the time!

    1. I enjoyed reading this story. I think Sue shared her innermost feelings. She really enjoyed what she did in her volunteer “job”.

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