To the editor:
I am honored to be named as the Citizen of the Year by the Bainbridge Island Chamber of Commerce, largely based on the changes that have taken place at the Bainbridge Island Senior Community Center during my brief tenure as executive director. I am gratified by the enthusiasm and energy at BISCC, and proud of what role I have had in that.
I also am not a little struck by how powerfully context bends our perceptions. From my perspective, my “citizenry” has mostly been an effort to say “yes” to others, allowing them to play out their vision of an engaging, open center of activity. I’ve been fortunate (and blessed) with a trusting and engaged board of directors (and specifically to recently retired board president Tom Kilbane) that gives me permission to give others permission. Dominos of citizenry.
The result has been a blossoming in the weekly senior center calendar, lively social events and trips, and a consideration of how we can best serve to make the island “a vibrant, compassionate, inclusive place to grow up and grow older,” as we put it in our recently released strategic plan (available at biseniorcenter.org/about).
One the senior center’s biggest challenges is one of perception: that the senior center is for the aged and infirm.
I see quite the opposite: if you want to be an empowered nonagenarian, the best time to begin working toward that goal is today (whatever your age). Take some time for table tennis, pétanque, or a comfortably paced bike ride; think about advanced medical directives that reflect your life values and share your thoughts with your family; develop a volunteer habit at a place where you can learn how to not only be the assistant but also the assisted — it’ll help make life’s transitions easier.
Delighted as I am with the title of “Citizen of the Year,” I’m also struck whimsy of being so recognized. I can name a dozen community stalwarts I depend on weekly who I’d nominate. I’m sure you can, too.
In fact, we each have the opportunity to be citizens of the year, or week, hour or day, by compassionately responding to each other and fostering the community we are building among us. As the late Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O’Connor said, citizenship is not about criticizing from the sidelines, but by jumping into society. She told Parade magazine “You need to know how to be a part of it, how to express yourself — not just by voting.”