Bookends of Life

Today’s lovely post is written by Carly Wiggins, Director of Volunteer Services for Communities In Schools of Kalamazoo.

A few weeks ago, I started my day at the senior honors ceremony at Kalamazoo Central High School, my own alma mater.  As I watched the graduating seniors arrive, zip into their gowns and try to balance their academic caps on their heads, I saw how much each has to offer, how far each has to go, and how very young they all are.  I felt grateful for their youth, their humor, their excitement and their confidence, because they have such important work to do with their lives.

I ended the same day saying goodbye to a dedicated and humble volunteer, William “Bill” Tomko. I knew Bill as a volunteer at King Westwood Elementary, serving in Mrs. Vader’s kindergarten class.  Earlier this year, Bill was nominated for a STAR Award in recognition of his commitment to students. Mrs. Vader reported that her students improved their reading abilities by practicing with “Grandpa Bill.”  At his memorial reception, I learned that Bill had also been a dedicated volunteer at the Air Zoo, directing visitors and sharing his knowledge of and passion for aviation.  Between the two organizations, Bill gave 356 hours of service in 2012.  In his 90s, Bill found a way to give nearly an hour of service every single day.

For me, that day was bracketed on both ends by possibility, like bookends holding up a library in between them.  I saw young people at Kalamazoo Central, full of energy and talent, who have so much to give.  I recognized that service can live on in newly literate children who will read to learn their entire lives.  I am grateful to Mr. Tomko for the opportunity to better understand the true meaning of life:

“The true meaning of life is to plant trees, under whose shade you do not expect to sit.”       – Nelson Henderson

Hands Touching