As I wrote last week, I’m in Phoenix, primarily for Spring Training. And it’s the volunteers at the ball parks that make this experience so affordable. $7 for outfield seats on the grass. $26 to sit right behind home plate. Such low prices increase the number of games we can see.
The volunteers not only work the aisles and booths, they also greet fans at the gate with a joke or a smile and with information and directions. In exchange they get to extend their working life beyond age 70 (or 80) and see some good baseball. It’s a win/win.
On off days we travel. Last Saturday we spent the entire day at the outdoor Desert Museum in Saguaro National Park, Tucson. Surrounded by gorgeous red mountains and billions of saguaro cactai, we hiked the trails, reading the nature labels and visiting the animal habitats. I finally got to see the elusive mountain lion up close. What a stunningly beautiful (and frightening) creature.
We also took advantage of the activities. At 7:30 every morning volunteers conduct a free bird walk, and all day long bird enthusiasts have the opportunity to stop along the trail to see the netted hummingbird house and the aviary.
Twice a day, volunteers give raptor shows. While the birds fly back and forth between perches—so low some observers get flapped—expert seniors tell the fascinating story of each bird. Indoors, other volunteers explain desert denizens, introducing the audience to the likes of a porcupine and a javelin. They also disseminate valuable details about reptiles, like don’t ever rely on TV westerns for information when dealing with a snake bite. Sucking out the poison is a bad idea.
Just like at the baseball games, volunteers at the museum greet visitors at the gate with maps and information. They sell tickets and work the gift shop, the gallery, and the restaurant. They make possible the unbelievably low price of $14.75.
What impresses me most about Arizona volunteerism is how much the seniors increase the educational experience at their local schools. When Sun City was first built, the Del Webb retirement community was an annex of Peoria that did not pay school taxes. What at first annoyed people soon became a blessing because the highly educated retired people have become a free asset that the schools rely on.
Arizona has inspired me thus far, particularly the talent and the generosity of spirit among the seasoned volunteers who want to give back. But now I also know that you never really have to retire from work or from life. If you’re flexible enough to reinvent yourself, Arizona—and probably much of the rest of the US—needs you.