The Hand of Retirement

For years I have taught children, and adults, about the Hand of Prayer – a format for prayer that uses our fingers to name the areas that we should keep in balance in our relationship with God. First, begin with your thumb and praise God for who God is for you; next, the pointer finger, thanksgivings (give thanks for your blessings); then, middle finger, confession (share what you regret and promise not to do again); fourth finger, intercession (share your concern for others); and finally, the pinky finger, petition (ask God for what you need). This is a format suggested by St. Augustine, and it works for me, and helps others to know where to begin and end when they pray. The fingers of the hand can be a useful way to remember things, including how to pray.

In response to my reflections on retirement in the Daily Cup, I have received many valuable suggestions from those who are already retired. Gratefully, everyone has offered “suggestions” and not advice, which reflects what they themselves must have appreciated hearing from others when they retired. Nobody really likes advice. Someone once told me that advice is a wasted thing: the wise don’t need it and fools won’t accept it. But I always listen to suggestions coming from someone else’s real experience.

One of the most helpful suggestions I have received about retirement is to pay attention to five areas of my retired life, and don’t let any one of them exclude the others: spirituality, finances, social, physical and intellectual. Why five? Aren’t there more than five areas of my life, or are five areas all that one can handle in one’s later years? Then it occurred to me that the number five is as important in my retirement as it is in my prayer practice. Again, the fingers of my hand could help me balance my life.

After prayerful consideration, I think I have found of new way of structuring my life in retirement, naming my own areas and dividing my life into five relationships to which I will want to nurture.  And using my fingers, I can protect each relationship from excluding another. Here I go, starting with my thumb: God, my family, my friends, my health and my interests. Work is no longer is a focus, and where my heart is, my treasure will be there also. What five areas would you name for your retired life?


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