By Brett Harris
I remember when we were expecting my oldest son, there was this flood of emotions that presented itself from the time we first knew we were to be parents until we held him that first morning: joy at the prospect of new life, fear of the capability of being a good parent, awe of the entire process. Aside from the moment we walked out of the hospital responsible for another human life and I thought, "There's no test? They're just going to let me walk out of here with him?" That flood of emotions dissipated rather quickly as all the responsibilities and routines took hold. It was replaced, however, with a different emotion—excitement.
Every time we read a book or went for a walk along the creek near our house or listened to music at a festival or cooked a meal, I was excited for the chance to teach this tiny human something he'd never known before. My wife and I, and the other adults in his life, were given the gift of helping him shape his understanding of the world around him. It's been quite a joy thus far, and he's beginning to teach us things about life and family (but mostly dinosaurs and other animals) that we never knew or had forgotten.
We were blessed earlier this fall with the chance to do the same with our newest son. That excitement is still there, and now I get to see it through his older brother's eyes, too. For my boys, I hope they'll never lose that sense of curiosity, that desire inside them to make sense of what they see, hear, smell, taste and touch.
I'm lucky that I get to come here every day and work with you, people from whom curiosity has never vanished. Every semester at OLLI is a chance to ignite that curiosity once again, either to dive deeper into lifelong subjects of interest or try something altogether new. As I walk through the halls and sit with you in meetings and around town, I'm flooded with emotions once again and reminded that learning is, in fact, for life.
By Betty Dettre
In the mysterious ways of life, OLLI members Sylvia and Russ White saw one of my paintings at an art exhibit in Hattiesburg. They telephoned me and asked if they could come to my home to look at more of my art. Thus, I made two new dear friends. While visiting, Sylvia told me about OLLI. By becoming an OLLI member, I made hundreds of new friends.
Shortly after I became a member of OLLI, Don Hegwood and Dr. Marvin Kendrick (both art enthusiasts) invited me to join them in founding the OLLI Art Group which has now grown to include arts and crafts. My interest in veterans lead me to help with the OLLI Veterans Appreciation Dinner, and my involvement continues to grow. In telling this long story, I hope to let every OLLI member know how important they are to our organization. All of you are making a difference in the lives of others.
Now ten years later, I am president of OLLI and have something new and exciting to look forward to every day thanks to my friends at OLLI.
Special thanks to Brett Harris, our director, and to our staff Tay and Dianne, who painted Peck House's walls during spring break—definitely not in their job description. And thanks also to our USM student interns who help keep things running smoothly; members of the Advisory Board and other volunteers whom we couldn't do without; our facilitators who supply us with learning and sometimes laughter. You all fill our lives with happiness, love and the joy of continuing to learn and grow.
By Carolyn Crosby
One of the best things about taking classes at OLLI is that when a class is over, it doesn't have to be over. There are times when a class holds so much interest for the participants, they will form what is called a Special Interest Group (SIG). These groups meet as many times as desired, some once or twice a week, to continue learning and doing what was so captivating in the class. Some of the SIGS OLLI currently offers are Life Story Writing, Poetry Writing, Mah Jongg, Crochet, Current Events, Advanced Tai Chi and Guitar and Photography. There is talk of adding more.
There is no charge for attending these groups other than your presence and enthusiasm. Most SIGs continue to meet between terms. If you are interested in joining any of these SIGs, check your registration booklet or with the office about meeting times. If you are interested in starting a group, just go ahead and do it. Continuing to learn, serve and fellowship is what OLLI is all about.
An observation by Dallas Gorbett
I may have already mentioned to you that I am not a "joiner." It's not that I'm channeling Groucho Marx when he said, "I don't care to belong to any club that will have me as a member." No, I'm just not comfortable around groups of people. I don't know what to say, how to "make small talk."
How is it possible that now when I enter the Peck House people know my name and speak to me? What slippery slope deposited me here?
Well, a handful of years ago my mildly stroke-disabled brother decided he wanted to take a class at OLLI, so I made the round trip to drop him off and then later to pick him up for five weeks. The next semester I decide, "What the heck. I might as well take a class with him—save the extra trip." (I think it was with the famous Dr. Kendrick.)
The next session, I signed up for a writing class. Now there's something an introvert can safely do. Writing is a solitary thing, right? When the class ended, there was an invitation to join the Special Interest Group for Life Story Writers. It was okay to join a group of like-minded writers, right?
And the snowball started downhill.
Come join us in the Poetry SIG. Will you help us put together a collection (or two) of short stories and poems? How about a calendar? We could really use you on the Communication Committee to help with the Expressions Magazine.
It took a few years, it seemed faster, but people learned my name and I knew theirs. I suddenly had a group of friends—a community of people I could enjoy talking with. I could have refused the invitations to join the SIGs, and that would have been okay. I would have learned stuff and gotten out of the house. But, by taking the baby steps of joining "safe" classes and Special Interest Groups, I greatly expanded my life. It has literally been life altering for me. (Sorry if that sounds cliche, but it's true.) There are so many more opportunities at OLLI beside classes. Trips that let you meet a few people at a time. Special Interest Groups where other people are interested in the same thing you are: Bridge, Writing, Current events, Tai Chi, Guitar, Crochet, Reading, Mah Jongg, Tarot and probably soon Photography.
Now I attend the socials, something I would have never done before. I'm still working on breaking the habit of standing off to the side with my arms crossed over my chest—might as well have a sign over my head that says, "Do not approach." I smile and speak full sentences.
It's Okay. I belong to a community of people I can relax with. Come join me.