AARP began sending me information when I turned fifty-five. My first reaction was to take it as an insult. As far as I knew, a senior citizen was sixty-five years old. Until a friend politely informed me that many businesses begin offering discounts to consumers at the age of fifty-five. Another friend told me I had crossed into senior territory.
I discovered I was working around many senior citizens once I returned to the workforce at age sixty-four.
Increasingly, men and women are working past retirement age. According to several of them, at least in the professional world, they chose to work. Some seniors, however, have no choice but to work.
They enjoy working because it keeps their minds active. The ability to leave the house and go to work allowed them to remain socially active. There is a distinction between professional seniors, such as the ones I have worked with for the last twenty years and now in the school, versus those with limited education.
Although I am familiar with working at restaurants like Burger King, grocery stores, and our local Woolworths, once I graduated from college all my positions required an office. Working at a store as a teen and twenty-something took a toll on my body and feet. As a sixty-five-year-old, I am sure it will be more challenging for me now. For those with limited funds, a job at Dollar Tree may be their only option.
In my last article, I described how I changed careers at sixty-four while working at Hixson Elementary. I realized that I was not the only senior enjoying my job at the school as I put words to paper. Therefore, I decided to interview a few seniors about their different roles at school for a series on working seniors.
Ms. Jackie is my first interviewee. In the past school year, I had the opportunity to observe her while working as a substitute teacher. Whenever I saw her, she was hard at work sweeping, mopping, picking something up, giving advice to a child, or getting hugs from them. When I became a permanent employee at the school, I noticed more about Ms. Jackie.
No matter what time I arrive at the school, Ms. Jackie is already there. There is never a time when she is not working. Her spirit has demonstrated to me her genuine commitment to her job. I watch her as she does what she does, especially when the lady talks to the children because she is a force.
Regardless of what grade they are in or how old they are, every one of the children loves and respects her. With a glance, she can stop trouble in its tracks. She speaks firmly and lovingly to them to keep them on track.
Each day, Ms. Jackie receives more hugs from children than anyone else.
Who is this woman, Ms. Jackie? As a small package, she is a dynamo. During my interview with Ms. Jackie one afternoon, I gained insight into her life.
In 1951, Jacqueline Sims was born to Robert and Odessa Sims. She was the last of six children. Previously, she was married and had three children. Although two of her children have passed away, she still has a daughter she describes as the joy of her life. She is also a grandmother.
Though she dreamed of becoming a singer or teacher as a child, she worked for Erlanger Hospital as a monitor technician. Additionally, she worked at Memorial Hospital as a unit clerk and head of the clerical office. Since she is a wonder at Hixson Elementary, I assume she performed well in those positions.
My question to Ms. Jackie was what she likes to do when she is not working. Flowers in the garden bring her joy and comfort, and she enjoys spending time with her family. Watching cowboy movies and football all day is one of her favorite pastimes. Her love for God stems from his ability to keep her at peace.
Most of us will inevitably face trials and tribulations in life. There is no exemption for Ms. Jackie. Although the grief that follows the loss of loved ones, Ms. Jackie explained, the death of her parents, siblings, and children has made her humble.
In response to a question about what she enjoys most about her job at the school, Ms. Jackie states without hesitation, “the children and staff.” Her favorite part of the job is cleaning and working with children. However, she has thought about what she might do when she retires.
As a rule, she does not like to travel too much and does not want to fly. I will travel by car if I go somewhere. When Ms. Jackie decides to travel, where would she go? Wyoming, Washington, Maine, and Eugene, Ore., are the four places I would like to visit. When the time is right, she will retire.
Our Principal, Dr. Greene, shared her thoughts regarding Ms. Jackie. I was not the least bit surprised by what she said.
I am incredibly grateful to have Ms. Jackie as a part of the Wildcat Family. She is such a hard-working, meticulous, kind, and patient individual. To maintain a clean environment for students, faculty, and parents at Hixson Elementary School, Ms. Jackie goes above and beyond. The work ethic she exhibits is truly one to admire.
We often laugh because her daughter tells her she treats this building like her own home. If you take time to process that statement, you will have a better understanding of the care and dedication she has for our campus.
She often arrives early and leaves late. She will often not leave a task undone, even if it is not her responsibility. She is a silent worker, you may not see her, but when you see an area that has been handled with care, you know she has attended to it.
Ms. Jackie also has a genuine love for our students. She talks with them, greets them, loves them, and when the time is right, she may even gently scold them. I am grateful and proud to have her here at the Wildcat Den!!
Dr. Greene’s words describe Ms. Jackie perfectly. I have never heard disparaging remarks about Ms. Jackie. It inspires me to see someone her age working every day.
When I grow up, I hope to be like you, Ms. Jackie.