I turned 62 on Friday. Looking back at my goals and accomplishments, I realize I never dreamed I’d be where I am today — serving as executive director of a youth center named in honor of my cousin, killed in a drive-by shooting. Life truly happens.

My goals were to be a newspaper reporter and book author. I did indeed accomplish both but I thought it would go on forever. At retirement age, I’m finding myself once again trying to decide what my next chapter will be. It will very likely include more writing as that is my passion. I’m also passionate about everything supporting children, especially those in inner cities. I grew up in one in South Los Angeles and have had some near-death experiences that I want to help the kids avoid.

I am very grateful for the breaks I’ve had — the youth center in my own teen life that helped me go to college. The professors that took special interest in giving me internships and other opportunities to thrive. I feel very thankful for the help that steered me away from a life of gangs and drugs. I yearn to “give back.” I’m thinking I will continue doing that beyond retirement at the Al Wooten Jr. Youth Center, perhaps on an advisory board.

I got teary-eyed this morning reading MacKenzie Scott’s blogs on her philanthropy. I can imagine my own self doing as she’s doing giving away the majority of her billions. If I could change the world or change the lives of literally thousands or millions of people with my wealth I would too. The Bible says, “The love of God is shed abroad in our hearts (Romans 5:5).” This to me means that the love and care we feel for others comes from God. My belief is that God’s love in our hearts and our life experiences makes us care about the things we care about. It’s up to us to act on it.

I am not wealthy financially and so I give my time and strive to give our students the best we can give. Reflecting on the past 12 years at the center, it feels very strange that I don’t regret leaving journalism. As a 20-something graduating from college, I was looking forward to accomplishing my career goals. What I never planned for was the feeling of fulfillment and purpose you get in community service, in doing what you feel called to do. Soul satisfaction. Ministry.

As I contemplate my ensuing retirement, I think a lot about what the impact at the center will continue to be. This has generated new goals focused on organizational growth, program improvement, and financial sustainability.

I didn’t anticipate a youth center being among my interests but I feel very satisfied that it has been. I am looking forward to what the next stage here will be.

--

Naomi McSwain is executive director of the Al Wooten Jr. Youth Center, a South Los Angeles youth center named after her cousin, killed in a drive-by shooting.

Love podcasts or audiobooks? Learn on the go with our new app.

Get the Medium app

A button that says 'Download on the App Store', and if clicked it will lead you to the iOS App store
A button that says 'Get it on, Google Play', and if clicked it will lead you to the Google Play store
Naomi McSwain

Naomi McSwain

Naomi McSwain is executive director of the Al Wooten Jr. Youth Center, a South Los Angeles youth center named after her cousin, killed in a drive-by shooting.