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What I Really Know About Civic Duty: A New and Awesome Responsibility

The AARP Bulletin's "What I Really Know" column comes from our readers. Each month we solicit short personal essays on a selected topic and post some of our favorites in print and online. Below, reader Helen Neeser Hanna of Sacramento, Calif., shares what she really knows about civic duty.

Civic duty today entails far more than keeping informed, voting and doing volunteer work. With our planet warming and running low on natural resources, civic duty now requires a change in lifestyle, one that will help future generations to survive. It’s a new and awesome responsibility.

We older Americans are well equipped to set examples for greener living. We have the time to go for walks and plant organic gardens. Most of us have settled on the products and styles that suit us—we don’t rush out to buy new clothes or gadgets just because we see them advertised. We work less, shop less and consume less. The Depression taught many of us how to use up or repair things, instead of throwing them out. We take reusable shopping bags with us to the grocery store, and many of us still use clotheslines, at least part of the time, instead of electric dryers. And we always turn the lights out when we leave the room.

Our talents have also gained new respect. When the power goes out, we are the ones who can play a piano that doesn’t need to be plugged in. With the price of gasoline so high, maybe more children soon will play Ping-Pong or Chinese checkers with their neighbors instead of being chauffeured to soccer practice. We may even see a renaissance in parlor games. I hope so. As a child, I loved musical chairs. I’m not sure my grandchildren have ever played it, but I’m ready to show them how.

Older Americans may not be around long enough to develop new, Earth-friendly sources of energy, but in the meantime, some of our old habits have become new civic duties.


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