Omaha native Paul Stratman spent forty-four years in the electrical trade, laying wire, managing people, and eventually doing 3D modeling. Then he retired. Dissatisfaction soon set in. “My wife had a long list of things she wanted done around the house,” Paul said, “but that took me less than a year to complete. And I certainly didn’t want to just sit around the house doing nothing for the rest of my life. I wanted to help people.” About this time, he heard about a group of retired tradesmen in the Omaha area who call themselves the Geezers. Several times each week, for a half day at a time, a group of five to ten Geezers meets in North Omaha (a poorer part of town) to rebuild a house for later use by a nonprofit. “Currently, we’re rebuilding a home that will house six former inmates,” Paul told me. “We’re providing the home, and the nonprofit will provide the mentorship when the gentlemen move in.” The goal is to help formerly incarcerated people build better lives and stay out of jail. The rate of recidivism in the United States reaches as high as 83 percent. “Our goal is zero percent among the men who will occupy this home when we are finished,” Paul said. On a previous occasion, after the devastating 2019 midwestern floods, Paul was working as a volunteer in the area to restore electricity to many of the homes when he received an urgent phone call concerning a couple in their fifties whose home had been destroyed in the flood. The couple were living in a camper with their teenage daughter and three grandkids (whose mother was unable to take care of them) while they tried to get enough money to fix their house. Six people in a tiny camper! The couple were worried because they had been informed that someone from Nebraska’s Division of Children and Family Services would be coming to inspect the living conditions for the three grandkids. The couple feared their grandkids were going to be taken from them. They were almost frantic to prevent that. Would Paul help? Paul went right to work. He completed the electrical wiring and safety renovations inside the flood-damaged home, free of charge, in time for it to pass inspection by CFS. The family stayed together. Reflecting on this experience, Paul said, “When you can help people that are so desperate, and can make a little difference in their lives—people who have put their lives on hold to care for the needs of someone else—it is moving. That was one of the most emotional experiences I’ve ever had and some of the most meaningful work I’ve ever accomplished.” Paul has retired from his job, but he hasn’t stopped working for others.
Joshua Becker (Things That Matter: Overcoming Distraction to Pursue a More Meaningful Life)