A Mid-Life Crisis or Mid-Life Adventure?

by Cathy on March 9, 2011 · 6 comments

in Ideas,People

Thad and Mary with their grown children. Just an interesting aside: Margo (bottom right) was on American Idol last season and made it to Hollywood. But I digress ...

What does it look like when a guy in his 50’s has a mid-life crisis, quits his job, finds a beautiful blond and runs off to some exotic place? Well, in our friend Thad’s case … all of the above is true. Only…that beautiful blond also happens to be the love of his life for 35 years, his wife Mary. And the exotic location? Zambia! But the long and winding road that caused them to move there actually began when Mary was still in high school.

Mary lived there in the summer of 1972 with her parents while her father, a renowned physician, was on a teaching sabbatical. Then in 1991-1992, Thad and Mary lived there for 14 months on Thad’s engineering assignment, along with their kids. More recently, they have led three short-term teams of college students to Zambia, working with local missions that serve school children, widows and AIDS orphans. They have traveled throughout much of southern Africa, but Zambia has always held a special place in their hearts. It feels like home.

Mary explains,” After working 15 years as a hospital nurse, giving some of the best years of my career, I wondered, ‘Is this what I still want to be doing in five or 10 years?’ No, actually. I want to teach village health care to the poorest of the poor. My heart wants to be in Africa.”

Mary lived in Africa for a year in high school with her physician dad and mom, perhaps sealing her fate to go into medicine and one day move to Zambia.

Thad added, “And as a civil engineer for the last 30 years, I realized I’m still waiting to do what I really want to do with my professional skills – help develop clean water and sanitation projects in places where this fundamental health requirement is desperately needed. We want to finish our productive career years serving in Africa.” (For more on their story, check out their always entertaining blog Life on the Wild Side.

So Thad and Mary are living within walking distance of the spectacular Victoria Falls as part of a relief and development team. Though many of their teammates live in a small town, they chose to live in a tent with the local villagers for the first year to quickly learn the language. Thad admits that they may decide that living in a tent really stinks but they are going to give it a shot.

Thad and Mary plan to live in the village in a tent for the first year to immerse themselves in the language.

What about you? If you are an empty nester or starting the second-half of your life, will the mid-point be marked by crisis or adventure? And how can you leverage your skills and experiences to serve others in the midst of pursuing adventure? I’m pondering these thoughts for myself.


{ 6 comments… read them below or add one }

Nancy Brown March 10, 2011 at 1:43 am

I have been to Zambia many times on mission trips and served in Solwezi at Lusa Home Based Care. Where are you serving? I hope to go back in 2012. Would love to be in touch.

Cathy March 10, 2011 at 2:26 am

It would be so strategic if you could connect with Thad and Mary. Rob and I have known them for more than 20 years and they are the real deal. You will love them. You can reach them at Thad_may@hotmail.com I believe they only are able to check email once a week when they go into town but do get in touch with them! Cathy

Mary May March 11, 2011 at 6:38 pm

Cathy, this is spectacular! Where did you ever meet this couple? Do I know them? :)We’ve had now 3 weeks in the village and tonight I am getting some R&R at a nice restaurant in town. I just finished off an amazing chocolate sundae with no guilt. After just a few weeks here we’ve both lost weight (a great side effect of living in Africa) and have some pretty awesome tans. But, the weariness of the Village is hard. Our tent is bought but not up yet, we have to prepare a concrete pad for it due to incredibly hungry ants that eat everything in site. We have hired a team of workers who are starting in earnest on this project, even have bought the grass for the roof. Thad is working on finding us clean water by resurrecting some bio sand filters the villagers are loaning to us. I’m sorting out how to cook in the bush and starting to learn the local language called Lozi. We’ll be posting again soon on our blog. Blessings to you in KC! Miss you!!!!

Kansas Bob March 12, 2011 at 10:26 pm

Thanks for sharing this Cathy. Thad and Mary are such a blessing.

Cathy March 13, 2011 at 9:28 pm

They are a blessing, Bob. A week before they headed to Zambia they came to our house and my techie husband helped them to tweak their blog and other digital connections to the U.S. We are so inspired by them and will enjoy following their adventures online.

Cathy March 13, 2011 at 9:32 pm

We miss you too, Mary! We had A LOT of traffic to our blog when we posted your story. I think you have a lot of mid-lifers who are very inspired by you. You deserve that chocolate sundae (without guilt) and weekly returns to town for time in nice restaurants, etc. I remember that Ron and Londa Taylor lived overseas for just nine months out of the year, returning in the summer to reconnect with loved ones and be refreshed. Very wise! I’m sure that those regular breaks will enable you to go the distance. We love you both! Cathy and Rob

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