"Sometimes I think I made a mistake," Robert Wolley says. "When I graduated from college I became the minister of a New England church which paid $3,600 per year. Out in California master masons were earning $30,000 a year. But I chose another way and augmented my income by writing. In graduate school I wrote magazine articles, D.J. scripts, even court papers; later I would write featured newspaper editorials and a weekly newspaper column. Eventually I did a lot of ghost writing. Perhaps laying words on words was a kind of masonry.
"There's no way to equate dollars with intangible rewards, but one reward of inestimable worth, whether in my ministries or through my counseling, working with adults and children and their families, has been to be let into someone's life and to have that person or family say, 'You made a difference.'"
Wolley had ministries in New York and Massachusetts and left the parish ministry to become the Director of Extension for the Universalist Church of America and later the Unitarian Universalist Association. His insights into the field of sociology of religion led to interim lectureships at several universities here and in Europe, and eventually to counseling institutional and industrial leaders, often dealing with interpersonal relationships and thus with individual managers' personal concerns.
"I was prepared for the role of 'pastoral counseling,'" Wolley says. "And when I became a city's designated 'counselor-of-choice,' I was prepared for that. But later, when dealing with management leaders, I was not fully prepared for what often became a concern: an individual manager's personal situation. 'My husband/wife and I . . .'; 'I don't understand my son/daughter'; 'I can't communicate with . . . ' - family issues, including marriage problems, that affected one's day-to-day job.
"Additionally, since I worked in the Deep South for two or three months each year, there were intense racial questions and great anguish. It was hard to disguise my Boston accent in Georgia, the Carolinas, Florida, Alabama, and Mississippi, yet I had to deal with both blacks and whites. In the late 1950s and 1960s it was difficult to establish trust. I was not always successful.
"The times were difficult for many people, although not more so than other times in history. There was a lot going on that impacted individuals and society and a great need for understanding counseling.
"The whole counseling bit began almost by accident. My first year in a Boston area college I worked a couple of afternoons and on Sundays as a youth leader in a large suburban church. A graduate student I knew worked in a Boston youth center. One night he was stabbed as he left the center. He quit his job. I applied for it and became the late weekday afternoon and evening activities director of a Boston youth center. I was a kind of counselor - without training or education, a perfect example of the 'blind leading the blind.'
"So when I changed schools, I took every psychology and sociology course I could manage to work into my schedule and was fortunate to obtain psychology internships that greatly broadened my insights and skills - and, of course, such skills as I had were put to work almost immediately. Such work eventually took me from a part-time parish and an internship in a New York state mental hospital to two full-time parishes and a counseling role and later to businesses, to the public schools, and a Massachusetts prison - and throughout into the lives of parishioners, troubled citizens, public school children, and their families.
"It is that background which allows me to write about a senior issue with which I dealt many times, as have other counselors and psychologists, but which has received little or no attention (in the hope, I guess, it will either go away or that by ignoring it, it will disappear): the concern for and about senior romance and love.
"In my senior years, by people who knew what I had done most of my life, I was asked often for assistance by other seniors contemplating a second chance at love. Then my own excursion. There was little or no help in print. I hoped to fill that void, and thus was born this book."
Wolley lives on Cape Cod and works full time as a freelance writer, these days writing mostly poetry and fiction and an occasional essay.
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