It’s summer. Across the country, countless school children are reveling in their summer vacation from school. Unfortunately for the mothers or other supervisory adults of these children, the B-word is soon to or will inevitably threaten household peace: “I’m BORED!”
Back in the day when I had half a dozen (or so) complainers on my hands, my favorite responses to this silly complaint were: (#1) "Boring is good." (#2) "Sounds like you need some work to do … let’s see, how about …." (#3) "Only boring people get bored." Eventually, the complainers would get their imaginations in gear and cook up some kind of outlandish mischief to keep me from getting bored!
When I was a kid, during summer vacation my mom and dad had bottomless lists of things for us to do to keep us occupied. Occupied. Not entertained. Usually these occupations involved toiling away in the hot summer sun, or, in the sweltering, non-air-conditioned house, toiling away over a hot stove. “Vacation” it was not.
To be fair, I have to say that there was still plenty of time for day-dreaming, riding the horse, reading novels, climbing trees, and often just listening to the buzzing, chirping, sighing sounds of nature, soaking up the warm joy of the sun, finding wild berries to eat, watching the cumulus clouds billow overhead, catching frogs, and picking flowers.
Also, to be fair to the bored children, the “I’m bored,” whine, comes from a natural desire to be doing something productive and worthwhile with one’s time. Watching TV or videos, playing computer games, surfing the web, or endlessly updating one’s “status” on Facebook, are the easy entertainments that many thousands will turn to immediately to try to satisfy this irresistible desire. Such entertainments, however, have no ability to satisfy the longing of the soul for something productive and worthwhile to do. They merely momentarily distract, lull, and dull the senses, leaving the soul empty and dissatisfied. Most children will even be decidedly grouchy after several hours of such entertainments. Days and weeks or months of this fruitless quest for satisfaction in soul-less entertainment can only produce dis-ease of the heart, mind, and soul.
Children, of course, are not the only ones who seek in vain for a sense of soul satisfaction through electronic media. They very likely are following the examples of their parents and so many others, who, perhaps fearing a sense of aloneness or absence of direction or emptiness, keep turning, ironically, to the media of emptiness for a remedy.
Identifying productive and worthwhile things to do with one’s time may be extremely challenging. A mother may not be omniscient enough to know what is perfect for any particular child. But a trip (or ongoing trips) to the library is a good place to start, and may even produce more terrific ideas of things to do than one summer allows for. Sometimes one idea from just one childhood summer may be enough for a lifetime of productive, worthwhile endeavors which will shape the character and do some good in the world, and not merely “entertain.”