By Bill Dodds | Catholic News Service
My mother-in-law used to point out that, as a young girl, she never told her mother, "There's nothing to do."
Her mother was a widow running her own boarding house in the middle of the Great Depression. My mother-in-law knew her mother would answer, "I'll give you something to do."
Probably not an arts and crafts project. Or money for a movie. Or permission to download a new app for her cellphone.
A new what for her what! No, that's a 21st-century solution.
Then or now, at about this point in a young student's summer vacation, the days can start to drag. The options and activities that were new and exciting for a few weeks or so after the school year finally ended, seem ...
Sometimes there are no words. His or her life has become ...
And you do. Whether you're 10 or 40 or 80. Whether you're a child, a middle-ager or a senior. At the extremes of that spectrum, with more free hours in the day, day after day, it's not unusual for a lack of purpose, a lack of joy, a lack of oomph to creep in and begin to take over.
In the middle years -- busy, busy, busy all the time, even when taking "time off" from work -- the daily grind can do the same. Oh, sure, you can think of a million things you'd like to do (sleep in, sit on the patio and have a cup of coffee, make a sizable dent in the shows you've recorded ...) but there's no time for them.
And your job, your vocation, your calling -- your meal ticket -- that had been exciting and challenging and rewarding in so many ways in the past, has become punch in, work, punch out.
Not completely. But sometimes. Sometimes a lot of sometimes.
With all of that in mind, a few points to consider:
-- Mom and Dad: Unless your children are still preschoolers, your job as a parent doesn't include being an always-on-call entertainment director. Yes, it's good to help them come up with some suggestions, some options, for things they can do. (Safely!)
Then, too, beginning to sprinkle in some age-appropriate household chores actually helps them. (And, eventually, you.)
Those "little ones" don't stay little for very long. Suddenly that 8-year-old is 12, that 12-year-old is 16, that 16-year-old is 20. During those years, their "boredom" is like a garden and your suggestions (your demands) and example are ways of planting seeds of how to find good things to do, including good ways to help others.
-- Middle-ager: Even a small break, with the cellphone off (be strong, you can do it!), makes a difference. When the apostles felt the grind, Christ told them, "Come away by yourselves to a deserted place and rest a while" (Mk 6:31).
And keep in mind that joy (one of boredom's opposites) is a grace from God. Often it involves an appreciation of the gifts he's given you. Sometimes it's rooted in realizing where he's put you, right here, right now. With whom he's put you. And what he's asking, what he's inviting you to do.
Then it's keeping your eyes, ears and heart open and responding to those nudges from the Holy Spirit. Even at, ugh, work.
-- Senior: See the last part of No. 2. There are nudges in retirement and even in, ugh, a nursing home. Nothing to do? What would your mama say? Go on now. Find something. Do something. You can always pray for others!
(WebMD has good tips on getting kids to do chores. Go to: https://tinyurl.com/ToDoListForKids)
Bill Dodds and his late wife, Monica, were the founders of the Friends of St. John the Caregiver (www.FSJC.org). He can be contacted at [email protected].[[In-content Ad]]