Nothing to Do
Natalia J. Garland
It is a common complaint among both children and adults: there's
nothing to do! In a nearby town, the local government has decided
to respond to that complaint by allocating tax monies to build a
multi-purpose arena. These elected officials apparently think that
government and business are responsible for providing people with
something to do. Their solution, however, seems to involve a
perception of local residents as passive consumers in need of
something to purchase.
The arena will likely
be used for entertainment, amusement, and sports. If a family wanted
to attend any of these events, they would have to be able to afford
tickets and probably souvenirs and snacks. For example, let's say the
circus comes to town. The kids want to go. For typical working-class
parents, this could present a financial strain. But, not wanting to
disappoint their kids, Mom and Dad scrape up enough money to take them
to the circus. Everyone has a great time. So far, so good. In order
for the new arena to make maximum profits, however, it has to offer new
events every month. Mom and Dad are now faced with having to scrape up
more and more money, or to say "no" to the kids and feel
like inadequate parents because of their socio-economic status.
Are the local elected
officials fulfilling a social lack, or are they creating wants and
needs which did not exist before? There are, in fact, various
activities in the area. Here is just a sampling: street fairs
(Oktoberfest, Cinco de Mayo, etc.), the annual county fair and the
rodeo, the annual car show, Christmas and Fourth of July parades, movie
theaters, a public swimming pool, a safe riverfront beach, and parks
with picnic areas. The community college and the high schools offer
spectator sports as well as drama and music events which are open to
the public. The library offers free story-telling hours. In addition,
more on the adult level, there is the quilt exhibit, antique show, gem
and jewelry show, several golf courses, and casinos with steady
schedules of entertainment.
What the elected
officials seem to overlook is that many people who live in rural areas
or small towns enjoy the slow-paced, domesticated lifestyle. Some
people move to the country in order to get away from the congestion of
the cities and mega-suburbs. Then, when life gets a little sluggish
and boredom sets in, they complain. That's human nature. It is
difficult to achieve a balance. Living in the city means having access
to culture and first-class entertainment. Living in the country means
being close to nature and finding peace in simplicity. Vive la
There are ways for
adults and children of all ages to stay active without dependence on
and dominance by government and big business. Let's start with the
kids. First, all children should be assigned chores around the house.
Children must be integral to the household, and the completion of
chores helps them to learn responsibility and develop healthy pride.
In addition, children should be encouraged to assist parents. Have
patience and let them help with baking a birthday cake or fixing a
squeaky door. Give them praise for their efforts. Second, all
children should be expected to do their homework. During the school
year, an emphasis on education can keep them busy and productive.
Third, after the chores
and homework are finished, children can stay busy with inexpensive
activities. They can read library books, draw pictures, start a game
of soccer, practice a musical instrument, or learn how to sew.
Nowadays, parents can buy inexpensive guitars and electronic keyboards
for their kids. Some U.S. companies (in competition with China) have
recognized the market for beginner guitars, and it is possible to buy a
comparatively low-priced model of good quality. Parents can promote
their children's artistic abilities with just a few drawing pencils and
a package of copy paper. And, there are name-brand sewing machines
available for around $100.00. These machines are good enough for young
girls (or boys) to start creating their fashion dreams.
There are also
activities that can involve the whole family, including grandparents.
Adults can read to children, play boardgames with them, work puzzles
together, celebrate birthdays and other occasions at home. Adults
can help their children by providing good role-modeling. First, adults
must place a priority on family togetherness. Second, adults must
value education, creativity, and physical exercise. Third, adults must
demonstrate a positive attitude toward household tasks as well as
develop their own rewarding hobbies. This can all be accomplished with
minimal to moderate expense, without television or computers, and
without permitting businesses to define enjoyment and influence how the
family's hard-earned money is to be spent.
It is impossible to live
and not buy things. There is a difference, however, between consuming
something just because it is there and buying the things that increase
family interaction and cohesiveness. Hobbies can become expensive,
that's true. Oil paints cost more than drawing pencils. Mom and Dad
might still have to scrape up some money. The difference is that the
money spent on children's intellect or talent is an investment in
their growth. Children need opportunities to develop skills and
confidence, and someday become self-actualized adults.
There is nothing wrong
with going to the circus, to the ice-skating extravaganza, or to the
country-western concert. These things can be enjoyable and memorable.
The problem is when individual self-reliance and family
self-determination, as well as the natural environment, are so quickly
relinquished to anyone wanting to shape a community's choices regarding
something to do. In the end, people still have nothing to
do--except unquestioningly consume. (Written 02/11/08)
Until we meet