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Nothing to Do

Natalia J. Garland

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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 différence!

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 again..............stay sane.

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Copyright 2008 Natalia J. Garland