I’m bored: there’s nothing to do

Parents, especially those of the Baby Boom generation, you’ve probably heard this refrain countless times: I’m bored, there’s nothing to do. My kids uttered those words so often when they were growing up that I started to think there was a button attached to their bodies somewhere, requiring that they pressed it at certain times. Those times usually seemed to be when I would need them to be the best little self-entertainers they could be. As often as they would frustrate me with those words, I would in as many times say, “Go to your room, you have all kinds of contraptions to keep you busy.” Whenever I would say that, I would, of course, mentally compare their materially-blessed existence to mine when I was their age. I had not even a fraction of the wonderful toys and electronic gadgets their mom and I had showered on them.

Bored is defined as being weary and restless. Generally, a person who’s bored hasn’t been able to find sufficient stimulation in their surroundings. That begs the question: Is it the environment or the reaction to the surrounding? How many times have you heard it said that bored people are usually quite boring themselves? Returning to my children when they were growing up, I would have to admit, in retrospect, that their mom and I probably could have done a better job of stimulating their imaginative skills. Have you noticed how in our culture, showering the human animal with stuff seems to be the norm? It has become normal for us to seek stimulation in a nicely wrapped package, rather than using the God-given abilities that we were given.

I can clearly recall growing up in rural cross County Arkansas. As I’ve written and discussed before, we would have been dirt poor, except for the fact that we were so poor we couldn’t even afford dirt. My cousins and I were excited to see the Sears-Roebuck catalogue come in the mail. The models, smiling in fresh, new clothing; the colorful presentations of toys; and just the crispness of the pages was a sight for our poor, sore eyes to see. As we perused the pages, we painted pictures in our minds of what so many of the items on those pages would look like under the tree on December 25th. These mental pictures began to fade as we grew older, because we became more aware of the improbability of ever having such finery under our tree. But, before we were buffeted by reality, as we grew older, our imaginations were robust in their ability to conceive mentally what experiencing ownership of a certain toy might feel like. The fact that we didn’t have it, didn’t matter. Oftentimes, we would try to manufacture a toy, for which we had a strong affinity, using whatever materials we could scrape up. Now, how’s that for imagination and creativity? I can recall very few times when we would cry out the phrase, “I’m bored.” Boredom rarely, if ever, graced us. Looking back, I think we were just experts at taking the lemons life brought our way and making whatever kind of drink we desired.

As I’ve gotten older, I find the refrain, “I’m bored,” is used by folks who are much older. Have you heard of the fellow, who retired and soon after died from boredom—at least that’s what everybody said happened ? No one knew of any health issues. It just seems he died from boredom. I remember, three years ago, when I retired, one of the main questions folks would ask me was, “What are you going to do?” This question usually followed an expository on, “I’ve been working at this job for so many years. I don’t know what I’d do with myself.” Obviously, this type response indicated that far too many years had been dedicated to the job, with little time spent developing self. This seems the case, whatever the age. If time isn’t invested in thinking, dreaming and imagining a reality beyond the immediate physical environment, boredom has a petri dish enriched with nutrients in which to grow.

As I look over my life, three score and six, I find many reasons to thank God. One is that I’ve suffered little from boredom. From early childhood to the fast-approaching years of ancient-hood, I’ve been blessed with a rich imagination. That’s not to say I’ve always been good at birthing my thoughts to assembling better mousetraps, I’ve just been blessed with the ability to ward off the curse of boredom. I’ve been retired now for three years, and I’m not bored yet. There’s a question retired folks are often asked: What do you do with yourself? My response is always the same: “Whatever I want…”

I’m old and blessed…hope you will be too.

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