Remember when you were a kid, and your mom had all kinds of things to do around the house, so she would send you outside and say, “Go find something to do.”
And so you’d go outside and find something to do.
OR, you’d moan and groan and whine in that annoying high-pitched wail that all adults abhor and say something to the effect of, “But there’s nothing to DOOOOOOO…”
No? You don’t remember that? That only happened to me? Wow, you guys were weird kids. Or you’re just big, fat adult liars. But who am I to judge?
Either way, “Keeping Busy” was a concept that was drilled into us at an early age. If you don’t have anything to do, you FIND something to do. There’s always something to do. If boredom ever sets in, then clearly you’re doing something wrong.
I do the same thing with the kiddos in my classroom. “Seriously? You have nothing to do? Here, let me give you something to do.”
In fact, I hated having that conversation with my students so much that I plastered my classroom with little signs of suggestions of what one could do when one had “nothing” to do.
“Keeping Busy” is part of the American way. You just… DO. And when you’re done doing, you move onto the next thing that needs to be done until you fall into bed feeling exhausted but accomplished and then you get up the next day and do the exact same thing.
Keep going, keep doing, don’t think, just do.
But if I’m being honest, the constancy of “Keeping Busy” is a bit of a foreign concept. Mainly because I’m a thinker, and if a thinker doesn’t have space to think and is constantly forced to do without thinking, they get burnt out awfully quickly.
Last summer, I was continually being asked, “What are you doing this summer?” And I wasn’t quite sure how to answer that because I knew that the expectation was that I would spout off a long list of all the things I was getting accomplished during my down time so I could impress the person speaking to me. But I never knew what they wanted to hear.
- I’m starting a garden to help feed our inner city youth?
- I’m organizing the 4th of July parade?
- I’m remodeling my kitchen?
- I’m refinishing my living room furniture?
- I’m launching a campaign to help fight childhood obesity?
I could never quite figure out what it was that these people wanted to hear that would satisfy them and convince them that even though I get summers off as a teacher, I’m not a lazy, non-contributing member of society. It was a ridiculously stressful situation because I would stand there like a deer in headlights, desperately trying to come up with something… anything… that I had been doing that summer that would make the people happy. But in all honesty… I hadn’t been doing anything that would prove to these people that I was using my time wisely. Because all summer, I had been reading and studying and getting my nerd on. And that’s just… well… that’s not doing anything… that’s just… weird.
Because last summer was the summer I spent studying the Catholic faith, delving deeper into God’s word, and trying to discern where the Lord was leading me. But that’s not “doing”. In order to justify one’s existence, one must be “doing”… not thinking… or studying… or discerning. And in order for the “doing” of the thing to truly be considered worthy of “doing”, there must be an end result like, “Oh… look at the beautiful gazebo I built for my backyard. THAT’S what I’ve been DOING all summer.” But thinking and studying and discerning doesn’t necessarily bear fruit that one can immediately see and therefore many people don’t view it as “doing” anything.
But that’s a shame, isn’t it? We’ve become such a busy culture – a society of “doers” – that we don’t spend the time we need to think… and think about the deeper issues and bigger questions of life… because really, what’s the use in that? If you’re not actively “doing”… then what are you doing here?