Conversation heard in a hospital waiting room: An elderly patient remarks, “Oh, I just love to watch a movie in the afternoon. Don’t you?” Her companion, perhaps a daughter or niece, curtly answered: “No, it’s a waste of time.”
The statement speaks to a certain strain in our society, call it work ethic or need to stay busy. It tells us that daytime pursuits are limited to work, and watching movies, along with other personal activities, are primarily for the evening when the dinner dishes are done and you’re looking to fill a few hours before going to bed. Nothing wrong with that, but it doesn’t allow any variation in routine. Sometimes if you find a few minutes with nothing to do, just sitting down and doing nothing can actually be pretty beneficial.
But if you are working a job, taking a power nap is not the smart thing to do, not if you want to remain employed. No, the overheard conversation was between older individuals, one who uses her leisure time for enjoyment, and the other who employs her free hours pursuing various and sundry activities, home improvement, gardening or good works. What you do with your leisure time is your business. Fill it any way you can because it’s your time.
However, finding time to knock off and do what you want may be getting tougher to find all the time. Especially for families, the kind with Mom and Dad working jobs, shaping their lives around the needs of their offspring, if any, and maintaining a routine that supports a certain equilibrium between making a living and raising that family. As an outsider as far as that kind of struggle is concerned, I marvel at how former co-workers and acquaintances have managed to find that balance, and how others do so for the sake of their children.
I think it’s referred to as being unselfish. They realize, to begin with, that when the kids are involved, your time is their time as well. At least until they reach the age when they understand Dad needs that Saturday afternoon golf outing or whatever, and Mom needs a break from being Mom, if only for the same length of time.
Yet finding that leisure time has become harder than ever, as people find their days filled with demands from work, school or professional activity. People in service organizations have told me that when they stage a function or do some good in the community, participation comes more from members who are retired than younger individuals who have to choose between their job, club or their family. It’s a dilemma that many folks are left to solve on their own, particularly as summer comes to its unofficial end, school is back in session and we all settle into a routine.
Then there are those whose lives are defined by the job and what they accomplish with it. If they do have time to goof off, they don’t quite know what to do with themselves because of a focus on the task at hand. That, I discovered, was an occupational hazard of the news business, but it’s not limited to journalists. And sometimes it takes something as severe as a threat to your health, domestic bliss or risk of becoming incredibly boring to change your ways.
Just some food for thought on this Labor Day weekend. Among the chief items to be celebrated is that there is a national holiday for the worker in times when some corporate types think even two weeks’ paid vacation is an abomination or affront to productivity. In the face of such retrograde viewpoints, it is encouraging that we still have a three-day weekend to celebrate the contributions of workers to our society. And to provide us with some leisure time that we can spend any way we want.
In paging through the illustrated history of the University of Rio Grande/Rio Grande Community College by Jacob L. Bapst and Dr. Ivan M. Tribe — to give you an idea of how I spend some of my time between household tasks — I found a photo of a poster announcing how the farm operated by then-Rio Grande College would play host to “Second Frontier Days.”
Taking place Sept. 23-24, 1948, the Second Frontier showcased advances in agricultural technique and equipment, part of an effort to re-introduce post-World War II America to the agrarian lifestyle and economy it enjoyed before industrialization became a primary linchpin to the well-being of the nation.
Having completed a study of the once-popular novelist Louis Bromfield this summer, I wonder if Bromfield, then a member of the college board of trustees, had some influence over the farm serving as the site for the Second Frontier. After a period of living in France, the Pulitzer Prize-winning author made a permanent move back to Mansfield, Ohio, where he was raised on the family farm, to create his own vision of an agricultural paradise called Malabar Farm.
By the mid-1940s, his enthusiasm for the place led to his writing more and more about life on the farm and its economic and sociological meanings, so much so it began to supplant his fictional output. By the time of his 1956 passing at 59, Bromfield had forsaken fiction to write exclusively about agriculture. But in the late ’40s, Bromfield was still a distinguished name and no doubt Rio Grande officials listened when he spoke.
Additionally, the college-owned operation — later to become the Bob Evans Farm — was ideal for a layout to promote new ideas and hardware. Purchased by the college in 1938, the farm was started as part of the institution’s “self-help” program, in which students worked and lived on site while studying at Rio Grande. Historians have concluded, however, that the farm was never a profitable enterprise, and as Bapst and Tribe note in their book, the college “lost a great deal of money on the otherwise successful venture.”
Kevin Kelly, who was affiliated with Ohio Valley Publishing for 21 years, resides in Vinton, Ohio.