Ever been invited to go somewhere unappealing? For many men, wedding receptions and shopping excursions might top the list. I have a friend whose husband says, “Nothing good can happen for a man in a jewelry store.” (He may be right!)
For others, an invitation to a lecture, a visit to someone in a rest home, or going to a party at the Boringblooms’ house, are snore fests they’d rather miss. Even home teaching and visiting teaching can be met with a sigh, and avoided for the same reasons.
On the other hand, an invitation to a sporting event, a movie, a concert, or the chance to jet-ski/golf/hike/zip-line would somehow fit just perfectly into the schedule.
We have become entertainment junkies. We have bought into the notion that the only things worth doing are those that amuse us. This “What’s in it for me?” attitude has robbed millions of people of the opportunity to actually grow and progress. It causes the self-indulgent to wrinkle their noses at the suggestion of going somewhere to give, and focus instead upon what they’re going to get.
We even see this at church, when people complain that they didn’t get anything out of a talk or a class. They never pause to ask themselves what they might have contributed, or how they might have served, or helped the situation. They’ve simply plunked themselves down on a bench and waited to be entertained.
Some time ago I addressed a portion of this problem in a Meridian article about our sudden fixation with “fun,” and our constant asking of one another, “Did you have fun at school?” “Did you have a fun weekend?” “Got anything fun planned?” as if fun is the sole objective of life.
There’s a way to turn this around, for yourself and for your kids. First, stop asking the “fun” question and ask what was the most fulfilling part of the event, or if they found a way to serve anyone. “Did you do a good deed today?” used to be asked of schoolchildren years ago, and might be good to bring back. Even “What did you learn today?” is better than implying that carefree recreation is the point of living.
Next, deliberately substitute educational and other-centered activities for the thrill-seeking ones you now enjoy. Discover the lasting, rather than fleeting, joy of learning, growing, and caring about others. Instead of getting lost for hours in a video game, Facebook, or Pinterest, click on the Family History sites that help you do temple work for your ancestors.
Third, if you are going somewhere “fun,” reach out to include someone else who might be lonely or who feels forgotten. Could this excursion become a reactivation or missionary tool?
We all have places that bore us or leave us uninterested. I’ll tell you one of mine: A foray to a computer/electronics/phone store. I yawn just thinking about it, because it doesn’t interest me. Sometimes it’s a necessity and so I tough it out, the same way some people force themselves to make an appearance at a family reunion, do laundry, mow the lawn, or a dozen other tasks they do only out of duty.
But here’s how you can flip it inside out and make an excursion anywhere exciting. Pin on an imaginary missionary badge. Instead of going reluctantly and purely out of obligation, go with the sole idea of building someone’s testimony, or finding someone you can hand a copy of the Book of Mormon. Now you have a higher objective, completely apart from the activity per se.
Instead of staring at wires and components that I don’t understand in the electronics store, I’m now smiling into the faces of other shoppers, striking up conversations about different topics entirely, and thoroughly enjoying the chance to let God answer my prayer to cross paths with someone seeking the true gospel of Christ. The electronics store is now just a back-drop. And you can do this with any location where you don’t want to be. As long as there are people there, focus on them and try to listen for promptings from the Spirit.
I’m not saying every outing has to be a mad search for someone to take the missionary discussions. We can simply get outside ourselves and be friendly, caring Christians, helpful neighbors, nice citizens. The point is to be other-centered.
It won’t matter whether you’re a guy who feels out of place in a fabric shop, or a woman who has no interest in rifles at a sporting goods store, you can have a meaningful experience. Forced to visit a difficult relative at the hospital? Stop and chat with the nurses, or with other families you meet. Make it about more than the original aim, and expand your purpose.
Even kids will stop slumping, and whining, “This is boring!” when you take them places, because they’ll stop being self-absorbed, and will follow your lead to look for people they can help. They’ll grow up to be better home and visiting teachers because they’ll stop thinking only of themselves. They’ll be better spouses because they’ll be less selfish. And they’ll be more valued employees because they’ll be team players who try to help everyone excel, rather than clock-watchers who only give minimum effort. The ripple effect will be astounding. And everywhere you go, even without trying, you’re going to be surprised by how truly fun it is.
Listen to Hilton’s radio advice show at blogtalkradio.com/jonihilton on Thursdays at 2 pm PST.
Joni Hilton is also “Your YouTube Mom” and shares short videos that teach easy household tips and life skills at
Be sure to read her blog at jonihilton.blogspot.com.
She is currently serving as Relief Society President of her ward in Northern California.