Learning to Have Fun
By Sheri Woodruff
Imagine my friend’s dilemma. Her boys were outside playing and her baby was sleeping. Shouldn’t she sit down and enjoy the quiet? Feeling drawn to play with the boys, she told herself it was wiser to read or get something done. I’m happy to report that she went outside and soon was on the ground in a huge tickle fight! Thinking back on that day, she told me that each of her boys later brought up their hysterical laughter and thanked her several times for playing with them. She was so glad they each had a precious memory of silliness.
If you’ve ever seen basset hound puppies playing, you know God has a sense of humor! He also created us with a sense of humor and a desire for lighthearted play. Sadly, we’ve all rushed around until we’re stretched too thin to play. I can hear you saying, “I feel guilty just thinking about having fun.” Adding more amusement and humor into our lives will bring freshness and energy to our days.
Most people I know are truly longing to have more fun, but planning for it has become just another thing on their to-do list. I have found that it is worth the effort. Whenever I have planned a ladies’ game night at my home or church, the women tell me that they are really looking forward to it with excitement. They come and play and laugh together and then thank me for weeks afterward for all of the laughter and enjoyment they had. Why then, I often ask myself, are these evenings not more common? Maybe we think it takes a lot more work than it actually does. Or perhaps insecurities cause us to fear the party will flop and not be any fun at all! While I certainly relate to those feelings, I am also convinced that the people around us need to lighten up and add some comic relief and variety to their lives. I keep working to plan fun into the lives of my family and friends.
Here are a few ideas that have been successful for me.
Besides ladies’ game nights, I often join with my husband to have a couples’ game night. We try to invite a variety of ages and personalities, making sure there are one or two outgoing or encouraging people in the mix. I have one friend who is 91 years old and she is always a kick to have around. Friendly and talkative, she makes everyone feel welcome and happy because she just plain loves to be with people. Our goal for these parties is for our neighbors or church members to relax, have fun, and get to know each other better. Assigning each family to bring either a salty or a sweet snack keeps food at its simplest. Games like Balderdash, Taboo, or Gestures work well. If you like cards, Nertz is a great game that has a break every five minutes, and no limit to how many can play. Be creative. Think about having families over for dessert and croquet or to sit by a fire in the backyard and make S’mores. Fun is all about connecting with people around enjoyable and relaxing activities.
On a smaller scale, just asking three or four women to go walking, or to an art show, or to sit in the park for an hour, can be an enjoyable break. For most people, the fun begins when they realize that someone thought of them and invited them to do something “just because.” The last time I invited a friend to see a movie with me, she shrieked through the phone with joy! Friendships bond in fresh and deeper ways as you share new experiences and see each other relaxed and real in changing contexts. Just think of something you would like to do and invite someone to do it with you.
When our boys were little, we regularly had family play times. Sometimes we went to the park for tag or played a game together. I bought a lot of soft little Nerf balls and we would have big battles of throwing them at one another in our living room. If your house is too fragile to play in, then it isn’t a fun place to grow up in! Now that our boys are teenagers, we have “Forced Family Fun” times. No amount of whining gets them out of it; believe me, they try. No one should be too busy to spend an hour having fun with their family! We go play Frisbee golf, or hike a trail, or bike to get ice cream. Think of activities that at least half of your family will enjoy and then do them.
Remember, the attitudes you model are very important. This is not a time for one-upsmanship or for intense competition. You’re together to relax and have fun. We’ve had to lay down the rule that there will not be any rudeness to anyone in that hour! Encourage, encourage, encourage. Try to talk about things the kids are interested in and, by all means, don’t try to lecture or teach anything! That is not restful for kids. It may take some work to build the fun habit into your family life, but soon your kids will learn that “Forced Family Fun” is a safe hour for everyone, and eventually they may even sheepishly admit they had a little fun. Maybe.
What do you really look forward to doing? How can you add that to your life? If it’s hard for you to make time for private pleasure, start with little 15 minute activities. It’s okay to do something just for the fun of it; and your best friend, Jesus, would be happy to see you enjoying yourself. All of your friends would! If you take just a bit of time regularly to work on a creative project, run to the library to read a magazine or replant your flowerbed, you will see yourself more energized. Do you remember the old saying, “All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy?” Well, the same goes for Jill. Having a bit of amusement to look forward to is an important way to stay motivated to do all of the mundane things in our lives. It doesn’t take much. Give yourself the gift of fun.
I have found that most people need someone to give them permission to play and have fun, or to show them how. It makes me sad that more people don't feel the freedom to just unwind and be silly for no reason. I'm sure God would love to see us live less burdened and more joyful lives. Working fun into your life may take some hard work and choices for a while, but I think you'll see and feel the benefits. Many people in your church would benefit from having some frivolity planned for them also. I reason that if my friends and neighbors see me relaxed and laughing in my home, even though it is not perfectly decorated or clean, hopefully they'll ease up on themselves. Every time we try an activity or game that is new or we're not good at, we're showing that "playing" if fun even if we don't win or aren't perfect. God has given us so many things. Shouldn't we enjoy them? I'm sure no one turns 90 years old and wishes they'd had less fun in life. When you're older, will you be able to say, "I'm glad I had so much fun?"
As you embark on another new year, think about ways you can build fun into your life and the lives of those you love!