The burden of free time

In reading an article from the Wall Street Journal last week, I was astounded to find that on average Americans work only three hours and twenty-eight minutes a day. Less than four hours per day? The heck you say. Granted, the findings were released based on a 2013 study from the Labor Department (so the source is suspect), but if it’s anywhere close to right it’s no wonder we’ve ceased space flights and haven’t cured cancer yet. The study also indicated that on average, Americans watch close to three hours of TV per day and spend another two and a half hours on sports and leisure. Those numbers did not shock me.
The story got me thinking about TV vines in the tobacco patch. What are TV vines, you say? Well, back in the good ole days when farming was done more with brute force and a hoe than herbicides, we would chop the weeds out by hand. When they would start to get a bit out of control, we would say that the TV vines were taking over. Those are the weeds you should have been hoeing while you were watching TV. In looking around the nation, I can’t help but see that the TV vines are taking over everywhere. Idle hands are the devil’s playground, so goes the adage. It sure looks like Satan has a heck of a vine crop going around here. From sea to shining sea, the vines are choking out the fruited plain to the point that it’s getting hard to find fruit.Image
The thing that doesn’t square with all this TV watching and sports and leisure is how much everyone claims to be working and suffering. From secretaries to teachers, and realtors to ranchers, all I ever hear is how everyone is overworked and underpaid. And that’s just those who are working. The people I run into on permanent disability (few of which are visibly disabled) are even worse. Their ailments are terrible, according to what they tell me. Whether they can’t work because of an emotional disorder, back trouble, or tendinitis, everyone is suffering, and no one is doing well. The strong economy of the 90’s was followed by a big boom and a bigger bust with the great recession, and the nation’s work muscles have collectively atrophied to the point that we are unable to compete the way we always have in the past. A lot of people have just given up, and a lot more are on the verge. So where do we go from here? Trying to live a well balanced life has never been easy. It’s true in the past that we may have spent too much time working and not enough time taking care of our families, but the statistics show that we should have plenty of time to take care of the family now. They also show that the family unit is dying at the same time. Once you step on the slippery slope of free time, it’s breakneck all the way to the bottom, and then you’re paralyzed. I’ve never been sure about how literal the Book of Genesis is, but I do feel it’s true regardless. Man got into trouble and got kicked out of a perfect setup in the Garden. Since then we have been doomed to scratch a living out of the ground that God cursed. When we stop scratching, the cursed ground stops providing. That’s a fact. America was once a pretty good setup, but at some point she stopped scratching. At the very least, she’s slowed down a great deal. As a result we find ourselves cursed. Could our idle hands be to blame?
These last few years I’ve not been troubled with an overabundance of free time. Running a business and raising a family in the current environment is time consuming, but I do have time to watch TV almost every night. I try not to work on Sunday, and I still manage to be there for many of the kids’ events. I’ve even been blessed to be able to help a few neighbors on occasion. The thing I try and remember is that these are all good obligations. Too much time on your hands is bad medicine for the soul. Busy and happy are not mutually exclusive. It’s a tragedy to have too much free time. I’ve never known anyone with an overabundance of free time that was truly happy. Being busy is a good thing. And I’m thankful to be busy. My message this week is a challenge. If you’re struggling finding happiness in your life, I invite you to roll up your sleeves and get to work. Help a neighbor, or a stranger, or take a second job. Go back to school. Hate your job? Get another one. Do something. Don’t just watch TV and complain. There are plenty of vines that need chopping, and if you don’t do it nobody will. May God bless you in your WORK.

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