by KAREN GONYER
An active and healthy retired pastor in his late 70s recently told us how he stays positive, energized and encouraging to others while some of his peers seem to have become bitter and discouraged. His answer wasn’t super-spiritual; instead it was extremely practical: you need to get a hobby. For him, woodworking has become a way to stay busy, exercise his creativity and maintain his optimism. While he does make a little money selling the tables, canes, cutting boards and other wooden projects, it seems like the rewards are much more than financial.
Ken and I are not retired yet, but we do have hobbies. I love to sew. This includes quilts, clothes, curtains—anything that involves fabric and thread. It brings me a lot of joy just to feel the fabric run through my hands. I love to look at all the beautiful colors in a fabric store. Although sewing could become an expensive hobby for some, I get excited when I get a box of “scraps” from a friend or buy one at an auction or thrift store and begin dreaming of what could be created. While some items could probably be sold for a profit, I love to make gifts for family or for charity. Sewing is its own reward. I could be cooped up in my sewing room all day and not tire of creating and sewing. I could easily lose track of time.
Ken, on the other hand, loves to hike. He has a nice collection of maps and has hiked numerous local trails, both those known and not so known. He can tell you which hikes are short, steep, long or evolve into a loop. He’s backpacked a short portion of the Appalachian Trail and dreams of doing more. While some people invest a lot of money in hiking equipment, Ken’s gear is simple. For him, the goal is simply to experience the peace and quiet of the woods and the wonder of God’s creation. He is revived by breathing in the fresh air, identifying trees and looking for wildlife. Sometimes his hikes are solitary and sometimes he shares the walk with others. Every year, our family purchases an annual pass for Shenandoah National Park so we can get into the mountains and onto the trails whenever the mood strikes.
But as soon as I started working on the project, my shoulders went from hunched to relaxed. My mind stopped whirling around with the details of the day.
Hobbies transform us. The other night, after a particularly busy day, I sat down to finish creating a costume for my 2-year-old friend Logan. It was a minor sewing project and took just a few minutes. But as soon as I started working on the project, I began to notice a difference in myself. My shoulders went from hunched to relaxed. My mind stopped whirling around with the details of the day and settled down to the project at hand and thoughts of how cute Logan would look in the costume. I felt like, in spite of the frustration and demands of the day, everything was going to be okay.
I believe we need to make a point of including these activities in our lives on a regular basis. It’s not enough to pursue hobbies and pastimes only when we happen to have some time left over. Planning these pursuits in our schedule is one way to take a more holistic approach to life—to live more fully. Hobbies not only refresh us emotionally; I believe they may also make us smarter. Hobbies activate both sides of our brain. Neurologists tell us the left side is the logic-center that handles facts, figures and spoken or written language. The right side of the brain is our more creative side that allows us to appreciate art and music, use our imagination and get creative. If I spend all day using only one side of my brain to keep track of work details, lists, facts and numbers, I’m bound to become “lopsided.” I need hobbies to bring balance to my life.
Do you have a hobby or activity you simply love? What is the thing you look forward to doing on the weekend or when you get home from work? What is the thing you could do all day long and not tire? Is it gardening? Sewing? Hiking? Reading? In this season of giving, this is my encouragement: invest in activities that nourish you and your family’s creativity. Give gifts that encourage the receiver to get off the computer or phone and do something with their hands. Give your children the gift of a hobby, not necessarily one more lesson, but a leisurely pursuit they can enjoy for hours on end. Take them to the hobby store to get some ideas. One year, our daughter was into duct tape. She made a huge collection of wallets, “cell phones” and other wearables. Consider gifting an experience instead of a tangible gift. Most of all, give yourself the gift of time well spent in something that will rejuvenate you.
Ken and Karen Gonyer live in Broadway, VA. Ken is the CEO of Choice Books, headquartered in Harrisonburg. Karen is a real estate agent with Kline May Realty in Harrisonburg. Email questions to firstname.lastname@example.org.