It recently struck me that I am taking my job, this blog and, well, just life in general way too seriously lately.
This epiphany came to me one day at about 6 a.m. while I was absently pouring my second cup of coffee at the office. I say absently because while the coffee was sending that fresh-brewed aroma into my nostrils, trying to stir up titillating emotions of the savory taste I was about to enjoy, I was a million miles away.
My mind was on some meaningless aspect of one of the myriad issues and items I was going to face that day. Suddenly, a strong whiff of the coffee drifted into my sensory range and with a jolt the phrase “Wake up and smell the coffee” sprang into my mind.
At the same moment, I thought “Why aren’t you thinking about the fun things you do?” I mean, after all, with the title “Leisure Services Director” you’d think I’d have nothing but fun things to think about.
What got me thinking about this was an incident our recreation facilities manager told me about the day before.
He had gone to our premiere playground that has a poured-rubber surface to measure some areas of the surface that needed repair. He was chuckling as he told me about a little girl who approached him and said, “Do you need some washers?”
She was about 4 or 5 years old and so sincere that he said, “Well, not really.” And she retorted as she held out her hand to reveal a couple of metal washers, “Are you sure?”
Mortified because he thought she had found them on the playground which could mean loose equipment, he asked, “Did you find those here?”
“Nope,” she answered, as her mother stood in the background smiling. “I found them at home and we don’t need them so I thought you might.” Scott glanced at the girl’s mother, who nodded, so he graciously accepted the donation.
As he was telling me this, he was smiling and laughing and at one point almost tearing up and I sensed that it had been the highlight of his day. In the midst of all the work-a-day, people-complaining, too-much-month-at-the-end of the money, world-at-war stress, this little girl and her simple offer had made this grown man smile.
It reminded me once again that if we can’t stop and enjoy these little moments, and smile and laugh, then it may be time to find another line of work. But the thing is that recreation probably offers more than its fair share of opportunities for laughs. I mean, everything we do is geared toward de-stressing people and making them feel good about themselves and life in general.
The very title “recreation” if broken down is “re-creation” or in simple terms creating again. The World English Dictionary defines the word as “refreshment of health or spirits by relaxation and enjoyment.”
As I thought more about this I started to remember some of the really unusual, fun things I’ve encountered in this job. Like when our recreation maintenance crew and I became “goose herders” under the guidance of the state agricultural department to round up our over-populated gaggles of Canada geese, which were posing physical and health hazards in our parks. There we were, grown men, herding the waddling geese into a holding area like they were sheep so their wings could be clipped and a tracking tag placed on their leg. The honking geese were put in pens and shipped off to an undisclosed natural habitat far from mankind.
Of course the local press came out and there we were, front page, geese herders forever more. And in a follow-up letter to the editor, one local bird-loving resident deemed me a “goose hater,” though I was just trying to humanely prevent the geese from attacking small children and depositing their “goose grease,” as my brother in Minnesota calls it, all over play and picnic areas.
I recalled when I was appointed to present our city council a draft ordinance requiring people to pick up after their defecating dogs--I carried the nom de guerre “Duke of Poop” for quite a while afterwards. Then there was the time we had a dog as our July 4th Grand Marshall; not just any dog, but the winner of the Westminster Kennel Club dog show.
By the time these thoughts had crossed my mind, I had forgotten about the pressing issues of the day that had nagged my psyche and was smiling about the good times I’d had in the past. Then I remembered what an old friend once told me: “Put a smile on your face and soon you will feel it in your heart.” This is an adage I’ve used ever since and it really works, so, with a genuine smile already on my face, I kept it pasted there for another few minutes and before long the day was looking pretty darned good.
So try it. I challenge anyone to slap a big smile on their face and share it with others and see if it doesn’t bring everyone’s spirits up. While you’re at it, as you begin your day, think of the funny things that have happened in your recreation life--that should kick-start a smile. And if you get a minute, share your funny stories with the rec crew in the field by responding here.
Randy Gaddo , a retired Marine, is Director of Leisure Services (parks, recreation, library) in Peachtree City, Ga. Contact him at (770) 631-2542 or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.