Sunday, November 13, 2016
How Much Fun Are You for Others to Be With?
I have been far too serious nearly my whole life. I awoke at 4:00 a.m. this morning and when I could not go back to sleep I began reading a book I ordered a couple of weeks ago and which arrived yesterday. It is Hal Urban’s Life’s Greatest Lessons. I learned, or rather was caused to think about something this morning that has turned out to be another of life’s regrets for me..
Urban’s third chapter is about the importance of humor and having fun in life. He told a story about one of his friends who was a successful and wealthy man, but who had a lot of fun in life. One thing he did is give the “Superman yell”–“Look, it’s a bird! No, it’s a plane! No, it’s Superman! Up, up and away!”-- backwards. As Urban says, “Try doing that without laughing.” He went on to tell about a talk this man gave one time in which he “asked them how much fun they were having in their lives. He also asked them how much fun they were for other people to be with.” Almost instantly I realized that for most of my life I have not been a very fun person to be with. I have been far too serious in many ways.
Yes, I tried to provide enjoyable experiences for my family through travel, family activities, games, sports, vacations and the like, but I personally was not a particularly fun guy to be around. That wasn’t always the case, but fun times were more the exception than the rule. When the children were young they loved to play “Spookey Dookey.” I would get under a blanket in the living room and the kids would poke and jab and tickle me and I would try to grab them and pull them under the blanket with me and tickle and kiss them, and blow on their bare tummy. As it vibrated they would giggle. But there were far too few of those times and that one didn’t carry on beyond their childhood.
I have a friend, Ralph Degn, who died recently. We were counselors to a bishop when we first moved to Logan about 1980. Ralph was a fun guy to be with and around. He always had fun. It was in his nature, after all he left off studying medicine to build a fireworks factory. I realized when I read this story this morning that I wasn’t very much like Ralph. I tried to introduce a little fun in our mission as mission president. We tried to do some play at zone and leadership conferences and at other times. I learned this lesson from Ralph, but not deeply enough. He was a mission president before I was and I remember him telling me that they used to have “ugly tie” contests at Zone Conferences in Brazil. I determined I would do that one zone conference, and we had so much fun. At noon hour the elders were judged. The winner was a young man who had just received a wedding picture of the girlfriend who helped convert him to the Church, but who had sent him a “Dear John.” He had that wedding picture pinned on the front of his tie! Another made a tie out of a piece of that old shag carpet that was popular in the 1970s.
I also learned the same lesson when we were on a semester abroad with students in Israel in the late 1980s. Again, I didn’t learn it deep enough. The administrators there plugged in some fun on every field trip and the lesson didn’t escape me, but it didn’t burn in deeply enough. Moreover, engaging in fun activities is quite different from me personally being a fun guy to be around. I have taken myself and life far too seriously far too much of the time and taken much of the joy and fun out of life for too many around me. Seriously, this is an important aspect of one's personality. It is one that I neglected to develop and it has been to my detriment and to the detriment of others.
One redeeming thing is that Pat and I can and do often share humor together and we laugh together at home quite often. But even that is only the beginnings of being fun to be with. I wish I would have had a clearer view of this aspect of life at a much younger age. I would have been a better teacher, a better bishop, mission president and counselor in the temple presidency. Most importantly I would have been a better father and husband.
I’m going to give some serious thought about how to to be more fun to be around for the rest of my life. I recommend it to you too.
Let’s think together again, soon.