I think sometimes people confuse the work of helping others and volunteering with an attitude of solemnity. As if volunteering and serving the homeless and hurting is Very Serious Business and must be treated as such. While helping people in need can certainly be hard work, it’s also great fun.
In a recent episode of the Real Hope podcast, I sat down with my friend Sean Henry, who is the CEO of the Nashville Predators. We talked a lot about how hard work and contagious joy are not mutually exclusive, whether that’s in the context of serving others or running a sports franchise.
Sean and the rest of the leadership at the Nashville Predators certainly walk the walk when it comes to placing a high value on fun. He’s passionate about working hard, but Sean also knows having fun along the way is important. For Sean, hard work and fun are not mutually exclusive.
“Every day doesn’t have to be a grind. Every business can be fun no matter how serious it is. It’s contagious; it’s productive. The better the day is, the better employees you’re gonna have. You don’t have to act serious to be serious,” he explains. “I don’t understand why people, in my business especially, choose not to have fun. We sell hot dogs and cotton candy.”
Sean’s joy and appreciation for his role with the Predators is contagious, and the organization’s commitment to prioritizing joy shows in all areas of the organization. Not only is the Preds fan base one of the most enthusiastic I’ve ever come across, the organization shows this belief in the importance of fun through its charitable efforts.
The Nashville Predators give out free tickets to their hockey games — one of the most fun experiences in Nashville — to our homeless and hurting friends. They’re valuable tickets, of course, but it’s not about giving an expensive gift. It’s about spreading joy — pure, purposeless fun for the sake of having fun. (You can read more about the basic human need for fun in my recent post here.) Seeing the joy on our friends’ faces when they not only get to have a few hours of unexpected joy but to be a part of a larger group — to belong and enjoy themselves with the rest of the fans — that’s fun.
In our society we sometimes devalue things in terms of importance if they feel fun or enjoyable. Like I said, I believe volunteering and helping others can certainly be hard work, but it doesn’t have to be a chore. In fact, I believe if it feels like a chore, we might need to reevaluate why we are doing it. We could be volunteering simply because we feel like we “should” rather than because we have a passion for it. Or perhaps we truly do want to help, but we’re doing ourselves (and the people we’re helping) a disservice by participating in a role that doesn’t suit our skills or passions.
It can be difficult to admit we aren’t enjoying volunteering — especially for followers of Christ. We feel like we should simply do it because God calls us to serve, and if it’s boring or feels like homework, we just have to push through it. Take Barbara Bradley Hagerty, former NPR correspondent and author of Life Reimagined: The Science, Art, and Opportunity of Midlife. In a conference presentation, Forbes writer Kerry Hannon recalls Hagerty catching her audience off-guard by admitting something that for most of us, would feel “off-limits” to say out loud. She was talking about bringing her dog to visit patients at a hospital, when she declared:
“I found it utterly boring and difficult. It was a mismatch of my skills and my passions.”
Wow. She didn’t beat around the bush! But if we’re honest, chances are you’ve felt the same way before. Chances are you also felt guilty about it. (After all, who wants to be the one complaining about helping people?) You’re not alone in those feelings. In fact, according to the Stanford Center on Longevity, 90 percent of people want to volunteer, but only 25 percent actually do it. The primary reason? The positions don’t seem interesting. So while it’s totally understandable to feel that way about a certain experience (no guilt necessary!), it doesn’t have to be that way.
There are certainly times in which frustrating or boring volunteer experiences can be attributed to a lack of direction from the organization, but often the reason we feel this way is that we aren’t looking for opportunities to serve that align with who God created us to be. I believe God gave us each unique gifts and passions, and we can channel those when we help others. You don’t have to serve in the same way someone else does. We can be creative and have fun!
If you’re struggling to have fun serving others, consider a few of these questions:
- What are my passions and skills? Are they being utilized in this role?
- Am I excited about what this organization or effort is working toward?
- Why did I sign up to help? Was it because I was genuinely interested or because I felt obligated?
- Am I overcommitted? Should I cut back on the hours I volunteer so I can be more present and invested?
If you feel you’re not getting to utilize your skills and passions to serve, check out sites like volunteermatch.org or do some research on local organizations. God delights in his children having fun. Being intentional about helping people does not have to be a grind. Let’s go have fun together!