Benefits of Social Recreation

By J. M. Judy.

The normal young person who does not dissipate is bursting with life. The natural child is activity embodied. The healthful old person craves exercise. Life, activity, exercise, each must have some method of spending itself. Some normal method, some right method, some attractive method must be chosen. By normal method we mean that which calls into use the varied faculties and powers of the entire being, body, mind, and heart. By right method we mean that which does not crush out a part of one's being, while another part is being developed. By attractive method in the use of life, activity, exercise, we mean that which appeals to one's peculiar desires, tastes, and circumstances, so long as these are normal and right. Some chosen profession, trade, or work is the rightful heritage of every person. Each man, woman, and child should know when he gets up of a morning, what his work is for that day. Consciously, or unconsciously, he should have some outline of work, some end in view, some goal toward which he is stretching himself. Dr. J. M. Buckley asks: "Have you a purpose and a plan?" And answers, "Life is worth nothing till then." The child is in the hands of his parent, his teacher, his guardian. These must answer to Destiny for his beginning and growth. "Satan finds something for idle hands to do." Hence the necessity of vigilance on the part of those who hold the young. But "all work and no play, makes Jack a dull boy." This rule is good whether "Jack" be a puny girl, a feeble grandfather, a hustling, responsible father, a busy mother, or even a mischievous lad. Every person who rises each morning, dresses himself and goes about his work as if he knew what he were about; who has some useful work to do, and does it, sooner or later, needs rest. True, night comes and one may rest. And sweet is the rest of sleep; a third of one's life is passed in this way. Sancho Panza has it right when he says:

"Now blessing light on him that first invented sleep! It covers a man all over, thoughts and all, like a cloak; it is meat for the hungry, drink for the thirsty, heat for the cold, and cold for the hot." But one craves a recreation, a rest which work nor sleep can give. Man has a social nature, a longing to mingle with his acquaintances and friends. Let one be shut in with work, or sickness, or weather, for whole days at a time, and see how hungry he gets to see some one. A recreation at a social gathering literally makes a new being out of him. He is recreated. It is this form of recreation that we consider here, social recreation.


Social recreation is a necessity in a well-ordered life. As with many other common blessings we forget its benefits. Nor are these benefits so evident until we see the blighting result in the life of the one who, for any reason whatsoever, has become a social recluse. We have known a few persons who have once been in society, but who have allowed themselves to remain away from all sorts of gatherings, for a number of years. In every case, the result has been openly noticeable. They have become boorish in manners, unsympathetic in nature, and suspicious in spirit. Thus they have grown out of harmony with the ideas and ways of those about them, have come to take distorted and erroneous views of affairs and of men. Man is a composite being. Many factors enter into his make-up. He lives not only in the physical and intellectual, in the religious and social, in a local and limited sense, but his life expands until it touches and molds many other characters and communities besides his own. In all of these spheres of his influence and work on needs to be sobered down, corrected, stimulated. In no other way is this better accomplished than through one's very contact with his fellows in the religious gathering, among his workmen, in the political meeting, at the assembly, in the social gathering whenever and wherever persons may see one another and talk over common interests.


In a specific sense, by social recreation, we mean those pastimes and pleasures which all persons, except the social recluse, enjoy as they meet to spend an afternoon or an evening together. Now, how may we get the largest amount of pleasure, of rest, of recreation from such gatherings? How may we best benefit ourselves, inspire one another, and in it all, honor God? It is no small task to accomplish these three ends in all things, in one's life. We have agreed that some social practices are positively bad. And we have tried to show why the "tobacco club," the "social glass," the "card-party," the "dancing-party," and the play-house reveries should be avoided. We have left these forms of so-called "questionable amusements" out of our practice and let our of our lives. To what may we turn? Where may we go? We turn to the social gathering.


No social gathering can successfully run itself. See what forethought and expenditure are given to make successful the "smoking-club," the "wine-social," the "card and dancing parties," and the "theater." Not one of these institutions thrive without thought and cost in their management. Put the same thought and expense into the gathering for social recreation, and you will find all of the merits of the questionable institution and none of its demerits. No company has larger capabilities than the mixed company at the social gathering. Nor may any purpose be more perfectly served than the purpose of true social recreation. Here we find those skilled in music, versed in literature, adept at conversation; we find the practical joker, the proficient at games, and last, but not least, those "born to serve" tables. This variety of genius, of wit, of skill, of willingness to serve, is laid at the altar of pleasure for the worthy purpose of making new again the weary body, the languishing spirit, the lonely heart. Let the right management and stimulus be given to this resourceful company, and the hours will pass as moments, the surest sign of a good time.


No social recreation is complete without dining. And yet the least important part of this meal should be the taking of food. It is a serious fault with the modern social that too much attention is given to the variety and quantity of food, and not enough to merriment in taking it. To be successful, the social company should gather as early as possible; the first hour-and-a-half should be given to greetings and to social levity of the brightest and wittiest sort. If one has an ache or a pain, a care or a loss, let it be forgotten now. It is weakness and folly continually to be under any burden. Here every one should take a genuine release from seriousness and earnestness in weighty and responsible affairs. Let all, except the serving committee for this evening, take part in this strictly social hour-and-a-half. When the late-comers have arrived and have been introduced, and the people have moved about and met one another, almost before the company are aware of it they are invited by the serving committee to dine. Usually all may not be served at once. Now that the company has been thinned out, the older persons having gone to the tables, short, spirited games should be introduced in which every person not at luncheon, should be given a place and a part. At this juncture it is not best to introduce sitting-games, such as checkers, authors, caroms, or flinch, for the contestants might be called to take refreshments at a critical moment in the contest. With a little attention to it, appropriate games may be introduced here that need not interfere with luncheon. Fully half an hour should be spent at each set of tables, where at the close of the meal, some humorous subject or subjects should be introduced and responded to be those best fitted for such a task. Almost any person can say something bright as well as sensible, if he will give a little attention to it beforehand. While the second and third tables are being served, let those retiring contest at games of skill, converse, or take up other appropriate entertainment directed by the everywhere present entertainment committee. By this time half-past ten or eleven o'clock, some who are old, or who have pressing duties on the next day may want to retire. If the serving committee have been skillful in adjusting the time spent at each table to the number of tables, etc., by eleven o'clock the serving shall have been completed. Now, the young in spirit, whether old or young, expect, and should have an hour at the newest, liveliest, and most recreative games. No part of the evening entertainment should be allowed to drag. To insure this a frequent change of social games is needed.


As late hours tend to produce irregularity in sleep, in meals, and in work; and since the object of the social is recreation, the company should retire about midnight. Oftentimes people stay and stay at such a gathering, until the hostess, the entertaining committee, and the people themselves are worn out. And yet, who is at fault? This is a critical point in the modern popular social. How shall the company disband in due season? In his "Autocrat of the Breakfast Table," Oliver Wendell Holmes gives a suggestion on this point for the private visitor, who does not know how to go. Says Holmes: "Do n't you know how hard it is for some people to get out of a room when their visit is really over? They want to be off, and you want to have them off, but they do n't know how to manage it. One would think they had been built in your parlor or study and were waiting to be launched. I have contrived a sort of ceremonial inclined plane for such visitors, which being lubricated with certain smooth phrases, I back them down, metaphorically speaking, stern-foremost, into their 'native element,' the great ocean of outdoors." There are social companies as hard to get rid of as this. They want to go, and every one wants them to go, but just how to make the start, no one seems to know. Dr. Holmes and his "inclined plane" may have been successful with the private caller, but who will be the "contriver of a ceremonial," one sufficient to land the social company into its "native element, the great ocean of outdoors?" No, this most delicate of the problems involved in a successful modern social must be left to a tactful hint from the entertainment committee, and to the wise choice of a few recognized leaders in the company.


Special committees should have charge of the serving and of the entertainment. As far as possible these should vary with each successive social. It is an erroneous notion, prevalent in nearly every community, that only "certain ones" can do this or that; the consequence is that these "certain ones" do all the work, are deprived of the true rest and relief which the social is meant to give, while others who should take their turn, grow unappreciative, and weak in their serving and entertaining ability.


As it is conducted to-day, the average social is a failure. Late at arriving, want of introductions, lack of arranged entertainment, late hours,—all go to weaken and to dull the average young person in place of to cultivate his wits, his special genius at music, reading, and conversation, and to recreate him in body, mind, and spirit. To make a success of the social gathering some one must keep in mind the personal convenience and happiness of every person present. When this is done and the social gathering becomes notable for the real pleasure that it gives, then we shall be able to drive out the "questionable amusements," because we have taken nothing from the person, and have given him new life and interest.


This is taken from Questionable Amusements and Worthy Substitutes.





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