Hobbies With a Purpose

Hobby (noun) – an activity done regularly in one’s leisure time for pleasure.

Hobbies are important to who we are and how we function as individuals and communities. How do our hobbies express our connections with God’s creation?  How do they help us celebrate our own uniqueness? How do they enable us to relate to others?

When Purpose magazine issued this call for submissions, I wrote an article that appeared both in the print magazine and on-line. Since then, more recent articles have made mine less accessible on their website, so I’m sharing this re-edited version below on how to love your hobby and love your neighbor at the same time.

Hobbies With a Purpose

My husband and I chose a print of Vincent Van Gogh’s The Starry Night to hang above the mantel of our fireplace. In the foreground of the painting, a large cedar tree dominates the landscape and points to heaven. Moon and stars seem to pulse and swirl above the hillsides and sleeping village. The print reminds me now of our trip to New York City a few years ago where we saw the original painting at the Museum of Modern Art.

Hobbies and the Truly Artistic

Today The Starry Night and Van Gogh’s other paintings are among the most well-known and most expensive paintings in the world. But during his life time, the artist was unknown and struggling–with debt, with his mental and emotional health, with his art. In one letter, he thanks his brother, Theo, for sending him a 50-franc note and asks him to send more money. “You are kind to painters,” he writes, “and I tell you, the more I think it over, the more I feel that there is nothing more truly artistic than to love people.” (excerpted from Spark: Igniting Your God-Given Creativity by April Yamasaki, Faith & Life Press, 2015)

Unlike Vincent Van Gogh, we may never aspire to great art, but our hobbies can be wonderful avenues of self-expression and creativity. Whether you play the piano, renovate a basement, make a photo album, write a computer program, enter a triathlon, take golf lessons, put together jigsaw puzzles, watch movies, or whatever else you do in your “spare” time, you communicate something about yourself. You engage your mind, body, time, and attention in creative ways. And just as Van Gogh observed about art, our hobbies can become truly artistic when they become avenues of loving other people.

In Spark, I share this story:

One woman describes her painting as a hobby, but it is quite clearly an artistic ministry of love. She hung one of her paintings at the hair salon where she works so others might enjoy it, and when one senior couple going through a hard time admired it, she gave it to them. She donated four paintings for a cancer fundraiser. She’s certainly not as famous as Van Gogh, but in the art of loving people, she is just as much an artist.

The Art of Loving God and Neighbor

When Jesus was asked,

“Teacher, what is the greatest commandment in the Law?” He replied, “You must love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your being, and with all your mind. This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: You must love your neighbor as you love yourself. All the Law and the Prophets depend on these two commands.” (Matthew 22:36-39)

This art of loving God and others applies to all of daily life, including our hobbies.

So whatever you enjoy when you’re not occupied with your daily tasks, here are five ways that you can love your neighbor while loving your hobby, and turn it into a hobby with a purpose.

1. Invite others to join you.

As part of a church mentoring program for pre-teens, my husband and his “menteen” went to hockey card shows together, played video games, and these shared activities became their opportunity to relate to one another.

2. Give it away.

A friend loves to take pictures of flowers and insects, then turns them into cards that she uses to send birthday greetings or get well wishes. She’s now given me a batch of her cards that I can share with others as part of my pastoral care.

3. Donate your services.

As a young adult, I taught myself calligraphy and loved to experiment with different lettering styles and ink. My first commission was lettering certificates for Big Brothers as a volunteer, which allowed me to continue practicing my art and help out a worthwhile community organization.

4. Practice your hobby in sustainable ways.

Reducing, re-using, and recycling materials are practical ways of loving our neighbors by caring for the earth. One of my favorite jackets was originally a skirt, a friend has a bracelet made from a bent spoon.

5. Teach.

If you enjoy tinkering with computers or making jam, if your hobby involves some other skill, why not offer to teach someone else? As you pass on your love for your hobby, you’ll learn more about it, and learn to love your neighbor too.

Writing/Reflection Prompt: What do you enjoy when you’re not occupied with your daily tasks? Do you consider it a “hobby”? Why or why not?

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Categories: Spiritual Practice

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11 replies

  1. Can writing a blog be considered a hobby? I like to think of it as a gift to my readers, as well as a gift to myself.

    • I seldom hear people use the language of “hobby” in favour of passion or avocation or calling. Writing a blog can be all of those and more. I especially love your thinking of it as a gift for both you and your readers!

  2. In the last couple days I processed apples and pears into apple butter and pear butter and canned and froze it. The fruit I used my son was instrumental in gathering from trees around town that otherwise doesn’t get used. My son and I give a lot of it away to friends and neighbors even people we don’t know. I am 84 yrs old and live by myself and there is no way I could eat it all myself but I enjoy making it. I also plan to sell some of it at a fund raising at my church!

    • Thank you, Eunice, this is a beautiful example of something that brings joy to you and others, that builds community, raises funds, and honours creation, besides being delicious 🙂 I so appreciate your sharing!

  3. April, I loved reading this. It gave me language for many of my non money-making hobbies. They are far more about imparting hope and encouragement. I appreciate your words. Good stuff.

  4. I have many hobbies which now lay dormant since I am now pursuing writing a novel. I want to go back to painting which provided enjoyment and demonstrated that I could paint creatively and have a product to show for all my time I invested in the process. I now see that writing could be viewed the same way as I invest time and energy during my retirement to put words down to produce a book! I loved your analogy about Vincent VanGogh and how he stands as an artist who couldn’t not paint. Maybe it’s time to pick up the paint brush again! (After I finish my novel)

    • I find that there are different seasons in life and art. I used to sew which explains the photo accompanying this article, and I used to do calligraphy, but both are dormant for me now too. So I can understand that you wouldn’t have time for novel-writing, painting, and other hobbies all at the same time. If you’re investing your time and energy in a novel, that sounds like more than enough–have fun with it! .

  5. Thanks for giving dignity and purpose to the things we love to do. I’m a gardener and canner — because it’s a great way to feed a big family, but also because I love it. I’ve invited young women into my home in the past few years to learn how to can, and that has also been fun, and I love giving away my beautiful, shiny jars to deliciousness. I’m always surprised at how much this love finds its way into my writing about other things.

    • Love this, Michele! In our world today, worth is so often measured in numbers–whether of dollars, people, views, likes, or whatever–but our joy and reaching out to others can’t be measured in the same way, and that’s a good thing. I love how so much is connected too–how gardening and canning are practical and fun, activities that you love and help you connect with others, lead to generosity and find their way into your writing too. What’s not to love in all of that?

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