Pentecost coincided with Memorial Day weekend this year, so all our unofficial markers for the beginning of summer tell us that Eastertide is over and the vacation season is upon us. It is time to say a fond farewell to Eastertide and to now welcome the variety that summer brings. Summer can weigh a little heavier with its heat and longer days, but it has an exhilaration of its own.
Summer is a time for vacations—if not for literally leaving home, possibly for some weekend trips, and certainly for some change-of-pace-and-schedule opportunities.
A change in venue—whether that means a visit to a relative or friend’s or a trip to a nearby or far-away community, state, or even another country—helps keep those of all ages from growing rigid in our expectations and dull in our thinking. A change of pace or schedule can be either exciting or inconvenient (or both), but when we go into it with a willingness to embrace something different, we often find it gives us a fresh perspective on our lives, which is almost always beneficial. One of the blessings of summer is that it seems to lend itself to this sort of variety.
The idea of taking some “Sabbath time,” for example, is Biblical and has come to us from the earliest recordings of the interaction between God and God’s people. Taking some time to pause and give thanks to God for the very gift of life, and all that means to each person, is essential for health of an individual—spirit, mind, and body—and for the well-being of our relationships, especially those with our immediate and extended family members, our friends, our fellow church members, and the people with whom we work.
The most universal of these “Sabbath-type” practices is the ceasing of classes during the summer for our children, teachers, and administrators. Although the original idea behind the summer break was often to free children to help with the harvest, that in itself was a complete change of pace and gave the entire community, including the children, a new perspective on the role of children among us. It said, “Children are integral; children are an important and positive part of our community; we are all better off because of our children.” It said to the children that they were needed and that a sense of responsibility on their part was necessary and appreciated.
Most of our children don’t work in the fields these days, but their presence among us is still integral, important, positive, and needed. In every season there are many reasons to thank God for our children. During the summer it might be tempting for parents who both work full-time to consider the need to provide activities and caregivers for them during the week days to be burdensome. On the other hand, without the forced changes that the children’s summer vacations impose on us, would we be as likely to take some time off for ourselves? Would we arrange opportunities to see other communities, states, and countries without the awareness that when we do so we broaden our children’s horizons; would we be so eager to visit museums, zoos, planetariums, etc. without the desire to enhance our children’s education? Children in our immediate or extended families give us reasons to be spontaneous and to avail ourselves of opportunities for beauty, learning, and just plain fun in which we very likely would not engage without them.
If you don’t have children, foster children, grandchildren, nieces, nephews, or godchildren near you, you will find opportunities to volunteer through your community’s children’s programs or a children’s program at your church. You can also contribute to a child's well-being by providing funds for some summer program in which he or she wouldn’t be able to participate without your help. Our annual KidzKamp for our foster children, which will be held in August this year, is one such example. Whenever we volunteer or donate to well-conceived and run children’s programs, we are, in effect, saying thank you to God for the gift of children in the world.
Summer brings back memories of our own childhood experiences. It calls us to look for new activities and ways of doing things with the children in our own lives, and it calls us to see what we can contribute to the well-being of all children through our churches, our communities, and programs for children which we support.
I wish you all a memorable summer with plenty of Sabbath time to give thanks to God for your many blessings, including the children in your lives.