It’s July. It’s that time of year when life takes a laid-back attitude as we soak up the sunshine and warmth of the season. It is the nose-crinkling aroma of fresh-cut hay, the sizzle of dinner as it hits the hot grate of the grill, and the wonderful taste of buttered sweet corn. This is summer!
It’s this time of year when we often yearn for the idyllic world of a Norman Rockwell painting. The Rockwell era was a time of simple things. It was the pleasurable gathering of the townspeople at the community concert held in the bandshell on the town square. It was a time of listening for the crickets at night and counting their chirps to determine the air temperature. It was the joy of catching lightening bugs in a jar and watching their twinkling lights brighten the darkness of your room. There was softball played barefoot with old wooden bats and a ball coming apart at the seams. It was a time of threading fat, juicy earthworms on hooks and waiting for the bobber to be yanked under. It was toasting marshmallows on campfires and licking the ooey, gooey mess from your fingers.
Unfortunately, those days are only found in hazy memories. It seems today that the world has gotten too fast to enjoy the simple life. Sports are well organized and parents worry about whether their son or daughter is playing on the “right” team. Swimming at the local watering hole has become a membership at the local country club. Cutoff-jean swimwear has been replaced with designer Lycra and spandex. The solid crack of a ball on a wooden bat has replaced with the annoying “ping” of aluminum. There are so many outside lights that it is hard to see the stars at night and even lightening bugs seem more elusive than ever—but all that aside, probably the most important thing we are missing from those days gone by is the time that people spend together.
The phrase “one another” appears over forty times in the Bible. (Mark 9:50; Romans 12:16; Romans 15:7; Hebrews 3:13; 1 John 4:7 just to name a few). Look them up and see what God has to say about out time here together. If nothing else, this tells us we are not to travel alone in this world; that we are to share experiences with each other. For my money, nothing does that better than a family vacation—and for our family that means camping. There is no time better to get to know those closest to you than to pack the family car and trailer and head off to see these great United States. In fact, summer vacations were always a major high point for our family. We’d spend hours researching Internet sites, books, and maps to find the perfect place to camp, the tourist site we must visit, and the best way to get from Point A to Point B. Each year, we’d spend our hours coming home discussing where next year would find us.
My wife and I felt it important that our kids experience the country outside of our wonderful state of Ohio so we took them to as many states as our schedules permit. Together, we chased seagulls and searched for shells on ocean beaches, the gulf, and the Great Lakes. In the quaint little towns of the East Coast, we learned the trials of the early settlers and the bravery of the men and women who helped establish this great land.
We sang with cowboys over chuckwagon dinners and traveled literally in the middle of a bison herd in the shadows of Mt. Rushmore. We were been cooled by the waters of all five Great Lakes and roasted in the hot sun of Texas and Oklahoma. We have shaken the hand of Mickey Mouse and had our breath taken away by the awesome power of Niagara Falls. In Colorado, we watched in wonder as a storm gathered over the mountaintops as we stood in the shadow of the chapel of the Air Force Academy.
Through most of our time together, we were close together because we are campers. There may be cheaper, cleaner, and more sophisticated ways to travel but to us, there is nothing like camping. We learned more about our kids’ values and dreams by spending time around a flickering campfire than in hours of conversations at home. It is at the campground you find yourself talking to people you would not meet in other situations. Shave next to a perfect stranger in the morning and after a few minutes of conversation, you’ll quickly learn they are facing many of the same life situations.
Camping has given us and our children not only the opportunity to learn about each other but more about people as a whole and our world in general. We learned by talking to other campers and listening to them talk about their hometowns. We’ve encountered Good Samaritans, even guardian angels if you will, who have aided us along our way. We’ve experienced the cool, crisp morning temperatures of a Rocky Mountain morning and the warm, torrential downpour of a Florida thunderstorm. We are not separated from the land and its people by the sterile environment of a hotel room, but rather surrounded by this beautiful country and its people that God created.
Through it all, we have been together as a family. We relived the history and the geography of this country through the eyes of our children. We’ve watched them grow and learn to appreciate just how incredible is this one nation under God. We watched as they realized that people are the same, no matter their accent, their background, or their hometown.
Coming together in work and play is important to us as a race. Each of us is in need of human companionship, whether it is a loved one or a stranger. It is why the Rockwell paintings are still so popular today. We yearn for a simpler time, a time when each looked out for one another, instead of number one.
Make it your goal this summer to reach out to someone and to spend quality time with your family. Although a catch phrase, quality time is something that we truly need to do—but quality time cannot be penciled in or scheduled. It must come at its own pace. I challenge you to find that moment when you can spend quality time with the human race.
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