SummaryThis summer, here are some delightful, wholesome tips to help our young people discover pleasure and freedom in the simple things.
That headline will surely leave some readers shaking their heads and muttering, “Who is this Minick character? He’s either a deluded optimist living in la-la land or a complete fool.”
Innocent on both counts.
Yes, this summer looks as tough as some of the cheaper beef at my local grocery store. Skyrocketing food prices. Record high gas prices at the pump. Infant formula gone the way of the stegosaurus. Possible stagflation.
Not to mention the war in Ukraine, the high murder rate in our cities, the dismal online headlines that greet us every morning, and the possibility of more riots in our streets over Roe v. Wade.
Not a pretty picture, I admit.
So, what are we going to do?
We can give way to complaints and despair and spend July and August bewailing our circumstances. Or we can take the lemons we’ve been given—expensive as they are—add some water and sweetener, and whip up that delectable summertime concoction, lemonade.
In other words, we can accept some givens of life in 2022 and seek out love and delight in spite of those circumstances.
Whatever the plans for the hothouse months, Mom, Dad, and the kids should join together as one and focus on a single goal in their activities: joy. Saint John Paul II once said, “God made us for joy. God made us for joy, and the joy of living reflects the original joy that God felt in creating us.”
To find that joy, we don’t need to travel across the country, vacation in the forests of Maine, or sit on the beach at North Carolina’s Emerald Isle. No, we can find delights right in our backyard.
Recently, I talked by phone with Katelyn Lara, the Seton homeschool mom in this issue’s “Featured Family.” She and her family recently moved to San Diego, and, as we spoke, she mentioned that she, the children, and occasionally friends had spent some time together exploring that city: the zoo, Old Town, and the mission church where they now go to Mass.
Here in Front Royal, Virginia, where I live, when my grandkids visit this summer, I hope to take them hiking on the Skyline Drive to travel by canoe on a day trip down the Shenandoah River, and to tour several nearby Civil War battlefields.
The gas required for these trips is minimal, and the pleasure great.
We can also find summertime joys in our homes, yards, and neighborhoods. We can, for example, make this a season of board games, badminton, after supper strolls, and family read-alouds.
Whether it’s a game of cards in the den—my grandkids love to play Spoons with their unofficial godfather Uncle John—building a fort in the woods, or climbing a tree in the front yard, our young people can discover pleasure and freedom in the simple things.
We might also invite friends and their children into our homes for a weekly evening of feast and festivity.
It’s a perfect time for a game of charades, to pray together, or to sit on the back deck and share some thoughts and a bottle of wine while watching the kids chase after fireflies. If the budget is tight, we can make these events pot-luck, with the families sharing food and recipes.
It’s What’s Inside That Counts
However, making this a great summer depends far less on what we do and far more on our attitude. No matter how tough the times, we must strive to keep up our spirits, if for no other reason than the well-being of our children.
Kids these days, even the little ones, are already buffeted by this world’s dire and ugly news. Whatever our opinions and attitudes, we should not infect our children with those worries.
Sometimes, when a friend tells me that we’re finished as a culture, that there’s no hope for America anymore, I rebuff that remark, telling him, “I have 22 grandchildren. I can’t afford that sort
And who knows? If we try to keep some modicum of buoyancy, if only for the sake of the kids, we may find that “fake it till we make it” restores the joy of Christ in our own hearts.
Remembering the Good
Our greatest weapon in these interior battles against doubt and despair is gratitude.
All too often we brood on the things we lack: money for a child’s piano lessons, a new dress for our teenage daughter for a dance, or soccer cleats for our sixth-grader. If only we had more money and better opportunities, then all would be well.
Maybe so. But what about the good that already surrounds us?
Every day this summer, let’s pause and remember the sweet gifts we already possess. Nearly every morning when I wake, for instance, having poured the first cup of coffee, I thank God for another day of life. I’ve arrived at that stage of life where each dawn is a blessing.
And if we open our eyes, we can see so many gifts. Our children, our spouse, a good friend or two, the sacraments of our faith, the redeeming love of Christ: that list grows longer and longer simply through contemplation.
Remembering Why We’re Here
Seton families will recognize this question and its answer from the Baltimore Catechism:
Why did God make you?
God made me to know Him, to love Him, and to serve Him in this world, and to be happy with Him forever in Heaven.
I’m by no means a theologian, but I suspect God also wants us to be happy with Him in this world as well.
This summer, let’s aim to grow closer to our God, our faith, our families, and all those we love.
Life doesn’t get any better than that.