By Bishop David M. O’Connell, C.M.
“Summertime and the livin’ is easy,” so says George Gershwin’s aria composed for the 1935 opera “Porgy and Bess,” recorded hundreds of times since then.
Although the current situation in our world might beg to differ, closer to home, the pace of life does seem to slow down a bit in the summer months. The kids are home from school; pools and beaches are packed; picnics and barbecues are almost everywhere; people are sitting outside on their porches or stoops; carnivals and block parties draw crowds outdoors; people head for the mountains or the shore as vacations are in the works or in the planning stages.
Summer is a good time to read that novel you’ve been wanting to; a time to fix those things around the house you haven’t wanted to; a time to reintroduce yourself to neighbors or to make their acquaintance; a time to walk rather than run; a time to catch your breath in the race of life; a time for family and friends.
You have to love the summertime and the break it introduces into our busy lives, for all too quickly it disappears with the unrelenting march of time.
American essayist Charles Bowden put it this way: “Summertime is always the best of what may be.”
It seems to me that such a thought is true … if we let it be, if we allow ourselves the time just to “be.” In the “busy-ness” of our daily lives, human beings need to set aside some time to relax, to unwind, to refresh ourselves, to “go with the flow,” to be and just enjoy being. Scripture tells us that even God “rested” after the work of creation (Genesis 2:2). Made in His image, then, let’s make the time to rest and give others the time and space to do the same.
I feel fortunate that I am rarely bored, even when I am not doing anything in particular. Summer is a good time for that! Growing up, I used to enjoy just sitting with my Mom and Dad on the back screen porch in the summer after supper, doing nothing as we watched day turn into night. Cars would pass by with the occasional honk of recognition. Chirping birds and insects would provide the background music. As the daylight faded, lightning bugs would interrupt the darkness, along with the moon and a million stars, reminding us that we were not really alone. Words were not really necessary but, when spoken, they were gentle and calming.
On those many evenings, I felt so comfortable, so peaceful, so reassured, so connected to them, so loved. Time seemed to stand still for a while on that porch in summertime, suggesting that our lives would never change.
Mom and Dad are gone now, but I continue to sit on my own screen porch at night in the quiet of summer. The worries and work of the day slowly vanish but I do not feel alone. My folks are still with me, although in a different way – but no less real. Nature’s sounds blend into the quiet of the summer night.
I feel the peace of God’s presence in my soul, the same presence that is with me all day long – but on the porch in the evening it seems that it’s just him and me for now, having the silent conversation that is prayer, effortlessly revealing “the best of what may be.” In these summertime moments, “the livin’ is easy” because I hand over my day, my work, my rest, my joys and sufferings, my family and friends, my flock, my life to Him. And in the quiet of the summer’s eve, I can hear the Lord whisper so gently, “Be still and know that I am God (Psalm 46: 10).”
Summer is a wonderful season, especially when life slows down. What better time to invite God to refresh and share with you “the best of what may be?”