Don’t take a vacation from stewardship

My golden retriever is sprawled on the cool vinyl of the laundry room floor, unwilling to make her usual dash to the window to bark at the mailman. Obviously, this strange behavior, if not a sign of the apocalypse, is at least a sign that it's way too hot.

My friends in Alaska think it's hot when it hits 70 degrees, and I am languishing in a Midwestern summer where it topped 100 before we even hit July. Although I'm acclimating to life outside Alaska, my home for more than 30 years, I'm feeling warm and sticky and a little irritable. On days like this, I have to refrain from barking at someone.

When I was in bed early this morning, as the large fan above my head pushed cool air downward, I listened to public radio and heard a man from the local food bank talk about the needs faced this summer. Many people, he said, are generous in the final two or three months of the year, inspired by Thanksgiving and Christmas. They are eager to get their charitable tax deduction before Dec. 31, and many folks write their checks then. Not so much in the hot, humid days of summer.

He was pleading for donations.

Later in the day, I heard a similar broadcast plea from the blood bank. Their donations locally are way down for this time of year. They attribute it to the warm weather that arrived so early and got people into summer mode and summer activities much earlier than usual.

It makes me wonder: What happens to us in summer?

Maybe we should re-examine our sense of stewardship and community during these sun-filled days.

It's easy to hunker down in our air-conditioned homes or offices, moving seamlessly from a cool car to a cool house. Even if we're not on vacation, summer tends to put us in vacation mode. We take opportunities to visit the pool and rev up the grill. It's easy to get into the "lazy" part of that old song that talks about the "lazy, hazy days of summer." Just put me in front of my fan with a cool drink and a good book, and I promise not to bark.

Maybe in the old days, when no one had air conditioning and we spent our evenings trying to cool off on the front porch, we maintained a greater sense of community. You'd chat with your passing neighbor who was out for a walk, hoping for an evening breeze. Voices would waft in through the open windows, reminding us that our neighbors were near.

Maybe during summer, we need to make a special effort to reconnect.

Does your neighborhood host block parties? Organize one and get to know your neighbors. Invite your pastor over for a cookout. Entertain informally and often. Call a charity and ask if they could use you for an afternoon. Give your kids a chance to help at a food kitchen. Write some extra checks to charity. Amid the summer reading - those easy-at-the-beach mysteries - find a book on prayer. But don't just read about prayer. Pray. Let the season inspire new, more informal kinds of prayer.

Experiment with getting out of "your" pew and try a different Mass or visit another parish. Never skip Mass when out of town on vacation - use your trip as a great excuse to see how others in this universal church celebrate.

No question, this looks to be a hot summer. But it doesn't have to be a disconnected one.

© Arlington Catholic Herald 1970