It's finally come. It's the last minute of the last day of the last period of sixth grade. While Mrs. Edgerton drones on, we're watching the second hand on the clock, counting down the moments, waiting for the last bell. When the big hand on the clock is straight up, it happens. The bell rings. We run out of the rooms, our teachers' voices of caution ignored, and burst out of the doors of the classroom building. Free. Summer spreading out in front of us like the Atlantic Ocean. Full of possibilities, full of promise, and seemingly endless.
But that was then and this is now. In a do anything anytime all the time kind of world, Summer has lost its distinctiveness. Heck, some kids go to school most of the Summer. A full palette of activities await most of them, programming to take the place of school, someone else guiding your imagination. All those years ago we decided what our day would be. We dreamed it, and if we could make it happen, we did it. We woke up with hope, with the promise of a new day, living for that day unaware of even the calendar, of the passage of time, marking the passage of time from breakfast to dinner walking the streets and forests, building forts and tree houses out of scrap wood and tree limbs, playing in the creek, riding the buses all over town just to ride, to see where we could go, making "bombs" out of firecrackers that our resident pryomaniac, Billy Burkholter, always seemed to have an abundant supply of (I don't recommend this, kids), trying once again to get the nerve up and praying please God could this be the day to talk to one of the many girls we came across in our neighborhood travels. We thought it and we did it, or at least talked about doing it, or at least dreamed we did it, and sometimes in fact do actually do it. When my mother yelled my name from the back door alerting me to dinner, I came home knowing I had lived that day.
But that was then, and things have changed. But need they?
Sunday morning I woke up with the crazy thought that Summer has endless possibilities. I had been viewing it as a string of end to end activities punctuating my otherwise year-round routine of 8 to 5 work. And I wasn't excited about that. I asked God to give me a big vision for Summer, something like my twelve-year old self had on that last day of school. I want to wake up and think "I wonder what will happen today. What can I dream up? Better yet, what will God do?" I don't have it quite yet, but I'm asking God for a God-sized vision of my Summer, to show me the possibilities.
One day in third grade my friend Brian and I lost track of time. We were walking home from school together, taking our time, talking about important stuff like. . . like. . . well heck, I can't remember now what it was but it had to be really important, you know. And as we were walking we decided to explore one of those drainage pipes that pass under roads and handle runoff, the big kind, the kind little kids like us can stand up in. We lost tack of time, worried our mothers to death, walked in a couple hours later almost missing dinner gleeful with the adventure we imagined had taken us into uncharted subterranean territory, that had given us stories that would make us the stuff of legend in our neighborhood. Only our mothers didn't quite get it, didn't sense what this could mean for us.
I want to lose track of time. I may have to get in trouble. Someone may not understand. I may have to do something spontaneous, like get up in the middle of the night and drive to the Atlantic Ocean in a convertible with the top down and put my feet in the water and drive back home just to say I did and just because I want to.
The clock is ticking. I'm just waiting for the bell to ring. When it does I hope I'll run as fast as I did when I was 12, that I'll burst from my routine-laden days and see Summer laid out before me, just like the Atlantic Ocean, and there'll be wonder in my soul once again.
Jesus once said we should only "fear him who can destroy both body and soul in hell" (Matt. 10:28). In Hell tormented people must be slaves of routine, devoid of wonder, taking great care to never, never follow a stray thought, a "what if." Bureaucrats, that is. People who can look at a day and not see its possibilities, who have forgotten the meaning of wondrous. I don't want to be one of them.
One time a friend and I were in Southern California, mixing business and pleasure. Finding ourselves with some time on our hands one day, we struck out down the PCH, heading south, in search of a classic surfboard maker. It took a while, but we found his small shop in a town north of San Diego. It was a long way to go to meet him. Come to find out, he had died nine years earlier. We enjoyed letting his son, now in charge, talk about his Dad. Then we got back in the car and headed back to LA. That was unplanned and a little ridiculous. But I won't forget that trip down the PCH, talking to my friend, seeing the ocean at times off to the West, talking to the son of a surf-god, eating tacos at a local restaurant. It's the stuff of Summer's promise. It's detours like that that help define us, that remind us of what it means to live and not just exist.