Do you remember what you did last summer? Most of us don’t.
Did you spend all morning in bed, waking after noon only to drag through the day on the couch on TikTok or YouTube? Did you binge-watch that favorite TV series again on Netflix until 2:00 AM, only to rinse and repeat the next day? What do we remember about all those weeks that flew by so fast?
We all need a few lazy days sometimes, especially after a busy school year, but let’s not make that the story of our summer this season. When we show up at our next destination in September, and someone asks, “What did you do this summer?”, envision how we’ll answer them. None of us can get those months of our lives back. If we had it do all over again, would we make the same decisions?
Here are a few ideas to make our summers more memorable this year:
(1) Volunteer! – Some of the teen loved ones in my family are spending this summer—or at least part of it—giving to those around them and building their own life experiences (and resumes) in the process. Volunteering is easy, and the opportunities are endless, from homeless shelters to animal shelters. Is there a summer camp in the area? Perhaps they need help with arts and crafts or with special needs campers. Is there a zoo or museum nearby? They probably have formal volunteer programs where we can interact with new friends while learning about this world we live in. Our local parishes may have community work projects or may simply need help with serving at daily Mass. And the bonus is that we feel so much better about ourselves and our time spent when we give it for the benefit of others. As Winston Churchill once said, “We make a living by what we get. We make a life by what we give.”
(2) Travel! – Let’s get out of the house and see the world this summer. Of course, not many of us have the budget to take a beautiful summer vacation around the world—and who will take us in these days, as we linger on the edges of a global pandemic? But we can all get out of our homes and onto a bike to ride around our communities. We’ll be surprised by what we’ll find in our own backyards when we look. Are there state parks or recreation areas nearby with hiking trails or kayaking or even just fishing? Does our community have historic markers or landmarks that we never knew existed? What about simply taking a walk to the ice cream shop or the local thrift store or the library (yes, they still exist)? We can’t see new faces and make new friends from our couches…at least not ones we can reach out and touch.
(3) Read! – Okay, all that volunteering and traveling can be exhausting, I’ll admit. Sometimes, summer really is for being lazy: sunbathing by the pool, reclining on the deck, swinging on the porch. For those relaxing parts of our days, why not feed our minds and imaginations? We can only watch so many thousands of TikTok dances and send so many hundreds of forehead-photos to our friends on SnapChat before our brains start to atrophy. But pick up a book and we find that reading nourishes our souls and hearts and minds. And there are so many great choices out there, from classic reads to modern marvels. A quick browse through the titles at catholicteenbooks.com is enough to make anyone realize that all the world (past, present, and future) is open to us, even while we dip our toes in the water at the pool.
(4) Hang with Friends! – Summer isn’t a time to isolate. Thirty years later, I still have fond memories of my teen summer years…but most of those memories involve time spent with other human beings known as “friends.” Let’s meet our friends in person and save virtual friending for the school year. We rarely regret time spent in the physical presence of those who actually care about us, and summer is a great time for delighting in those experiences.
So, when Labor Day rolls around this year, let’s truly know what we did this summer. And let’s make it the kind of summer that we’ll think about throughout the fall and winter with the kind of memories that Hulu can’t provide.
Have a blessed summer, everyone!