“Summertime, and the livin’ is easy....” I love that song from Porgie and Bess. Having grown up as an R&B fan, my favorite version of it was by the late Billy Stewart. I wonder how many of you remember him. He had a great voice, made superb records, and died much too young. Anyway, though I love the song, I don’t put much stock in the lyrics. Whatever the season, summertime or anything else, the livin’ is rarely easy.
Summertime is just around the corner. We don’t even need the calendar to know that. All we have to do is walk down the street. The trees are green. The sun is warm. The flowers are in bloom. People are sitting with salads and wine at outdoor restaurant tables. Central Park is filled with walkers and joggers and moms with strollers. Summertime.
But the livin’ is not much easier than it was a few months ago. Oh, to be sure, we all prefer warm sunny days to the bitterly cold winter we just went through. But, otherwise things have not changed much. The news is filled with frightening stories of ISIS and their march through Iraq, with stories of hate crimes and violent racism at home, with stories of accidents and illness and poverty and loneliness and fear. The livin’ is anything but easy.
So, how do we cope with all that?
There are things we can do. The first is simply to do something. Just something. Maybe we can’t end all wars, but we can make peace with someone. Maybe we can’t end all violence, but we can extend kindness to someone. Maybe we can’t eradicate all hunger, but we can donate to a church or an agency that can feed someone. Maybe we can’t make all the world’s lonely people feel embraced and affirmed, but we can make contact with and pay attention to and love someone. And every time we do the right thing in even one human relationship, it equips that person to do the right thing with somebody else. And that really does have the potential to create a ripple effect of kindness that can make the world more safe and sane than it otherwise would be.
Second, as my Mom used to say, “Read Section B.” She said that the first section of a newspaper carried all the stories that frighten and alarm us. And we need to be informed about all that. But, she said, further on in the paper (in her words, “Section B”) there are stories of scout projects and church suppers and charity bazaars and community/school endeavors and wedding anniversaries and other sorts of good news that simply don’t make the headlines. Mom believed in practicing positive thinking – in looking for the good side of things because there is always a good side to be found for those who want to find it. Often the difference between being hopeful or despondent primarily depends on one’s perspective, whether we choose to focus on the roses or the thorns.
Third, and most important of all, don’t forget about God. In the midst of all the evils of our world is still the undeniable presence and power of Absolute Goodness. Evil movements, evil epochs, and evil people have come and gone throughout the ages. But God has remained steadfast, ultimately victorious over all things evil. In short, when you and I are on God’s side, we’re on the winning side. And through Jesus, we have received a promise that no matter how cloudy or dreary things may be at any given moment, we are not alone. What did He say? “I will be with you always.” Summertime is upon us. And whereas we are not naïve enough to think that the livin’ will necessarily be easy, we still know that there are ways to live that give us strength and meaning. We can do something to help someone, and that inevitably makes the world a better place. We can choose to focus on sunlight rather than shadows, and that makes our own personal world better. And, we can always remember that whatever the season may be, in sunshine or storms, Jesus has promised to be with us always, and He is as good as His word.