Lib Campbell: Summertime calling

Published 12:00 am Sunday, June 9, 2024

By Lib Campbell

Yacht rock tunes on the back porch. Lightning bugs dancing in the trees. Burgers on the grill. Sure as shootin’ summertime is upon us. One could get nostalgic about the good old days. But the good old days were not as good for some folks as for others. 

In my day, school was out before Memorial Day. Then trips to White Lake and Carolina Beach were scheduled. We tanned with bottles of baby oil and iodine slathered on sun-seeking bodies. Little League ballgames were played on summer nights as the fragrance of the pickle plant filled the air. Leisure and pleasure were the goal.

But for many in my class, putting in tobacco was the summer work. Or shifts at the town pickle plant. My peers held hard summer jobs, saving money for clothes and college, gasoline and date nights. Even to this day, I am extremely aware of the privilege of my growing up years. Privilege because of the family I was born into, privilege for the color of my skin — both of which I had no choice in. I just came out this way. 

A couple of things over the last few days have reawakened this sense of blessing by happenstance for being someone given a leg up for nothing I had done. Undeserved. I recognize it. 

On Sunday, the preacher read John 15, about the vines and the branches. He told a story from his high school days about a girl who had been in his class. She struggled with anxiety and self-doubt. The preacher recounted the story of how he would try to help her. She remembered his kindnesses and gave thanks for all she had become because somebody was nice to her. 

A family staying next door at the river talked about their struggle over the past few months. There was illness in the family, and two preschoolers to care for. They lamented the lack of childcare options in their town. Living with few options for care is hard. 

There are a lot of people in the world who have few options and who have very few people who are nice to them. Many of my classmates had fewer options than I did. I remember a classmate who thanked me one day for being nice to him. Being nice is not brain surgery. It needs to be standard operating procedure. 

It may be that all the grievance bubbling up around us is seeded in the fact that too many had too few options and too few people who were nice to them. My ideal summertime vision is a great big beach party with food and fun for all. 

Here is a lesson in niceness. Lisa and hubby were on the Minnesott Ferry going to Beaufort for a wedding. Their car was parked by a shaved ice cone truck. A little boy approached the truck driver asking for a cone. He obliged and opened the truck for others to partake in the icy treat. It was a ferry party in the middle of the Neuse River. A simple kindness made the afternoon memorable for all the people on the ferry. One act of kindness can ripple out, soften hearts and change the world. 

Care for each other seems a necessary ingredient for rebuilding a society that increasingly seems divided and angry. A few more “pleases and thank-yous.” A little more, “no, you go first.” language. We could build a world of compassion and care with small gestures. 

I have always felt that privilege calls forth great responsibility. We are not self-made people. A lot of people through history have built the foundation on which we stand. It won’t kill us to offer a hand up to others. It doesn’t make us less to make other people more. 

One of the delights summertime is calling us to this year is the Paris Summer Olympics. For a few short days, we will be a people united in one purpose as we represent our various countries. Human problems are human problems all over the world. Suffering is the common denominator of the human condition. Inequities exist for all kinds of reasons; we do not have to exacerbate them with ill thought-out ideologies. 

Summertime calls us to slow down and take stock of our interior lives. Clear out any stinkin’ thinkin’ and get on with getting along. Slather up and ponder anew what kindness and niceness can do in the world. 

Lib Campbell is a retired Methodist pastor, retreat leader, columnist and host of the blogsite She can be contacted at