3 Ways to Make This Summer Different

"What are you doing this summer?" It's the time of year everybody begins asking each other that question-- perhaps even asking ourselves what plans and trips and camps and vacations to schedule. We know June, July, and August seem to come and go faster each year that passes, so there's this feeling of wanting our summer to be productive and restful, yet memorable.

But what if the way to have a different kind of summer is by making a difference this summer?

Trips, camps, and barbecues aside, summer can be an opportunity to make more than memories. You can make an impact. Think about it for a second:

• Regardless of where you live, there are many people right in your own community who worry about having enough food.

• Regardless of what kind of job or house people have, there are many people who are lonely.

• Regardless of who owns the park, road, or property, things can always be cleaned and made nicer.

What if this year, your summer made a difference in your community?

Here are three easy ways to have a different kind of summer, wherever you are:

1. Hold a Party.

A party doesn’t seem like a very different thing to do, but the truth is, we usually hold parties for people we're close to. What if you used a party as an opportunity to build relationships with people in your community-- perhaps people who could use a friend right now? Do you know your neighbors? Most of us don’t. A party is a great excuse to meet them. If you have kids, get them involved too. Keep it simple—break out the grill or fire pit, print out some flyers to give to neighbors (or post on a neighborhood website), toss a frisbee or bring out the sprinkler, and see who shows up. Or have the softball team over for pizza. If you’re more adventurous, organize a block party with some friends. You’ll be amazed how people are thankful for an opportunity to get to know one another. Take a chance and see what relationships grow and who is helped because of this.

2. Serve Someone Once a Week.

Who do you know is going through a hard time, is lonely, is hungry, could use a ride or free babysitting, or an extra hand with landscaping? Is there an elderly person you know whom you could visit? (If not, most nursing homes are thrilled to have visitors). Get the kids involved too— who can they think of to play with, befriend, invite, or help? Put it on the calendar and as a family, share stories of these encounters.

3. Pick a Summer Project.

What do you keep passing by that you say, “Somebody should do something about that.” What local charity, pantry, or organization is in need of help? Maybe it’s a park with trash you can keep clean this summer, or make it a point to collect non-perishable foods every time you go to the store, or serve in a new ministry at church or a local nonprofit, or pull weeds at a favorite park. Be creative, and invite someone to join you.

This summer, dare to be intentional. Dare to get uncomfortable. And do something different-- not for you, but for somebody else. By the time September hits, you will get a glimpse of the difference you can make with whatever you have, wherever you are. And perhaps you might even have some new friends to join you.