Danielle Bean, a wife and mother of eight, is editorial director of Faith & Family magazine and author of My Cup of Tea, Mom to Mom, Day to Day, and most recently Small Steps for Catholic Moms. Read more of her blogging at Faith & Family Live and DanielleBean.com.
In the New York Times, columnist Bob Herbert gives us all a summertime nudge in the human direction:
In recent months, concern about our overly “connected” culture has been a common theme among columnists in Catholic circles as well as secular ones.
We text, we surf, we chat, we tweet. But do we really connect with one another? Are we fostering meaningful human relationships?
“A friend of mine told me about an engagement party that she had attended. She said it was lovely: a delicious lunch and plenty of Champagne toasts. But all the guests had their cellphones on the luncheon tables and had text-messaged their way through the entire event. Enough already with this hyperactive behavior, this techno-tyranny and nonstop freneticism. We need to slow down and take a deep breath.”
Yes, we do need to slow down. And I think there’s no time like summertime to take advantage of opportunities to relax a bit and break away from the routine—especially with our families.
Some Catholic families I know observe “un-plugged” Sundays. They avoid using phones, television, computers, or video games on Sundays. Whether you choose to do this on Sunday or some other day, I think doing this in a conscious way on a regular basis is a great way to develop new habits of communicating and connecting with the people we love.
Looking for ways to fill the spaces of time that open up when you avoid electronic entertainment? Here are some inexpensive, family-friendly ideas to get you started:
Go camping. Your backyard counts. Your living room too.
Check out the library. They have more than books, you know. Some show movies in the summer and lend out cool things like Lego sets and telescopes.
Pick your own. Lots of fresh berries and produce are available at local farms this time of year. Pick some berries, peaches, or tomatoes to cook a special meal and stock your freezer together. Find out what’s fresh near you: PickYourOwn.org
Be a tourist. Check with your local chamber of commerce to find out what local sites you might be missing!
Go to a show. Lots of cities and towns offer outdoor concerts during the summer season for cheap or for free. Ask about concerts at a nearby recreation department.
Take a class. Check with your recreation department, gym, library or a craft store for a listing of classes offered in your area—cake decorating, kick boxing or canoeing might be fun to try together.
Take on a project. Nothing brings a family together quite like a DIY project. Paint a room, build a bookcase, or stencil a wall.
Whatever you choose to do, I hope you’ll take Bob Herbert’s advice to heart, because I think there is a lot of wisdom in the final paragraphs of his column:
“We need to reduce the speed limits of our lives. We need to savor the trip. Leave the cellphone at home every once in awhile. Try kissing more and tweeting less. And stop talking so much.
Other people have something to say, too. And when they don’t, that glorious silence that you hear will have more to say to you than you ever imagined. That is when you will begin to hear your song. That’s when your best thoughts take hold, and you become really you.”