It is an ordinary summer day here. Eve is mowing the lawn, and her sister, Audrey, is helping me weed flower beds. Eve is unconvinced about her task. With sunglasses, gloves, and sunscreen donned, she declares, “I can’t do this.” I know she can. She is a healthy, strong ten year old. I know she can push a lawnmower safely. I demonstrate what she is to do and hand off the mower to her. I watch closely from the flower beds as Audrey and I pull weeds. Three stripes in, Eve stops the mower and screeches; “I don’t want to do this.” Now we are closer to her central complaint. She and I discuss how we are part of a family, and we all help out. With resistance still intact and ill-will radiating from her person, she mows the rest of the lawn. We celebrate her success with wild, happy dances in the front yard. She is all smiles, whether due to her success or because she can now shut off the mower, I do not know. I look over the freshly mowed yard and see tufts of grass standing proudly next to its shorn neighbors. I decide we are grass mohawk kind of people and praise Eve for her perseverance.
Sweaty, cranky, and tired, we retire to the swing set over which I have installed a flexible water sprinkler. We turn the water on, swing, laugh, and get soaked. As we cool off, the girls start chanting, “Best day ever. Best day ever.” I am amused by their glee. Both worked hard and neither particularly enjoyed the tasks. However, a hose spraying water over them makes this the best day ever.
I think “best day ever” expresses for the girls how good it feels to contribute to the family. Their work gave them a purpose and their success gave them confidence. And it is delightful to balance the labor with some sheer fun in the sprinkler. A balance of work and play makes most days better.
While the day was an ordinary summer day, my efforts are intentional. I am teaching my girls that working together creates a better community and play has its place in the everyday. Mowing grass and playing in the sprinkler are ordinary events, but the way we view them can make them extraordinary. Bob and Michael Benson say it aptly. In Disciplines for the Inner Life, they write, “So much of my life seems to be devoid of events that can be labeled important. Its content and quality will more likely be determined by my responses to the ordinary.”
Often, summer feels ordinary. Students are on summer break, and not all days are spent on vacation. Our churches have liturgically moved into Ordinary Time, which is devoid of the celebrations of Christmas and Easter and of the concentrated piety of Lent. We live in the common, everyday time. If we are not careful we fall into the summer slump of being bored with our faith. Ordinary time, however, is an opportunity to see the commonplace as the place where Jesus walks, the place where a cup of water means great service. The ordinary is where most of our life is lived. Let us not mistake the ordinary for the not important.
Tammy Abee Blom is an ordained Baptist minister, regular contributor to BWIM’s blog, mother of two amazing daughters, teacher for children’s Sunday School, and lives in Columbia, South Carolina.