My memories of the summer are filled with wonderful images from summer cookouts. Fourth of July was a huge feast with my mother’s side of the family, while Labor Day was when we invited our cousins from another section of the family.
As I created my own family, we continued those memories. Memorial Day, Fourth of July and Labor Day were all big events. My wife and I took on the responsibility of providing the food and inviting family and friends over.
A week before this summer’s Fourth, a couple things came to my attention. My daughter, who works retail, was not working that day. My youngest son had broken up with his girlfriend. I decided to take it on as my mission (you know where this is going) to make it a special day for my kids. My newly married son would come over with his bride.
My wife and I went to the store and bought the food. I wanted it to be a very special Fourth of July. We arranged for someone to stay with my 91-year-old mother (who lives with me), loaded up the minivan and went to the lake. I was going to be the “hero of the day.” You definitely know where this is going.
We got to the state park where it was free in previous years. This summer, they decided to charge us $5 per person to swim. OK, this was going to be special, so I didn’t argue with the ranger. I bought the swim passes. My son announced he doesn’t want to go swimming. He wanted to go canoeing. Since no one else wanted to canoe, he agreed to swim. He had a good time in the lake and then we cooked some hot dogs. We returned home and started cooking the feast. My son helped me.
As the food was coming off the grill, he announced he was leaving to hang with his friends. I also learned that my other son and his bride weren’t coming over as they had some unexpected friends stop by their apartment. There I was with this incredible feast and wondered what just happened.
What was interesting was that a few days before, my wife sent me a picture that says, “You spend your life making everyone else happy while you make yourself miserable.” All I could think about was that phrase later that day.
Is it our role to make other people happy? A few days later, someone sent me a blog that said, “If you don’t take control of your life, someone else will.” The two spoke volumes to me.
A week later I was speaking at a celebrate recovery. One of the attendees asked if I would speak to her Friday group. I politely said, “No.” I don’t speak on Friday nights. She looked somewhat puzzled as I explained it is a hard fast rule that I once broke and not again.
Would I do Fourth of July different if I could? Would I still take the family to the lake? Would I still buy the swim passes? Would I still have the great food? Yes to all those questions. I just wouldn’t take on the role of making everyone else happy.
I’ll be back in two weeks. Until then, live well, my friend.
The Rev. Tony Marciano is the executive director of the Charlotte Rescue Mission, which provides a free, long-term Christian recovery program for men and women addicted to drugs and alcohol.