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Previous Challenge Entry (Level 2 – Intermediate)
Topic: Summer (the season) (07/09/09)

TITLE: The Freedom and Innocence of Summer
By Alan Zimmerman


“Bye, Mom. We’re going out riding bikes.”

“OK, have fun.”

That was the conversation I had with my mother many times on a summer morning. My friends and I would set out for a day of bicycle riding with no goals to accomplish, no destination in mind. The day would provide its own adventure! No helmets or fancy bikes, just pedals, spoke wheels, handlebars, seats, and coaster brakes were all we needed. We were smart enough not to be reckless, but young enough not to be afraid. And though didn’t realize it at the time, it was like we had the Spirit of the Lord poured out on us. We were free!

Our day’s journey might take us by the railroad tracks that paralleled the Ohio River. It sounds dangerous, but it was perfectly safe – even a young teen knows to get off the tracks when a train is coming! Other times we would ride into the woods, finding a trail leading in, and then struggling through the underbrush like explorers, searching for a new path when the first had ended. Another route might take us down Waverly Road, a ribbon of asphalt through farmland separating one small town from another. Sometimes we might come home the same way or maybe decide to ride on the highway – yes, the highway! – and take the long way back.

We knew how to avoid all the bike-chasing dogs and where all the public water fountains or accessible garden hoses were to quench our thirst along the way. Often we would stop at a little store for a pop and candy bar lunch. The occasional flat tire or scraped-elbow bike wreck were obstacles to be dealt with and quickly forgotten about before the next outing. As long as we made it home by dinnertime, everything was right with the world. But our freedom was short-lived as the responsibilities of summer jobs, teenage chores, college, and then the real world of our own lives crowded it out. That’s the price of growing up that every child pays.

But as all children sacrifice freedom for responsibility, parents have suffered as well. We have lost our summer innocence. The time when we could let our young children wander off on their own for the day has gone away. It’s like we ate from the tree of knowledge of the worst thing that could possibly happen and we’ve never been the same. Our child could crack his head open on the pavement, or get run over by a car, or kidnapped for ransom, or meet up with a traveling circus and never be heard from again. The world has become a dangerous place and it doesn’t matter if the chances are one in ten or one in ten lifetimes, we let that “one” rule over us. How could we live with ourselves if that “one” thing happened? Our innocence has been lost and as a result there are many children who may never taste the freedom of a summer day.

Sometimes I wish I could turn the clock back. Turn it back to when I didn’t have a care in the world, when all I needed to be happy was a sunny day and the presence of a God that I didn’t know yet watching over me. And I wish for a time when parents weren’t aware of the terrible things that were never going to happen, and had confidence that their world was a pretty good place. I wish for that time when we knew how to be free instead of how to be afraid. Benjamin Franklin said that a country that sacrifices a little freedom for a little security deserves neither and will lose both. Maybe when we choose the security of our own making over the freedom that God provides us, we lose both as well. Maybe we should all pray to be able to trust ourselves with the freedom God has given us, and for the innocence to rely on His protection. Maybe then our children will once again know summer as a time for adventure, a small window between fear and responsibility ready to be claimed – and remembered.

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This article has been read 433 times
Member Comments
Member Date
Allen Stark07/16/09
Well written. Too bad the age of innocence was left behind in the 50s.
Mary McLeary07/18/09
Until people's hearts change the world will be a dangerous place, but God's people have authority over evil through Christ's blood. Let's claim it!
Mildred Sheldon07/18/09
I agree the age of freedom was in the 50's and now it is so dangerous. Times are definitely changing. I loved this story very much. Thank you.
Terry Walker07/21/09
We were truly free at that time and age. Thanks for reminding me what it was like being carefree.
Deborah Porter 07/23/09
Hi Alan. I just wanted to leave a quick note to let you know your entry, The Freedom and Innocence of Summer, actually did very well in the Summer Challenge. Although you didn't receive an award, you made it into the Highest Rankings for Level 2, placing 10th in that Level. Well done!

If you'd like to check the highest rankings for yourself, you can find them here:

The highest rankings are posted every Thursday evening on the Message Boards.

With love, Deb (Challenge Coordinator)