George Gershwin first wrote the song, and artists have been singing about it ever since. From Ella Fitzgerald to Lana Del Rey to DJ Jazzy Jeff and the Fresh Prince—everyone loves SUMMERTIME! This is the season for beach trips and gardening, the NBA playoffs and family reunions. However, it can also be one of the most strategic times to build community and cultivate hope in your neighborhood.

One of the most profound shifts in our personal journey to cultivate a hopeful neighborhood has come as a result of combatting our own individualism. As a family we find ourselves predisposed to use our experiences, wisdom, knowledge, and material items for our own enjoyment and benefit. However, what we have learned through small victories over our individualism is that greater joy comes by inviting others to enjoy these things with us! This requires incredible intentionality and initially feels quite costly, but after a period of reconditioning the way we have thought about our presence in our neighborhood, sharing has become quite natural. The reason we describe this experience as the greater joy is because when we invite others to share what we have, we are also inviting them to share what they have. The joy of mutual sharing is always double, and this summer is the perfect time to discover this. Here are four “no-fail” ways to experience double joy this summer:

  1. BBQ in the Front Yard – Everyone loves a good BBQ in the summer. Hamburgers, hot links, ribs, chicken, flank steak, and so much more yumminess! For years our family has barbecued in the backyard, but there are few things that will get the “river of joy” flowing between neighbors and strangers than the smell of BBQ. “What’s on the grill?” will be the question you are asked over and over again. You will be surprised how people who have never spoken a word to you will ask you about your BBQ skills. This is the beginning of something hopeful, so invite people to take a closer look and even put a few extra hot dogs on the grill in anticipation of the opportunity to share. What will begin as a conversation about food, will develop into an opportunity to share a meal, learn a few things about one another, exchange childhood memories, and jest about grilling techniques.
  2. Coffee on the Front Stoop – Coffee in the morning, coffee in the evening, hot coffee, iced coffee—summer will not break us of our dependence upon java! Though we are tempted to drink our cup of Joe in our favorite chair while reading the morning news or checking our emails, your soul will appreciate the opportunity to sit on your stoop and observe nature. What may surprise you is that one of the most natural things you will observe from your stoop is human relationships at work. One moment you will be sipping your brew and staring off into the distance, and the next moment someone will greet you with a wave. It’s natural, but when we choose a pasty sheetrocked environment over the outdoors we break the natural order. Human beings are relational creatures, and mocha has the power to bring us all together. While on your stoop you will catch people at the beginning of their day, on a break, or at the end of their day. Regardless, they will be in a good mental space and ready to both receive and express joy. Your smile will be reciprocated, and you will pass on your peace. You are in your neighborhood for a reason. So, this summer allow your coffee addiction to serve as the facilitator of your purpose. Let the joy flow right alongside the dirty bean river.
  3. Read a Book on the Front Lawn – It’s the weekend and you are ready to release the stress of your workweek. You have chosen a fictional portrayal of an event that has captured your interest. You are ready to be swept away into a story that never happened in a place that hardly exists, but where you settle in to pick up this journey may matter more than you realize. This may not be a question that has warranted much consideration in the past, but this summer we invite you to explore a new place from which to re-engage your fictional journey: the front lawn. Whether you own a lawn or landscape or will be borrowing a common area from which to relaunch your adventure, if the story has captivated you, it deserves the opportunity to captivate others. Chapter by chapter you will faithfully read this story from your front lawn. People will ask, “What are you reading?” to which you will reply “an incredible story.” You must share; you have to share what this author has painstakingly penned with the hope that thousands would embark on this same journey. You are this author’s ambassador, this story’s narrator, who now has the privilege of sharing more than the weather or the stressors of your work life. Instead, you’re sharing the joy we all experience when we realize we have become part of a great story. This summer as you share this joy from your front lawn, it will be returned because as great as the story is that was written on those pages, there is a living story—an even greater story—being knit into the fabric of your neighborhood, and you are an essential part of it.
  4. … Basically Anything in Front of your Home – In case you haven’t figured it out yet, there isn’t much that can’t be done in your front yard that won’t have the same impact as the examples above. You can have a picnic, wash your dog, do small projects, paint, plant flowers, watch your kids splash around in the kiddie pool, nap, or just choose to sit outside in front of where you live. People want to connect with their neighbors. They want to know you and to be known by you. However, so many of us struggle to find time and space to establish these relationships naturally. We are all so busy and have become dependent upon the contexts of our jobs and gyms to establish relationships, but there are few connections more important than the potential relationship between neighbors. This summer, break free of your instinct to stay indoors and discover the abundant opportunities to double your joy. Come and join us as we move our activities outside. It’s SUMMERTIME!