My two grandsons were over for a couple of days during spring break. It was a busy work week for me, and I had less time with them than I wanted. But I came home early one evening with big plans to take them outdoors to hike or ride bikes. I was all excited, but my sales pitch failed to pry them away from their electronic devices. Sound familiar?
At this point in my life I am no amateur when it comes to dealing with these digital distractions and their magnetic hold on the younger generation. You may remember that in Homer’s Odyssey, written some 2,800 years ago, Ulysses had his men tie him to the mast of his ship in order to resist the song of the Sirens. That is what our devices have become to the current generation. On this particular afternoon, I had arrived too late: my boys had already been rendered helpless by the sirenic seductions of some digital landscape or war game. I knew better than to argue or plead.
I, however, am not without my own arsenal of irresistible ideas. I said nothing to them, but promptly went to the grocery store to load up with alternative weapons. Upon returning, without saying a word I went out to the backyard and began building a campfire in the firepit. I then nonchalantly started carrying out my supply of wieners, buns, marshmallows, and Hershey bars. I was quickly joined by two boys, eight and twelve, who only minutes earlier had been paralyzed into what I call the “digital trance.” Within minutes they were immersed in the joys of being outdoors. They seemed incredibly energetic, alternately chasing each other around the yard, spraying each other with the hose, or poking into the fire. Two hours later, with a setting sun in the background and coals glowing red, we finished off the last of the s’mores with our feet resting on the edge of the firepit and a deep sense of satisfaction in knowing that we had spent the evening well.
I think it may be true that I am never more content than when sitting around a campfire. Whether it is in my backyard cooking hot dogs and s’mores with my grandchildren, or at the ranch cooking steaks with cowboys over mesquite coals, there is a serenity that descends with the night air around a campfire that is nearly magical. If God were to be good enough to allow me to breathe my last breath around a campfire, the trip to heaven would be a short one indeed.
When all else fails, build a campfire.
Rev. Don Underwood