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To be or to do – that is the question

As I flipped through the summer camp brochure, I glanced up and saw in front of me the sentence "I am here to be, not to do." I must have read the words somewhere and scribbled them down on a scrap of fluorescent orange paper that now looks like rotten cantaloupe rinds. The paper was tacked to my corkboard, right beside my second-grader's artwork, last year's Mother's Day card, and a list of things I must do in 1998.

The words must have meant something to me back then. But who wants to just "be" anymore? It's so passive.

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"Use an active verb," shout English teachers. Do something.

Parents decree it, too. "Don't just sit there. Do something," they tell their children. "Clean your room. Practice the piano. Brush your teeth."

As an adult, I overextend myself, too.

I have every minute scheduled and accounted for. Between work, the gym, grocery shopping, and the dry cleaners, I have photography class, yoga class, and my "chauffeur internship."

There is the kids' dance class on Tuesday between 5:30 and 6:45 p.m. And chorus practice on Wednesday at 8 a.m. And cello lessons on Thursday at 7 p.m.

There is no time to waste. No time for a passive moment.

Even in the summer?

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Of course not. There's soccer camp, swim camp, ballet camp, music camp, computer camp, and camping camp. Do. Do. Do. No time to just be. Might miss something.

I looked back to the camp brochure and asked my daughter, "What do you want to do this summer? Soccer, science, or sky diving?"

"Nothing," she replied.

Nothing? I glanced up again. Wait! Maybe that is why I held on to those words. Maybe we – children and adults alike – need to stop doing and start being. We need time for reflection and introspection. Time to savor our achievements and salve our wounds. Time to do nothing in particular.

Time to write a poem. To build a sand castle. To pick wild blueberries. To wade in a pond. To open a milkweed pod. To sip lemonade. To read Dr. Seuss. Time to stick our toes in the sand, close our eyes, and be.


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