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Safe Places of SummerPosted Monday, June 9, 2008, at 9:52 AM
When I was maybe as old as ten my younger sister, age 8, and I walked to Vacation Bible School at the Walnut St. Baptist Church in north St Louis Missouri. The only thing which now stands out in memory is that they showed a real, live movie -- projected onto somebody's bed sheet. This was before we had television; so an actual movie, any movie, was special. And, yes we had "talkies" by then.
Diane and I had to walk because my mother didn't take our dad to work very often, only when she really needed to go someplace. The distance was about three times what we walked to school everyday -- I would guess roughly the equivalent of walking from Page's to the Armory, with about as much traffic. We also walked each Friday to the theater, about twice the distance as this church. But, we could only go to the show if our big brother, age 13, went. If VBS had been held in the evening our parents might have taken us, except dad didn't want anyone to think we were Baptist. I couldn't have told you what we were, but it wasn't Baptist.
The thing which now strikes me as most significant, however, is that it occurred to no one there would be any safety hazard in walking to any place "in the neighborhood." Any place in our neighborhood was a safe place to spend a summer vacation.
This all came to mind after attending the closing program and picnic for our church's Vacation Bible School program. VBS is a herculean effort by all involved. My "contribution" was to take some hot dogs for the proposed picnic -- enthusiasm for which was severely dampened by one of our ever popular thunder storms. My only involvement was to congratulate myself on the wisdom of not volunteering to help keep all those kidlets contained.
It is questionable as to who gets the most out of this week of kids, classes, cookies and mayhem -- the kids or the "grown-ups" who run it all. My money is on the grown-ups, who appear to be having the most fun. I'm guessing you have to be at least 13 to be one of the "grown-up" leaders. And, yes, Karen Wells is at least over 13; it's just her enthusiasm which makes her look younger.
There used to be some debate as to whether to hold VBS right after school lets out in June (while the kids are still "school-broke") or in early August (to help get them settled down for a return to school after two months off).. Since I now have two children who teach elementary classes, my preference would be August.
While they might be recalled 50 years hence, VBS is really too short and chaotic to do much indoctrination. The proof being I am still not a Baptist. When ever they are scheduled, local churches should be encouraged to hold Vacation Bible School. They really do have certain community significance:
First, they give young minds exposure to what we like to call Hoosier values. Values being something school teachers almost can't teach for fear of being sued by somebody with other "values".
And, VBS provides, for one brief moment in time, one of the few remaining safe places of summer.
David L. Lewis is an observer of and sometimes commentator on life who may be reached via e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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