What did you do this past summer? Work hard? Mow the lawn? Wrap up important business deals? Maybe you caught up on some projects or enjoyed having the kids around 24/7. Did you take some time off with the family at the beach or the mountains? Was it fun? Meaningful?
Consider how some other folks spent their summers.
Millions of Americans watched sixteen television contestants try to "outwit, outplay (and) outlast" each other on a deserted island in the South China Sea. Participants ate rats and larvae, fished, swam, conspired and voted until one survivor remained with one million dollars. The show sparked new life into the summer-rerun season.
Ten other Americans played suburban survivor, living in a Los Angeles house saturated with TV cameras and microphones but only one bathroom. Again, millions of viewers followed their spats and exploits.
A fun film about a Great Escape attempt by clay chickens at a chicken farm delighted moviegoers. A book about a boy wizard created global pandemonium and smashed sales records.
Brad Pitt and Jennifer Aniston tied the knot in an extravagant estimated-million-dollar "surprise" wedding in Malibu. A former Israeli security specialist led the team hired to keep the press at bay.
Kathie Lee bade farewell to admirers, retiring after fifteen years co-hosting a morning talk show to spend more time with her family. Regis (was he wondering if this was her final answer?) kept his day job while moonlighting interviewing aspiring millionaires.
Magic Johnson celebrated for a second time in two months as each of his former teams - Michigan State and the Los Angeles Lakers - won basketball championships. Shaq won another MVP trophy. Post-game festivities outside the arena turned ugly with fires and looting.
Big tobacco lost big as a Miami jury awarded $145 billion in damages to smokers. Corporate attorneys claimed the judgement would bankrupt the industry and predicted lengthy appeals.
An Air France Concorde caught fire and crashed shortly after takeoff from Paris, leaving many aeronautical experts dazed.
Republicans and Democrats convened, orated, selected and celebrated. Dubya and Al traded barbs and squared off for the last few rounds.
President Clinton brought Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat and Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Barak to Camp David for marathon peace talks. Each leader needed an acceptable agreement to secure his legacy. Each faced division at home. Peace proved elusive.
Turning now to matters of weightier import, this writer attended "Korpi Kamp," an annual excursion into the wilderness (no cable, not even Internet access) to commune with nature, my wife's siblings and their children. Three days in a state campground cooking over camp stoves, hiking, catching rays at a nearby beach (my favorite camp activity), enjoying community shower houses and bathrooms (we were really roughing it), barking dogs and crying babies at midnight. Hadn't I fulfilled life's camping requirements in Boy Scouts and summer camp?
I reminded myself of the biblical counsel to "give thanks in all circumstances" and "do everything without grumbling." Though of course not meant as justifications for complacency, they are good faith-prescriptions for a happy, meaningful life (and a happy wife).
I wasn't the only one whose summer involved painful experience, though. Taco Bell dumped that cute Chihuahua from its advertising campaigns. Sales had slumped and the company changed ad agencies. No more "Drop the Chalupa" or "Yo quiero Taco Bell."
And the H.J. Heinz Company announced that its tomato ketchup would now be colored green. Is nothing sacred?
As back-to-school replaces summer sun, maybe we should be thankful that we still can get ketchup or that we have a home for kids to hang around, resources to take a vacation or people who care about us. Ain't summer great?
Rusty Wright is an author and university lecturer who has spoken on six continents.