A Summer of Change

8 05 2016

During the summer of 1972 I took a job at a convenience store that sat across the road from Rock _nEast Harbor State Park on Lake Erie. The job didn’t pay a lot and it was too far from my hometown to make it worth driving. But this was going to be my 1st summer totally on my own and I was excited for the adventure, even if it meant sleeping in a tent; which was exactly what happened. Not able to afford rent, I borrowed a tent from my girlfriend and took up residence at the park in the primitive camping section. Now that might sound fun to you young people (and I’ll admit parts of it were) but if your idea of a good time is making dinner out of a bag of Frito’s and a soda (and then the same thing for breakfast), having a 50 yard walk, especially in the dead of night to the restroom and shower house that was always smelly and never any hot water, heading to bed as soon as night comes on because you don’t have a TV or stereo or “electricity,” and the best part, wearing clothes that smell so bad from not being washed that the flies won’t even come around you, then yep it was awesome! Okay yes it was bad, but things did get better.

A gal in the camp store showed me how to use the washer and dryer they had, other campers were kind enough to share food and meals with me and I came to enjoy the tranquility and serenity the outdoors had to offer after a day’s work; that is until Friday night rolled around. It was then the campground would fill up with young people, the air would be filled with the smell of burning wood, hot dogs and beer would be plentiful and the party would be in full swing until the early hours of the next day. I enjoyed Fridays for all the reasons mentioned, but it also brought friends from my hometown who were glad to see me and more than willing to share whatever intoxicating beverage they brought with them. Those moments with friends and getting crazy made all the other problems fade away. And yes we were drinking too much and even smoking a little marijuana, but we were young having the time of our lives and we weren’t hurting anybody, not even ourselves. So it seemed.

One evening I left the group I had been partying with and took a walk around campground to see if there was anyone else from home that might be there. Sure enough on the far side I came across a group standing in the dark around a tent not really doing much. I was going to walk on past when I noticed a figure of a person that seemed familiar. “Hey Rick,” I called and the individual walked over. Sure enough it was an old friend I use to hang out with in junior high. John, good to see you; hey can we borrow you flashlight for a few minutes?” Taking my light Rick hurried back to the tent where a young woman and two very large men were. “Its dream time children,” the gal called out in an airy voice. About a dozen disappeared into the tent leaving me in the darkness to wonder what the devil was going on. It wasn’t long before I figured out the answer. One by one they emerged from the tent each holding one arm close to their body and bent up at the elbow. Slowly each sat down wherever they could or just stood staring into the black night. “Thanks” is all I heard as the girl and her two bodyguards walked past, handed back my flashlight, then got in a car and left. Took me a few seconds to find where Rick was, then I noticed him sitting on the ground near the tent. “Hey you okay buddy?” The expression on his face was now much different from the one a few minutes prior, like someone slowly waking out of a deep sleep. “Yeah, John I’m great, good to see you.” I wanted desperately to look in the tent but another guy seemed to be standing sentry blocking any chance to taking a peek.

Returning to my group I told them about Rick and what went on, to which a couple of them verified my suspicions. These people were shooting drugs into veins with a needle; mainlining. To use the cliché “The age of innocence was over.”

Over the years I have thought often about that night and people I’ve known that moved from the casual buzz a few beers or a little reefer would bring, to experiments with hallucinogenics like LSD and finally graduating to drugs like cocaine and heroin that offered an immediate but temporal escape from reality. Few that fell into that final category are with us today. For the longest time when I look back at that summer of change I asked myself why would anyone do such a thing?

Writer Dan Pearce says; “We all have to escape from this thing called life sometimes. Maybe we use substances to do it. Maybe we use religion. Maybe we use exercise. Maybe we use anger. But we all have to do it. *How* we do it is what defines us.”

The more I thought about it the more I had to agree with Dan. There are many who have a problems coping with life as they see it. So they immerse themselves with things that help keep the real world out–drugs, alcohol, shallow relationships, workaholic, and yes even religion. But as before mentioned, none really are lasting remedies to the real problem, which when we spell it out is how you, me, all of us, really cope with the good and bad of life.

I imagine in Pearce’s theory he would say I chose religion as my life escape. But frankly I would have to disagree with him; first I don’t see myself as a religious man, but a man of faith. Secondly I don’t use my faith as an escape from life, but rather a mechanism to enhance the world and the joy that is around me.

Once again I quote C.S. Lewis, “If I find in myself a desire which no experience in this world can satisfy, the most probable explanation is that I was made for another world.”

As fellow “Travelers of the Rock Road,” all of us will have situations that are more than we can handle by ourselves. So do we take a temporary route to the tackle the problem only to find it still exists, or do we look for a permanent, an eternal solution that gives hope, joy, and life?

I know this is a little darker than I usually write, but its weighed heavy on my heart ever since I learned Rick’s life ended way too young and, from what I’ve learned from others, with no hope, no joy. Then I realized I’ve know a lot of Ricks. I bet you do also.

Perhaps next week I’ll lighten back up, but for now let me leave you with my favorite Bible passage, Romans 15:13 – “May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.”

Hope, joy, peace. Awesome!

See ya next time.




One response

10 05 2016
Barb Bussell

So well written, John. Thank you.

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