A Day at the Park

by Don Meyer, Ph.D. | Jul 20, 2013

"One should count each day a separate life.”

Just about every time Evie and I drive through the Valley Forge National Historical Park and we see people walking, jogging, running, biking or even horseback riding we find ourselves asking, “Who are these people?" How is it that they can find the time to set aside those moments to renew? Don’t they have jobs? Aren’t they too busy? Where do they live and what do they do?

Each time we say that we smile and realize our own time prevents us from joining them … most of the time. But one day a few weeks ago we decided to change that. Our Minnesota family was here for a few days and we decided to have a picnic in the park. With that decision, we joined “those people.”

We loaded up the bikes and tableware and blankets and folding chairs and, of course, a football. Our menu included lots of homemade goodies along with a quick stop at KFC for some of that “finger-licking good” chicken.

We drove past the Valley Forge Post Office and after taking a quick glance to the left to see George Washington’s Headquarters through the trees, we arrived at the place in the park with a panoramic view of the parade ground where General von Steuben trained that rag tag group of farmer patriots into an army that fateful winter of 1777-1778.   

We chose the right picnic table and moved it slightly into the shade of a huge, old oak tree. Before long we were eating lunch. Food always tastes better on a picnic. 

The day could not have been more perfect. White clouds silently bounced across the sky while the sun warmed the temperature to around 80 degrees. The wind made the tall rye grass appear like the green ocean waves as it blew across the rolling terrain. Even picnic ants couldn’t find us.

While our son, Kevin, and our grandson, Noah, went for a bike ride, Evie and I each turned to the books we brought. Evie was reading "Lone Survivor," the gripping story of Marcus Luttrell, the Navy SEAL who survived an indescribable battle in Afghanistan where 19 of his fellow soldiers died. Several weeks ago we met him after he shared his story at a rally in Lancaster, Pa. I was reading "The Winter at Valley Forge," by F. Van Wyck Mason which tells the story of those frozen days on the Pennsylvania tundra.

Needless to say, both of us felt like we were surrounded by heroes. General Washington and his men fought to create freedom and Marcus Luttrell and his men fought to keep freedom. General Washington fought the harsh winter to create America while their enemy partied in Philadelphia. Marcus Luttrell fought the harsh terrain of Afghanistan while their enemy plotted to destroy the American way of life. Heroes like that make it possible for us to enjoy a simple picnic on a beautiful summer day.

A picnic is more than the food. We can eat at our kitchen table or in a family restaurant. At a picnic, food is mixed with so much more. Sure, there is the fresh air and exercise and paper plates and often a few bugs. But it is much more than that. It is also about breathing in fresh perspectives. It is about looking in new ways at old routines. It is about getting out of town. It is about having fun with those whom we love. 

And when that happens everything changes. Gratitude for the simple things of life comes easier. Problems seem smaller and easier to solve. We rest. We are renewed. We are better equipped to take on the challenges of life.

Next time we drive through the park and see “those people,” we will still wonder who they are but we will also remember that wonderful day when we joined them.

Think about it.


Dr. Don Meyer is President of 
Valley Forge Christian College, Phoenixville, PA 
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