Gosh it’s hot.

That’s certainly no surprise to anyone. It is July, after all.

I want to share something that I found to be surprising. Last weekend a group of my family members and I went to Kinzua Beach, down by Kinzua Dam, to have a picnic and go for a swim.

It was wall-to-wall people.

Families had blankets spread on the grass where the picnic tables were too full. Parents and children, couples, young and old. All outside, all enjoying the day, and all enjoying one of the beautiful natural resources the region has to offer.

We didn’t stay; my daughter, with her health conditions, has a tough time around crowds. We stopped at the visitors center and asked the attendant where else swimming was available. He was shocked that the beach was so full. He said in the past, it has been closed for lack of attendance.

I’m sure the high attendance had to do with the scorching heat and the lack of admission cost. But at the same time, it did my heart good to see so many people outside having fun.

With the sketchy-at-best reception for cell phones there, I don’t imagine kids were able to avoid the “mandatory family fun time,” as we used to call it.

I remember my mother telling us, “It’s too nice to be indoors.” She would sit on her old wooden rocking chair on the porch reading while we played in the yard, or the creek, or whatever.

We didn’t have air conditioning, but we had a full basement with a concrete floor that stayed cool year round. We’d head inside for a break if it got too warm, but honestly, that seemed like a punishment.

Now as an adult, I don’t spend nearly as much time outdoors. In my office, there are always battles over the air conditioner. I’m one of those people who seldom wears a coat in the winter time, so I’d prefer a cold office. My co-workers, not so much.

I complain when it gets warm in the office. But then reality sets in.

Our men and women of the military aren’t enjoying an air-conditioned office. It’s 119 degrees in Baghdad; 104 in Syria; and a cool 97 in Afghanistan.

Imagine that, while carrying 60 to 100 pounds of gear. Suddenly, a warm office doesn’t seem so bad.

Let’s remember, too, those everyday people who make our lives easier. The garbage men, the road workers, the firemen, emergency responders, police and so many others who are outside in the elements all year round.

A garbage man told me once he loves tips at Christmas time, but he has a tremendous amount of respect for the guy who comes out every week in the hot summer with a bottle of cold water and a snack, too.

We’ve all heard of the concept of “pay it forward.” The week we celebrate America’s independence seems like a good time to start.

(Schellhammer is the Era’s associate editor. She can be reached at marcie@bradfordera.com)

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