playing is important. I sat on the front porch with my book yesterday and watched as Anni, Lusi, and another friend played outside. They run around for what seemed like hours outside and managed to amuse themselves with few or no “real” toys, just some coconut shells, a shovel, some sticks, and some mud. And I got to thinking I think this is how is it supposed to be. Just playing, roaming free with some friends, a few sticks, and your imagination. In a way sorta makes me smile that the princess castle we carefully packed up and desperately tried fit in a big black action packer sits dusty in her room most days. She is honing the fine art of imagination. Of creating worlds that while may be silly and unseen to me are real and special to her.
This is one reason I am grateful for this place. She does not even know what she is missing back “home” and she is able to figure out what being a kid means for her. Minus the marketing. She is able to play everyday outside and there are always friends feet away willing to make pilau with sticks, mud, and rocks or climb trees to swipe fruit to feed to the “children” or pack up everything and go on a boat ride to a distant land where mermaids hang out and horses with necklaces roam.
All kids have this innate ability to imagine a world they cannot see with their eyes but I fear too often kids lose their creative gift because they are inundated with technology, with “entertainment”, with things geared to never allow them a moment of boredom.
Boredom is not the enemy. Lack of creative energy is.
I just sat there thinking that I am happy Annikah is growing up more like I did “back in the day” when you would head out, juice box in hand for the entire day with just your bike, some friends, and your imagination to guide you until it was supper time. It just seems playing with the deluxe Barbie Dream house or Wii remote in hand with butt firmly planted on the couch there is not much dreaming, not much active real play happening. Now, I know there are benefits to playing those types of games too and my husband would be sure to defend some video games but I am talking big picture here. Anni and her friends create because there is not someone or something dictating what they should do this minute and then what will happen the next. They have a blast and they do not need a state of the art kid-safe gym or a brand new version of the latest gadget to do it. I am not saying all those things are bad all the time I just wonder if in our Western world we have so over planned, over marketed, over sanitized, and over scheduled kids that they do not have hours to roam and dream up worlds on their own.
That just seems more real to me. The kind I remember filling my summer days. Running, biking, climbing trees, building forts, planning battles wars, playing house or school, water fights, just playing. Anni’s world is still full of possibility. It is not bogged down with reality. We adults have often lost our ability to imagine, to dream, to see past what is and gaze at what could be. It is like as we grow we leave behind our imagination. But is sneaks up on you, it is gradual. I cannot remember when but at some point I started caring more about what was on TV or what was for sale at the mall then the fort waiting to be built in my backyard. And I suppose it is normal, natural, necessary even. But I do want to cherish these moments in Anni’s life. And even glean and learn from them. I do think it is easier here since we have less marketing for our attention. We have fewer options to entertain ourselves and thus we are learning a lot about being content without things we would like to have. But in that process I am learning that really those things are not necessary.
Sometimes we adults are prisoners to conventionality, to function, to the immediate occurring reality and we forget to imagine a world beyond what we can see right now. Sure to be a “grown up” it is good to live in reality but the Kingdom of God is largely unseen and I want more of that in my life. I want to learn from Anni and her rocks that more than what I see is possible. That if I believe and really strain to look there is more waiting for me. That the God that created the heavens and the earth certainly has an Imagination. We need more people growing up that rely on their creative abilities within every field to see the possible and less people that only rely on their mastery of technology or their practical skills to move to the achievable. Maybe we need to rely more on the creative gift we each have within.
Perhaps God wants us all to become more childlike. Some of what He considers great is to be child-like. Maybe to be humble and to retain child-like qualities is what Jesus meant in this passage. Maybe I need to close my eyes and imagine more of what He can do in my life and the lives of those around me. And maybe I need to believe it is possible even if not plausible.
But just for the record I love that Anni has learned to create a world in a shade of a lime tree. That she governs this created space with suggestions and many negotiations from her friends. That playing is her work right now and that work is important. Critical even. That if I believe and look past what I see I can glimpse and imagine more of the Kingdom of God here and now.