I am a workaholic. Therefore I am completely unqualifed to talk about play, but perhaps this will be a cathartic first step in the precontemplation mode for me. Perhaps writing about it will make me want to actually do it. Seriously, it’s not that bad. For me, work is play. Kids are by nature serious about playing. They take it every bit as seriously as many of us take our work. In play life is acted out and rehearsed so that kids can grow up to be healthy. All of our programs have that element built in for a reason.
We use games and dramas and even worship for kids to tinker with ideas that will someday be serious business. I see staﬀ at camp acting out skits about life and the challenges that come up in the lives of our kids. There is one character, named Billy, who is sort of eternal. He is a kid (played by one of our wonderful staﬀ) who is used in the dramas at camp and always gets into trouble. He has a naughty kind of charm. He does bad things in the skits, but in a way that you end up loving him. The kids that come to camp year after year all know “Billy.” Actually Billy opens up hard topics in an amusing way. There is always laughter, but the goal is to use the playfulness of drama to talk about the real issues in the kids’ lives. So at ICYA play is a way of getting to serious issues and then bringing the healing love of Jesus into the picture.
In the Drop-in kids play games, do crafts and generally horse around. Play is important here as well. So many of our kids are forced to grow up too soon. I have seen kids saddled with responsibilities at home that are adult responsibilities. There is always a history why this happens, but my point is that often kids don’t get to be kids. In The Bridge the play is about being safe in a place where you can be fully a kid without holding back.
I am blessed to work with so many wonderful staﬀ who know how to have fun. It is important for all of us to know how to play, because some days are really hard. There are some weeks where news in the community could knock your feet out from under you. It’s important to remember to laugh and to fnd the fun when you can. This is a lesson I have learned from Indigenous people.
I see Indigenous people modelling a way forward in so many ways. Funerals often end up being a mixture of laughter and tears. There is just the right mix between carrying the heavy load of loss and lightheartedness all at the same time. Awhile back I had lent out a book on addictions to someone in the community. This woman was a bright person who had done the road of addictions. For a while now she was in and out of victory as it pertains to getting a handle on the hold that substances had had on her.
I hadn’t finished the book I loaned her and was kind of kicking myself because I hadn’t finished the last three chapters. She had had the book for a week already so I thought maybe she hadn’t started and I could grab it back to finish it myself. She gave it back, however, as I started into those last few chapters I saw that she had in fact begun reading the book, and was using a dime bag (for drugs) as a bookmarker in a book about addictions! This struck me simultaneously as both very sad and very funny. I headed over to talk to her about this. I absolutely read her the riot act about the audacity of using a dime bag for a bookmarker in a book about addictions. She went completely red faced and I continued to point out the craziness of her addiction and how this was absolutely proof positive that she needed to go for help.
I, of course, wasn’t really mad but was trying to see how embarrassed I could make her so that she could, while laughing to the point of tears, see through a humorous lens something that she may not have been able to see through a serious lens. The picture of that dime bag in those pages will stick with her forever.
In the end, we both ended up laughing so hard and my hope is that this moment serves as a positive step in her journey. This moment is a reminder that we need to mix play with all the hardships of life, because we need the kind of hopeful optimism that comes from laughing to give us the hope that we can overcome the foreboding challenges in our lives. Play helps us to see the good in the world around us and to be reminded that our Creator gave us these gifts in order to address the malevolence and challenges of life on earth.