It’s easy to forget how to play. We can take ourselves and “the world” too seriously, and find ourselves whining and complaining about almost everything. We can go along as serious adults so long that we forget what it means to have fun.
One of the things I’ve enjoyed about being in Louisiana is the “pass a good time” philosophy that prevails, even during hard times. All of us have a “child within” that wants to laugh and sing and dance and to pass a good time. Children have a natural instinct about all of this, and they don’t have any problem having fun, unless of course, they live in a sick environment where there is fear and dread of punishment. Jesus loved little children. “Let the little children come to me and forbid them not, for to such belongs the Kingdom of God,” He said (Mark 10:14). He compared them to the Kingdom of God, which meant that we need to be childlike, playful, sincere, generous and happy.
One summer, I was in Biloxi and I heard a commotion outside my room. Two little boys were having a race with two hermit crabs. They were really caught up in it. I joined in. After the race, they tried to give me both crabs to bring home. When we were leaving, one said, “See ya next summer!” Children can have fun with almost anything; a stick becomes a scepter, a stone a throne. Two minutes later, the stick is a magic wand and the stone a pet dragon.
Author Francis Thompson put it this way: “Do you know what it’s like to be a child? It is to have a spirit yet streaming from the waters of baptism; it is to believe in love, to believe in loveliness, to believe in belief, and it is to turn pumpkins into coaches and mice into horses, lowliness into loftiness and nothing into something, for each child has its fairy godmother in its soul.”
One of my favorite books is All I Really Need to Know I Learned in Kindergarten. It’s one of those books that I read again and again. Robert Fulghum believes that wisdom was not found at the top of the graduate-school mountain, but in the sandpile at Sunday School.
These are some of the things he said he learned:
• Share everything.
• Play fair.
• Put things back where you found them.
• Clean up your own mess.
• Don’t take anything that isn’t yours.
• Don’t hit people.
• Say you’re sorry when you hurt somebody.
• Wash your hands before you eat.
• Warm cookies and cold mild are good for you.
• Live a balanced life.
• Learn some and think some and draw and paint and sing and dance and play and work every day some.
• Take a nap every afternoon.
• Say please and thank you.
• When you go out into the world, watch out for traffic, hold hands and stick together.
I know, of course, that not all children are angelic. Some turn out to be bullies or brats. Surveys show that the majority of these kids come from dysfunctional families and have over-bearing mothers and/or fathers. Home influence has the greatest impact of almost all of us. Seeds of trusting in God are planted in childhood. Little Billy came running in the house, crying that Ruthie had hit him while they were playing. “You mean you let a mere girl hit you?” his father asked. The boy answered, “Dad, girls aren’t as mere as they used to be!”
It’s strange how quickly children grow up and leave to be on their own. In many ways, it was hard letting go of our three daughters and two sons when the time came. Yet, I would not keep them, even if I could have. It was their turn. They must have their own try at being responsible adults. They are not children. Maybe some of the things we tried to teach them rubbed off on their children and their children’s children. We prepared them to be independent. They don’t belong to us. They never did. We had custody for a little while.
They are God’s children, as we all are. Hopefully, the lessons learned in a sandbox will stay with us.