A gift of play

On Wednesday last week I read on philly.com about a car that was spray-painted in South Philly with racist language in the wake of the election results. On Wednesday last week my first grader went to affluent (predominately white) Chestnut Hill on a school field trip to learn about neighborhoods, even though his home and his school are in less-affluent (predominately African-American) Germantown. On Wednesday last week I furrowed my brow and went to work but work felt hard. Wednesday was a day of sadness and frustration for me.

On Saturday last week Circle of Hope hosted a children’s plan training. One small thing I learned was the value of spending time with a child playfully, without a goal in mind. I thought that perhaps I could be obedient to this small thing. It wouldn’t un-do the week, it wouldn’t bring peace, joy or reconciliation to our country or city, but it was something I was hearing from God and the church so I decided to try it.

When I came home, my first grader (the one studying neighborhoods) was excited about going on a “neighborhood” walk. Here was my chance to be obedient to the small thing I had heard, so I took it. I playfully accompanied him. I had no goal.

As we walked my spirits lifted. When we got to Happy Hollow there was a mural showing children playing hopscotch. The pavement in front of us was lined with the familiar hopscotch boxes and numbers. My son asked about it and I started to explain hopscotch and then stopped short. I realized I didn’t need to explain it. We had no timeframe. We had no goal. We could just play. So we played. I found myself tossing stones and hopping around with my son and three new friends from the neighborhood. We looked surprisingly just like the mural, lined up to take our turns. We were happy. The game itself—the moment—seemed to be the antithesis of everything Wednesday had represented.

This gift didn’t come through a political process. It wasn’t through endless striving at work. It was through a small obedience (“have no goal”) and a small child. This is the way our God leads us; this is the God we meet. This was the redemption, given to me, for last week.

-Aubrey White, writing

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