Our company’s story is in fact many stories, starting with my own journey witnessing the power of play with my children…
Mothering Through Play
Early in my children’s lives I allowed them to learn through play. I encouraged and supported their play with resources, equipment, toys, and imagination in whatever directions “play” took us. When my son announced at age four that he was going to be a chef, I brought him a pretend kitchen, found lots of fun recipe books, and we off we went, cooking together regularly. When, at age 8, he changed to marine biology, I painted an ocean on his wall, brought him a mini-aquarium stocked with fish, and a chemistry set. My commitment to play was serious. My son changed his goals many times but each change brought him closer to his true purpose. He wanted to be a doctor! Who knew? He graduated in May with two degrees: A Master’s in Bio-Engineering from CU, Boulder and in Medicine from CU, Medical. He began his residency in Orthopedic Surgery at Yale this summer.
My daughter is still playing her way to her life’s purpose. She graduated in May with a Bachelor’s in Computer Science from Cornell University; she has been an avid learner all her life. And how did it start? At age five, she boldly announced she would be a schoolteacher. Of course I brought her a chalkboard, lots of stackable chairs, and cheap books. (Thanks to a few great garage sales.) We created the ultimate classroom and library! Armed with more imagination than money, we made things, we found things, and we just pretended we had things.
Enriching Through Play
Having discovered as a mother that play is a remarkable catalyst, it was natural for me to incorporate it into my programs as an enrichment director. I encouraged and motivated children to excel by using something that was innate: their love of play. I incorporated a variety of themes to stimulate an array of different interests, each bringing individual success, depending on the child.
Play As Ministry…and A Defining Moment
I take part in a church ministry to feed the homeless. I’d been responsible for setting up and decorating the tables, without really thinking about it much. But one evening, in a moment of insight, I decided to go all out and add some “play” to the experience. I put colorful mini mind puzzles on the brightly decorated tables. Not knowing what to expect, I waited…and observed.
A group of homeless people came down the stairs to be fed. Mostly men, they came regularly and generally walked about fifteen blocks just to get to the church. Their faces were hard and they didn’t talk much. Dirty hands, stained clothes and dirty, matted hair bespoke their life on the street. And they were hungry as could be.
Arriving at a table, one looked down and noticed a puzzle. He picked it up and started to play. He smiled; he made high-pitched squeals, and then encouraged the others to try. Smiling their tight faces and bodies relaxed. They giggled. Some playfully teased the others. Some were quiet and intent, though still at ease. When their food was ready I placed a plate in front of each. There they sat with home-cooked, southern style, hot-from-the-kitchen, cooked-with-love meals right in front of them. But… they continued to PLAY. Almost surprised that he’d forgotten, one mentioned to the others that their food was getting cold. They laughed but continued to play. One by one they solved their puzzles. Only then, did they stop and dive into the food.
These people had come for a home-cooked meal, one that only happens twice a month and then only if they can endure the long walk. I was more than curious as to why in the face of such wonderful food they chose instead to play.
Food Is Essential For Life, But Is Play? And, What Does God Think About Play?”
Since I deeply wanted to know what God thought, I searched the Bible, asked a few well-studied theologians, and checked the internet. Not finding the answer I sought, I read the book Play by Dr. Stuart Brown and concluded that play IS essential. But the question,” What does God think?” still plagued me. I was worried that if God didn’t approve of play, especially for adults, how could it be essential?
The way I was raised as a child influenced my beliefs that God didn’t like play. As a child I heard: “stop all that playing! Don’t be lazy. Can’t you think of something better to do with your time than play?” And of course there were scriptures, like this one from 1 Corinthians 13:11: When I was a child, I spake as a child, I understood as a child, I thought as a child: but when I became a man, I put away childish things. (~ King James Bible, Cambridge ed.)
Just as the concern that God disapproved of play was becoming very troublesome to me I was finishing up the book. I was reading the last chapter when God revealed a new truth, my personal epiphany about play. God said: “Play is not play but practice.” All along I was looking for the wrong word!
Now, what does God think about practice?
I’ve come to believe that play is innate, a seed that God has planted within all of us to accomplish our purpose. Through play we practice life and gather the skills we need to succeed in our life’s journey. God gave us the gift of joy in practicing “play” that drives us to it passionately!
A football game, and all the preparation that goes into it, is practice pure and simple. A college athlete who enjoys football is merely practicing the skills God wants to develop within him.
My son’s time at “play” led him ultimately to his life purpose of serving people with compassion through medicine. My daughter’s time spent in play is still leading her forward.
Finally my question became, does God like practice? Yes! came the answer. God wants us to practice what is good always. And I’ve found peace in these verses from Philippians 4:9
Whatever you have learned or received or heard from me, or seen in me—put it into practice. And the God of peace will be with you.