Purpose to Play in the New Year
Recently, while waiting in my car for my son’s cross-country practice to wrap up, a young boy rushed into view. His dad ambled behind him, long legs stretching, catching up to the running boy. They stopped on a grassy patch next to the parking lot, the dad produced a white ball and a well-worn mitt, and a game of catch ensued.
Thing is, I know this dad. He is a teacher at the school, and like most teachers, he is probably over-worked and exhausted, waiting for his older kids’ practice to end so he could go home, eat dinner, and head to his second job. I know that he likely has a stack of papers on his desk that needs grading, and enough work in his room to keep him busy for the rest of the afternoon – or the rest of eternity’s afternoons. I can see that in his tense shoulders, the sternness in his face, the stiffness in his throwing arm.
And yet, there he was. Playing catch with his son.
At first the game was stop-and-start, with fumbles and misdirected throws. But then the boy caught a ball. And the next one. And the next. And with each catch, he grew taller, and his smile grew wider. They settled into a rhythm and soon the boy was winding that pitching arm like a pro. The dad squatted low in the catcher’s stance. His shoulders relaxed. His brow smoothed – the teacher-stress-sternness replaced by laughter. Back and forth the ball went, and the conversation too.
I found myself drawn to the simple joy of the moment. Unable to look away, I followed the come and go of the ball. Hypnotizing. And somehow my stress, my hurried mind, my tense shoulders all melted away too. Only ball, boy, dad, and joy.
My own boy arrived and the trance was broken as we hurried along with the rest of our day. But the peace remained. That is the power of play. It leaves its fingerprint on all who are willing to participate.
This new year, I invite you to plan for play. That dad planned – he had a ball and a mitt and a purposeful walk to a grassy patch.
Surrender to play, like the teacher-dad who forfeited a clean desk for a game.
Connect in play, with laughter and conversation.
And carry the joy of play with you into your daily obligations.
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I blog about life, motherhood, and faith. For more about writing, books, and authors, visit 24 Carrot Writing.