By Rev. Kelly Demo, CFCA preacher
As I write this, I am watching my own children play in a well-manicured, well-equipped park in our neighborhood. I cannot help but think of the children around the world whom I have seen playing in sewers, empty lots, fields with crops and barren yards with scraggly dogs nipping at their heels. But somehow, they seemed just as happy as my children do today.
The joke at Christmastime is always that you spend a fortune on toys for children but what they enjoy most is playing with the boxes, ribbons and packing peanuts that the toys came in. This is universal for children. I have watched children in Sierra Leone, Haiti, Venezuela and, yes, even my own children pull items out of the trash to equip their imaginary world. I remember a beautiful bicycle that a boy in Africa made for me. He found scraps of wire and fashioned this incredible toy. An old sheet can hold powerful fairy magic. A large empty box houses a universe of possibilities.
This call to creative play is yet another gift that children living in poverty give to our children. I think we often do our children a disservice by creating imaginary worlds for them in the form of video games and TV shows. What grown-ups create will never be as good as what kids can think of. Unfortunately, (and this is a personal confession) when life gets harried, it sometimes feels easier to let the kids turn on the TV than to encourage creative play.
Summertime is a perfect time to send the kids outside and get them to dig in the dirt, climb a tree or watch clouds.
As a challenge to your children or grandchildren, let them go through your recycling bin or dig in your attic, garage or closet to see what treasures can be unearthed. To what worlds can they be transported? What magical creatures lurk in your laundry room? What important business must be dealt with in the secrecy of a clubhouse? They will probably not know it, but they will be in solidarity with the billions of children around the world who do not have toys, TVs and video games. All children need is the time and space to be a child.
As a challenge to you, allow yourself to enter that world as well. Allow yourself the freedom to be child-like and think of your own sponsored child. But beware Ö as you magically turn into a knight in shining tin foil or first mate on a raft floating down the Mississippi, you might find that you get lost while other, more “important” matters disappear in a fog of your own childhood memories.