As I partook of my afternoon dose of nicotine outside the Fletcher Free Library here in Burlington, VT, a group of pre-schoolers, watched by their day care minders, scrambled around on the lawn outside the library with a vitality that’s missing in my own life at times.
I smiled as I watched three young boys hold hands in a circle, sing the words to “Ring Around the Rosie,” and fall down at the appropriate moment, unaware of the nursery rhyme’s tragic historical connection to the Plague of the Dark Ages.
I marveled at the energy of three others as one of the day care workers, a man they called “Don,” hoisted them from the ledge overlooking the lawn all at the same time amid their screams of joy, with them immediately taking off in three different directions at a dead run when he set them down.
I gazed with amusement as a young boy and girl raced each other as far as the tall spruce in the middle of the lawn, turned, and raced back to the group of six other tykes rambunctiously playing in a controlled chaos of activity, bouncing off each other like pinballs.
The spectacle before me was a reminder that there was a time, even in my own life, when joy and fun were the single-most important pursuits in life. The tedious worries of bills, work, doctor visits, and all the myriad problems of life were non-existent then.
Instead, whether I could run faster than the boy or girl beside me, no matter who they were, was the only thought that crossed my mind. Whether I could reach the top tier of the jungle gym was my highest pursuit, and whether I’d fall on my butt was my only worry.
We all were like that once, and as we grew older and began to play in organized sports we maintained that enthusiastic ebullience and sheer joy of life even as we batted at balls on a diamond, tried to hoist up free throws on a court, or spent an afternoon racing our bikes up dirt trails.
In those moments of childhood we never worried about how much the Dow gained that day, whether another soldier was killed in Iraq, or whether we’d have enough money this month to pay the electric bill. Instead, we simply ran around with a freedom that came with the ignorance of our youth.
Oh, for those days again. Oh, for the time when I could play with such rapture.
To be able to run outside after breakfast with nothing more on my mind than an adventure waiting to be created by floating a popsicle stick down a stream, or rushing a football down the field of some local park bowling my friends over as they tried their best to tackle me.
To have the opportunity to know the only worry you had was whether or not it would rain that day and ruin the chance to get a good game of baseball in with your pals. And, even if it did rain, you’d know that all you’d be forced to do was go inside to watch Speed Racer or some fantastically gory horror movie.
Those days are gone for me, as I’m sure they are for many of you. However, every time I see children playing I entreat myself that while I have worries, I should still try and live life as they do, with a joy so pure it makes you ache to see it.
Here’s hoping I live today that way. Here’s hoping you do the same.
Spend a few moments simply playing.
As Joseph Chilton Pearce once said, “Play is the only way the highest intelligence of humankind can unfold.”
Be smart; play joyfully today.