July 4–The Playground: Playing Well

This anniversary of our nation’s independence comes on the heels of many events that cause us–regardless of one’s political views–to reflect on the meaning of our values. Civil Rights.  Life.  The Pursuit of Happiness.  Freedom. The Freedom to speak, to practice religion, to publish, to assemble, to bear arms–just to name the primary ones.  We have just recently come to some conclusions on the issues of the citizens’ right to access healthcare and health insurance; the citizens’ freedom to marry the one they love.  We are still in mourning and grief over a mass murder that was racially motivated. These events require us to look deeply at how badly we have played out our self-made promises to ALL of the people.

These are serious issues, but I have learned over time that taking myself back to “play” can help me not take myself so seriously as I delve into otherwise serious issues.

What if we imagined ourselves a group of children on the American playground.  Look, over there in that part of the playground:  someone is hurt, and she is hurt because she has not been included in the game she wants to play.   Look, over there, on the other side of the playground.  Mahleeah wants to play football, and Antonio wants to skip rope.  Some of the children don’t know what to do with these unusual requests.  Boys play football, don’t they?  Girls skip rope, don’t they?  Don’t miss the voices at the playground gate.  The teacher is speaking in a loud voice, and Freddy, Marsha and Ahmed are hanging their heads. The teacher refuses to let them even play because they have not satisfied the teacher’s expectations on an assignment.

The roots of our national behavior, fears, tears and exhilaration begin here, in our play wellplayground.  It’s pretty easy, when faced with play, to know how to play well:  Welcome the hurt one. Allow each to choose their play.  And teacher, for goodness sake, don’t you know that those assignments will be much better if you allow for some play time?

These national crises, changes and challenges are all a call to us–to remember how to play well.  I am not the only one who has faced an angry friend or relative or stranger who wants to rage about recent events.  Let’s invite them to dream of a better way.  We only get to keep our independence if we practice it as a reality in the present moment. Our independence, our freedom, our enjoyment of human and civil rights are only real and true if we practice them now, with everyone.  Play well today, my friends. Play well.

Bob Patrick

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