Playing Grows Fertile Minds for our Children
Over the years I have had conversations with contemporaries: That is those of us exiting our 70s.
It is difficult to keep a perspective on age. Said one younger chap to me, “My mother still treats me like a child.” Good, I thought. Because to her you still are her baby. Wonderful.
Despite insignificant relationship spats, it is comforting to me to find family members involved in each other’s lives—at whatever level.
Also, now being a grand- and great-grandparent I am called to remember days of yore. My early days stomping the alleys, yards of Lawson Street, south Richmond, were days of tremendous opportunity.
Adding to my thesis is a scene remembered from a 1970s summer, when we had two west Tennessee lads visit. One hot afternoon the conversation between the brothers was heating up. One wanted to go “out.” The other wanted to stay, “in.” Finally, one lad said, “There’s nothing to do outside.” Ouch!
The winter city streets of Richmond as well as the summer shores of the Corrotoman and Rappahannock rivers, my areas of play, were so ripe with opportunities.
When we last had a Farmer teenager living in our home I can remember that she too, on occasion, would mutter that there was nothing to do around here. “When I cross that bridge, I am gone…She’s now trapped in a decades-long desire to come home!
Well, my sample of youthful ideas spans four generations. I am no expert, but this I have catalogued. With each new generation, we seemed to have lost touch more and more with our imagination. In the march toward progress we have so automated things, so computerized things, that we have conditioned a whole new crop of Americans to being a class of children who demand to be entertained.
Within the Bible’s New Testament pages, one finds “children” listed some 157 times, with a more refined list of 57 in the Gospels alone.
I am suggesting that we church folks take a good read at all of the texts that refer to children. Get equipped.
Then we can bring to our elders, deacons, councils, stewards, boards, committees, and what-have-you some roots upon which trees might be built.
Because youngsters have such short attention spans we will want any developing programs to be episodic. The cadence at which they think has been set by the words, “and now a word from our sponsors.” Any program offering of long duration will have to be captivatingly stimulating. Bible school planners take note.
A pouty little song of yesteryear sings out an epoch of youthful imagination. The line hums along like this: “you can’t holler down my rain barrel.” It hits upon the notion of the importance of a simpler lifestyle. One where kids played by yodeling into a rain barrel. They also made race cars out of drink crates and skate boards (or scooters) out of broken skate sets, or wheel missing wagons.
Dad’s sister, my aunt Frances, once sent me a Richmond 1980s news article about a juvenile peer of mine from the 3400 block of Lawson Street, Richmond, which by the way was across the street from the late Rev. Herbert Hall’s last United Methodist pastorate. The lad was Willard Childress, all grown and returned to Virginia from a building career in Texas. Willard once split my head open, as we played next to the street. For some long-forgotten reason, we were trying to drive a stake into the ground. I was behind him helping to hold the stake upright. He drew back on his hatchet to wham the stake and his arm wouldn’t come back. He had buried the blade in his assistant’s skull (mine). That was a walking-wounded jaunt ‘round the corner, for a Dr. Lush sewing project.
After my parents moved us west near Branch’s Church there were a few other such episodes such as when in the 1950s, my stepmother Rosena looked out the back window at our US Army tent which was being attacked by the enemy. Of course, I was hold-up in the tent and received each blow rendered by the neighborhood juvenile attackers. Eventually the youthful war drew blood, mine. I caught a blow against my noggin and needed doctoral patching. Now, you know why I am so…oh well…it caused a fast trip in dad’s 1950 Plymouth coupe, to Dr. Lush’s office near the intersection of Hull Street and Broad Rock Road (old route 10). ‘Twas my medical home: Birth to USMC enlistment.
Alleyways, streets, buses, street cars, boats floating along the Corrotoman and toes in the sands flood my memories with opportunities of imagination. We fought Nazis, shot Cubans, held off the Russians; corralled wild animals and fought the native Indians. We dressed in Superman, Spiderman and Lone Ranger costumes. We built space ships out of cardboard to resemble the latest Flash Gordon Saturday matinee models. We groomed stick horses named Trigger. We floated the great oceans of the world, explored new lands, and cleansed ports of pirates.
When the few occasions of my memory recall being indoors, it was around the family table or in front of the radio, great places for fertile imaginative minds.
My friends, we have to teach children the fine art of playing again. Some of the great lessons of life come through the sessions sparked by imagination. Read to them, tell them about Jesus. Highlight the champions of truth and honor. Share some famous Bible sagas.