A few days ago I was driving home to meet my wife before a wedding rehearsal dinner. As I was driving through the streets in our little town, rain started pouring out of the sky. It was so dense I could barely see in front of me. I slowed my car and made the last few turns to get on my home street. As I’m making the turn, I see two kids running full speed through the rain. They’re jumping in puddles, splashing water onto each other, and giggling their heads off. The instant they spotted my car, they stop in their tracks. It was like they spotted Sasquatch and didn’t know what to do.
At this point, one of the kids started yelling to the other. I couldn’t hear anything in the rain, but I did see both of their faces light up as they ran to the biggest puddle on the street. As I’m completing my turn onto my home street, they start flailing their arms and pointing toward the puddle. I knew what they wanted me to do, but I wasn’t about to turn my car around to do it. But for some reason their eager and playful faces got the best of me. I put my car in reverse, pulled far back enough to get a running start, and revved my engine loud enough for them to hear. Even through the rain I could hear them cheer! I took off full speed down their street and aimed my car for the large puddle in front of them. I hit that puddle like Moses hit the Red Sea with his staff. Water splashed everywhere! It hit the kids, it hit their house, it reached over their house and soaked their neighbor’s already wet dog (probably not but there’s no proof to prove otherwise!) The kids were cheering and jumping up and down, so I rolled down my window in the pouring rain and yelled, “Oh yeahhhhh!”
Moments like these are the ones I remember most as a kid. Moments when play was encouraged and embraced. I think adults have lost the art of play. I fully believe that play is a gift God gives children in order to remind adults of how powerful it is. Us adults really need a reminder of how important play is, and how it can add so much to our life.
Since we live in a world which can be generally described as “busy”, we’ve categorized play as something unnecessary or childish. We can’t fit it into our schedules, so we might as well not think about it or plan for it. As an adult who embraces play and engages in it daily, I feel sorry for other adults who don’t play.
In the next two minutes of reading, I want to convince you to intentionally insert play into your life. I want you to see that play isn’t designed only for kids but is something we all need to engage in to have incredible lives.
Think about some memories from your childhood. What good memories stand out as the best moments? Times when your mom had her schedule totally planned out and all your activities scheduled for you? Moments where you studied hard for your Math or Spelling test? Probably not. The best memories in my head are almost always centered around play.
There was a period in my childhood when my parents would play on-the-spot hide-n-seek with my brother, sister and I. They’d tell us to go upstairs and get ready for bed. We’d run up into my room and hide in closets, under beds, and we’d sometimes squeezed my sister into a drawer in my dresser. My parents would come upstairs and would call out our names, “Alisha, Kyle, Nick...where are you?” and we’d all snicker like a bunch of kids would. They’d spend extra time checking unlikely places where they thought we’d hide, like in pillow cases, under a dresser or behind the door. They’d bring our dog, Yogi, upstairs to try and sniff us out. After 15-20 minutes of searching, they’d find us and we’d all laugh our heads off at how long it took them to find us. Looking back now, I know my parents knew every hiding spot we’d ever use. I know they faked not knowing where we were just to play along with us. And because of their willingness to be playful with us even when it was inconvenient for them, I believe me and my siblings are better for it. My parents, along with my grandma, taught me why play was a very important aspect of life.
When’s the last time you played? Probably with your kids. Or maybe the last time you played was when you were a kid. Perhaps you think play isn’t necessary for your as an adult and it isn’t going to help make your life better. Interestingly, my wife used to think the same way. She’d struggle to play or goof off with me because work was most important (notice the word “was”). She’d always tell me how it was hard for her to learn the importance of play because she wasn’t taught it much growing up. In her eyes, and in the eyes of the majority of adults, play was an overrated activity that wasn’t necessary for life.
Now that my wife, Jenna, has been with me for 10 years, we’ve both taught each other a lot. I’ve learned from her the importance of integrity and keeping my word. She’s taught me character, consistency and intentionality. I believe I’ve taught her fewer things than she’s taught me, but one thing I know she’s learned from me is the art of play. If you were to be at our house in the morning on any day, you’d hear us beatboxing and rapping about the dumbest things. In the evenings we often dance to Disney music and sing our favorite songs. When we’re walking around outside, Jenna will often stop just to point out how beautiful the light is hitting a tree or building. Multiple times a month we craft homemade candles and hand them out to friends. My wife and I love to play together, and it’s grown our marriage immensely.
Like most people, you might be caught in the trap that says “work, schedule, and busyness are more important than play”. Like my wife, you might struggle with being a playful person because you’re so caught up in proving your worth through work or school. If play is a struggle for you, here’s one simple question you can ask yourself: if my kid-self heard my excuses for not playing more often, what would they say about it? Most likely, your kid-self would freak out! “What?!? No time to play!? Come on! Let’s go outside and smash bugs or ride our bikes!”
I’d encourage you to find different ways you like to play. For me, play includes woodworking, video games, building a bonfire, dancing with my wife, and making candles. When I engage in these activities, I find myself enjoying life more and being more engaged at work. Busyness may seem to be the best way to live life, but I believe the “reward” for being busy is a farce. Play is how we live life well, and the better we learn the art of play the more successful we’ll be at anything in life.
You may get wet, but maybe it’s time you run outside in the pouring rain and flag down cars to splash massive puddles in your direction.