Thursday, April 17, 2014
Healing Power of Play
"He is waiting to see the day when the side streets are again filled with the voices of children playing." These are the words of a priest, in the diocesan bulletin, head of a research center concerned with the spirituality of the young,
The priest was on a trip down-country, driving along a side street where about 15 boys and girls were running every which way, hollering and jumping. He stopped the car to see what was happening. There was no problem. They were just children absorbed in playing together. He hadn't seen anything like that since he was a child. He was overcome with a warm feeling, remembering his own childhood.
Huizinga, the scholar, said that we can't reduce all human activities to the level of work. There is a principle in all cultures that surpasses work, and this is play. Play, he says, is an essential part of being human. Children absorbed in play experience joy. Play is magical, intense, fascinating and captivating. It is the way we most naturally express ourselves, expressing our individuality, our personalities, and revealing our anger, our weakness and strong points, our creativity--all are expressed easily when we are involved in play. Another philosopher said that play was art.
With this thinking, it is understood that children and the young should be given the freedom to run and holler in play. During this time, the adults should not be too closely involved. This only interferes in the children's play. In play, they express what they want to do and the way they want to live. This is the way that life is expressed for them. They become sick, and they are the doctors who heal themselves. They squabble, have war and peace, win and lose; life and death are spread out in front of them: life in miniature is placed before them in play. Play expands their horizon and cultivates their character. In play, they are fine-tuning themselves and forming a vision of themselves for the future.
He feels that most young people do not play enough. When they go outside there are few children they can play with. You go to the side streets, and everything is deathly quiet. Children also do not have the time to play in our society. Children who play are generally in good health; without health they rarely play. Educators seeing the children playing with enthusiasm can diagnose their psychological situation. St. Don Bosco not only thought that play was important but was also a means of healing.
The priest concludes his article expressing sadness at the lack of enthusiasm among the children he sees today, because of the burden of study most of them have to deal with. He finds joy when he sees them playing together with passion.
When will the days come, he wonders, when the side streets will again fill with the sounds of the young people playing together?