“Do you have time for some fun?” This is a question that one of my girls has been asking me recently when she sees me around the neighborhood and at after school program. She wants to spend time with me without the focus being on homework or academic activities. I’ve had to say no to several of her spontaneous inquiries, but sometimes I’m able to spend time with her “having fun”, and those are sweet times. We have played games at my apartment, walked around the complex, and played at the playground together.
She is reminding me of the importance of having fun. So often I want to have deep, meaningful conversations or witness a kid make tangible academic strides in order to feel like I’m making a difference. However, that’s not what kids feel like they need. Lawrence Cohen, a psychologist and author, wrote, “Children don’t say, ‘I had a hard day, can we talk?’ They say, ‘Will you come play with me?’” I want to grow better at loving others, especially those I’m serving, according to their felt needs, rather than based on what I think is needed and my own needs.
Through times of fun, relationships develop, trust is built, and new connections are made. This girl began bringing her friend to our after school program. A few days later, I witnessed an incident involving members of this friend’s family. The next day, my girl brought her friend to my apartment and her friend told me about her home life. I listened and asked questions, and when she was done sharing, she promptly said, “That’s all; can we play now?” My heart was heavy with all that she told me, but in that moment, she didn’t need me to cry with her or keep probing, so I took her lead and laughed and played games with her, creating new, positive memories together. Later, I walked her home, and had the opportunity to talk with her mom and hug her close. It is a privilege to live among these kids and their families, to be part of their lives through moments like these, showing them God’s love through both conversation and play.
As we approach Christmas, in the midst of the hustle and bustle of the holidays, I encourage you to take time to play and have fun with your loved ones while remembering the precious gift of Jesus who came to live among us.