As Teambuilder, I have the opportunity to help people of all ages play. I encourage them to have fun problem solving and communicating while taking part in fun team oriented challenges. On high ropes courses, I teach them how to put on a harness, use climbing safety, belay them up the climbing tower and push them to face their fear and reach inside themselves to accomplish more than they thought possible. On low ropes courses, I create challenges to prompt them to play and work through group dynamics in order to become a close community of friends. Although this is not something I do every day, it is one of the best parts of my job.
One particular group I work with a couple times a year is a group of children who must not only take care of themselves but also have the responsibility of taking care of a parent who is disabled. Needless to say, these children are overwhelmed with responsibilities and do not have the time even as children to simply play. Without fail, each of these groups come to me with sullen expressions and unyielding attitudes, wondering why on earth they are standing in a circle listening to a complete stranger tell them they are there to play and have fun. It is literally foreign to them.
During the time they are with me, the transformation which takes place is nothing short of incredible, and I never tire of witnessing it. Within minutes, their uninterested and contrary attitudes have melted away as smiles, laughter and squeals of delight take up temporary residence. I know they will have to return to their responsibilities and heartaches, but for one afternoon, they have permission to laugh and giggle as they become Tarzan or Jane on a swinging rope challenge, cross a raging crocodile river without falling in and work together as a group of elite scientists decoding the combination needed to save an entire village. Not only are they able to tap into their imaginations through play, but they are also able to release stress, embrace the concept of hope and gain a refreshing perspective on their lives. The time I have with them is as special for me as it is for them, and I find myself fulfilled because their lives have been blessed in a profound way and I have been a part of it all simply by playing.
There is always a lesson for me when I finish working and playing with various groups. The most prominent insight confirms not only the importance of play, but also convicts me of how often I do not permit play in my own life. It is fascinating that given the choice to recreate or complete one of my many daily task, I choose the latter in order to avoid the stress of not accomplishing it. Yet, common sense beckons me to give ear to the fact that recreation is the very agent to relieve stress and bring my life back into balance. Experience also tells me that recreation is not going to happen on its own as it did when I was a child. I must be intentional and place a priority on play in the following ways:
- Plan for play by logging it into a weekly calendar.
- Protect the time even when other tasks or people are fighting for first place.
- Anticipate by making a timeline and arrangements.
- Guard the time by eliminating electronic distractions and thoughts of guilt.
- Relax and Enjoy!
So, I have a question to answer, and it is not, “What do I like to do?” It is, “What do I like to play?” I do not believe in making New Year’s resolutions, but as part of my project, I am committing to give myself permission to play. This year I will intentionally take more time to go to the beach, play my bagpipes, scrapbook, take longer walks, enjoy more yoga, read a book, walk in the rain, build a sand castle, crochet, window shop, watch a movie, play tennis, go to the driving range and whatever else I can come up with. If in the midst of playing the To Do list does not get completed, hopefully I will have less stress, be more refreshed and the list won’t seem all that important after all.
I am also interested in what you like to play. Leave me a comment.