As I watched kids at the playground, it seemed as though I could put every child in one of two categories. There was one group in it for themselves. They pushed themselves to the front of the line, often with a wiggle move rather than an outright shove. They seemed to be looking for constant praise and attention. The need to attention was as much from peers as it was from parents. The scene was clearly all about them. They wanted it that way. They were going to do everything possible to ensure it was that way. One did not need any imagination to understand their intent, drive, and focus.
In contrast, there were kids playing for the sake of playing. While parents mattered, the focus of these children was on the others that were around them. I found myself drawn to their interactions. To describe that I was seeing I found myself reaching for words and phrases like selfless, acting with kindness, wanting to be a part of something, community, and caring. There was a wonderful give and take. If they bumped into each other, they smiled and laughed together. If they reached the first step of the slide’s ladder, one willingly gave way. Everything about their interactions spoke of fun, possibilities, and hope.
As I put the kids into the two categories, I realized that there was a distinct difference in how the parents were interacting with them and each other. In the first case, there was an undercurrent of tension that played itself out in the ways they parents spoke to their children, responding to incidents, and even how they treated other parents. If I put this in God context, then I would say that “God-defiers are always in trouble; God-affirmers find themselves loved every time they turn around.” (Psalm 32.10)
Watching kids play brings back great memories and reminds me of truths that do not change. When I play today, I hope I am a kid who is kicking up some sand with other kids, all playing for the sake of playing.