Have you ever watched groups of kids playing at a park? Or, do you remember being a kid playing at a park? Well, it's really a pretty amazing thing. Kids love to play. It doesn't matter who is around or who might be looking or what other people might think - they just play for the love of playing.
Besides this, they will play with anyone. They are not concerned with appearance, race, socioeconomic status, political views, language, culture, sex, age, clothing or weight. There can be a group of kids who have never met each other before, and all it takes is for one to say "One Two Three - Not It!" and the game is on. They will run, tag, make and alter rules, and play happily together for hours. They will play until dark, until they are called home by their parents. They may or may not ask for each other's names - but they consider each other friends - and are outwardly happy to see one another at the park time and time again. Tag is like an unofficial language of childhood - it is played and understood by children all over the world.
This phenomenon makes me wonder why we willingly change. Why does such easy playful joy disappear from so many people as they grow older? Why do we stop playing a game that gives us a joyful connection to others? At what point does a person change from living with such boundless, uninhibited, uncomplicated happiness. Happiness simply to be alive and to be able to run and move and play - enjoying the company of other people without restraint - without feeling self-conscious, judgmental, or troubled? Why do so many humans seem to lose their ability to befriend other humans without reservation - without over-analyzing? And, when do people develop a sense of jealousy and of desperation? I have seen kids play for hours - not knowing or being particularly concerned with whether or not they will ever see each other again. Children live in the joy of the moment, unconcerned with how their playmates will treat them tomorrow - untroubled by thoughts of whether or not the other players will call them on the phone, or whether or not the other person has real feelings for them.
I imagine the shift takes place somewhere around puberty - a time when children experience changes that can be, at the same time, both exciting and embarrassing. I remember puberty as being a time of wanting and enjoying friends, but also as a time of new self-awareness and uncertainty - a new concern with the judgement and comments of others. I think puberty might be a time when many children actually lose the best part of childhood - because it is the time when they become concerned about the sentiments of others, a time of over-concern over looking immature or uncool.
But now, with puberty being about five (or so) years behind me - I am beginning to recognize the wisdom of children. I am beginning to realize that happiness comes from living life without concern for the opinions of others. I am beginning to understand that by doing what brings joy in any given moment, ones spirit lightens and begins to soar. If I could have one wish for my children, it would be that they could hold on to the joy of childish play without worrying about the views of others.
So, what would happen if I went up to a stranger, or a co-worker, or a friend or family member and simply did as children do - I tagged them, announcing "You're It!" Would I be met with resistance, would I be considered certifiable, would people turn away from me, or would a wonderful game begin? Well, I, for one, am interested in finding out. I plan on testing it out tomorrow at work. I am going to start a few games of tag just to see how people react. I will let you know what kinds of responses I get - and if you decide to shed some of those layers of boring grown-upedness, and try it out, too, please let me know what happens for you. Imagine a world-wide, no-boundaries game of tag - that could solve all sorts of problems.
- Eeny, meeny, miny, moe,
- Catch a tiger by the toe.
- If he hollers let him go,
- Eeny, meeny, miny, moe.
- My mother says to pick the very best one,
- And YOU are IT! CAN'T CATCH ME!!!!