This article originally appeared in the World Orphans Spring Insight Magazine 2018.
When I was growing up, my favorite game was Battleship. G-4: miss . . . B-7: miss . . . E-9: hit. You sunk my battleship!
In our home today, Battleship has been replaced by Apples to Apples, Charades, or Pretty Pretty Princess. Can you tell I have a house full of girls? We love to play—inside, outside, riding in the car—together as a family.
Mr. Rogers once said that “play is often talked about as if it were a relief from serious learning. But for children, play is serious learning. Play is really the work of childhood.”
Play viewed through the lens of “the work of childhood” is profound. I was recently reminded just how profound play is for children, particularly those that have experienced trauma, when a team of people from NBC’s American Ninja Warrior set up a course in Haiti for children in our program—a safe place to run, laugh, and be a kid. The children in Haiti were gifted with a safe place to play.
Play carries a therapeutic and healing quality with it. Dr. Karyn Purvis, co-author of The Connected Child, says, “If a child learns to laugh and giggle, they can’t be so terrified anymore.” Oh, we aim to be a part of that kind of healing.
This issue of World Orphans Insight Magazine is dedicated to play. You will read about the course in Haiti, and you will discover how astonished kids were to see patches of grass big enough to accommodate endless running. You will get the perspective of teams that interact and build relationships with kids by playing, and you will learn about how play equips kids to overcome trauma. You will read about how playful interaction was critical for refugee families in Kurdistan as they endured displacement.
We know you will enjoy these stories. Our hope is that they will remind you of your childhood while affirming that hope and joy can remain in the midst of trials. We know life is certainly not all fun and games. We’ve witnessed the struggle, the pain, and the heartbreak; however, we’ve seen the redemptive joy in the games and play—moments when things don’t seem quite so bad.
One day the Lord will return and make all things new, with no more tears, no more suffering, no more orphans, and no more refugees. Until then, we press on as we celebrate the gift of play.