Have you ever watched a child at play? Watching my niece play is one of my favorite activities. She is completely absorbed in the process of building and creating. In the midst of her play, she sings, laughs, grieves, and works with all of her senses. She furrows her eyebrows and looks around at the tools she has at hand, touching and exploring each of them. Her shovels, plastic boats, and princesses all bring her to wonder and curiosity. I can see her wheels spinning as she dreams of what they will be in the new land she is building.
The most inspiring part of watching her play is that she isn’t concerned about what will happen next, she is completely present, lost in the moment. While lost in play, she risks the judgment of what others might think about her creation, of another destroying it, and/or it not lasting forever. I get to watch her live in a world that is structured around the risk of creating, rather than the potential for failure.
As I watch my niece playing in her sandbox, I am led to a deeper internal question: is she working or playing? Or, is her play a glimpse of a world in which the two are intertwined in some magical way?
The main difference between work and play is that work is done for a specific purpose, while play has no goal other than re-creation. Playing allows us to restore mentally and physically from living a completely purpose driven life. We need not roam too far from the child in the sandbox to remember the pointless pleasures of childhood play. If we don’t find adult versions (or an adult sized sandbox) of this kind of play, we’ll give up, burnout, stress out, and ultimately not be present for our lives.
What do you need in order to rekindle the desire for the divine union of work and play that you abandoned long ago?
Kate Hughes is a therapist at Sage Hill Counseling in Nashville, TN. She was led to Sage Hill through her own personal story of recovery and interned for a year and a half while earning her Masters in Counseling at Trevecca Nazarene University.