I grew up in “Jack and Jill’s Daycare.” It was me and about 30 other kids. Mom would drop me off in the mornings, I’d watch cartoons for an hour or so, go outside and play, eat lunch, drink Kool-Aid, take a nap, and go play some more.
Truth be told, it was awesome. It’s where I learned how to play every sport with a ball, Freeze Tag and Hide-n-Seek, how to build sandcastles, how to win at Tic-Tac-Toe, and how to use my imagination. It’s also where I developed my love for peanut butter and crackers. Oh man…
Mrs. Wood ran the daycare and she was a no-nonsense kind of person. If you were fighting or crying you had to come in and take a nap. This was also the time of “Spare the rod and spoil the child.” If you had to take a nap, it usually meant you got your bottom scorched by a paddle first. That was humiliation – no one wanted that, it showed weakness. “Dang, did you see how many times John Boy got hit?” Mrs. Wood was a brilliant motivator. Her approach to discipline taught us the value of cooperation and smiling. We learned how to work out our problems and keep them from escalating to the point of no return – the slap & nap!
For 11 years, that was my life; lots of peanut butter, Kool-Aid, and play, with the occasional nap. Some days just get out of hand… Anyway, the great thing about growing up at the daycare was that I grew up in a world where physical play and creative imagination was normal.
We would play outside for six to eight hours in the summer and we never got tired. We did occasionally get hot. North Carolina summers can be brutal. But the point is we had fun. We played hard every day and we recovered on the weekend.
As a result, we all moved well – we were all athletes, we could handle social situations and pick up on emotional cues, and we were just generally happy. We were happy not because we were kids, but because we were living.
More to the point, we were living how we were designed. We were moving for fun, playing games, creating stories, and laughing day in and day out. I think this is one of the keys to enjoying life. It’s the “secret” every child knows and perhaps the one “clue” most adults don’t have. And yet most of us knew it at one time and most of us witness it on any given day we see children playing.
We often hear that happiness is a choice – and I believe it is, but I also believe that happiness is a consequence of choosing to live out our design. Our emotions are attached to how we move and if we move. You can easily see the joy on the face of a child as they play. You can also see the distant yet fixed wonder in their eyes as they discover and create with there imaginations. What if that was never supposed to end?
What if the choice to be happy was a deeper choice to move often for fun and to create or imagine ideas and follow your passions? What if play is really the essence of living; exploring, joke telling, skipping, laughing, drawing, creating, singing, and dreaming. What if we only really age because we quit doing these things and we become “serious” adults in the “real” world? What if the “real” world, as serious as it is, was really a lie and the true world was found behind the choice to smile, move, create and play?
Think about it.
How different would your perception of the world be if you felt good? If you were happy, moved well and felt amazing, how would your social interactions with others be? Do you think the world would look different to you? Would it respond differently to you? If the answer is “yes,” then maybe that world is the true world you create or reveal through your joy.
I guess I’m trying to say, life is meant to be enjoyed. We all knew this once upon a time ago. Most of us did, anyway. Enjoyment is tied to what we do, how we move if we move, how we create if we create. In other words, enjoyment, our joy, is tied to our design and maybe the easiest thing we can do to become happy and enjoy this life is to engage in that design.
Maybe we simply need to remember how to play, how to explore, how to imagine and how to create. Maybe instead of faking a smile to hide behind, we can simply release the smile that comes from within. It’s woven inside of us and it is the truest expression of who we are. And like the movements we were born with, it is always there whether we engage in it or not.
So the message is this: Play and smile often. Or else you get the Slap & Nap – a lot harder and quicker than you would like…