Virtual Voices

Unplayed snow

Family

We were on our way home from homeschool P.E. today when, while stopped at a red light, my 7-year-old noticed the building to our left. This building, a bank, had a beautiful yard full of crisp, untrampled snow. As it has been several days since the snow actually fell here in St. Louis, you can imagine what the snow in our yard looks like with four winter-loving kids bursting at the seams to get out in it every day. My youngest saw this accumulation of seemingly still fresh flakes and proclaimed with dismay, "Look at all that unplayed snow!"

The conversation that followed between her and her 8-year-old sister centered on how tragic it was that such a large patch of their favorite thing was right there and nobody had either been allowed to play in it or had bothered to. I'm not sure which was the worse sin in their estimation, but the sentiment struck me as being semi-insightful.

The late Mike Yaconelli, founder of Youth Specialties, wrote a book before he died titled Dangerous Wonder: The Adventure of Childlike Faith. In the first chapter, Yaconelli told a similar snow story involving his 2-year-old nephew's first real experience with the white stuff:

"His eyes stretched wide with astonishment, as though the only way to apprehend what he was seeing was for his eyes to become big enough to contain it all. He stood motionless, paralyzed. It was too much for a two-year-old, too much for an any-year-old (too often, when a person gets older, the person's 'too-much detector' malfunctions, corroded by busyness and technology)."

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Yaconelli continued:

"Just behind his large eyes you could see sparks flying from the crosscurrents of millions of electric stimuli overwhelming the circuit breakers of his previously small world. His mind was a confusion of strange, conflicting realities: white, cold, floating, flying, tingling, electric, landing, touching, sparkling, melting-causing an overload so great, so overwhelming, he fell backward-a slow-motion landing in the billowy whiteness, the snow tenderly embracing him. He had given up trying to understand snow and had given in to experiencing snow."

I think my "too-much detector" has indeed malfunctioned. When was the last time I was dismayed by a lack of unutilized resources, be they natural or creative or otherwise? I stay so focused on doing, doing, doing and on the monotony of the mundane that I forget the process of being, being, being and the pleasure of play. My kids know the value of unplayed snow; I seem to just know the nuisance of it.

I've had one specific child begging me to take her sledding for the past four days. I really don't like the cold and do my best to stay out of it as much as I can, so I've avoided her request with one legitimate excuse after another. But I've also avoided looking her in the eyes as I've made my excuses, and that call to enjoy the unplayed snow is echoing in my ears. I'm setting out the snow pants tonight; tomorrow, I'm going to answer it.

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