Friday, March 10, 2017

Making Order From Chaos

Several weeks ago, we were playing with our Mah Jong tiles. We don't play the actual game because I don't think any of us know how, but I trot them out every now and then because they come in a nice little case and the smooth, heavy game pieces are a pleasure to handle. There are always a few kids who take an interest in them, often building small table top structures, but they are even more often left alone for long stretches of our days together. At one point I passed the unoccupied table where I'd put them to start the day to find that one of the kids had arranged them purposefully. I hadn't seen who had done it, but they had apparently been studying the markings and had played a quiet matching game. 

I love these sorts of discoveries, evidence of a child's brain at work. I find several each day, but the story they tell is not always this clear so I took a few photos. Later, at the end of the day, I found that someone had put them all into their carrying case, failing to arrange them with the care it takes to make them fit properly. The lid was nevertheless snapped shut. I have no way of knowing if this was the work of the same child or not, but whoever it was had struggled to get that lid to close as evidenced by the way it bulged over the improperly stacked tiles.

Not long thereafter we were celebrating Valentine's Day. I've already told you the story of the man who brought the children candy in some festive metal cans. Pastor Gay had distributed the contents to children who didn't have as much as we do, but had returned the empty cans to us to use as playthings. I had positioned several Valentines Day themed items on our red table -- love rats, love ducks, some felt heart puzzles, and a so on -- and thought the cans were suitably festive enough to include there as well. I had a vague idea the kids would enjoy putting things into those cans and they did, stuffing them full, dumping them out, carrying them by their handles. 

At the end of the day, I found that the cans had been returned to the table, but the rest of the materials were missing. I hunted in the most likely places, but no luck. I even went down the hall to check the kids' cubbies thinking that perhaps someone had attempted to take the prized items home. It happens. Finally, feeling a bit frustrated, I opened the cans and, sure enough, that's where the materials had been stashed. I should have known, but as I opened each can, removing the contents in preparation for the following day, I realized that this stuff had not been tucked away randomly: there was one can for the rats, one for the ducks, one for the puzzles and so on. I was immediately reminded of my mysterious Mah Jong arranger.

Earlier this week, I'd put our four "Barrel of Monkeys" sets on that same red table. At the end of the day, I found that someone had taken the time to sort the red ones into the red barrel, the green into the green barrel and the blue ones into the two blue barrels. This was starting to become a mystery I needed to solve.

Yesterday, I illustrated a post with photos of buttons and muffin tins. Honestly, I'd snapped the pictures for no other reason than I thought they would make colorful illustrations for the blog, but when I later looked at them, I saw that someone had meticulously sorted those buttons by color. So the following day, I planted myself at the button table, determined to figure out who it was. I sat there a long time, but finally, as I was about to give up my vigil, my mystery organizer revealed himself by quietly recreating those photos I'd taken the day before.

I watched him go about his business, admiring his concentration, and experiencing his satisfaction of making order from chaos by proxy. Mystery solved.

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