Wednesday, July 10, 2019

The Beauty That Children Always Create

He had taken off his shoe to shake out sand and was struggling to get it back on. He asked me for help, but since my hands were occupied, I answered, "I'm busy right now. You can wait for me or find someone else to help you."

We're a cooperative school, so there are always plenty of adults around and it was these "someones" I was thinking about. Instead, a girl his own age who he had only met the day before, a girl whose name he didn't even know and who didn't know his, offered, "I'll help you." He accepted, so she began to wrangle his foot and ankle in the effort.

The Woodland Park Summer Program is currently in progress, two week summer sessions in which we enroll mixed-age groups who spend all their time on our state-of-the-art junkyard playground. Superficially, it's a lot like our regular school year, but the part that's missing is the sense of community that grows over nine months of coming together day-after-day with the same people. It's like the first couple weeks of the school year over and over, a time when we don't really know one another as individuals, let alone as a community.

Yet still, moments like this one show me that even two days in, the seeds have already begun to sprout, this desire to help, to take part, to form ourselves into something larger than our individual selves. Yesterday, I watched children pushing one another on the swings. Children created simple games together, collecting "gems" (florist marbles), digging channels in the sand in which the water from our hand-pump could flow, forming play "families," and approaching one another with sentences that began, "Let's . . . " the invitations that form the starting point of community.

Not all of them have begun to connect with the other children. Some are barely two-years-old and perhaps not developmentally there, some are temperamentally slower to warm or more inclined toward solo play, but the beginnings of "we" are well underway. The process will include both compassion and conflict, of course, but it's one of the fundamental activities of humans, to form community, perhaps even counting as our purpose. It's the beauty that children always create when left to play together amongst beautiful things, even if that beauty is that of a junkyard.

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