He was as happy as only boy at play can be.
He was swinging on a make-shift swing on a short tree a few feet outside the front door to the shack his family lived in. His swinging was ferocious. He was placing every ounce of his effort into it.
The motion of the swing caught my eye as we were driving through a mountain village along the Djiboutian countryside. It’s not the kind of living conditions most Americans would choose, but it’s normal here. Simple. Primitive. Practical. Small huts are bunched together close to the commerce center of the village. Personal lawns, a luxury mostly for American homes, are impractical as well as impossible in this rocky desert terrain. Any relatively fertile soil – that doesn’t consist of a top layer of centuries-old lava rock stacked above 18-24 inches of dirt/rock – is used for a community garden. The larger lava rocks are moved aside to establish pathways between the huts and through the village.
Those trails surround this boy’s hut. He is playing alone. He is happy. The truth is, soon his days of play will end. He will enter the workforce as an adolescent and work for the rest of his life if he is fortunate…leaving his childhood behind.
In contrast, back home in America, sociologists and anthropologists have noted that during the past 30 years, adolescence has functionally extended into the mid-20’s. Essentially, we are a nation with the reasoning capacity and self-expectation of maturity as that of a teenager. We package “youth” as a virtue in itself and see adults jettisoning commitment, maturity, wisdom, sacrifice, responsibility, and loyalty for the misconception of reliving or extending the perception of their own youth.
Youth loses its value if it is perpetual. Childhood becomes counterfeit if it is continuous.
“You who are young, make the most of your youth. Relish your youthful vigor. Follow the impulses of your heart. If something looks good to you, pursue it. But know also that not just anything goes; You have to answer to God for every last bit of it.“ Ecclesiastes 11:9 (Message translation)
It is with this perspective that I cherish my time with Gabe. Since he’s a four-year old, I encourage him to play as hard as he can, like the boy in the swing. I want him to cherish his time as a boy, yet eventually anticipate his transition to manhood. It will be bittersweet to watch my beautiful little boy grow into manhood, rather than chasing the shadow of his childhood like Peter Pan, refusing to grow up.
“When I was a child, I talked like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I put the ways of childhood behind me.” 1 Corinthians 13:11 (NIV)
Only through learning responsibility, loyalty, sacrifice, trustworthiness, discipline, and the value of every era of our lives can we truly value every passing day and each passing era.
(Word of the Week 22-28FEB) #WOTDseries #Drop14