This summer I have watched some amazing people put down their pride in order to love on children. Some of them have transformed themselves into imaginary people. Some have given a weekend to kids from another part of town. And some have traveled to another country – just to share their love and increase the joy of children.
Do you remember what it was like to be a child? The imagination you had? The capacity for play? Take for instance, your first experience with a gaming system. Do you remember the fascination you had with the images on the screen? And the new addiction that was created as you became determined to conquer the game or at least better your latest score?
My first exposure to this world that effortlessly combines imagination and competition was at a friend’s house. As soon as I walked in, he told me he had just gotten an Atari and asked if I wanted to play. I said, “Sure!” – not really knowing what I was getting into. And then, for the next few hours, I was introduced to the now classic games of “Pong,” “Pitfall,” and “Centipede.” I have to admit, I wasn’t that good but it didn’t matter. It was an amazing experience and I couldn’t wait until I got to play again.
A couple of years later, I got my own system, but it wasn’t an Atari. It was the next generation…the new and improved system…you know, the one that was going to put Atari to shame with its updated graphics and more expansive game options. You know…Colecovision! I was so impressed with my parents for getting me such an advanced system. My brother and I dove in. We were totally consumed with all the newness and wonder of games like “Donkey Kong Jr.,” “Lady Bug,” and a game we affectionately came to call “Bomb & Burn” – simply because the only way we could get through the maze of obstacles was to go guns blazing as fast as we could.
But then, it happened. My family was invited over for dinner to a young couple’s house. They had become good friends with my parents and my brother and I thought they were pretty cool too. They were in their late twenties, didn’t have any kids and always made time for us.
We had dinner, talked for a bit and then Bobby, the cool family friend, invited us over to see his new toy. He turned on the TV, plugged in a few wires and up comes a screen unlike anything I had seen before. The images were amazing! “This is the latest thing,” Bobby said. “This is a Nintendo!”
That was the first time I ever saw Mario. The first time I ever imagined jumping over a mushroom or intentionally hitting my head against a brick to gain more points. And to this day, if I hear the Mario Brothers theme song – there’s a little bit of joy that comes over my heart.
Childhood is such a magical time. It’s experiences shape us deeply. Both its joy and it’s struggles have a way of hanging on and working their way into the fabric of our hearts as adults. The love we experience. The lessons we learn. The time spent with family. The loving adults who gave selflessly to us – it all impacts us in ways we can’t explain but are forever grateful for.
Question: Who introduced you as a child to little but unbelievable moments of joy? Who is that person who loved you enough to invite you into their world? Who in your past deserves a really big, “THANK YOU FOR LOVING ME LIKE THAT!”
And possibly more important than that…Who are you offering yourself to as an adult? Is there a child in your life that you are pouring yourself into? That you are intentionally working to increase his/her joy?
Believe me, even if it’s just sharing a video game, it could impact a heart forever!