When the hazardous air quality from September’s California fires forced my community to stay inside, we passed our time by playing games together. These moments were imaginative and surprisingly, spiritual. Take for example our unnamed game where we use tennis rackets to bounce a tennis ball to each other while conversing together.
Sometimes we recount stories about our childhood, other times we share about our experiences at our service sites. In any case, there is something meditative about focusing on a fuzzy, green ball while sharing your feelings. My pass to Marne tells her, “I hear how challenging your day was.” Her pass to Ollin says, “I’m glad you had a more restful day today.” And his pass to me says, “it sounds like you’re feeling more connected to your service community.” In this ritual of sorts, the tennis ball channels our feelings, thus allowing us to share our joys and challenges with each other in a light-hearted way.
In fact, I think it is my community’s sense of play that has nourished my soul the most. This ability to recognize and experience spirituality through play reminded me of a quote by Antoine de Saint-Exupéry. In his book, The Little Prince, he writes, “All grown-ups were once children…but only few of them remember it.”
To recover this connection to our inner child, I involved our sense of play during a spirituality night.
I invited my community to watercolor with our non-dominant hand! In some recovery programs, it is believed that writing/drawing with one’s non-dominant hand can empower a connection to their inner child. This has been the case for me.
I instructed my community mates to “let your inner child flow onto the canvas in front of you. After six minutes, we will switch canvases until each canvas has been painted by each of us.”
Initially, I noticed how my community mates struggled to make sense of their left hand’s motor skills. But as colors danced and pigments dried, we became immersed in our art; growing more fluid and genuine as our inner children expressed themselves before us. I felt warmer as I witnessed how our inner children trusted each other enough to mingle with the rich emotions that they etched into one another’s canvas. Each canvas memorialized a unique image, yet they were all bound by the same intention: play.
I am blessed to have a connection with my inner child, and I feel even more gracious because I was able to nourish that connection with my community. These watercolor paintings illustrate our covenant with each other. And more than that, this form of expression taught me that strengthening my relationship to the divine can be as simple as connecting to my childhood.
Isaac Cardenas: San Francisco, California