I have been blessed throughout my life to work with and serve a wide variety of people. I enjoy meeting others and learning about their lives. More often than not, I find something in common with everyone I talk to. There are a lot of things to be learned while working alongside or serving others, but I think one of the most significant is the benefit of play.
words + photographs RICH LEE
Given the opportunity to clear my calendar and choose any activity for the day, most would classify my choice as work, not play. For someone like me, just hearing the suggestion that fun is more important than progress starts to make my back a little stiff and a retort take shape in my mind. I get as much adrenaline from a job well done as a victory in competition. I am what some would call a “3” and others might label a workaholic. I seem to have an internal compass that tends to point to accomplishment rather than recreation. When deadlines are looming, my first thought is not, “How can I make this more fun for everyone?” but something more like, “Why can’t everyone work a little faster?”
When deadlines are looming, my first thought is not, “How can I make this more fun for everyone?” but something more like, “Why can’t everyone work a little faster?”
Some of what has been difficult for me to reconcile in the pursuit of intentional, purposeful play is that my extroverted personality tends to get me labeled as “fun-loving, easy-going, a happy guy … .” So, when I have been challenged to consider play is missing in my leadership, I tend to lean on those personal traits as a defense mechanism. I am not inclined to value play within the group as highly as achievement. However, I have learned working together makes you feel part of the whole; playing together nurtures a sense of team.
Being part of a ministry which features camp experiences for the whole family has also vividly demonstrated for me another important aspect of play. Play is one of the most effective ways to reinforce core values, desirable character traits or best practices. The cliche phrase, “More is caught than taught” describes some of the effectiveness of play when working with or serving a group of people. By facilitating times of play which reward or emphasize the values of your group, you can generate far more momentum in the right direction than with instruction or demonstration.
Play is a catalyst, as well as the apex, for some of the most impactful and longest-lasting events one can experience.
I believe the most lasting result of play is personal connections that are more deeply rooted and rapidly formed than any working relationship can generate. A great joy I have experienced from time to time is a combination of work and play. As play is incorporated into the rhythm of work or service, the results are better for all involved. When those complimentary experiences are lived out with a group, the personal connections are hard to ignore or discount. I have worked with or served thousands of people along the way, and I have played with hundreds in random or community-based recreation leagues. Most of their names, and as I get older, even their faces begin to fade from memory. But with great joy I can recall minute, specific details of each relationship that has involved both work and play.
It has been said that a picture is worth a thousand words, but I have ascertained that one memory is worth a thousand efforts. Most of my memories are connected to times of play, not accomplishment; fun, not sweat and tears; laughter, not consistent focus. For every fun memory I recall, I can quickly appreciate the hours of work or thousands of calories spent leading up to that moment of play. Our drive for success or completion of a task does not have to be exclusive of the fun memories which can serve as the card catalog of the story of our lives.
When it comes to play, the thing I have learned most from those I have worked or served with is that it is not a childish, optional behavior. It is not the opposite of accomplishment. It is not the ultimate expression of laziness. Play is a catalyst, as well as the apex, for some of the most impactful and longest-lasting events one can experience. RL