I was having a conversation with a coworker about all the recent strife and conflict in the world, and the question about the relevance of the work we do arose. When people are dying and so overwhelmed by hatred and anger, does it really make a difference to be focusing on play and recess?
I re-read Dr. King’s Letter from a Birmingham Jail every year in honor of his birthday because I believe it is one of the most beautiful and inspiring pieces of American writing ever penned. But in reflecting on this particular question—the importance and relevance of play during periods of unrest and antagonism—Dr. King’s writing on agape, one of the four major Greek words for love, is what came to mind.
“Agape is understanding, creative, redemptive good will toward all men. Agape is an overflowing love which seeks nothing in return.”
-Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., December, 1967
Play matters for a whole host of reasons, but perhaps most relevant for these current times, play matters because it provides an experiential basis for learning to love one another, even when we can’t agree. Even when we don’t really like one another. Play teaches us how to get along. And, so while it may seem easy to dismiss play, recent events would suggest that nothing could be more important.
Play and Dr. King both also teach us that in attempting to change things for the better, the best place to start is by practicing kindness and empathy with ourselves. I am fond of saying that whatever the question, the answer is more love. But Dr. King said it better:
“I am convinced that love is the most durable power in the world. It is not an expression of impractical idealism, but of practical realism. Far from being the pious injunction of a Utopian dreamer, love is an absolute necessity for the survival of our civilization.”
-Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., 1957
Happy birthday, Dr. King. And happy birthday to us all.