Peace Is Child’s Play

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Peace Is Child’s Play

Nelson Mandela wrote that, “In South Africa children must be able to play again.” &sup5 Why?  The reason children must be able to play again all over the world is that peace is child’s play.  In their original play children conspire with Creation to engage us in a model of peace accessible but hidden, suggested, but ignored.  This is the meaning for which we have been searching all along. Imagine, for example, a world with no winning or losing, no sides, no fault, no blame, no revenge, no self-defense, and no enemies. For some adults such a world seems downright boring; to many others this would be a fairy tale world. It was to me too. Such a world may seem unbelievable but children have shown me that it is not unlivable. With such a new understanding dismissing children to “go out and play” takes on a profoundly new meaning. 

A number of years ago i received the following note from an Hispanic teenager in an East Los Angeles school. Jose wrote it to me after our first play session.

To: Fred (the wrestler)

From: Jose

The next time you come ask for Jose. So I can wrestle you one on one. Just don’t hurt me.  Let me hurt you. Just playing. Be careful with the bears and wolves.

Jose was the smallest of a group of eight young teenagers in an East Los Angeles middle school. These boys went to school but hung out in their counselor’s office almost every day. One day in June the counselor called me and asked if I’d come and play with them. I went for three hours every Friday for ten weeks. Jose was the first to play with me When his counselor called me to read his note she shared that she had also called Jose because he had stopped coming to her office as often as he had been doing. Afraid that he was on the streets, she asked him where he was. He replied, “In class.” Stunned she asked, “What are you doing there?” He said, “Well after listening to Fred talk about the wolves and playing with him I realized that I didn’t need to get into a contest with my teachers.” Jose took responsibility for his actions. Something he had not done before.

In one of our play sessions Jose stopped me and asked why we were playing. He asked me if I wanted him to get out of the gang and did I want him to put his gun down.

“Do you understand that everyone on my block is in the gang?”

“If I said yes, would you listen to me?”

He smiled his no.

“We’re playing to make you safer on the street.”

“How’s that?”

“When you walk down your street and feel unsafe what do you do?”

He reached behind his back and imitated pulling the gun he kept in his waistband. “ I pull it.”

“And then?”

“I shoot.”

“ At who?”

“Doesn’t matter.”

“If you shoot a child or a mother, it’s OK?”

He shrugs his shoulders.

“This is why we’re playing. I stood up and centered myself. “Did you see it? When you walk down the street and feel unsafe you will move to your center rather than reach for your gun.”

“OK, I get it. Let’s play.”

At our ninth session Jose arrived very happy. He said, “I did it. I did it.”


“I put it down.”

Jose had put his gun down, not because I told him to. Which i never did. But because he felt that safety was a matter of heart not guns.

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I can’t believe people tie children up in bags to throw out with the trash. That is the single most heartbreaking thing I’ve read in a very long time.

This is the most moving and magical article! I’m sitting here in work trying not to just break down crying..  Wow..

Thanks so much for posting this. I’m forwarding the link.

Posted by Chandira  on  10/08  at  08:48 AM
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