catapult magazine

catapult magazine

Vol 10, Num 14 :: 2011.07.22 — 2011.09.01


What time is it?

What is your idea of a fun evening activity with the family? If you are with my family, there is a good chance you will be sitting around the dining room table with an interesting game in front of you. My oldest brother, Jason, is an avid game collector. He has stacks and stacks of games like Settlers of Catan, Shogun, Ticket to Ride, Pandemic, Carcassonne, Apples to Apples, Blokus and so on. He has people over to his house all the time to play games. His eyes sparkle if you ask him to play.

Usually, when my family members are all together, Jason will gently hint to everyone that we could play a game if we wanted to. That really means he is eager to play some games and is looking for some counterparts. Knowing that it will be a good time, we all consent. Many laughs commence. Someone makes popcorn and sets out bowls of M&Ms. Hours later, late into the night, we are still there.

Some people think of board games as something only kids partake in, but there is something so engaging about playing games, whether it be simple “children’s” games or complex strategic games. It gets your mind working in ways you normally don’t indulge in as an adult. It awakens your creativity and your childhood memories. It requires you to dig deep to rediscover that inner child. It also helps you let go of all the stress of your daily work life while focusing on something totally unrelated. I love the way playing games can bring everyone together. It doesn’t require special skills or knowledge. You might be great at trivia, but lose to your younger brother, or, as in my case, you might be good with words and spelling, but can never win a game of Bananagrams.  Honestly, I have never won, but I love playing that game.

During high school and most of college, I worked as a counselor every summer at my church’s summer camp for kids in elementary school. A lot of them needed a good influence in their young lives and I was glad to be someone who could encourage them. At the beginning and the end of the day, we would bring out a whole cart of games. A huge selection of games was at their disposal. They could pick a game and play with other kids, or with the counselors. Some of my fondest memories are of when I would sit cross-legged on the carpet and just play a game with one child, or a group.

During this game time, I found that the kids would open up to me as they played. They would sit and talk to me and share stories about their families and their lives. Often, I would find myself playing games with some of the boys who tended to cause trouble during the day. That one-on-one attention is exactly what they were so desperate for, and trust me, they didn’t forget that I was the one who sat and listened to them. That’s how I became friends with the kids. I spent everyday with them and got to know them over a whole summer, and following summers when they would return. I wasn’t a mean counselor who was there to put them in time-out if they didn’t listen. I was there to be a friend. But it was that game time that offered the opportunity to reach them — to hear their troubles and thoughts, to offer encouragement and reminders of good morals and behavior. That is the time they truly listened to me, too — over games of Mancala and UNO.

Don’t underestimate the power of game time.

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