In the photo above, Palestinian children have forayed into and area of their neighborhood that has been destroyed by an Israeli bombing, and they have discovered that, out of the rubble, they can make a seesaw big enough for several of them to ride at once. (Hopefully the older kids will give the littlest one a chance!)
For children, anyplace can be a playground. Whether the scene of destruction was caused by war, tornado, hurricane, or poverty, all the world is fertile ground for exploration, fascination, and play. As we get older, we tend to see damaged places as so deplorable, so full of memories cut in half that we do not want to see them or even consider them. We fear we will break ourselves if we encounter them fully. Often we simply assume that there is absolutely nothing to be discovered there that can offer beauty or delight.
Radical Joy for Hard Times believes that both mourning and play are appropriate in wounded places.
The first step of the Earth Exchange, our signature event, which any individual or community can create, is simply to go to a wounded place. Just finding the willingness to face a damaged place with openness and curiosity usually turns out to be far harder than actually stepping onto that once whole, now broken land. Once there we tell stories about what the place has meant to us, both before and after it was damaged. We spend perhaps 20 or 30 minutes getting to know the place as it is now, looking for what calls our attention, what holds fascination. Finally, we give back an act of beauty, usually a bird made out of found materials.
Through this approach, we bring to wounded places both our honest feelings about what has happened and our willingness to be in healing relationship to the place in the future. We bring curiosity, the sense that there is a surprise to be had, something wondrous to be discovered, even under the most tragic of circumstances. And we bring our own spirit of creativity, the willingness to make something beautiful out of waste and destruction.
In this way do light and dark, play and mourning, beauty and destruction balance each other.