Special thanks to Betty Gail Jones for serving as today’s guest contributor and sharing her reflections with us.
Ajay is now the ripe old age of six and lives in the United States with his parents. I am still learning how to better live by watching him play.
My grandson, Ajay, is four years old. When he got off the plane after evacuation from his home in Nepal due to a massive earthquake, he was clutching the body of a yellow toy passenger jet with no wings. The tail fins and also the main wings had been broken off. Lest you think differently, it had not lost its wings due to the massive destruction of a natural disaster, but due to the natural disaster of a four-year-old boy’s play. I pondered it. He had a firm grasp upon this fuselage, and one knew it must be precious – for he had not thrown it aside nor left it behind as they began their long journey to the United States.
Why would he have kept it? Knowing that he has crossed the ocean on such a plane not less than eight times in his four and a half years, surely he was aware that the main component, which would enable this plane to fly, was missing. It was a broken toy. He had a couple of other nice planes that were whole and complete, yet he carried this small crayon-shaped piece of tin across the ocean as one of his choice toys with which to play.
One day, when all was quiet and he was having “down time,” I observed his intense personal playtime. He had all of his cars lined up as always and had created a masterful airport out of blocks. The planes were docked at their gates. The cars and planes moved at his will. As I glanced over my computer, I could see the broken plane lying on the ottoman airport in front of me. A finger-driven truck rolled over to the plane under Ajay’s keen supervision. In a soft voice, not meant for a by-stander’s ears, he said in his best ‘truck” voice, “OK, now we have to move this broken plane over here to get fixed.” Ah-ha! I had a great revelation with which to make a great application! The broken plane was not only cherished, but could still fulfill the purpose for which it was intended! It was made for play and even in its broken state had usefulness.
I began to think of what I had previously pondered in broader terms. What if we treated people like Ajay had treated his plane? He could have thrown it away when it became quadriplegic, in its own way. When the first wing broke off, really even then, it might have been considered useless as a toy plane. As it became more and more damaged, he could have thrown it into the bottomless pit of broken toys and never played with it again. When scurrying around gathering the most precious items with which to evacuate a devastated country in a possibly compromised apartment with the ground still shaking violently periodically, he surely could have overlooked this already shattered toy. Side by side with the complete and whole airplanes and other precious treasures, the fuselage went into the backpack. And now, he was using the airport crew of his own making to support and fix the yellow passenger plane, which was broken. There was no doubt of its beauty and usefulness… just as there is no doubt of the beauty and usefulness of people who have experienced trauma or pain that has left them disfigured or impaired in some way. They may not be used in the exact same way as before, but if only someone would pick them up and show them they are loved, wanted, and needed, they could still fulfill their purpose for which they were created.
Later, I took that little yellow body, got out my scissors and some black foam board, drew my best idea of what an airplane wing might look like. I restored it using my trusty hot-glue gun and materials that I already had on hand. It wasn’t perfect, and we had several repairs that had to be done over the course of a couple of weeks, but that airplane was now fit to fly in any little boy’s imagination!
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