When I was a child and the weather was bad, my grandmother would sing, “Rain, rain go away. Damian wants to go out and play.”

Anyone who has visited my apartment has seen something that might seem simple but actually has a very tragic backstory. Above the doorway that separates my living room from my kitchen is a word spelled out with four large black wooden letters – PLAY. The letters were purchased many years ago to honor a little boy whose life was taken far too early. The young boy was known for asking people if they wanted to play – he just loved to play. The horrible irony to the story is the fact that he was playing in his neighbor’s driveway, but the neighbor didn’t see him there while pulling in. The entire situation was heart wrenching. My adoptive father lost a little brother in a very similar way many decades ago. Again, it was the kind of incident that people never really get over.

As a child, I spent countless hours outside playing. Growing up in upstate New York meant that the number of nice days were limited compared to a state like North Carolina. I took my Tonka trucks outside to the gravel area next to the driveway. There, I crawled around making roads and pretending to be a heavy equipment operator. After moving to Virginia, I continued to play outside as much as I could.

As a father, I spent thousands of hours on the floor playing with my sons. I probably built miles of Thomas the Tank Engine track as well as thousands of different Lego creations. As my sons grew older, the play evolved into throwing a baseball or a frisbee for hours.

As a 50-year-old man whose sons are now adults themselves, my “play” has become a lot different. Yesterday, for instance, my close friends and I met at a beautiful winery in the Yadkin Valley where we spent the entire afternoon on a sunny patio that looked out at the Virginia mountains. There, we laughed until our stomachs hurt, enjoying the gorgeous spring weather and each other’s company. That is our version of “playing” now.

As we go through life, we sometimes forget to do the things we loved as children. That’s very understandable. Life becomes busy. As adults, we accumulate more and more responsibilities and our priorities change. But, when life becomes hectic, think about that little boy as well as that four letter word and try to make some time to PLAY.


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