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Opinion column: Go find a sandbox

Posted: Tuesday, Jul 1st, 2014

It is interesting how life progresses. As kids, we play, explore, dive into new experiences as though they are large bowls of chocolate ice cream and then play some more.

As we get older, we exchange play for work and often view new experiences only as an opportunity for additional work to be added to our substantial to-do lists. As adults, we tend view the world through pinpoints poked through pieces of cardboard rather than through the panoramic lens of youth.

My 2-year-old grandson has a huge view of the world. He is absolutely fearless. The world, and the people he shares it with, are to be explored, with enthusiasm and openness. It will be a shame and a loss, though probably inevitable with time, when he begins to view the world through a pinhole rather than from a mountaintop.

Popeye just turned 2, and I built him a sandbox for his birthday. Needless to say, I hit a home run with that gift. He has three favorite exclamations, “Whatchadoin” (pronounced as one word), “Go outszide” (Z added) and “Play in sanbox” (no D).

Amazingly, for a child who seems to have only one speed, turbocharged, he will sit and play quietly for long periods of time by himself in the sandbox.

Digging, filling up sand pails and burying his feet seem to give him incredible enjoyment. But, he is happy to share the pleasure of the sandbox with anyone else who also likes to dig his or her feet in the sand.

At first, I just sat and watched him play, but one afternoon I ventured into the sandbox to dig alongside him.

We filled up pails with sand, turned them over, emptied them out and then filled them up again.

We buried our feet in the sand and giggled when we kicked them free. He has a giggle that is more contagious than a computer virus.

He will share his sandbox with anybody, even a grandfather who had lost touch with the power of play in a simple sandbox.

As I sat with him in his sandbox, it occurred to me a universal industry has evolved to help mankind relieve the tensions of a very stressful world. Prescription drugs, dietary supplements, exercises, workouts, books, meditations and the soothing recordings of nature’s sounds have been developed and are commercially available for the sole purpose of reducing stress.

But, as I sat there with the cool sand covering most of my lower extremities, it occurred to me there is a better way to rid ourselves of stress ... go build a sandbox. If you cannot afford the material for an adult-sized sandbox, just pour a few bags of sand on the ground, sit your butt squarely in the middle of the mound of silicon dioxide and start digging your toes in.

Build a castle, dig a hole or just fill up a bucket with the granules, pour them out and start the whole process over again.

If there is someone in your life who you believe is causing your stress, invite them over to play in your sandbox.

Rather than spending hundreds or thousands of dollars on therapy, couples could go in the backyard and play in the sandbox together a few hours a week. Let the natural instinct to dig your toes in take over. Don’t fight it; just let it take over. Too many of us have marginalized the importance of play in our lives.

Golf doesn’t count. Golf is not play. For most of us, it is a frustrating attempt at play but with rules, etiquette and scoring. It has more the feel of work than of play. Plus, it is more expensive than a sandbox.

The SF 104 debacle could probably have been completely avoided if Gov. Mead and Mrs. Hill had taken a little time to sit in a sandbox together.

We spend millions of dollars each year on international diplomacy. A better use of taxpayer dollars would be to convert Air Force One into a giant traveling sandbox and invite world leaders to share some toe-wiggling time with each other. No cameras, no sound bites. Just sand, a few pails, a couple of shovels and enough Tonka toy trucks to keep everybody happy.

It is unfortunate the world is more problematic and complicated than what a sandbox can probably solve. But we are the ones that have made it problematic and complicated.

In 1960, the Navy adopted “keep it simple, stupid” (KISS) as its design principle. The KISS principle states that systems work best if they are kept simple rather being made complicated – a principle most of us would do well to incorporate into our daily lives.

There aren’t many things more simple than a sandbox.

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