by Father Mark Goldasich
Maybe it’s just the heat, but for some reason I feel a pressing need to come clean about something from my childhood.
I owe an apology to those who knew me “way back when,” especially my cousins and classmates. This is difficult for me to say, but I didn’t trust you when it came to my toys. Whenever you came over to play at my house, I was meticulous in hiding all the “good stuff.” Childhood friends never got to see my fleet of pristine Matchbox cars, many in their original boxes; several intact Pez dispensers, filled with that chalky tasting candy; a couple of plastic eggs with clean Silly Putty; and several boxes of Colorforms, with all those little vinyl cutouts neatly resting in their proper places in the tray they came in. I suspect it was because I was an only child, but my toys were important and special to me and I took good care of them.
No doubt all these childhood flashbacks were triggered after watching the movie, “Toy Story 3,” that came out a few weeks ago. It was a nostalgic and touching film. I could relate to Andy, the boy in the movie. Even though he’s heading off to college, he can’t quite part with the toys of his childhood. Those playthings were not just inanimate objects to him; they were special. Those toys kept him company and opened up whole new imaginative worlds for him. They couldn’t just be tossed into the garbage. And if they were going to be donated, the toys had to go to a good home— one where they would be treasured, played with and treated with care.
After “Toy Story 3,” I dug out a favorite escapist book from my shelves, called “Kid Stuff: Great Toys from Our Childhood,” by David Hoffman (San Francisco: Chronicle Books, 1996; 107 pgs.). In the book’s introduction, the author says it well: “As kids, toys were our center and our solace. It isn’t hard to understand why; no matter how little we were, with toys, we were in control. We may have been too young to cross the street alone, but alone in our bedrooms or dens, we could be the parent, make a million or rule entire worlds.”
So, why all this talk of toys? You can blame the recent graduates of Holy Spirit School in Overland Park. Check out their story on page 6 of this issue. I smiled when I read about the graduation gift their class purchased. First of all, it was commendable that these kids wanted to do something beyond their school walls, to help people in Haiti who continue to suffer six months after the devastating earthquake that hit that country. But who would imagine that their gift to Haiti would be soccer balls?
Obviously, there are many people working in Haiti to care for the more immediate needs of the people for shelter, food, water and medical care. And others are looking further down the line to begin the long process of rebuilding. These things should and must be done. But the gift of those soccer balls will do a world of good as well. Toys remind us that we humans are more than our work, more than our practical or serious sides. The unthinkable horrors that Haitian children have seen need to be healed. They need an escape, both mentally and physically. The Holy Spirit eighth-graders’ gift will do that.
It will help those traumatized kids to laugh a little, to concentrate on scoring goals rather than worrying about their next meal. It will bring them together for support, conversation and friendship. Those kids deserve a break. Granted, soccer balls are not going to solve the complex issues facing Haiti. But they will help a number of that nation’s kids to bounce back.
What were the toys that shaped your childhood? Why were they important? When was the last time you played? If you’re running on empty or zooming from one commitment to another, it’s time to become “childlike” again. So, break out your Mr. Potato Head, Slinky, Play-Doh, Barbie doll, crayons, Legos, View Master, or Lincoln Logs. Unpack The Game of Life, Monopoly, or Yahtzee and invite some neighbors or friends over. Then enjoy what it feels like to be driven by fun, not by the clock.
In fact, I think I’ll pull out a few of my Matchbox cars, just to see what kind of shape they’re in. Oh, by the way, if you’re thinking of stopping by, don’t forget to call first. That will give me time to put some things away. (Sorry. Old habits die hard.)