Kids are masters at pretend. In a moment they can turn a piles of pillows and blankets into an impenetrable fortress or an empty Kleenex box into a treasure chest. From Lego landscapes to crayon pirate maps, nearly every child can spot a giant over the trees or hear the distant call of the rainbow unicorns.
Yet along the way many of us have had to set aside our playfulness. We have traded away our fun for prudence, creativity for anxiety, and many of us put off the child-like wonder we once so easily enjoyed. In a classroom, at a dinner table, or maybe among friends someone once told us not to be so weird, to grow up, and to fit in.
I remember when a girl in one of my classrooms made fun if a bright t-shirt I was wearing. It was grade three and this shirt was my favourite. It made me feel excited and carefree. But she did not think so and told me what she thought. It devastated me. It was the first time I had ever considered that my creativity should be boxed up. I decided I had to fit in. I never wore that shirt again.
Walt Disney said that “worry is a waste of imagination.” Somewhere along the way we trade our God-given imagination, creativity, and remarkable capacity to dream and wonder for fear and self consciousness. We believe what we were told – that our imagination is impractical and idealistic, and the precious gift of the creative inner life is best squished away and abandoned. This tender ability, beautiful and rare, is boxed up and wasted.
CJ Casciotta says that this is not what we were made for. He believes that our imaginations, the make-believer in us, and the weirdness that makes us wonderful needs to be fully nurtured and re-awakened. He says, “when we bravely decide to embrace our own weirdness, it lets others know they belong just as they are too. Our weirdness is contagious, viral, and generative.”
Make-believe is not just for kids, it is in everyone to dream and wonder. In fact, our neighbourhoods need a renewal of the imagination that transforms the way we live and share our lives together. In the same way that your sandbox was a home for your imagination, what if today your neighbourhood could be that place of wonder and creativity. What if your street was a place where neighbours shared their latest food creation, invited each other to experience their crazy hobby, performed their unique music, and told their unlikely stories. What if neighbourhoods were the one place in the whole wide world where we could make-believe again, where pretend and loud shirts were not just tolerated, but celebrated.
Robin Williams said amusingly that, “you’re only given a little spark of madness, you mustn’t lose it.” You have in you something beautiful: an ability to dream. Not only that, but you can turn what you imagine into reality. You can transform your place into goodness, beauty, and life.
May the creative dreamer in you emerge again. You are a gift and your love, imagination, wonder and weirdness are welcome here. In fact, we need it. Inspire us, move us, and take a risk. Our city is too important to allow your creativity to go to waste. It is time to make-believe again.