Let’s all ‘play nice’ in the sandbox




There has been a lot about bullying, anti-Semitism and power struggles in the news recently. Most days I wish to remain blissfully ignorant to the uncivility and outright vitriol that takes place between people and nations.

I stay oblivious for two reasons. The first is that I don’t want to believe that 3,000 years after the Israelites were freed from slavery, oppression still exists. The second reason–and perhaps most important–is that deep down inside, I still have the spirit of a child, and I trust her instinct far better than I trust my adult self.

Anyone who knows me well understands that I have but one political conviction, and I discovered it long before Robert Fulghum authored “All I Really Need to Know I Learned in Kindergarten.” My belief is that we all should just “play nice” in the sandbox. There needn’t be hidden agenda or power plays. With the “play nice” principle, we don’t have to fear losing what we have or not getting what we want.

According to Fulghum, we already have within us the understanding about how to live and what to do. “Wisdom was not at the top of the graduate-school mountain, but there in the sand pile at Sunday School.” Then he lists some simple but sage advice such as play fair, share everything, clean up your own mess, don’t take things that are not yours and apologize. (He also recommends naps and warm cookies with milk!)

Most days, I try to adhere to these guidelines and live my life with integrity, grace and generosity–free from the bondage of insecurity, materialism, jealousy and avariciousness. Most days, I “play nice” and get along well in this world while recognizing I am not alone in the great big sandbox. I strive to seek justice, act mercifully and walk humbly with God (Micah 6:8).

Other days, because I am human, I am no better than Pharaoh. The celebration of Pesach rejoices over Israel’s deliverance from captivity in Egypt. (It’s worth noting that the first chapter of Exodus, in which Pharaoh ordered that all the Jewish baby boys would be exterminated by throwing them in the river, was the first recorded account of anti-Semitism in history.) In the desert (the ultimate sandbox), Moses said to Pharaoh (the bully), “Let my people go.” When Pharaoh refused, plagues befell the people of Egypt. The pestilences that followed remind me of the consequences of my own actions when I forget the “play nice” principle. My ego, self-interest, inability to share, insatiability and desires can result in pandemonium. Suddenly my wilderness is afflicted with troubles brought on by my own selfish behaviors.

During this season of celebration from persecution, let’s remind ourselves to act with courtesy and kindness. To go the extra mile, smile an extra smile. To stand up for what we believe in. To protect the innocent, the marginalized and the oppressed. To trust that caring words can resolve all conflicts. And (to paraphrase Fulghum) regardless of your chronological age, when you head out into the world, join hands, look out for traffic  and stick together.

Chag Pesach Sameach!