We don’t know what caused the fresh scar on the boy’s neck, and now that it is there, nothing can be done to reverse what happened … but this boy, like all of us, is more than just the sum of his experiences. He had been referred by his school for Restorative Play Times because they were concerned about his behaviour, and given the opportunity to play he seemed oblivious to everything else … including the scar. But then he saw the band aid among the toys, picked it up and went closer to Tara, who was facilitating the playtime. Very carefully, he looked at her neck, looked concerned for her, and gently put the band aid on exactly the right spot. Then he looked her in the eye, and said; “You’ll be fine Miss.”

He returned to his play, and a little later he applied the same careful treatment to the toy child that was in the play kit, putting another band aid on the right place of the toy child’s neck. 

At the end of the poem “White Houses” by Jamaican poet Claude McKay, he describes in two simple lines the internal courage not to let hatred set the agenda.

“Oh, I must keep my heart inviolate                Against the potent poison of your hate.”

What is remarkable is that, when given completely free space to play and decide what to do with that time, this boy’s response was to show care. 

It is not right for any child to bear scars like these, but many live in a world where hatred and brutality too often set the agenda. What these play times do is give safe space for the children to rediscover their heart, and from within it, the strength to keep caring. Lives change when any of us, children in young or older bodies, are able to rediscover our heart.

“Keep your heart with all vigilance, for from it flow the springs of life.” Proverbs 4:23