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by Kimberlee Tomczak Carlson, Director of Religious Education.

I have inherited an often-annoying trait from my ancestors, a deeply embedded sense of optimism. It seems to run on my mother’s side of the family. I can trace it to my great grandmother Jacoba, who I was fortunate to know. She was widowed while pregnant, with four, soon to be five young boys in Patterson, New Jersey during the depression. Yet all the family stories from that time are not about scarcity or struggle but ingenuity and faith. My mother has it too, a reluctance to linger in loss or negatively. This is how I know it is annoying, many times I reached out to her with my lament, woe is me and heard in reply a version of, “ it could be worse” or “you better make the best of it.”

This is all to say, I do not want to annoy you and I certainly do not want to lessen the suffering being experienced in this unprecedented time. It is just my nature, in my bones to blow sunshiny thoughts even if the world is unraveling. I have learned to keep it to myself, to wait for appropriate times to express “the bright side of life” and our monthly theme of play feels like an invitation to explore what is good, even fun about this time of loss and isolation.

As an art teacher I learned that inspiration emerges faster from a challenge than an open-ended assignment. “Draw anything you want” is so vacuous it is hard to focus but, “express your emotions using only circles” is a generative cue for the imagination. In an article titled Creativity at Home in the Time of Pandemic from Psychology Today, I recently read Newton formulated his theory of gravity and Shakespeare wrote King Lear while quarantined during the plague. Similarly, the confines of this pandemic have sparked ingenious ways of celebrating, connecting, and helping the world despite the COVID-19 confinements.

A creative explosion of human play is bursting out of our homes with birthday party parades, family dances on TikTok, and home mask making; all are new ways to show community care and affirmations. Religious philosopher Henry Wieman reminds us to pay attention to our life experiences when searching for divine. He suggests that we experience the sacred while participating in the process of creative interchange. That seems right to me. When I witness the creative impulse happening in humanity it sparks joy and hope in me.

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