Have you ever wondered how many doorways you walk through in the course of a lifetime? Have you ever thought about how many thresholds we step over, not just in the physical sense but as an entryway to the next step or the next stage of our lives? Some doorways are easy to enter, others are more difficult; some thresholds are crossed with confidence and assurance; others with apprehension and maybe a touch of fear at what might lie on the other side.
For over thirty years they came through this one set of doors in a variety of ways: as an infant, asleep in their mother’s arms; as a baby, smiling at everything and with eyes wide with amazement at this bright and colorful new world; as a toddler, walking on sometimes shaky legs, a little timid, a little shy; as children, determined to assert their newfound independence and prove to the world that they could do anything. Each day, these doors awaited so many of them and each day, as they passed through them, they grew just a little bit more, they learned more and they understood a little more about the big world that existed outside those doors. As time went by, they wanted to explore that world more and discover what lay outside but always with the knowledge and the security that aside from home, they always had another place they could go and be safe, secure and loved.
Have you ever wondered how many people have truly touched your life in the course of time? Have you ever thought about the hands that reach out to you, that hold you when you are small with the reassurance that everything will work out and that all will be well soon enough?
For those same thirty years, hundreds of hands reached out and accepted the priceless gift that was entrusted to their care each day and the persons behind those hands gave willingly from an unending supply of compassion, concern and love to the children of others. Some of those others, they knew well and others they knew only by sight but they came to know those children and to love them like they were their own flesh and blood; their likes and dislikes, their favorite colors and shapes, their fears and insecurities, their strengths and abilities and to each one was given that which was needed and that which was necessary. They changed their diapers, wiped their noses, bandaged their cuts, calmed their fears, made them laugh, cried when they cried and made them the center of a world that they chose to live in, a magical world of construction paper, plastic toys, dog-eared books and wooden blocks. As time went on, they helped their young charges to grow and then one day, they watched them spread their wings and fly away to live their lives in the big world beyond, shedding tears of both sadness and joy as they headed into the future.
Have you ever wondered when you spend a quarter just where all that quarter will go and how many places it will see as it travels the world from person to person and what kind of dividends it may yield? Have you ever thought about where the ripples on a calm lake go after you toss a stone into the water, about how far their influence might reach as they travel out across the surface and how a single leaf, floating on that surface, can change its direction from just the slightest nudge of that ripple?
A quarter comes into this world shiny, new and unblemished, owned by no one but only held for a brief period of time before it is sent out into the world. To each person that it visits, its means something different; food for living, shelter for warmth, a movie to entertain us, a donation for cancer research, a favor for a friend, a phone call to a loved one, an offering to God. It sees new things and visits new places, renewing its value with each hand that holds it but never being still for too long. As time moves on, it shows the blemishes of life, some living for a hundred years, others for much less time but all of them being a part of the greater whole and the lives of others from the very moment we “spend” it out into the world.
A leaf floating on the water is fragile and tiny, a mere speck of dust on the surface of something so large and whose depths are uncertain. The slightest bump against it can change its entire course and determine the shore that it will eventually land upon. If we cast our stone into the right place, the ripples that result and that gently nudge the leaf and guide it can make all the difference between reaching a smooth and level shore or a rocky and uneven one.
We gave you our shiny, new and precious quarters, our life’s blood, our children and entrusted them into your care and you gave them back to us whole and strong and ready to go out into the big world beyond and touch the lives of each person they would meet. With careful thought, we selected just the right spot, the very best place we could find, to cast our stones into waters we often didn’t know and from those waters, each ripple, each of YOU, gently guided the fragile leaf every day and helped them reach the safe shore until it was strong enough for the wind to carry it to new places beyond.
We owe you all so much. Our children owe you all even more because you loved them and because you cared about them and for them. Our town and our community owe you because you gave to them many of the citizens of today and will give them many of the citizens of tomorrow, long after your story has ended. You were fun time, cookie time, dance time, story time, hug time, laugh time, but most of all, you were PLAYTIME and we will never forget you.
Dedicated to all the wonderful people at Playtime Learning Center and thank you for everything. You will be missed.