As a 4 year old, understanding why sad, scary things happen often comes differently, more abstract than it does for adults. While it’s hard for them to comprehend exactly what’s going on, they find ways to grasp it that more often highlight the good within the bad, even when surrounded by a whole lot of bad. I believe in the power of play; in the creativity that gives kids the opportunity to shine their light in the midst of what seems like never-ending darkness.
Ani was one of my first friends. She always had the best toys and the most creative games to play with them. Even now, I remember the fun we used to have together and the light she brought to my own life. I remember the angel wings she gave me to play with, similar to the ones I imagine she wears now. I remember learning about the “boo-boo” she had in her head; the sadness knowing that she was hurting and couldn’t have fun playing anymore. I remember dreaming of Ani, helping her decide to go through some pink door we found together because it was the brightest, most beautiful one. I remember getting a phone call from her mom the next day, saying that night that Ani woke up from a similar dream saying she was going to choose that same pink door. That night she became an angel. Of course as a 4 year old I didn’t quite understand the tragedy that I was living through. I just knew that I helped my best friend choose the brightest, most beautiful way to go to heaven, where she would surely be able to have fun again and play.
Although this was years ago, Ani still finds ways to touch my life with her creativity and playful spirit. After she passed, I received some of her favorite toys that she could no longer play with. My personal favorite was a tiny pink gameboy that I absolutely loved and that all of my sisters still play with today. While it never actually worked for any of us, it allowed us to use our imagination and creativity during games; just how Ani would have done it too. The power of play. Nine years later, I began raising money for a charity that I learned about through my swim team. All of the money raised would go to Bags of Fun, bringing toys to sick kids while they get their treatments in hospitals. I remember thinking how amazing it was that I finally got to bring to other kids what Ani showed me; the power of creativity and fun even when things seem bleak.
While the details of my friendship with Ani seems like a bright, wonderful blur now, she’s made sure that one thing still remains crystal clear: The power of play is still as wonderful and strong as ever. Bags of Fun has given me the chance to continue what Ani started teaching me even at 4 years old. As I join my community in raising money for each bag, stuffing toys into backpacks full to the brim, and delivering the Bags of Fun to sick kids in hospitals we are all reminded how much joy can be brought through creativity during dark times. It’s crazy to think that I am reminded of all this by a tiny pink game boy -which, as life would have it came from Ani’s own Bag of Fun- but then again, the power of play is endless and bright; just like Ani.