Finding skate spots has become a ritual for in every trip that I take. It grounds me and gives me a definitive landmark that makes chaotic and unusual places seem familiar. Getting here has already been an adventure. Entering the country with my skateboard nearly caused the airport to stop functioning. I’ve flown countless times all over the globe and I’ve never had an issue with carrying my skateboard as a personal item. This time, however, I was stopped at security and searched like I was carrying some sort of foreign weapon. I found this strange, but after much discussion (mostly lost in translation) they let me through.
And finally, I am here. I had a few hours to myself and knew exactly how I was going to spend them. I grabbed my board, put on the pair of shoes designated for ripping and tearing, and ran down the stairs of our 5th floor apartment. I walk past Hussein, the owner of a small textile shop at the bottom of the building. As we meet, he looks me up and down and laughs. We had a good relationship, and we usually like to poke fun at each other, but this time I was genuinely uncertain what he was laughing at. I asked him what he found so funny and he replied sarcastically, “How old are you?” This wasn’t a genuine question but rather a rhetorical intrigue into my maturity. See, skateboards–as Hussein says–are for kids, not grown men. It is acceptable to ride as a teenager, but eventually you must get a real job and become a man. No more child’s play. While I was learning many things about the culture in this land, one thing did not need to be explained: skateboarding is not as common and mainstream as it is in North America. It has definitely made waves in the country recently, but it is nowhere as recognized and accepted as it is in so many places. It’s still just a toy for kids.
At first, I wondered if I should try to be more sensitive to the local culture and stop skateboarding, but then I realized how ridiculous that was. I wasn’t being rude, I wasn’t making any faux pa’s; I was simply doing something that not a lot of other people did. That being said, as soon as I did arrive at the skate park, the connection with other skaters was immediate and intense. Not just because I'm white and Canadian, but also because there aren’t many skaters around. Then I got to thinking: “Yeah, maybe this is child’s play." And I love it. In a world where everyone is concerned with being serious and growing up, we need more child play. I find it incredibly sad when I meet someone who used to skate, or play an instrument, or do anything fun that they have now “given up” because they are adults. Somehow we’ve lost our childlikeness.
In his book “The Divine Conspiracy,” Dallas Willaird talks about personality. From the latin “persona” (meaning mask), our personality becomes a what we put over our true selves in order to fit into society. We’re taught that controlling ourselves and our emotions are signs of maturity. Kid’s haven’t learned this filter, which is why you see the the fullness of every expression a child is feeling in that moment.
Do you ever wonder why Jesus talks so much about becoming childlike? There is something about maturity that we’ve mistaken for wisdom or appropriateness. Jesus makes it very clear that there are many aspects of the Kingdom that are most available and most understood by children. Not philosophers, not sages, not doctors, not priests, not professors, but kids. In fact, He says you cannot even enter the kingdom unless you become “like a child.” (Matthew 18:3) Becoming childlike does not mean you are immature, it means that you see the world the way God sees it. You see beauty in chaos, joy in mourning, and excitement in the mundane. So the question becomes, what’s wrong being with like a child?
If skateboarding means I’m a kid, then I never wanna grow up.