The Love Playground in El Paso, Texas
September 7, 2011
We were stopped in El Paso overnight. It was 107 degrees and my pansy ass wasn’t the slightest bit bothered by the heat because the previous day we’d been in Mesa, Arizona roasting (OK… lounging by the pool with friends) at 112 degrees, so 107 was nothing.
El Paso… big city with lots of resources and things-to-do, but the Internet on my phone wasn’t working and I couldn’t look anything up.
Sometimes I feel like that guy in Quantum Leap who follows the main character around, looking things up on his handheld device. I love that I can answer some of this kids crazy questions instantly “When was this town built?” and “Where is the Alamo?” but when I can’t use it I’m worthless. Maybe “worthless” is an exaggeration, but I feel like my brain is missing when I can’t access Google. It is what it is We ended up asking the GPS system for advice and it sent us to a city park.
We were in luck because the park had a mister system, so we could cool off, not that I was bothered by the heat mind you, I had built new neuron pathways in my brain the day before and learned to associate the heat with pleasure thanks to friends like Brianna and Vicki in Mesa Arizona and I wasn’t suffering in El Paso at all.
But still, the misters were nice.
The nicer thing was the park itself. Love Park, it was called. It appeared to be built entirely by volunteers and donations. First of all, the playground was HUGE. There was a musical play section, two different swing areas and plenty of ladders, stairs, bridges, things to climb, things to hang from and places to explore.
Outside the park, there was a Girl Scout building AND a Boy Scout building. We felt safe and secure there, at the corner of Love & Shorty.
My favorite part of the day was the conversation I had with Gabriella and Madelyn about the construction of the park. Donors bought in at certain levels to fund the construction of the park. Some people donated enough to have a fence post carved in their name. Others were able to paint a tile that went on the wall by the entry. Also in the entry, some donors were able to have a walk-of-fame style sidewalk square with their hand prints.
We hadn’t been in town for 3 hours and we learned that there was a Jewish community because we saw names like Silverstein and Kaplan and Stein and Rabbi something. We learned that each piece of equipment was sponsored by a local – usually a business, whereas the tiles, fence posts and sidewalk squares were sponsored by individuals or families. We talked about the economics of collecting donations, about how wise it was for the planners to have different levels of donation, and how cool it was that everyone was acknowledged for their contributions. Before we saw that, it was easy to look at the entire park and see a great place to play but having the sponsorship list visible made it easier for the kids to look and see that the castle slide is separate from the baby swings, separate from the musical toys, separate from the mister system… We could see the whole and appreciate all of its parts. More importantly, it was magical to see how complicated and amazing the entire park was and to witness what beautiful things can happen when people work together to bring their dream to life.
I liked being able to expose the girls to such a great example of community action. Someone (the children of the community, it appears…) envisioned this park. Someone rallied up a LOT of people to make it happen and here it is, Love park… it was beautiful. The park, the time we spent with the kids and the energy that created such a magical space.
I can’t imagine teaching an 8 yr old about different business models in a classroom. At 8, I would have been able to memorize vocabulary words, but I wouldn’t have felt the deep spirit of cooperation or understood exactly how awesome it was that they pulled this off. This is living, this is life and this is just conversation. No lesson plans are needed, no vocabulary words, just plenty of time in the real world and conversations that answer pressing questions. How much simpler can it be?
Technical Edit: Apparently the name of the park is White Spur Park and it’s just the Love Playground that I’m writing about.