In the early afternoon, I drive to the store to pick up a few things we’ve been needing at the house. As I make my way back, I cross over the railroad tracks and take my sweet time driving down the back road that leads to my parents’ home.
It is a sunny weekend day, but I notice the houses I pass have no signs of activity going on, even though cars line the driveway. No children play in the yards, no grown-ups on the porch enjoying this unseasonably mild January day.
Those are not things we see much anymore, to be honest. I know it’s a different world than when I grew up, or even when my daughter grew up, but I tend to think we’ve taken that a bit far when it comes to outdoor play. I’m afraid we’ve used it as an excuse when it suited our fancy.
I imagine most of the adults are inside checking their smart phones every few seconds, the weather, the news, the latest sport scores, scrolling down Facebook’s riveting news feed, seeing who had what for dinner, while the kiddos are probably engaged in watching a mind-numbing movie, or fighting make-believe enemies in some video game. America’s yards are mostly empty these days, and for that, I am sad.
As I make the final turn toward the house, I see them—up ahead, two young boys and one grown man, tossing around a ball, dribbling it on the driveway and hurling it toward the basketball hoop. They are laughing as they dart here and there and everywhere, their faces round and flushed.
Slowing the car to a snail’s pace, I can’t stop looking at the trio of players, relieved that—thank heavens!—there are still people who play outside. The man catches my eye and waves like he’s known me for years. I smile and wave back. He has no idea he just made my day.