There was a hill behind the house I grew up in that was steep enough to make it hard to walk down without running, but most of the time I was running anyway. I loved playing in the woods and this hill was my access point. My dad mowed it regularly, so the grass was usually short. At the bottom, there was a meadow with taller grass that went right up to a creek at the edge of the woods. Those woods covered hundreds of acres and reached to the back yard of one of my closest friends. I wish every child in my community could have a place like those woods to make friends and have an adventure.
I had coffee with a close friend recently and we were talking about the struggles that lots of kids are facing these days. Young people are not going out as often as they used to, and instead, they’re connecting through electronic devices. This form of connection doesn’t seem to allow young people to communicate in ways that are deep enough to relieve anxiety, and this has led to increased rates of self-harm and suicide. For me, that communication and connection happened with my friends in the woods, but for many people, it happened at local hangouts like the arcade.
Unfortunately, most of the arcades around the country have closed, but Terre Haute is lucky to have a local gaming center (eBash) that offers free play from 6-10pm on Thursday nights for students that attend a local church service and bring a bulletin from the previous week. I take my kids and invite students from our youth group almost every week. The gaming center allows young people to participate in games that they enjoy and are already playing at home, but provides a place for them to connect and communicate, face to face, with other kids their own age, in a way that is similar to the old fashioned hang-outs of the past.