By Rev. Dr. Felipe Martinez
It is a vivid memory. “Lotería!” my great aunt would shout, and there would be a burst of laughter. There we were at my mother’s kitchen in Mexico, mom and a couple of great aunts playing with us kids a game somewhat similar to American Bingo.
“Multi-generation playing brings people together.”
Lotería is a Mexican tradition. Like in bingo, players use cards on which to keep track of the game. But instead of calling out letters and numbers, in Lotería one calls out names of traditional characters and objects which match colorful illustrations on the player’s card. And similar to bingo, the person who fills the required number of places on their card claims the victory with a jovial, loud “Lotería!” There was always laughter and gentle ribbing. By the end of the game, we kids would lose or win a few coins (coins provided by the grown ups), and we’d all jokingly give the winner a hard time.
The memory of playing that entertaining game in the kitchen of my childhood home is less about the game and more about playing together. In my family, the Lotería game was an entertaining vehicle through which a multi-generation gathering of relatives could enjoy each other’s company. These days I miss those opportunities, which seem more and more rare. Multiple generations of relatives and friends gather all the time (think about Thanksgiving Day or birthday parties), but there seems to be no invitation for all in attendance to gather to play. There might be grown ups chatting amongst themselves, teens hypnotized by their handheld video games or phones, and maybe some kids running around playing with each other. That seems like a missed opportunity to find lighthearted, playful, common ground to pass the time and deepen emotional bonds.
“Multi-generation playing is disarmingly joyful, gracious and inviting.”
Multi-generation playing brings people together. Grown ups act silly, kids feel big when they win, and even teens who feign adolescent indifference enjoy the permission to straddle playfully childhood and adulthood.
Multi-generation playing is disarmingly joyful, gracious and inviting. While it may take the form of a friendly volleyball game during a picnic, a board game during a family reunion, or taking turns trying out that cool new Christmas toy, the message which multi-generation playing embodies is that the carefree joy of childhood lives on in all of us. Play. Love. Repeat.
The Rev. Dr. Felipe Martinez is Associate Executive Presbyter at Whitewater Valley Presbytery in Indianapolis. He is a former Advisory Board Member of Spirit and Place.