The Kiddy Pool: The Crayola Experience
Every Tuesday in The Kiddy Pool, Erin Newcomb confronts one of many issues that parents must deal with related to popular culture.
My family and I headed to the Lehigh Valley a few weeks ago to celebrate our fall break; we visited the Lehigh Valley Zoo (where we delighted in close encounters with kangaroos and a play wolf den), a rather dirty hotel room that triggered my OCD in spite of the children’s oblivion, and The Crayola Experience. I visited Crayola once before, when it was still known as the factory, probably at least 15 years ago—so, long before my children were born. I enjoyed that visit, but this time, I found myself reflecting on the meaning of “experience” and how impossible it feels to access or understand the subjectivity of even those to whom we are closest.
Take, for example, my continued discoveries of the subpar hygiene of our hotel room. My children never noticed them, and claimed the hotel as one of the highlights of our trip, though I can’t recount all the details for you here without risking a panic attack. My husband falls somewhere in the middle of this spectrum, being by disposition disinclined to high enthusiasm or panic. Suffice it to say that I was relieved to bid the hotel good riddance and make for Crayola, where we arrived at 9:50 and were told to wait because the attractions were not ready, even though the website and doors listed opening hour as 9:30. The grownups, the ones who’d shelled out the admission fees, were mildly annoyed, but my children were, once again, unperturbed. Our experience of The Crayola Experience continued to diverge as we visited the attractions.
While I noted the many machines that malfunctioned in minor ways, the lack of clear information (or directions posted on small screens in dark corners), poor signage, and overly-complicated projects likely to fall apart in a few hours, my children enjoyed themselves. I couldn’t help but consider that we spent a lot of time waiting around on an uncrowded day mid-week—and wondering how the experience differs on even a regular weekend, not to mention a holiday or major event. But, then again, my children didn’t notice the waiting either, even as I mentally calculated how many times over I could have purchased the products and made essentially the same crafts at home several times over. My kids’ favorite part of the whole facility was the playground, illustrating in extreme how much experience depends on subjectivity; and given that The Crayola Experience was never really about me anyway, I must concede it as a success, given my children as its intended audience.
As I watched them move through the playground space, I thought about the gulfs that experiences can create in our understandings not just of family vacations but also of God. Even my husband and I, who agree on most points of doctrine, approach the divine from rather different standpoints; I can speak in tongues and physically sense God’s presence—two experiences that are utterly foreign to my husband, whose intellectual knowledge of theology far surpasses my own. Our spiritual gifts reflect our experiences of God as well, where I encourage and he instructs. It’s not that there’s no overlap between us or within the body of believers more broadly, but that each individual interpretation shows only in part.
The premise of a family vacation is the family, a collective comprised of individuals with their unique interests; that means, for my family’s trips, sometimes it’s about all of us and sometimes an activity is geared more toward a part than the whole. We compromise and sacrifice for each other out of love. How much more, then, are we called to empathize and sacrifice for the church? We make allowances, remembering always the One who makes allowances for us and our limited perspectives. It would be sad if I disliked every aspect of our trip, but even in the parts that aren’t for me, I am able to appreciate a kind of vicarious joy wherein I know my own opinion and still rejoice with my children’s pleasure. The same applies to the body of Christ; I am called to exert my own gifts, but also to give thanks for others’ experiences to edify me and reveal to me truths of God that my own small view of the world could never even imagine.