I never realized how awesome Easter was until the past couple days. I was raised Catholic, but have never really been religious. I attend mass for certain events, but it is mainly about the people that I am with and tradition rather than religious ceremony. Long story short, I have a complicated relationship with my faith. But that isn’t what this post is about anyway.
Growing up, we would always go to my dad’s extended side of the family on Easter Sunday. This was one of the few times of the year that I would see these family members. IMO, we participated in the greatest Easter Egg hunts of all time. So hidden were some of these eggs, our Uncle John had to write down their locations on a sheet just to make sure we found them all. That wasn’t how it always was in the beginning. Once we consistently started finding eggs from the previous year, the adults decided that it was imperative to document the location of the eggs they were hiding.
We were always released in order of age, and being one of the oldest, I was one of the last ones to go. When I was younger, it was about getting the most eggs. As I matured, it became more about orienting the younger ones and showing them the common hiding places I learned over the years.
It has been almost a decade and a half since I participated in an Easter Egg hunt, until this past Friday. One of the chapters I work with invited me to do a service project with them, where we would be hosting an Easter Egg hunt for children at a women’s shelter. This was the first hands-on service work I would be doing since I moved to Jacksonville, and I was excited to be invited and help out.
Our hunt started with a wild animal adventure. While hiding the eggs, one of the chapter members found an opossum in a trash can outside on the playground. Obviously, this created an issue as we couldn’t allow the kids to be outside, playing around, and searching for eggs with a wild, and possibly rabid, animal in our midst. My first task was a catch and release of the opossum. Luckily, that process went smoothly and I was able to get the opossum outside of the play area with no incident. So the hunt could continue.
We started by having the kids decorate paper bags to hold their eggs. Most of the kids arrived at the same time, but a few straggled in later. A brother and sister came in after the rest and I gravitated to the boy, Eddie (not his real name). He was 4 and his sister was 12. I helped peel the backs of foam stickers that Eddie selected and wanted to put on his bag. I found different colored markers for him to color the stickers he placed. Eddie was having a great time in picking new stickers to attach and then coloring over them with the marker. When Eddie finished it was time for the hunt.
Being one of the youngest kids, I guided Eddie to an area that the other kids weren’t in, so there was less competition and he got a pretty good haul of eggs. I carried his bag while he ran as fast as his little legs would allow him, so he could find more pastel colored eggs hiding in plain sight. Eddie would get about four eggs in his arms and hands til the point that he couldn’t carry anymore and then would quickly dump them into his bag to start the process over again. After about 15 minutes, the hunt was over. All the eggs were found and it was time to discover the treasurers of his haul.
Eddie wasn’t as concerned with the chocolate falling out of his eggs as he opened each one. He was more fascinated with the basketball court we were on and wanted to spin the emptied eggs in a mini-game he created. Halfway through opening all of his eggs, Eddie was content with the Snickers and Hershey’s he unveiled. More than anything, he wanted to play basketball. His sister helped open the rest of Eddie’s eggs and took a couple chocolates for her troubles. We rejoined the rest of the group and Eddie enjoyed a cupcake that I am pretty sure he had more of all over himself than he actually ate. His sister helped him with a quick clean-up and then it was time to play again.
Still wanting to play basketball, and just seemingly excited to play with someone, I had to come up with something as I couldn’t find a “basketball” on the grounds. I came up with the next best thing which was to use some of the empty eggs as “basketballs.” We now had an endless supply of balls. The play area had smaller plastic basketball hoops of various heights for the kids to use. Eddie and I started on the smaller hoop which was half a foot taller than Eddie. He was just tall enough to dunk the eggs when he jumped but still missed a couple of times. I hung back hitting jumpers from my knees and just watched as Eddie was smiling the entire time.
After a little bit, Eddie got pretty consistent on his dunks and he wanted to move on to the next highest hoop. This was definitely too tall for Eddie and it was my job to help him cover the gap from the ground to the hoop. Needless to say, I got my first significant workout in long time as I continuously lifted Eddie up so he could dunk his eggs. On every dunk, I held him up there to hang on the rim a little bit. Eddie definitely would have been ejected from a game for excessive technical fouls for hanging on the rim too long. After a while, just dunking the eggs became common place and Eddie wanted me to dunk him while he held on to the egg. We did this quite a few times, and I could feel my out of shape self slowly wearing down. Every time I passed Eddie through the hoop, he was beaming as I lowered him to the ground.
Next, Eddie wanted to dunk on a legitimate basketball hoop that was at the far end of the court. I could only get him so high, as I lifted him over my head similar to Rafiki lifting Simba in the Lion King. Eddie could grab the net but that was as high as we could get. Slightly disappointed, Eddie took to climbing on small retaining wall instead to cheer himself up. Thankfully for me and my sore body, I didn’t have to do too much more work as I just followed him close enough to catch him in case he tripped.
Our two hours with the kids soon came to a close and it was time for their mothers to pick them up. We headed back to the room where the kids decorated their bags earlier, and one by one, mothers came to collect their young ones. My out of shape self was happy the time was coming to a close as I knew I was going to really feel my makeshift workout the next morning, but it was sad to leave. As Eddie was heading out of the room, he came by to give me a high five. He was still beaming from ear to ear and I saw some chocolate that remained hidden in the corners of his mouth, either from a sneaked piece out of his bag or some remnants of the earlier cupcake.
That final smile as Eddie walked out is what I miss most about Easter. As I am writing this on Easter Sunday, I realized that I have not spent an Easter with my family in quite some time because of grad school and work. I miss seeing the young ones running around excited and playfully collecting fake eggs full of candy. The hunt has nothing to do with the religious celebration of Easter, but at the same time it does. Easter is a joyous celebration of the resurrection of Jesus Christ. Kids are too young to understand what this means. However, searching for plastic eggs full of candy, and sometimes money, is a way for them to experience joy.
On that Friday afternoon, Eddie experienced joy in many different ways. The hunt for eggs, playing basketball, spinning empty plastic eggs, and running around being lifted into the air for two hours. Eddie’s smile the entire time we were together let me know that he was happy; that he was having a joyous day. I cannot thank the chapter enough for the experience and the time I got to spend with Eddie. There are few things in my life that I say I will always remember. I have to chalk up my two hours with Eddie as one of those experiences. I experienced joy because Eddie experienced joy.