Food for Thought:Daring Playfulness with Hoola for Happiness

Photos  taken by John Stream

“Unless you change and become like little children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven. Therefore, whoever humbles himself like this child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven” (Matthew 18:3-4)

A few Fridays back I met up with an old friend Carissa Caricato and a group to tour  the Tampa of Art Museum’s latest exhibit A Hundred Years- A Hundred Chairs and glow hoop.

Carissa is the founder of Hoola for Happiness  also known as H4H (and alongside her Sarah Page and a team of Joy Spreaders), a Tampa based non profit with a mission to spread joy and God’s love through hoola hooping. H4H has hooped their way across the globe to Germany, Africa, India, Haiti and in July to parts of Central America visiting hoop clinics and deaf artisans.

This night was the most letting go I have done since my mission trip in Costa Rica last May.

It was raining outside, our clothes were wet, our hair dangling and our barefeet sank into the soiled grass. We laughed hysterically, spun our hoops in the air and got crazy silly. I was experiencing pure joy through the gift of laughter and play— daring playfulness.

One of my favorite quotes comes from a pastor who spoke at our church, “Never take yourself too seriously. You leave this world the same way you came into it—bald, toothless and in diapers.” I still laugh at that. We live in a culture and sometimes attend churches where playfullness is not welcome. Rather it is seen as unproductive and distracting, explains Michael Yanconelli in his book Dangerous Wonder.

What is it we’re so afraid of? Perhaps this is a question you should really ask yourself.

The kind of playfulness I witnessed in Hoola for Happiness was far from unproductive. What they brought was joy, peace loving and full of good deeds. Was it distracting? YES, VERY! It was a distraction of the best kind. One that broke you from the everday stresses, cares and judgments.  Just as God has given us strength and determination, he has given us laughter and play. I believe even through  diversion we still can give praise and experience God’s fruit. But I too still have my fears and am learning to let go.

I watched Carissa welcome one of the homeless men who were standing watching on the side. I was taken back by the way she spoke to him. She didn’t slow her words or dumb-down her language. She wasn’t afraid to reach out to him or disgusted by his appearance. She came to him like an equal, a sister—normal. Funny how playing with one hoop can bring so much love, happiness and shared commonality between two very unlikely people. This is just another perfect example of how we experience God’s love for us each day. We just have to be open to give and receive it. And sometimes that means being a little daring and playing in a little rain and mud.

***NOTE: Stop by Wednesday nights to join Hoola for Happiness in Curtis Hixon Downtown Park in Tampa. All are welcome to come join!

Love Always,


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