I’d just gotten back from the lab and Aude asks if I want to go for a bike ride. The bikes were just fixed, and we wanted to see some more of the village. I changed into more comfortable riding clothes and had just left our house. Some children from next door were playing badminton and soccer in the front yard, and as I walked towards the bikes, a boy of maybe eleven or twelve called out to me.
“Play?” He asked, grinning in that fashion that young boys do when they wish to challenge someone to a duel.
“Me? Play badminton?” I asked, hoping that I had understood correctly. I love badminton.
“Play badminton,” an older girl said. “Play, play, play,” urged the young boy, smiling.
I got the message, and couldn’t resist. One of the girls handed me a racket and the duel began.
The boy took up his racket, tossed the birdie into the air, and beaned it at me. It came right towards my face, so I yelped and ducked, coming up laughing. He was still grinning.
Two could play at that game; I tossed the birdie and pegged it at him in return. His grin turned to shock, then back to a grin. This time, he served, and an actual game started.
We played, alternating turns until it was too late to play anymore. Occasionally, we would say things like “Sorry!” or “Oops!”, but mostly, it was smiles, giggles, and the occasional yelp as one of us ducked out of the way.
So often, we don’t communicate with people because we can’t speak their language. We say we don’t understand, or that we can’t understand them.
We forget exactly how much of language is not based in words, how much we say without actually speaking. We forget that we can actually play badminton for hours, with only a few mutually understood words: play, badminton, sorry, stop.
We forget that laughter and smiles go a long way.