Being raised in a family where five people are ahead of you, you learn by observation. They all taught me the basics of functioning in life, and sometimes I understood these things by having someone read a book to me or play a game.
One of the first was Candy Land, where concepts can easily be grasped by color recognition and counting out the spaces on the board. I recall one of my brothers so patiently showing me how to move the gingerbread marker down the path. If you were lucky enough, you might draw a card that gave you the ability to move two colored spaces.
Mixed throughout the deck were unique landing spots that could either propel you forward closer to the finish line or send you way back to where you began. To almost be at the home space and then have to go back just because you drew the candy hearts located on the first part of the path was frustrating.
There were two big blue dots on the board, and if you were unlucky enough to end up there, you had to draw the exact color of the square you were on to resume moving on. Getting stuck in Molasses Swamp was not my favorite. The other, Cherry Pit Falls, was equally irritating.
It was modeled how to be happy while playing no matter what. Nowhere in any competition with my older siblings as they taught me was it demonstrated that poor sportsmanship was allowed. They all implanted the idea in me that I was to be content no matter what was happening, and it was just a moment in time that was to be fun, not to be taken too seriously.
It was interesting to discover that during the outbreak of Polio in the 1940s, a school teacher developed the concept of that game to help quarantined children pass the time. As much as recent events have put fear and isolation into the minds of many, that time period did the same.
An uncontrolled virus was sweeping through, targeting only children, and those affected by it had to spend many long days fighting to live, away from all that had been familiar to them. Out of that misery, someone invented something that, by the time I played it, was used for another purpose.
It taught me how to take a turn.
Teaching a person how to do that can be tricky, especially one who has no idea how the world operates. As I have moved through life, I have witnessed the total breakdown of this easy to adhere concept that extends courtesy to others.
Several years ago, there was a family-owned video store near my house. Blockbuster had long fallen to the wayside after other options for watching movies at home came to light. However, this particular one was fighting to stay alive, so I went there. Because they required a membership, I approached the counter.
A woman who looked right at me swooped in with two small children, almost knocking me out of the way. I stepped back and said nothing.
As I stood there, I realized the guy behind the counter was, shall we say, a bit too customer friendly. I was the only one in line at the time, and he was the only staff person in the store to help. So I was subjected to the entire conversation about an assortment of topics that, if given a choice, I would have skipped. From car repairs, grocery shopping to his plans for later, I knew more about his life than my own.
Neither of them seemed to notice how restless her two kids were becoming as he kept on talking. By the time he finished his speech about his love for video games, they were rolling on the floor, punching each other.
When it was finally my turn, I told him I hadn’t been in before. He took my driver’s license and started typing on his computer.
As we were going through the usual 20 questions for security reasons, a lady and her husband (I am assuming) came up. She began to hang herself over the counter like she was trying to find a movie that she couldn’t find on the shelf.
She shifted papers out of her way, grabbed a stack of DVDs, and began going through each one.
This caught his attention, so he said,
“Can I help you find something?”
This interaction stopped the process of my details going into the computer. She asked for a particular movie.
“Oh, we just rented our last one last night.”
She then complained and asked why they didn’t have more copies. He continued to speak with her while I stood there. She continued to ask questions. He continued to answer. I continued to wait. He suggested another movie. She made a face at him that indicated her disdain for his suggestion.
She gave a long list of reasons why she would never view what he was recommending.
When she quit speaking, and he once again went back to the keyboard to complete my membership, I turned to her and said,
“Do you still need his help? Or can he finish helping me?”
She somehow picked up on a clue that she was being rude. Snappily, she said,
“He asked me what I wanted first.”
“I know. And, now I am asking you if you still need his help, or is it okay if he finishes helping me?”
Her lips clamped together.
“Oh. It’s all good. I will finish up here.”
Then, the phone rang. It was like throwing a stick and yelling, “Fetch!”
He explained to the caller that a particular title wasn’t in and when it would be. Another long conversation ensued.
I think he heard my sigh.
“Hang on a second while I help this customer who is in my line.”
This was all happening while the lady customer continued to try and see if the movie was behind the counter. As if he were concealing it so that she could discover it.
Finally, he gave me a total, and I paid. When he handed me my items, I asked if I could have a receipt.
While answering my question, the lady who had been like a heat-seeking missile that was not finding what she wanted, stepped into the place I had been occupying and started in again on how annoyed she was that they didn’t have her movie.
He again began to address her and was not getting me my receipt. I waited and listened while she whined.
Not wanting to give this guy or lady another second of my life, I said,
“I have somewhere to be. Can I please have my receipt?”
Somewhere was anywhere but there.
She glared at me like I was imposing on her time in line.
“Oh, I forgot all about you!” He said.
Really? I didn’t notice.
I exited hell with receipt in hand and got back to my life outside the building. Molasses Swamp did exist.
I found out recently that it is possible to get bumped out of circulation even when you call ahead.
A food truck had a pop-up event on a Saturday about thirty minutes from my house. They offered an online option to order and do a pickup. Who wouldn’t do that when the temperature is in the negative numbers?
My daughters and I got to the location after parking and dodging traffic on a busy street.
I approached a girl with a clipboard and told her my name.
“Okay. We will put your order in now.”
“So doing this online and paying didn’t get me ahead of standing in line?”
“Technically, yes. We will put yours in immediately, and you will be ahead of everyone standing here right now.”
She took my phone number and said she would text me when it was done, so I could go back to my car and wait.
Not in line. Sort of like an invisible one.
After 30 minutes of waiting, the three of us started to wonder if they had lost us in the shuffle. My youngest daughter went online to their page to see if they had issues.
“They are giving priority to those waiting outside in line.”
“Wait a minute. We ordered online. We paid. I drove a half an hour to get here, and we are less important than people who didn’t plan?”
“They don’t want them to get cold.”
Welcome to Cherry Pit Falls.
I had shut off my car by this time because I didn’t want to run out of gas sitting there. I still had a 30 minute drive back. I was becoming Queen Frostine.
I walked back over to the worker I had given my phone number to. I was going on a 45 minute wait.
She looked up at me, and when I said this, she glanced at her list and the time she had written by my name. Meanwhile, I watched one person after another waiting by the truck being handed their orders.
“I will send you a text when it’s ready,” she said.
I went back to my car, which was so fogged up that I could not see the two occupants inside. Right as I got in, I received a text.
I turned, got out, told them to stop breathing to keep the fog down, and went back to the truck.
She handed me only half of the order. More confusion because they had made the customers standing outside their focus of attention.
I didn’t return to my car this time but thought it would only be a few moments. It turned into another 30.
By the time I got back to my car, they were on the brink of perishing, and we now looked like we had been camping for a week instead of going for a lunch run. All of us had chugged down all the water we had brought with us so that we could cope.
I decided to drive back home, and I ate my fast food nearly 3 hours later. That can kill your entire day.
And your hope for humanity.
Sometimes, the only thing you can cling to is this from Matthew 20:16 to make sense of things,
So the last will be first, and the first will be last. (NIV)
Most of what you encounter as you walk through your days here adds to a deeper understanding. It’s a far cry from being four years old and having to contend with moving a game piece along a board through gumdrop mountains. It begins there with many moments after that can test you to your last bit of patience as you grow.
If you are sensitive to the world around you, you see the injustices, suffer the consequences of allowing your heart to be broken, and you are very much aware that you are taking your chances by going outside of your house, subjecting yourself to places where you can be unknowingly targeted by unfair circumstances.
Yet, you keep moving ahead, not hiding away, isolated, but rather, following this as your guide from Romans 12:17:
Never pay back evil with more evil. Do things in such a way that everyone can see you are honorable. (NLT)
And Romans 12:21:
Don’t let evil get the best of you; get the best of evil by doing good. (Message)
Why? Because you are called to rise above and be a good example, making life less bitter by being sweet.