“I’m going to burn these candles in your honor,” he said. “I think it will bring you good luck. This is karma insurance. ” I agreed with him and laughed because he seemed unaware of the fact he appeared content to personally incur bad karma and bad luck because our paths had collided. He had pulled out of a driveway without looking and driven straight into my car. Slamming on my breaks and swerving had made the candle inventory I had just removed from the pop up shop where I had sold handmade goods the previous two months (including several boxes without lids) fly through the car. Many candles bounced off the windshield and settled under my feet. It was extremely unnerving… but, once I calmed down, I shrugged my shoulders at the fairly large black mark he’d added to my hub cap and simply requested compensation for the damaged inventory (more than $200 in dented handmade candles). I only asked for $90 in exchange for about $110 of candles. I wanted to avoid the hassle of an insurance claim and help him avoid increased premiums. He wanted to either settle for the $61 cash he had on hand or make an insurance claim and try to get his entire front end fixed up through the claim. I chose the former because I felt it was the right thing to do. Poker has shown me over and over that holding the best starting hand (i.e. pocket Aces) does not guarantee a win. How I choose to play the game is what matters most.
Of course, I don’t feel the need to be kind at the felt, at least not in how I play the game. I think that even those who never play know that’s not what No Limit Hold’em is all about. For me, every hand I play is an opportunity to show my strength. The game has helped me learn how to spot a liar (a bluffer) and taught me a lot about just how strong I can be. My favorite poker memories are the times I called a giant river bet with nothing but a small pair (and won) because I knew the man who placed the bet thought he could scare me into believing my cards weren’t enough. Like most poker players, my least favorite memories are times I played well and lost… because the odds didn’t work out in my favor. Those days it took strength to walk away gracefully and accept the loss rather than risk more (which I couldn’t afford) to try to turn it into a win.
In my opinion, 2020 gave us all the opportunity to see just how unpleasant daily life can be when fear is a major factor in daily life like it is in poker. It made us ask ourselves how much we are willing to risk for the pleasure of human interaction. It highlighted the advantage that players with giant bankrolls have over those playing with cash they can barely afford to risk. Finally, it (and the first week of 2021) have shown us just how ugly things can get when people refuse to acknowledge that the odds are always against some and favor others; that often the underdog loses but sometimes he or she wins; that our democracy was designed with an intricate system of checks and balances to root out corruption the way shuffling and dealing a deck of cards evens the luck amongst players; that we all respond to fear differently and all desire to not be afraid; that the votes we cast with our money and at the polls don’t always have the effect we desire.
Each of us now has more power individually than we ever had before – the ability to control the number of people we are in contact with and our risk of spreading COVID (or not); the choice to buy local or support big business; the opportunity to take responsibility for whatever bankroll we do or don’t have and plan for the future; and, most importantly, the need to decide if we will support the system that has made our lives great so far and continue to push for alterations that make it even greater… or if will we join those who disrespect the system to (supposedly) root out corruption. Each of us needs to decide how we are going to play our hands in life and remember that the amount of fear that is or is not in our day to day life is greatly controlled by the way the players choose to play the game.
I plan to continue to play the game of life with as much kindness as I can muster and take my aggression out on my new punching bag and at the felt when I feel it is safe to return (both financially and for my the health of my weak lungs). I believe I didn’t merely save that man who crashed into me (and his insurance company) money by accepting less than I deserved for the situation. I showed someone inclined towards deception and taking advantage of a situation (possibly/probably due to his previous experiences) that there are still people in the world who do good just to do good… hoping that my choice to show kindness will make him do the same sometime (or many times) in the future.
Though we all respond to fear differently, we tend to respond to kindness the same. I want to be the change I want to see in the world – a light in these dark times – whether or not the darkness understands me (John 1:5). I will not shut out people who’s political views bother me because I know we are in the game of life together, whether we like it or not. I will stay strong and hopeful for a brighter future knowing I am trying to do my part to spread the light.
If you, like me, believe that it takes a strong person to be kind, that anger and agression are merely responses to fear which we must learn to control, and that the thing we need most in 2021 is to remember how to get along when we disagree, please share this post to encourage others to spread the light.
P.S. Did you know that Ghandi never actually said, “Be the change you want to see in the world,” though many have paired his name with those words? That’s what I call a successful life bluff. I had a coffee mug with that Ghandi quote for many years (until it broke).