Poker Game of Life

Wishing he could be as invisible as dry leaves beneath a blanket of snow, Noah sat avoiding eye contact with his teacher. It was the last day of school before winter break. And as much as Noah had hoped it to be so, Ms. Ames wasn’t going to let the class start vacation early. She had just posed a math problem to the class and was looking for the answer.

Zachery could hardly keep seated as he waved his hand. Noah was relieved when he heard Ms. Ames say, “Zachery. Do you have the answer?”

Zachery answered confidently, “It’s sixty-two!” And tossed out one of his metaphorical chips in this Poker Game of Life.

“Well, you’re close.” Ms. Ames admitted. “Does anyone else think they have the correct answer?”

Zachery had lost one of his poker chips with that wrong answer. But he didn’t seem to mind.

Noah thought, just maybe, the answer was sixty-four. But he wasn’t sure. And so, his gaze stayed fixed on his desk. His breathing slow and shallow.

After a long pause Ms. Ames revealed the answer, “Eight times eight is sixty-four.”

Now, you may be wondering, “Why Noah didn’t try…?” Well, let’s look at how each of these boys started their day.

It was a day like any other. Before the sun had begun to shine, a loud BANG, BANG, BANG! awakened Noah. His father’s fist rapped on the stairway wall that led to his bedroom. “Whatcha gonna do, sleep all day?” his father shouted and headed off to work.

There was a cold, empty feeling to the house as Noah stumbled to the kitchen. Opening the refrigerator door, he searched through condiments and beer cans only to discover one egg in a dilapidated egg carton. Remembering the last time he cooked a raw egg in the microwave oven and how his father chastised him for that mess, he decided that he’d pass on having an egg for breakfast. Just then there was a knock on the door. Noah heard the neighbor boy yelling outside the kitchen door, “Hurry, Noah! The bus is coming.”

That same morning, Zachery woke to the smell of toast and eggs cooking. It was a simple breakfast with little conversation except for an occasional question from his father “Would you like a PBJ for lunch or a ham and cheese sandwich?” and “Did you remember to put your homework, that we worked on last night, into your backpack?” And then his father said, “Have a good day. I love you!”

Well, Zachary received one chip for eating a good breakfast. Another chip for getting lunch. A chip for getting his lunch choice. One more chip because someone cared to help him with homework. Yet another chip for having someone to help him learn how to be organized. And ten chips because he knew his parents loved him. Zachery left the house that morning with another fifteen poker chips in his pocket.

On the contrary, Noah left the house with only one chip. And before he took a seat on the school bus someone spit on him, another called him dumb, and that one chip Noah had was gone.

Well, most of us know you can’t win at poker if you don’t have a chip on the table. When Ms. Ames asked what eight times eight equaled, Zachary was able to take that chance of winning another chip. He really didn’t mind losing one of his fifteen chips with a wrong answer.

A few minutes later Ms. Ames asked, ‘Would anyone like to try and solve the math problem on the board. Zachery raised his hand. Walking to the front of the class, he picked up the marker and finished the equation. Another proverbial chip went into his pocket as Ms. Ames praised “Very good, Zachery!” On his way back to his desk more chips poured in from his classmates.

You see, Noah didn’t have any chips to join the Poker Game of Life. He didn’t have the confidence nor the support to join Jujitsu or any other sport that welcomed motivational speakers to teach young people about things like the power of a positive attitude. Noah never had a mentor that created opportunities for him to earn his own chips. No one told him, “Every day of your life, you’ve got to show up.” Nor did he have someone that knew children who lose again and again throughout their lives, often aren’t able to hold down a job later in life. Not because they’re not smart. But because they’ve been programed to think, “Why try? I’ll only lose the chip…” There was never a mentor, that later in life, kept him from getting mixed up with drugs, incarcerated, and needing long term therapy.

Now, there are two endings to this story. The fairy tale ending is Noah and Zachary grow to be friends and Zachary’s parents become the mentor Noah needed. The second scenario is that we all pay the price for ignoring the prejudices and neglect of others in our school, place of worship, work environment, and throughout our community.

Have you given someone a chip lately?

Please leave me a comment if this blog brought you food for thought. And if you liked this blog share it with others.

Thanks for stopping by.

10 thoughts on “Poker Game of Life”

  1. Beautifully written and thought provoking. It leaves the reader with more than just food for thought, but you already know that. Parents who read it and can’t see themselves in the story or know they’re part of the problem and can’t change it will forever be effecting kids who become the same kind of parent. They’ll grow up to parent the way they were parented repeating the very same behaviors with their own children. I’m hoping for the stories to help break the cycle.

    1. Chris, Thank you for this insightful reply. There’s an old saying, “It takes a village to raise a child.” And how fortunate it is for us as parents. Because as parents, we all make mistakes. Every one of us, with or without children, plays a part in helping the next generation succeed. This blog wasn’t meant to point fingers at parents or teachers. It was simply shining a light on what it might be like for a troubled child (or adult)and to try to understand their prospective.

  2. Wow. Leanne. The story is even better than I remember. You are so talentened. The painting is so powerful in evoking all the emotion that the story reveals. THANK YOU for making this into something even more memorable than the first time you shared it. You are a master chip-giver and I’m so happy to call you my friend!

  3. Thank you, Leanne. A great reminder about taking time, even a brief moment, to help someone. Those small efforts can mean so much.

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