We may as well go out to the backyard and roast some smores over a fire made from dollar bills. We might save a little money that way.
So we go and the kids are having a wonderful time. I played several rounds of air hockey, my all time favorite game evah! I consider it my sport. If they had it in the Olympics I might consider a career in it.
The place we went to has games that spit out tickets based on how well you played. The idea is that you can collect the tickets and at the end of your visit, you can trade them in for things. Of course, to win a tootsie roll you need like 50 tickets. A pencil is 100 tickets. As far as I can tell, this system is in place for two reasons:
1) To give parents and children the allusion that they didn't just get robbed blind. When people leave empty handed they tend to feel that way but stuff those hands with jolly ranchers and something magical seems to happen and all seems right with the world.
2) To torture parents, who have already been waiting patiently for several hours while their child plays games, into having to now stand in a long line of children crowded around a glass case. These children are taking approximately forty hours to decide if they want a rubber ball or some rock candy.
When all the money was gone and it was time to go, the kids came running to me with their wads of tickets. My son was first. His cup was overflowing with tickets and his face was lit up like the Griswold family Christmas house. "I got this many!! Look!! I got SOOOOO many tickets!"
He cradled his tickets like a baby and then started feeding them into the counter. He had well over 200. Meanwhile, his older sister had already been to the feeder with her reams of tickets and was standing in line at the glass counter.
When my son got his ticket with the number "209" printed on it, he hurriedly ran over to his older sister with the intention of bragging. But before he had a chance to say anything she turned and said, "Look! I got over 410 tickets!!"
His face dropped. The light drained from his eyes and tears started to well up in the corners of them. He threw his little piece of paper with the 209 on it to the ground and stormed off, wailing like someone had cut off one of his arms.
I let him cool down for a bit and then consoled him. He had been so happy about what he had, about standing at the counter to use his 209 but that was immediately taken away when he realized someone had more than him.
As I sat with my arm around him, trying to use the circumstances as a learning opportunity, it dawned on me that while the whole situation seemed very childish and immature, this happens to grown ups all the time.
I so often have my joy stolen when I look around and see that someone else has more than me. And while I'm better now at being happy with what I have, I still struggle with these feelings when I look around and someone around me seems to be doing better than me.
If I see someone who looks to me like they are doing a better job parenting, it steals some of my joy. If someone has more friends or is a better writer or has a cleaner house or a better sense of humor or is kinder or whatever, I look inward and say to myself, "What I have is not enough."
I count out my blessings and then look at the person next to me and make comparisons.
While this may be human nature, nothing good comes of it. Mark Twain said, "Comparison is the death of joy." For when we look and see someone else's blessings, we suddenly have no appreciation of our own.
Gratitude is where it's at, my friends. A great scripture about this is this: “Be joyful always; pray continually; give thanks in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.” Did you catch that? Give thanks in all circumstances.
There have been so many times that life has been unfair to me and I'm sure you've experienced the same. It's part of being alive. But being thankful for what we have always seems to take the edge off, somehow makes our hearts fill up instead of empty out. One way I look at it is that when all is said and done, we will have nothing except for God and we all have an equal part of him. He invites us all, includes us all, welcomes us all. And nothing can take him away from me and with that I find some contentment.
Naturally this didn't feel comforting for my son. It doesn't always feel comforting to me either, that God is with me. Somehow I still feel cheated out of my stuff but seeing things this way requires practice and seeing as how this is the season of Thanksgiving, I'm trying to practice as much as possible so that it becomes second nature, so that I will never lose my joy, so that for me, Thanksgiving doesn't come one day a year but every day of the year.