[It will help to have read the post “When the Game is Stacked Against You” before reading this post.]
It’s probably happened to you. You are playing a game where another player gets all the good cards. Every time it looks like you’ve got a little chance to get back in the game, that player drops another ridiculous card. At some point in the game, you realize there is absolutely no chance for you to win. So how do you feel? How do you play from that point?
Do you enjoy every minute of the game, finishing it out with excitement and careful strategizing and passion? Uh, not me. I check out. Out of hundreds of cards in the game of Agricola, there are 5 to 10 cards that are so powerful that some call them “broken.” Some players will remove them from a game or amend their power because they create too great an advantage. In playing a recent game of Agricola with a friend, he got THREE of those cards. With another hour still left in the game, I totally checked out. I stopped trying. Why bother?
For me, it was just a game, but for some people that is their life. And it wears on your spirit. It reminds me of this proverb from the Bible:
Unrelenting disappointment leaves you heartsick, but a sudden good break can turn life around. (The Bible, The Message , Proverbs 13:12)
There is a narrative about why people are poor; I read it in comments and hear glimpses of it in conversations. “They just don’t try hard enough. They take no initiative. Just look at those people in public housing, living off the government. They’re just lazy.” Maybe some are. But many others are experiencing what I felt playing a board game. Why try anymore? I just don’t have a chance.
“Unrelenting disappointment leaves you heartsick.”
“But a sudden good break can turn life around.”
In the game of Agricola, we could say: “But a sudden broken card can turn the game around.” In life, some people get a lot of “broken” cards and others get little or none. But what if the people with the broken cards shared their grace and blessing with those who didn’t get them? What if that is how the game of life is supposed to work? What if that’s what it means to love your neighbor as yourself?
In life, I have been dealt broken cards. Lots of them. One was “easy access to cheap loans.” I cannot emphasize how valuable this is. At age 16, I borrowed money for my first car from my parents. Because they had the funds. With their good credit, they could co-sign for me as I was building up a credit rating. With that early foundation, I have always been able to borrow easily at very good rates. I once got a house loan without having a job or a penny in the bank. Seriously! Beyond that, I have borrowed my from friends. Huge advantage.
The second “broken card” I got was a car. I have owned some form of transportation since age 16, when my parents loaned me the funds for a 1967 Pontiac Catalina. Having cars opened up so many more job opportunities. Having great credit helped me pay for repairs. The two cards play very well together in getting and keeping a job.
I got the card of a healthy, supportive family. I got the card of extremely good health. Good grades came easily; I didn’t have to try that hard, and sadly I often didn’t. And I am a white male. In our country, that has created some advantage.
So, how can I use my cards to create “a sudden good break” for others who have encountered unrelenting disappointment? I can hire people to work with me or for me. I can offer an emergency loan. I can give rides to car-less neighbors to get to and from work or the plasma donation center or the store or the doctor or the courtroom. I can be a supportive friend, offering encouragement through a setback. I can use my network of relationships to recommend people for work. I can work alongside a neighbor on a home repair. I can teach some skill I’ve been privileged to learn, like remodeling or roofing or painting or selling on eBay. I can give a gift.
The cards I was dealt were never just for me. They were given to me to be shared. But there is a catch.
People with a lot of the broken cards tend to hang out together. Live in the same neighborhoods. Work at similar jobs. Enjoy the same kinds of entertainment venues. In order to share, I am going to have to get to step out of my normal circles, make some new friends, go to some different places.
Thank God for every grace you have received. Hang out with people whose story is very different from yours. Listen to those stories. Pursue friendships. And share.
“Freely you have received. Freely give.” (The Bible, NIV, Matthew 10:8)