Fire on my bum: things I learned while playing checkers and selling Christmas trees

This weekend has been one of great activity, but not a lot of action. As seems to be typical of the Christmas season, motion tends to be the theme of our days. Run around until you’re too dizzy to see straight. Then it’s time to push further. It’s like a coach in a cheesy made-for-TV sports special. As the crowd frantically chants the young star’s name, the coach leans into the huddle to tell them, “we all believe in you; now is your time.” Whether they win or lose – and let’s be honest they seem to win more than lose in magic box in my living room – we hug and cry at the end of it all. Some of us really feel the same way when it comes to Christmas shopping and activities. We’re looking for that big hug at the end. We want the coach to put their hands on our shoulders, look us in the eye, and the music to crescendo – hopefully we could afford to fit John Williams or Hans Zimmer into the budget of our lives.

But every once in a while there are moments that take place outside of the fractiousness of it all. I had the privilege of working at a Christmas tree lot this weekend. Let me tell you, it was slow. But I’m not sure that I would’ve had it any other way. Sure, I would’ve liked to sell more trees, but sometimes the trees are not the point; we are. One of my favorite moments of the weekend – and I assure you that they are legion – was getting to sit down and play a game of checkers. It’d been years since I’ve played. And never had I engaged in such an activity in below freezing temperatures, while simultaneously hugging a fire pit to stay warm. Multitasking’s not my thing, but avoiding hypothermia is, so I was able to push through. Between warming half my keister by the enrapturing blaze of the fire and getting the other half walloped at checkers, I learned a thing or two:

1) If the game feels dull, change the pieces to the game. The checker board was apple-shaped, and the pieces were apple cores and sliced apples. The concept was the same, but the new pieces really made the game come alive for me. (It, however, didn’t make me want to eat more fruit.) The Christmas season is a perfect time to spice things up. It might just be time to come up with a new decision-making paradigm.

2) Take some time to consider your next move. I’ve always thought that chess was where you thought things out, and checkers is where make a quick move. It’s always been a game that you can lose, cause it really doesn’t matter. The game will be over quickly, then you can just load up and play again. But if that’s truly the case, then I don’t suppose winning is really all that valuable either. Today I learned to slow the game down. (I’m sure Malcolm Gladwell and his “adaptive unconscious” would beg to differ, but who listens to Psycologists with their doctorates anyhow? What does someone who spends a lifetime trying to understand the human psyche know?) For even in losing, I felt like I had played the game correctly for the first time.

3) Play games with random people. Seriously, I know this sounds odd – and more than a bit bubble-bursting for some of us -, but it’s a great way to really get to know people. In these moments of competition, you can let your guard down and simply engage in shared experience together. Gaming (not to be confused with simply playing video games) is a great avenue towards relationship building. I’m pretty sure that Jesus played games with His disciples…but I’m sure He was much more of a Cranium kind of guy. I bet His disciples understood this concept. I mean, there’s not really any way to beat the Son of God in a game (what doesn’t He know?), but they knew it was a way to spend time with Him. It’s not the game, but the moment. I mean, what do you do when Jesus asks you if you have any 3’s?

4) After you warm your butt by the fire, don’t sit down too quickly. Seriously, the fabric of your pants gets scalding. Then the flesh on your rear and legs become scalding. It is funny for others to watch , but on a personal note, it is less than pleasant.

So go play checkers. Don’t even worry about winning or losing. Remember that it’s not about winning, but about how you play the game – at least that’s what I kept telling myself today.

 

 

 

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