I could see this intense look in his eyes.
He was a competitor, a warrior of sorts, determined to win at all costs.
At each turn he would pause, assess the situation and then without hesitation, make his move.
Time and again he missed the target, but it did not deter him. He would reload and shoot again.
I stood nearby watching and admiring his skill, his style.
He never noticed the crowd gathering around him. He had little or no concerns because he had back up.
His chances began to dim. One by one, his supporters glanced at his stock pile of ammunition.
He stopped for a moment, glanced inside his container, looked up and with tears in his eyes he said…
“Mommy, I’m almost out of ping pong balls!”
He was gunning for gold fish at Sarah’s Gold fish stand.
His parents had paid the full price for the maximum supply and it was about to run out.
Now, I will tell you that I had a unique perspective.
I can clearly remember my own sons vying for the chance to win a prize fish. I cheered them on at the same time I was praying to God, “Please don’t let him win.”
I knew from experience that one gold fish meant one tank, fish food, all the equipment and eventually a very solemn ceremony sending the poor thing to its watery grave.
Now, with my children grown and no real vested interest in this child, I wanted desperately for him to win.
You could tell the pressure was wearing him down. He stood on his tip toes and looked into the deep white bucket and discovered there were only two balls left.
He did what any good youthful soldier would do. He began cry.
“I wanted a fish, Daddy!”
Mom and Dad comforted him as best they could. All while smiling a bit relieved to know at least they let him try.
You and I know that the carnival games are created to make money. There is little wiggle room in the odds of running out of fish. They know that the chances are slim that everyone who played would walk away with a prize.
But this was no ordinary “Carnie” game.
Just as he came close to defeat, the woman running the game walked up to the mother and handed her a small card. She motioned quietly that she would let him win and handed her a few extra balls to give him just when he thought it was over.
He stood on his toes, looked inside and it was empty.
“Wait, here’s two more you missed,” Mom said.
He grabbed them and tossed both of them so far they went off the back side of the table.
“Yeah!” Everyone yelled. “You won!”
The kid looked stunned. His heart was beating so fast that he didn’t know what hit him. In his little mind he was sad and happy at the same time.
Mom handed him the card with a picture of a goldfish on it that said “You won!”
He began to cry even harder.
“What’s wrong?” The Father asked.
“I didn’t want a picture of a fish, I wanted a fish!”
They forgot he couldn’t read.
The woman quickly walked over to him with the coveted prize.
It was a beauty and I believe the biggest goldfish I ever saw.
The boy wiped away his tears as they walked away from the stand.
Me? I was thrilled to see all of this unfold. Then thoughts of them buying a fish bowl, pump and food for the little catch brought a smile to my face.
I waited for a moment and when the “carnie” walked by I placed my hand on her shoulder and said, “I saw what you did. That was great.”
She smiled and with a gruff, hard-lived voice she said, “Hey, I’m a mother, too.”
I struggled that day with going to this event alone. I forced myself to go out into the crowd and found it even more challenging to be an observer.
I had my moments of regret. I had my uncomfortable, awkward times when I longed for things to be the way they used to be.
But God taught me a lesson here.
He whispered in my ear , “One is never alone, if one has memories of ever having loved at all.”
I, my friend, have loved and love, still. For I have an intimate,passionate relationship with life.