We all win, but the game is fixed

“God is a concept by which we measure our pain.”                                                      —John Lennon

I was thinking of Miss Stransky the other day. She was my first grade teacher. And like most good first grade teachers, she had a voice that could stretch and glide across nearly any word. Oh, I suppose I had a bit of a “thing” for her, just like all the rest of the guys who would just as soon staple their lips to the bulletin board as admit it. But my infatuation ended with the pre-Christmas Best Row game. You see, Miss Stransky did something that just didn’t make sense to a selfish kid, especially around Christmas. She had the gall to be benevolent.

The game itself was simple enough. Each row received a star sticker if it had the cleanest desks, cleanest floor or if no one choked on paste that day, etc. . . At the end of two weeks, the row with the most stars would win a giant candy cane; the sugared staff of dominance. And I figured I had a pretty good shot at it because a disciplinary quirk of fate had recently landed me in an all-girls row. Normally a deeply horrifying sentence, this chastisement was playing right into my hands. Those girls may have been “crummy” at what we boys held dear, such as spitting and poking fun at girls, but they were world champions at cleaning desks and holding off the seductive charms of paste and pencil erasers for that matter. (What could we have possibly been thinking, back then?)

My row sprinted out of the gates and built a huge lead. We were rumbling toward certain victory. A fearsome juggernaut dealing crushing blows to anyone standing in the way of candy cane glory. But something happened in the two days I missed before the end of the contest. (Kind of ironic, by the way, that I caught something when I was the cleanest I had been in months. Go figure.) I returned to find the star count had mysteriously been evened. And though we all won candy canes, I was incensed. I mean, the other rows could have washed their floors in toxic strength lysol and boiled their desks in acid, and they would still have needed a step-ladder from their puny star heap to see our butts in the lead.

Consequently, I did not lash out at the girls for blowing our lead. Instead, I kept quiet and mentally lashed out at Miss Stransky. I wanted victory. And while it seemed a dirty trick to deny us that victory, it was far worse to be manipulated into keeping tidy for a lousy candy cane. I yearned to take that beautifully graceful voice of hers and stretch and glide it around her neck. And it was Christmas.

It took me quite a while to come to understand Miss Stransky’s actions. She, of course, wanted everyone to win. She wanted it equal in the end. Equal. I sometimes wonder if everything really will be equal in the end. Will all our stars come out the same when it is our time to leave? Will God overlook this and give just a little extra for that? Will the starving little boys and girls we see on television, or even those that seem to be lonely and hurt on our own campus, not feel cheated, as I did, if we all receive the same at the end of the Game? It bothers me, and it bothers you.

Regardless of the fairness, I have to believe God will make it right in the end. I, of all people, do not have a direct line to God, but I know he keeps score with the intention of everyone winning. The Game was fixed at Christmas. We just have to be willing to play.

John Lennon was wrong.


Dec. 12, 1991

The Augustana Mirror