November 2012

We’ve been playing a board game in my mentoring groups called Hard Times.  It’s a game similar to Monopoly, but with more real to life situations.  It’s a game of the haves and have-nots. The object of the game is to basically achieve middle class success:  you must find and hold a job, purchase a house, car, and other possessions, and pay your bills on time.  In Hard Times, you do not automatically get a paycheck when you pass Go, you have to effectively find and apply for a job, which you may or may not get, depending on the roll of the dice.  You can go through the whole game being “poor”, depending again on the roll of the dice.  And hope that you don’t roll the dice and land on a hard times square…  If you do that you must address some potentially life changing event such as unexpected medical expenses, family emergency or some other unforeseen crisis.

I’m playing with the four boys in this group and in the middle of the game I look around and two of the boys are in good shape.  They have good jobs, they’ve been able to pay their bills on time and no unexpected, costly tragedies have hit them.  The other two boys, however, are in bad shape.  Neither have jobs: one of them has had a couple of good jobs, but lost them, the other has been chronically unemployed. They don’t have houses and all they receive for income is a small stipend to live on.  One has children that he is unable to care for  and the other cannot hold a job and has chemical dependency issues.  Sometimes this game gets too real…

We’re playing this game and having a lot of fun.  I mean, it’s just a game, right?  But as I’m reflecting on the boys’ different positions within the game,  I’m thinking, “Man, this really could be their lives as adults in ten or fifteen years.” This is why I play this game with them, to begin to expose them to the sober realities of life for poor black kids growing up in the inner city.  In the game Hard Times, your social status, wealth, and opportunities come at the whim of chance… a roll of the dice.  In real life it’s often that way as well.  We don’t choose the families, cultures or settings we are born into and all of us go through life dealing with circumstances beyond our control.  But this group of African American boys, for whom, statistically, life promises to be difficult, I teach they can expect to have decent, fulfilling lives if they can take responsibility for the circumstances in life which they can control such as behavior and attitude, and educational, moral and social choices…  It can make all the difference in life.

We are in a season now when our collective American consciousness becomes more sensitive to the plight of the disenfranchised in our society.  But I strive always to have God’s perspective on things.  We are a society of the “haves” and “have nots”.  People are often categorized on the basis of how much wealth they possess.  Jesus said that those who have the Son of God have life, but those who do not have the Son of God do not have life.  Life is more than what we possess, it’s about fulfillment, belonging and peace… eternal qualities only found in Christ.

Our prayerful goal is that all the children and families we encounter here may truly be haves…  that they may have the knowledge of Jesus living inside of them… and that having this Knowledge they may receive life more abundant than they can imagine.  Prayerfully consider joining us in this ministry through your prayers and gifts.

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