“Life is not a carnival game,” my high school P.E. teacher liked to say, and thank goodness for that.
Of all the times I have dropped a few dollar bills at the county fair trying to win one of those giant stuffed animals, all I have ever received back was a little rubber duckie. While they say practice makes perfect, I am not so sure there are enough hours in the day for me to learn just the right way to toss a ring or throw a dart.
Nevertheless, while life might not be a carnival game, it can sure sometimes seem just as frustratingly difficult. As a parishioner and I mused the other day, sometimes just living into your best self, as in your true self, can be about as elusive as winning that giant teddy bear always staring me down at the water-gun tent.
An old wisdom tale tells the story of a well-respected, old rabbi named Zusia who was troubled one day. “What’s the matter?” his friends asked. “The other day, I had a vision,” he said, “and I learned the question the angels will one day ask of me.”
“No problem,” his friends said as they all remarked on his humility and kindness. “So, what could you possibly have to be worried about?”
He said, “I have learned that I will not be asked, ‘Why weren’t you a Moses or why weren’t you a Joshua?’ They will say, ‘Zusia, why weren’t you Zusia?’”
Life is not a carnival game. The good thing is that we do get a lot of chances at getting it right, and as an added bonus, we do not need to throw away a lot of money or go anywhere special for a chance to practice. Instead, the carnival, so to speak, is all around us, and the prize is in discovering all the many chances we all have to live more so into our own true selves through the kindness and empathy we share with others.