I play the lottery. No. Really. Not the Nebraska Lottery or Lotto or whatever those various games of chance are called. If you know me, you know that I am opposed to that type of gambling to the point that I don’t even buy raffle tickets from Girl Scouts.
I gamble on people.
The reality of this life metaphor just became apparent to me the other day. Teachers do this, I think. We pay for our lottery tickets with our lives—time, effort, intellect, etc.—wagers that our students will be winners. We gamble that we can make their lives better and, in doing so, make the world better. Reflecting on my career, I think I mostly had winners. I feel pretty good about the work I did and what I know of the work they are doing, at least the ones who have kept in touch in some way.
My retirement has given me time to shake things up a bit. The game has changed. For one thing, I’m gambling on myself more. I’ve always wanted to be a writer, so I’m giving myself the chance, taking the risks, exploring what it means. I think teaching all those years helps because I know that I learn more from my failures than I do from my successes as long as I can get good critiques!
I’m still gambling on others, too, though. Part of my branching out for myself is getting involved in a couple of ventures that will be successful only if people pull together. The rewards will be intrinsic, for the most part, but that’s what I’m after here. I’m old enough, my life has changed enough, that I’m thinking of what my legacy will be. It’s nice to think that my students, my children, and grandchildren will remember me. Something is pushing me to do more, though, to do something that will be of direct benefit to people I don’t know, will never know, but who will in their own turn be able to achieve their dreams.
As with my writing, I don’t fear failure in these projects, but it will be extremely disappointing to me if they don’t come to fruition, mostly because so many people who could and should benefit from them will not have that assistance. It’s a gamble. I’m paying to play with my time, effort, sweat, intellect, money, and, the least important, my reputation (such as it is). What do I get if I win? Honestly, I probably won’t even be around when the winning numbers are drawn. And that’s OK with me, too. It’s worth the gamble. What are you gambling on?