My son’s entry into kindergarten was exciting as well as stressful. You know the drill: uniform requirements, backpack, notebooks, pencils, haircut, polished shoes, lunch, snack, juice, nap towel, wipes, hand sanitizer, tissues (the latter for Mom and Dad).
I started preparing weeks before, and thought I had everything covered for a smooth transition from “summer slumber” to “fall thunder” on the first day of school. But nothing prepared me for the many strange experiences I would encounter in “mandatory bingo duty.”
Parents are always asked to volunteer their time to assist with the many tasks needed to run a school efficiently and effectively. It does take a village to raise a child. One day each month assisting in bingo duty may be a very small sacrifice if you are considering the time involved. However, the spiritual sacrifice may be another thing altogether. Can a seemingly harmless game of bingo become a real cause for concern?
As I dutifully walked up and down the endless rows of tables and chairs, clutching my yellow game cards in the hope of selling a few more, I saw to my delight one woman beckoning me by waving a dollar bill in the air. As I approached, she told me she was naming me “temptation” and explained how I was tempting her by silently passing by her table so often. Therefore, she felt compelled to buy more cards from me.
Two other “regulars” realized that they hadn’t seen me at the bingo hall before and took that as a sign that they should buy additional cards, as they commented something about beginners luck. And one gentleman went so far as to rub the card on my arm – just as an extra precaution!
It would be easy to shrug this off as innocent fun if it were not for the fact that they were all very serious. A sad observation is that most of the players never smile. During play, if my eyes met theirs, I attempedt a smile – only to receive a blank stare in return. So I continued to walk my route.
That’s when I noticed I was surrounded by all types of good luck charms – miniature idols that were placed in front of most of the players: trolls, tiny dolls, feathers, assortment of figurines and trinkets, some of which are strategically placed on specific numbers in hopes of somehow empowering the bingo cards and giving the player an advantage to win. In addition, the hard-working gentleman calling out each bingo number was being cursed by several players when he called a number not to their liking.
It didn’t take me long to recognize that I was navigating through a minefield of superstition.
One definition of superstition is an irrational deep-seated belief in the magical effects of a specific action or ritual, especially in the likelihood that good or bad luck will result from performing it.
Lord, I asked, what am I doing here?
The Catechism of the Catholic Church states that superstition is a departure from the worship that we give to the true God. Superstition can even affect the worship we offer the true God, for example when one attributes an importance in some way magical to certain practices. Wearing charms is also reprehensible. (I wonder if that includes the use of charms as I witnessed at bingo?) (CCC 2138, 2111)
What to do?
I did what every serious Christian does each and every day as they traverse our “anything goes” world – I prayed. As I walked around hawking bingo cards, I said a little prayer with each one I sold. I prayed for the deliverance of all persons who are deceived into putting their faith in anything other than Jesus Christ. I prayed for the protection of the players, and the workers as well. And I prayed that God would please make known to me his purpose for my being there in the first place.
“Ask and you shall receive.” Luke 11:9
Toward the end of my first bingo tour I overheard an elderly woman confiding that she had cancer. I asked if I could pray with her. She accepted, and right there at that very moment we prayed. Later a fellow volunteer shared that she had breast cancer and was currently in remission but was afraid that the cancer would return. Would I pray with her? Yes, of course. We went off in a little corner and prayed together. Another week, a woman outside the bingo hall struck up a conversation with me and I found myself praying over her knee and back. Just last week, a volunteer opened up about the physical and psychological pain she was experiencing, and right there and then we prayed and brought her concerns to Jesus.
“For I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord: plans to prosper you and not to harm you; plans to give you hope and a future.” Jeremiah 29:11
It was a real eye opener for me that Jesus plays bingo. Not occasionally but each and every day. And he’s invited me to visit him each time I fulfill my bingo duty, to which I now look forward. He can easily be found amid the minefield of superstition, ready to dispel the darkness, bring sight to the blind and give glory to the Father. And he always wins!