March 1st: Part Three

This is the last part of those wonderful hours spent playing and learning at our professor’s home. Here’s Part One, and also Part Two, just in case.

The prison.
Last game, it’s 2:30pm when we begin. We’ll play until 4pm, he says, and I cannot imagine this dice-rolling, piece-moving, card-drawing stretching until then. But it does. We’re the prisoners to his German officers, our multi-colored pieces hopping across the board. Around the table, five players watch the board intently, searching its jail-patterned backdrop for the answers to our puzzle, for our escape. Standing, I lean over the board, study the spaces, the rooms, the walls. I count the spaces between my pieces, the spaces to my goals. I strategize a way, get arrested, replan, rethink, redo. The child toddles past, bare feet smacking faintly on the hardwood floor. I pick her up, her weight on my hip familiar, comfortable. She sips her milk bottle, I plan my escape from a German Prisoner of War camp.

The clock ticks by. It’s 3:30pm. Slowly, we begin to understand the community aspect of the game. In order to win, you must get two of your own pieces safely out of jail, he’d said. But I’ll be beaten when any two pieces escape. Slowly, we understand. It’s not a me versus them; it’s an us versus him. We work together, then. Pass cards back and forth: do you need this? Will this help you? Time is running out and we’re desperate now. Desperate to work together. She’s stuck, needs rope. I hand over mine and with it, the escape plan I had labored over. We yell, cheer, when another break free. I dance, nervous, the child still on my hip, as I watch her roll the dice.
She must survive, we can do this.

The game ends at 4:02pm. I’ve lost, my pieces forfeited in a Do or Die move that would free me or kill me. But it doesn’t feel like a loss at all. Doesn’t feel like disappointment, the slump of shoulders, the shrug of indifference to cover the sting of effort lost. Doesn’t feel like that because it’s not that. This is success. This game is cooperation, community. This game is awareness of others, watching the colored pieces move; where is she going, how can I help her, what is best for another. This game is teamwork, self sacrifice. This game has rules, but so does life and maybe they’re more like guidelines. This game is planning and then scrapping your plan with one misstep, one roll of the dice, one endangered friend. This game is improvisation and heart and struggle and learning, growing constantly.

This game is you are not your own, you are not alone. And those are lessons that everyone can learn.

And tomorrow, I drive once more along the highway towards this wonderful home on the corner. But I’ll not go all the way there. Rather, there’s a school beside the highway, brick building full of learning and teaching and students and Jesus. And tomorrow, I’ll visit and I’ll meet and I’ll ask questions and I’ll hear more, and maybe in January, I’ll go back and teach.



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