The Lottery Ticket

And a moral dilemma in that little brain of mine

Photo by Alejandro Garay on Unsplash

So I wake up on lottery day, with a weird idea wandering in my sleepy mind, as if speaking to me.

“Say you win the lottery today, would you give it all up, all the 154,000,000.00 euros, for no reason whatsoever?”

Silence

“OK, how about giving it up for a cause? What would it be?”

Children. Without a doubt.

The cause

Children are the most precious resource in this universe. They are the only hope this world has, and yet, they are so vulnerable and need so much attention and love, both of which are scarce, both of which are fading away.

So many children are suffering out there, so many children dying alone, hungry, miserable, out in the cold. Children do not have what it takes to fight back. They have their parents of course, but parents can only do so much when they have not eaten in days, when they have lost their job, their roof, their dignity. All they can do is love their children even more, hug them closer in the cold street they now call home, until the reaper comes for one or the other, and that’s about it.

Children are resilient, much more than you’d think. But resilience only comes in handy if the sole enemy they were facing was adversity. Children face more aggressive foes than adversity. They face preying scum who care little about them as poor little human beings, and more about the buck they can make on their backs. They will enslave them, sell them as cheap labor, or body parts, or both, or simply use them as shoot’em up material. It hurts reading this I guess. It sure hurt me writing it.

“So, back to our lottery. Would you give up your winnings for the sake of children?”

Yes! Most of it at least.

“Most of it?”

Yeah, you know, I might keep a little for the mortgage, and a little for retirement, and I would use a portion to set up a foundation to cater for the children in need. And then…

And then it dawned on me. I will never run out of good reasons to keep a stack of money aside, and the children can always have what is left. Which is nothing. And then I understood that this idea wandering in my mind was actually a call. A wake-up call. 

The wake-up call

What it says is that easy money rots you inside out. That you will not have enough wisdom and detachment to keep your head cool and your ethics intact. That every penny you keep to yourself would end up burning your soul, because as long as there are people looking for solace out there, as long as there are children sleeping in the streets, every penny you keep from the lottery winning would be a curse to you and your loved ones.

So no, I will not have it in me to give it away, but I am grateful I have enough brains to realize this much about myself. 

I know this idea might sound outright crazy to many if not most, and I sure know there is nothing wrong or unethical in winning lottery and enjoying it. It was a very personal wake-up call, tailor-made to that little brain of mine, and it made me take a very personal decision, which, of course, might or might not be right for everyone, but it sure feels right to me.

Ever since that day, I vowed to never buy lottery tickets again. I do not want to have to silence that little voice in my head, and I know I will have to if I ever win, even if the odds are extremely small.

A little prayer

Whenever I get tempted, I think of the children. And I say a little prayer. I ask God to grant me enough wisdom to stand by my choices, enough kindness to keep sharing with those in need, enough charity to keep a place in my heart for the children in need, enough gratitude for being alive, having a roof above my head and food on the table, and enough love to raise my children the way He would want me to.

And enough foolishness and liberty to still give up the lottery price should I ever stumble and buy a winning ticket, against all odds. 

And still, dear reader, if you happen to be holding to a lottery ticket right now, I hope it is the winning one. And I wish you all the wisdom and love in the world, regardless.

Let the board sound

Rabih

Une leçon d’échecs

1990, vers février ou mars. La dernière phase d’une guerre qui grondait depuis 15 ans. Dans la salle de séjour, entre deux sifflements d’obus, un papa, une paire de ciseaux à la main, découpait un bout de carton en petits confettis qu’il coloriait ensuite en noir ou en rouge. Ainsi émergèrent un roi, un fou, un cavalier. Un pion. Deux pions. Une tour. Un jeu d’échecs, avec les moyens du bord.

Photo by Hassan Pasha

C’était la partie la plus facile de l’initiative. Encore fallait-il apprendre les règles d’un jeu millénaire à deux enfants de 7 ou 8 ans. Et éviter une guerre civile à l’échelle de l’appartement puisqu’une partie de gagnée est également une partie de perdue de l’autre côté de l’échiquier. Tout dépend du point de vue. Noirs ou Rouges. Eux ou Nous. Chrétiens ou Musulmans, Maronites ou Druzes, Chiites ou Sunnites. Mais aussi Forces Libanaises, OLP, Force de dissuasion Arabe, Amal, Hezbollah, Aounistes, Marada, Mourabitoun, IDF, et j’en passe. Une pagaille sans nom qui aura duré 15 ans et six mois, ou plutôt, qui aura couté 150 000 morts, 100 000 blessés, 250 000 émigrés et un bon petit million de déplacés si l’on utilisait une unité de mesure plus adaptée que les mois et les années à l’ampleur de cette catastrophe.

Et au milieu de ce maelström, un papa, un jeu d’échecs qui tient dans une boite d’allumettes et deux enfants qui apprennent tant bien que mal qu’un roque vaut mieux qu’un massacre de reines dans cette vaste partie d’échecs qu’est la vie.

En conclusion, à tous ceux qui glorifient la guerre, qui font sa promotion, qui en font une solution pour déloger les dictateurs et libérer les peuples opprimés, allez vous faire pendre ailleurs. Ne connait vraiment la guerre que celui ou celle qui l’a vécue, et croyez-moi, pour en avoir vécu une, ce n’est la solution à aucun problème.

A bon entendeur.

Let the board sound

Rabih

On children

I was driving back home. It had been one of those days which make you long for the nights. 

Down the street, a traffic light turning green. And a pedestrian deciding it was about time to cross.

Photo by Jan Kopriva

As I got closer, I took a silent stab at him. I was not impressed. He was overweight, shabby clothes, tired eyes. And crossing when and where he should not.

As most drivers would, I did not wish him many nice things. I was deep into this rather universal game where you are in the driver seat one day, silently cursing at pedestrians, and the other day a pedestrian, silently cursing at drivers.

And then, for some reason I cannot explain, my kids came to my mind. A boy, 20 months old, his two sisters, 5 and 7 years old, the joys of our life. And I thought, well, this man was once a kid. Someone’s kid. Someone’s joy. There were parents, people, who would have done anything to give him the best they could. His eyes must have been full of joy, full of life. And then, life took its toll. As it does on all of us, as it did on me. 

30 or 35 years ago, my eyes would have noticed completely different things about him: that he had blue eyes which would have reminded me of my uncles whom I looked up to when I was a kid (and still do). That he was tall like my dad, whom I have not seen for so long because a distance of thousands of kilometers made out of a part of Europe, the Mediterranean sea and a Covid outbreak separate us. That he was wearing moccasins, which were my favorite type of shoes back then (a bit less now). 

And overweight? Little did I know at the time that I too will become overweight at some point in my life, because life can do that to you sometimes. Many times…

All these thoughts crossed my mind in a fraction of a second. By the time he was on the other side, I was already seeing him with different eyes. The child he had once been was in front of me and the man himself had waned. 

It has only been a week or so since that day, and although “ever since” would sound like a lot of time right now, still, “ever since” that day, I try to see the child they once were in the folks I meet, especially the challenging ones. The child they no longer are for reasons I can only try to imagine, or the one they might still be if you only scratch the surface. 

No easy task, especially over skype, but once you nail it down, if you nail it down, it makes things a little easier on you. A different perspective.

This quest for a long gone childhood makes me miss my children, wanting to rush whatever that is I am doing just to be with them a little earlier. I miss them right now actually, even though they are downstairs playing. Man are they loud. I can hear them now and so can my client, an investment bank in the United Kingdom…

But hey, children playing in the background have become the norm in business meetings in 2021, and I have grown wise enough these last two years to find it very fortunate. It brings a touch of poetry into an otherwise relatively grey activity. 

And I bet my client in the UK would not disagree. So, dear client, let me know what you think…

Let the board sound

Rabih