I’m not a gambler, rarely walk through casinos, and I felt like I was experiencing sensory overload on this short walk. There were slot machines everywhere, and at each, someone was already aimlessly feeding its voracious appetite. The vast majority of the folks there were over 70, obese, smoking, drinking (in the morning!) and looked haggard and defeated by life. Perhaps they’d been gambling all night.
Looking at these people, I tried to envision their lives, their stories…. Some as tourists visiting from the Midwest, some who flew in from the East coast for their first trip to Vegas, others who drove here from California, and some must have been locals too. The one thing they all had in common was that they were sitting in a dark, smoke-filled room, mindlessly wasting one quarter or one dollar after another. I was overcome by a pervasive feeling of sadness.
I had a strong urge to photograph some of them (which isn’t allowed in casinos for security reasons). One woman was lighting a new cigarette from the old one, a elderly man (well over 400 pounds) was leaning on his walker while precariously trying to fit his bottom onto a stool, a sea of blue-haired ladies with self-embroidered sweat shirts sat together, all ignoring one another, intently focused on their machines.
No one was talking to anyone else. No winning bells were ringing and no one was smiling. It made me wonder why they were there, and if they were lucky enough to hit a jackpot, how would that change their life? Would they finally be able to smile? Would they thendecide to get healthy? Would they be able to walk outside in the sunshine? Would the money somehow bring a new found purpose to their life?
What I couldn’t ignore was that it was a sunny, beautiful day outside, and the time they spent inside was time they’d never get back. The mindless days they spent in front of these money-robbing machines was time and money that would never enrich their lives, never elevate them mentally or spiritually, nor be of benefit to mankind. I was observing mechanical zombies staring aimlessly as they pushed one button after the other. It was like watching a disturbing scene from a sci-fi movie.
Part of me wanted to scream, “Go read a book instead”, or “Go for a walk outside”! But what struck me the most was the fact that if they did win, they’d probably spend more time enjoying the sunshine, sitting by the pool, spending more time with their families….etc…. all things that they could be doing in that moment- NOW, without winning the jackpot!
Through this experience, it made me ask myself, “Where in my life am I waiting to “hit it big” before I take the time to enjoy my life in this very moment?” And by just asking myself that question, I was flooded with gratitude and I felt like I’d already won the lottery in life.
I can go for a walk in the woods whenever I want to. I can visit the beach, ski through the snow, hug my granddaughter, sail through the Caribbean with my family, or do whatever we want to do. Sure, we still have to work to make most of these things happen, but by working for them; the rewards are that much sweeter. We all have the ability to create what we want.
I walked out of that casino with conviction knowing that I choose to live my life fully, and with intention. I choose to spend my time doing things that matter and things that make a difference not only in my life, but also in the lives of others.
I refuse to waste my time sitting in front of the slot machine of life, hoping against hope that one day my ship will just miraculously sail in.
Instead, I will create a vision and a plan, and I will put in the work. And from that, I have no doubt that I’ll hear the celebration bells and whistles of winning the jackpot, AND I’ll get to enjoy the gift of truly being alive every day along the way as well. Sounds like a winning hand to me!