“Better to be silent and thought wise, than to speak and remove all doubt.” Ancient Proverb
I like people to think I’m smarter than I am. Maybe that’s why I like meeting new people. New people don’t know I’m not smart – yet. See, I don’t always get things in real time. Sometimes it takes a few seconds or minutes. Sometimes it’s weeks later when I’m sitting in church and, WHAM! I involuntarily blurt out “I got it!” Then everyone starts praising Jesus for my salvation.
Some people are quick. They think quick, they speak quick; they just seem to understand the laws of nature and rules of society. These are the people that end up going into politics because they are ahead of our thinking and lead the way to a better future for all. Unfortunately, they often become corrupt along the way and end up leading the whole society into a big mess. Tsk, tsk.
But some people are more slow to speak. They take time to carefully consider things more thoughtfully before responding. I’d like to be in this category. But sadly I’m usually in the third category: the quick to speak and slow to think. Like the time I suggested we take a group of older pre-schoolers upstairs to play checkers with the seniors visiting from a nearby nursing home.
I underestimated the competitiveness of the “greatest generation” as well as the resourcefulness of the half pints.
“It’s your move, pip sqeak.” an old man said to the little boy.
I cringed as I watched the boy study the board, realizing the old man’s next move would take half of his checkers.
“Stop calling me Annie.” a little girl whined running from an old woman chasing her with her walker.
Eyeing a couple of older gentlemen who were playing cards, Robbie, a precocious five year old asked “How much you money do you have?”
“Now Robbie, that’s gambling and we don’t do that.” I gently explained.
“What if I don’t cheat?” he asked sincerely.
Before I could answer, I realized the old man at the checker board had fallen asleep. Alec, I think was his name, politely coughed, waking the man. Sure the man was now watching the board, Alec picked up a black checker piece and jumped it around the board clearing all of the red pieces. He smiled so angelically the old man abandoned any thought of questioning how he had suddenly won the game.
And so it went for two hours. Kids playing for money, seniors playing for candy. Kids running from old people, old people running from children. Me, trying to keep the kids from hitting each other. Seniors trying to get kids to hit seniors they didn’t like.
I don’t know who enjoyed it more, or if any of them enjoyed it at all. When I asked the kids the next day if they would want to play with the seniors again, the general consensus was “No.”
“Why not, I asked?”
“Old people are worse than grown ups.” said Alec.
“Ah ha!” I exclaimed, having a sudden revelation and scaring the children and teacher.
“Thank you, Mrs. Shay” the teachers said stepping between me and the kids. “By the way, we won’t be needing your help anymore. We have enough volunteers for the rest of the year.”
“I figure it out!” I said unfazed, my voice rising over the hubbub of little voices.
“You’re frightening the children.” she whispered to me, gently pushing me out the door.
“He turned the board around!” I explained. “Don’t you see? He waited for the old man to fall asleep and he turned the board around!”
“Okay. Bye, bye.” she said with one last shove and closed the door.
Looking through the glass I saw the confused faces of all the little pre-schoolers. All, that is, except for one. Alec stood to the side smirking! I suppose I could have gone to the authorities, but I believe everyone deserves a second chance. I just hope having gotten away with cheating one time, he doesn’t turn to a life of crime. Or politics.