When I was seven, my aunt took my brother and me to an Easter egg hunt in Minnehaha Park, not far from her house. The August before the hunt my brother and I, with all our worldly possessions in a big brown paper bag, had to walk five or six blocks from our grandmother’s house to our aunt’s.
I can still remember playing with a stick and dragging it in the dry grass along the side of the street. My brother comforted me when I worried about not finding our aunt’s place. He took my attention off our trek, saying, “Look at all those grasshoppers jump as your stick drags through the grass.”
We eventually reached our aunt’s and found her working in her garden. She yelled, “Hi, Ricky. Hi, Stevie. Ricky, your birthday is tomorrow. You’ll be seven years old and you will start school tomorrow. What do you think of that?”
I don’t remember what I thought, but that is how I know I was seven. The egg hunt took place the following Easter. Any child finding a golden egg among the “hidden” eggs received a prize. I say “hidden” because they really weren’t. Most of them were in the grass in plain sight. Easy pickings.
I did not intend on finding a golden egg, but I was intent on getting as many eggs as I could. Then I spotted something near a bush. When I got closer I realized it was a golden egg. I picked it up and found it was cracked. Still, it was a golden egg!
I took my treasure to the power-to-be and showed it to her. “Hum.” The middle-aged, overweight woman grunted. “See this crack? I think someone else found it and dropped it. Where did you find it?”
I pointed at the bush and said, “By that bush.”
“Well, even so, I think some other child found it first. Did you see some poor little child drop it and then you took it? Or did you simply take it out of another child’s basket?”
“I didn’t.” I protested.
The woman slipped the egg into a bag next to her. “I don’t think you deserve a prize.”
“But I found it.”
“Obviously, not first. We only give prizes to honest children. Now, run along and see if you can actually find a golden egg.”
Honest children? I didn’t do anything dishonest, but what could I say to this woman to convince her I didn’t steal it? I hung my head and went about looking for more eggs.
We all grow up and these incidents are put behind us. Or are they? Does this have any effect on how I view contests, gambling and lotteries today? You be the judge. I never play the lottery unless someone gives me the money to. When I was visiting in Nevada, with slot machines everywhere and money in my pocket, I did not risk one red cent. I have never gambled except a few penny ante poker games when I was in college. I rarely enter any contests of any kind.
I don’t know if this has really shaped the way I think. All I can do is tell you the facts. I think contests, gambling and lotteries are a big waste of time and money. After all, it is claimed you are more likely to get struck by lightening than to win the lottery. But is the golden egg incident what really makes me think this way?