This I Believe

William - Garfield Heights, Ohio
Entered on March 6, 2007

I Believe in Living Life as a Canasta Card Player.

In card games a good memory is a necessity. It’s the key in choosing what to discard and what to keep. My grandmother used cards to sharpen my recall. She’d spread the deck on her kitchen table face down, and each of us took a turn flipping two cards over. When you found a pair you took it and got another turn. During this game she told me, in Russian, “Boise, use your mind. Remember!” Her amazing recall always impressed me. She was right; the more you use your mental capacity, the stronger it gets, and you get to keep it when you get old.

When dealing, my fingers practice dexterity and co-operation of movement as I count out the cards while talking with fellow players. Multi-tasking is good and the concept extends into real life.

Canasta teaches me not to procrastinate. Going out as soon as possible is a winning strategy. I receive my points, but those without pairs get minus points. As the hands go around, I take the pile at first opportunity. Those who wait too long to pick up the pile and don’t, will be disappointed when another player takes it.

I’ve jumped at the chance to pick up the pile in life. My wife and I took the opportunity to be volunteer workers in the States and ended up as missionaries in Chile. We experienced Allende’s evolution to Communism and General Pinocet’s military coup. We didn’t make enough to pay taxes but now have friends, memories and satisfaction that money can’t buy.

Playing cards reminds me that no matter what stratagem I follow, winning is influenced by chance. I have goals and desires, yet Canasta has taught me that time, and unforeseen occurrences rule. I’ve learned to compromise, accept what life deals me, be positive, and make the best of it.

A win at Canasta feels good. However I’ve learned it’s bad manners to rub in my success or belittle the mistakes of others. I’ve learned to be humble and respect the feelings of others. The result is a friendly game and friendlier relationships.

There are many rules for playing Canasta- the number of decks used, how many cards are dealt, what cards are wild, and what makes up a meld – a winning hand. Life isn’t a card game, but break the rules and you may suffer shame and litigation. Some players will holler and deride you while others will silently scrunch their faces and re-evaluate your standing with them.

Like the player who cheats on his wife and is now in divorce court, I’ve seen players cheat by discarding cards held tightly together on top of each other. How embarrassing for a dishonest player when caught. Playing canasta reminds me of this and teaches me to be honest, humble, ready to compromise, and not to procrastinate. It teaches me to be positive and accept what life deals me.

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