Friday, February 13, 2009

Viva Las Vegas?

Today is going to be a first for me: I'm headed to Las Vegas.

It's not the usual haunt for a Christian pastor. Although I knew a wonderful United Methodist pastor who, once a year, came to Las Vegas and spent one whole week playing cards. And I don't mean euchre. It was one week when he did something crazy...and then he went back to coloring between the lines the other 51 weeks of the year.

What wild and crazy adventure calls me to this interesting city? Babysitting. Yep, babysitting. Our son and daughter-in-law are attending a national convention for photographers, and so they need someone to watch beautiful Ella. Those three -along with Grandma- are already out here.

I don't know what to expect. People who have been here tell me it is fun. And sad. Entertaining. And depressing. Others say to look beyond "the strip" to see the places where ordinary people live their lives.

One of the things I am puzzled by is the allure of gambling. I'm not sure what the draw is. What is it about this activity that makes people feel... what? More alive? What is there about the risk that is so attractive? Maybe -and I am just speculating, here- there is this sense that ordinary time will get turned upside-down by an extraordinary thing. Or maybe it is the chance that something unpredictable and unexpected and good might happen to us. Or is a part of it about people who don't have the resources they wish they had, and they imagine one moment that could give them
-once and forever- everything they could ever need. Instead of uncertainty, they would have more than enough.

I don't know what it is, but the people keep coming. Gambling has become a huge industry. And beneath the stories of the winners there are all those losers. I wonder how many fly home having been entertained, delighted, and refreshed in good ways. And how many go home deeper in debt... more desperate than ever.

But this trip isn't about gambling. It isn't about going to shows. It is about hanging with part of my family. And babysitting with beautiful Ella.

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