Monday, February 16, 2009

What Happens in Las Vegas?

I'm a new kid on the block. Never been to this city before. But here I am - babysitting for an 18-month old granddaughter while her parents attend a national convention of photographers.

Let me tell you what I've noticed. The hotels and casinos have the largest signs in the world, I suspect. The staff of the first-line resorts are extraordinarily hard working and gracious. The mountains in the distance are rugged and have snow on them. All sorts of people from all over the world find their way here. Last night, in an Italian restaurant in the MGM Grand, we met a couple from Denver who are aerial dancers - acrobats. He is a pastry chef for his day job. Like I said, interesting people.

Good moments? Watching the dancing fountains at the Bellagio thunder and turn while beautiful music played. Running into friends from New Haven United Methodist Church on the street. Getting out into Red Rocks State Park and seeing amazing sandstone that was once sand dunes.

Two last observations. I've wandered through one of the best casinos. I've studied people playing the machines and the "games." Passing row after row of people seated in front of slot machines, I turned to Sharon and said, "Show me one person whose eyes are alive...who looks like they are within shouting distance of joy...of fun." There wasn't one! Every single person looked half-alive...half-here...and sort of alone. Tonight I stood next to a man, wearing a worn looking sweatshirt, who bought $500 worth of chips, and then last them in the next seven or eight minutes. I watched the sweat beading up on his forehead as the chips disappeared. Most of the folks I see around here look half here. Half alive.

One last observation: on "The Strip" there are people wearing brightly colored sweatshirts that say "GUARANTEED GIRLS TO YOU IN 20 MINUTES." There are hundreds of these folks, standing up and down Las Vegas Boulevard, with these small cards -about the size of playing cards- with pictures of half-naked girls and a phone number. It is an awful thing. Every life reduced to a card...that lists what services can be purchased. The people on the sidewalk try to hand these cards to you while you walk by. By the end of the day the sidewalks of this city are littered with hundreds of thousands of these cards...and every one represents a broken life. A life used up by a desperate, seedy empire fueled by lust empty of with the soul removed.

I thought of those girls and what is happening to them, the other day, and began to cry. I remembered how Song of Songs (it's a book in the Bible) celebrates the gift of sexual love when our partner cherishes us...loves us. Each girl whose number is being handed out on the streets of this city deserves to be cherished...valued...loved a child of God.

Okay...I'm looking forward to seeing Cirque's show, KA, before heading back to Indiana on Wednesday. And I'll remember the delight in Ella's eyes as we watched the fountains at the Bellagio. But I'll be unable to forget the lack of life I've seen in so many eyes...and the sidewalks littered with cards that each represent a life used up in cruel and desperate ways.

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