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Nintendo and the Wheel of God (2 of 2)

(continued from Wednesday’s post)

“I…I…I…CAN’T!” It was just too much for Kenny’s little Asperger-trending social fears to overcome. He just didn’t have it in him to go up in front of all those people. I was sad. But I also totally understood.

Our dear friend Allyson was right behind us, and had witnessed our entire exchange. “Send Preston!” she offered. “You’ll go! Won’t you, buddy?”

“YEAH!”

I handed our five-year-old his big brother’s ticket, and he bolted full-tilt for the aisle, waving his treasure over his head. He charged the stage and proudly handed it over. The number was verified, and we were off.

Pastor Scott said, “Come spin the wheel, buddy!”

Like one of those testosterone-high guys spinning The Price Is Right showcase wheel, little Preston cranked that sucker as hard as he could. The crowd of thousands fell so silent, we could actually hear the rapid-fire clack-clack-clack-clack-clack of the snapping pointer from our seats, even though we were probably 200 feet from the stage.

Slower. Slower. Ever slower. Clack…clack…clack….clack….clack……clack……clack………CLACK! And something magic happened: Smack dead-center on the GameCube.

The sound was like a collective gasp, a punch in the stomach, as everyone in the crowd drew in their breath at once, just like when the tide sucks away every drop of water in the instant before the tsunami crashes the beach. A deafening, simultaneous ROAR swept over us all. I screamed perhaps louder than I ever have before. It felt like I had won a Nintendo GameCube!

The moments which followed were a surreal blur. Incredible euphoria. And Kenny felt almost instant despair at his profound loss: “It was supposed to be MEEEEEEE!”

I tried to console him: “Aw, Kenny… Even if you had gone up there, that still doesn’t mean your spin would have landed on the GameCube. Besides, it’s going home with us to our house! It’s not like you’re never going to get to play it.” Astoundingly, my flawless logic seemed to have the opposite of its intended effect.

Meanwhile, Kendra was trying to convince Preston that it just wouldn’t be right for him to keep his prize, since she worked for the church, and people would think for sure it was rigged. But he was having none of it. Besides, Pastor Scott insisted it would be a greater tragedy to take it away from him. We all knew the truth: Preston had won it fair and square.

That GameCube has quite a few miles on it now, but literally every time they take it out of the closet to play it, when I see it, it transports me again to that flashing, brilliant moment, which will probably be one of the happiest memories of Preston’s life, and by extension, mine.

Have you ever won anything? What’s the greatest prize you’ve received? Why does it seem like people always spin those wheels so flippin’ hard?!?

Nintendo and the Wheel of God (1 of 2)

We have a local theme park curiously gifted at overpricing concessions and keeping rides from the 70’s on eternal life support. As a child, I remember when this park obtained the Cherry Blossom Special, a rusty metal roller coaster reaching a dizzying twenty feet high. A fresh coat of paint, some axle grease and WD-40, and it was as good as new. Better, even. I also remember when, in my teens, the Cherry Blossom Special, faded and falling into squeaky disrepair, was re-christened as the Orange Blossom Special. (True story.) Finally, when it seemed its dilapidated condition could seemingly no longer be hidden, it was moved inside a building that was pitch black inside and rebranded as a runaway mine train. (Also true.)

But all of that only sets the scene for our story. The real action takes place at LifeStock, an annual event hosted by our church. (Many people—most of whom have never attended our church—brand it a “megachurch.” Our church leaders, however, prefer to call us a “micro” church with a “mega” mission.) Every summer at LifeStock, literally thousands of people from all over the city show up to enjoy discounted tickets, lines stretching halfway to the moon, and dementia-inducing heat. (That’s just one of the myriad ways that we Christians express our devotion to God’s only Son and our Dear Savior.)

One major draw of these events—besides sweaty hordes of believers, of course—is always the worship music. Extraordinary musicians from literally all over the country swarm a huge stage facing a large hillside. In 2006, before the music started, our (quite literally) world-famous kids’ program would stage a fun show. In 2006, they had a gaming portion of the show where they brought kids up on stage and let them do different things to win prizes.

The capstone event was a Wheel of Fortune-type upright roulette wheel with prizes listed on it. They call your ticket number, you come up and spin the wheel. Whatever it lands on, you win. While it was our good friend JT who actually engineered and built this spectacular wheel, my magnificent wife was one of the key coordinators of the actual program in progress. Our kids pastor was the emcee and stage presence, and Kendra served double-duty as Vanna White and chief kid wrangler of the mouth-breathers once they were on stage.

The prizes were all sorts of the things kids drool over: Dolls and stickers, candy and water pistols. But everybody there knew the pièce de résistance was the Nintendo GameCube. Kendra knew that’s what every kid wanted, although she herself despises anything to do with video games. I myself had years earlier been coerced to surrender my Nintendo Entertainment System and staggering two games to a raffle held at the school where she taught. This was not because I was such a generous person eager to see youngsters strive to better themselves, but because she wanted it out of our house. (Fortunately, I’m not bitter.) But every kid at LifeStock knew that was the brass ring they were grasping for.

Kendra was on stage, and I was in the audience with our two boys, suffocating in the sweltering heat. Pastor Scott called the next number. Every little head in the massive crowd drooped simultaneously, frantically checking it against their tickets. Kenny, our oldest, was the first head to pop up. He held his ticket out to me, trembling. It was his number. I double-checked… Sure enough. “Go on!” I told him cheerfully. “Get up there!”

Has your number ever been called? What did you do? What do you think is gonna happen? Plot twists and an unexpected outcome. Come back for our conclusion this Friday.