Raffle-Related Regret

Posted: April 25, 2013 in Uncategorized
Tags: , , , ,

By Paul Gaszak, English Faculty

This past Friday, I attended a “Volunteer Appreciation Dinner” at my dad’s VFW post for everyone who had accrued a certain number of hours of volunteer service. Every Monday night, my dad and I help clean and rearrange the hall after their weekly Bingo. It’s not life-saving work, but it’s a helping hand.

It was a nice event with about 75-100 people, and at the end of the evening, there was a raffle. The prizes weren’t extravagant – restaurant gift cards, bottles of wine and alcohol – but nonetheless, the raffle was nice touch.

As the Post Commander announced the winning tickets, I thought about my raffle-related regret from a couple years ago.

My older brother is into tabletop gaming, specifically Warhammer and Warhammer 40k. If you’re not familiar, basically they are extraordinarily complicated board games. The rules aren’t just a sheet of paper like in Scattergories or Scrabble; the main rulebook is the size of a college textbook, and there are additional books that add depth to the rules. And the rules are constantly evolving, which makes it a task to keep up with. There is also the hobby side to the game, which requires players to purchase, paint, and customize their own game pieces and game boards.

There are events and tournaments of all sizes where gamers go to play against one another. A few summers ago, my brother organized an event in the town hall near his home. About 50 people attended the event, which included a full tournament, a ton of food, gaming items to purchase, and a raffle with proceeds going to a local animal shelter. Since it was a fairly sizable event, he asked me to help out.

When I was in mid-teens, I played these games with my brother. They are fun, but they’re also expensive Librarianand time-consuming. And I was terrible at – and thus didn’t enjoy – the hobby side of it. I can’t paint a bathroom wall in my house without messing up, let alone an intricate miniature the size of my thumb. So, after more than a decade of not playing the game, all I was really qualified (and required) to do at my brother’s event was to serve food and sell raffle tickets.

Despite sometimes being labeled as geeks, the majority of gamers are just regular people with a hobby they enjoy. Their lives aren’t consumed with the game and they don’t all live in Mom’s basement. Like my brother, a good number of the people at the event were married guys with children and they partake in the hobby during the little spare time they have between work and family.

One guy had his son with him, a cute little boy of about 10 with a mop of red hair hanging over his forehead. The little boy was also playing in the tournament, and he was so excited to be playing with the “big kids” that he couldn’t stop smiling. Halfway through the day, he and his dad came over to look at what raffle prizes were available; there were an assortment of gaming prizes, ranging in value from probably $8-$100. The little boy looked over everything excitedly and then asked if he could please have some raffle tickets. His dad bought him a few and I tossed the tickets into the big, clear container with the rest.

After the tournament, my brother held the raffle. I pulled the tickets and he announced the winners and distributed the many prizes. During the process, the little boy stood next to his dad with his tickets clutched in his hand. After every number, the boy desperately checked his tickets. As the prize table started to empty, the boy got antsier and his eyes drooped in despair. I kept hoping I would hand over one of his tickets.

A lot of people won a prize. A few people won multiple prizes thanks to buying lots of tickets. That wasn’t a “bad” thing, necessarily; after all, most of those people bought a lot of tickets not just for the prizes, but because they wanted to support the animal shelter the money was going to. And then there was the little boy: his tickets never got called. He sat down in defeat. I felt completely guilty as the person pulling the tickets.

For everyone else in the room, these prizes were more of a discount than a victory – they all could buy this stuff for themselves right after the event if they wanted to. For that little boy, it would have made his entire day to win something. Like all little kids, I’m sure he got over it quickly, but I was still hurt on his behalf, especially when it dawned on me immediately after the raffle ended that I had the power to cheat. With a little legerdemain, I could have pocketed one of the kid’s tickets and passed it off as a drawn ticket whenever I wanted to, without my brother or anyone else knowing. I would have cheated someone else out of a prize, but it would have been worth it to make that little boy’s day.

Sure, it can be argued that kids have to learn they can’t always win, and that it was right of me to maintain the integrity of the raffle. But, 1) Every kid will endure enough losing in his/her life as they grow up; I don’t have to pile on, and 2) It was an raffle for gaming supplies, not the lottery.

After everyone left the hall and my brother and I started cleaning, I told him that I wished the little boy had won something. Nonchalantly, he said, “Oh. Why didn’t you tell me? I would have just given him something.”

Duh. I guess that would have worked, too, huh?

At the VFW, my dad and I both won gift certificates in the raffle. When my dad won, he yelled and waved his winning ticket over his head as a joke and to make a spectacle of himself, because that’s his style, not because the prize excited him that much. We both can afford a $20 meal, so the prizes were more of a discount than a victory. When I won, I merely said thank you. I don’t get excited easily, which sometimes works to my advantage, but at other times I’m envious of people who can be cheerful and excited about the little things in life. And, being that as it is, I was disappointed that I didn’t cheat to bring some joy and excitement to a kid’s life.

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