Redeeming Tickets at a Carnival

Whether it’s on the boardwalk at the beach or at a synagogue holiday carnival, my kids like few things more than winning paper tickets and redeeming them for prizes.

No matter that the prizes are cheap, breaks-once-we-get-it-home items that they won’t look at much past the day they win them. There is something wonderful about trying your  hardest at a game, being told your efforts are worthy of winning something, anything, and then having your choice of any number of items to select for your very own with the earnings of your efforts.

Yesterday, we ran from game to game at our synagogue’s Purim carnival. The kids threw pint-sized basketballs into a blow-up hoop, balanced a marble on a precarious driving course, raced tiny cars around an electric runway.

And then the prize table – it was three sides of a triangle with little plastic bins filled with glow-in-the-dark necklaces, bookmarks, wash-off tattoos and ink stamps with smiley faces and peace signs. They played, redeemed, played, redeemed until the carnival was ready to wrap up.

The fire in their eyes blazed at the vision of possibility. If I just play harder, try one more game, I’ll earn more tickets, and take home more prizes.

They collected them in bags with their names in markers and proudly displayed their winnings.

It’s amazing how a room we’ve been in many times before can transport us into another time and space. Yesterday, it wasn’t the social hall where we’ve had dinner and heard lectures. It was a carnival where even adults wore costumes and the coffee man had strawberry slushies.

Two hours of a Sunday were transformed into a journey to anywhere. Everyone was talented enough, all were accepted. The teenagers manning the games stations were sweet and generous, bestowing tickets on every child who tried.

The result: a feel-good association with a spiritual center so that these precious souls will want to return.

We create illusions of possibility every day. And the thing is, anything IS possible once we buy into the story. 

That’s the brilliance of transformative experiences: the buy-in, the believability of an experience, the acceptance that doing something, going somewhere or engaging with another person can in fact make our lives better, our days worthier, our belief in our self that much deeper.

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