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Sunday, November 13, 2005

Vegas

It amazes me how infrequently I follow through with things I say I'll do. I have written countless "manifestos" stating that I, Kate Hooks, will stop drinking, eating whole pints of ice cream, being late, swearing, gossiping etc. Inevitably, though, one or all of my proclamations ends up broken within a week, my manifesto ends up in the trash, and a new, modified version is written to enable the cycle to repeat itself.

Before I left for Vegas, I vowed I would give my gambling money - if I made a profit - to a good cause. Specifically, I decided I would donate half to the genocide intervention fund, and half to Ronic at the grocery store. Secretly I didn't want to give any surplus cash away; I wanted to buy a new pair of jeans to better compliment my recently burgeoning butt (thus the ice cream manifesto). On my way through the grocery line, though, I found myself telling Ronic that I was going to Vegas for a few days, and that if I won any money, I'd give her half. I sort of winced as the words came out of my mouth, because, like I said, I wanted a new pair of jeans.

In Vegas I met Brett and his friend, Keith, and spent the weekend learning why the City's nickname is "Sin City." We all met to watch a bunch of concerts, but managed to spend a sufficient amount of time at the blackjack tables as well. At least Brett and I did (we both have addictive personalities). So 48 hours after landing in Vegas, I managed to leave $280+ richer, with (what I imagined to be) a permanent headache, a perpetual ringing in my ears from the music, and a grand total of 20 minutes of sleep. When I entered my classroom on Tuesday morning, I noted how difficult it would be to keep what happens in Vegas in Vegas, when I looked like I'd been hit by a truck. Fortunately I must look like I've been hit by a truck on a semi-regular basis, because no one seemed to notice.

That Tuesday afternoon, after school, two things happened:

I bought $225 worth of "Save Darfur" bracelets for my students to sell at the school store.

I gave Ronic $100 at Giant.

So secretly, I managed to lose money. And I realize that the Bible emphasizes that you should give just to give, without sharing every "selfless" thing you do with the world. And of course I agree, but I need to emphasize a revelation - giving does amazing things to one's insides. It's like all the self-doubt and disappointment and guilt that riddles a person's inner-most thoughts is immediately superceded by pure hope and love and softness. My headache, gambling guilt, and beer gut-induced self-deprecation became insignificant when Ronic called my house to tell me she loves me. When I gave her the money on Tuesday afternoon, I was shaking, and she started to cry, held up the money and told everyone to "look at what her customer gave her." (Which was rather embarassing, actually). I cried though, too. Especially when she told me that she'd hit that part in her life where she thought she couldn't go on, and that God had sent her an angel from heaven in the form of, well, me. The customers behind me didn't seem impatient or angry that I'd caused a scene, and had forced the already backed-up line to extend a little further down the cereal aisle. The woman behind me asked where the money had come from, and I told her it came, ironically, from "Sin City." She laughed and assured me that "Jesus knows my heart," and doesn't mind if I gamble every once in a while.

My students think I'm crazy for spending $225 on rubber bracelets to fund the African Union, but I think it's good for them to see follow-through from me for a change (especially since I never return their papers on time).

So what is the point of writing this? It's honestly not to prove how virtuous I am or to suggest that I'm an "angel sent from heaven." I'm neither. I'm a mess, and the only reason I didn't leave Vegas with even more money, is because Brett and I were both physically incapable of leaving the blackjack tables while we were up more than $1800 - neither of us has much self-restraint. It is, however, to say that Brett is probably right: Mother Theresa might have been completely selfish in her selflessness. Because hearing Ronic tell me she loves me, and seeing my students wear their green Darfur bracelets religiously, feels much more gratifying than buying a pair of jeans.

Besides, now I have incentive to stick to my "no more consuming entire pints of ice cream in one sitting" manifesto. I need to fit into my current pairs of jeans.