Tuesday, November 15, 2022

Share Our Good Fortune

 “We count our miseries carefully and accept our blessings without much thought.”

Chinese Proverb

I was thinking of making the two-hour drive from Culpeper to Mechanicsville, VA (a suburb of Richmond), at some point in November to treat myself to a few purchases at Waterloo Games. A friend from the Williamsburg gaming conventions I attend, Rob Eubanks, opened the store just as the pandemic started in 2020 and, through his own dedication, his family’s support, and the patronage of a great gaming community, managed not only to stay open but to thrive. I’ve visited the store several times in the past year. Before trekking down to Richmond I check the website and Facebook page to see what’s going on. This time I saw Rob posted a notice that he’s collecting food donations for a local charity, Feed More, to help those in need during the upcoming holidays. It reminds me how fortunate many of us are to have the means to indulge in the adventure gaming hobby...and how unfortunate many others are. I celebrate folks like Rob inspiring his game store community to help their neighbors during the holiday season. And it reminds me to not only show gratitude for my good fortune by donating to help others now, but to do it more often throughout the year.

I’m grateful our family has some fairly stable financial footing right now. Although I’ve never gone out and bought gaming stuff willy nilly, I’ve increased my game spending lately, especially as a diversion to America’s hellscape response to the pandemic and its aftermath. I still make a limited budget when I go to conventions or game stores. My upbringing has programmed me to look for good deals, compare prices, and use coupons and sales. My situation wasn’t always stable. Frequent readers have heard me talk of the “Desperate Freelance Days,” the time after West End Games laid off its creative staff and filed for bankruptcy. I took part-time office jobs while trying to make ends meet with numerous freelance writing projects. That first year I subsisted primarily on ramen noodles smf canned pork and beans. I don’t recall what my game spending habits were back then beyond research I needed for gigs. Thankfully I never went hungry or missed rent by more than a week, but the overall financial stress took its toll and became an overwhelming burden.

I can’t imagine what it’s like for families to know such need and anxiety in times like these. Now my finances seem more stable so I donate to a number of causes throughout the year: some area historical associations, a cat rescue organization, and the local food bank. Each year I try getting a few items to put into the Toys for Tots bin to give less fortunate kids a treat for the holidays (I try making sure there’s a game in my donations). We collect a bag of non-perishable food for the inevitable local drives at schools and businesses. Sometimes I cringe that I don’t give enough in my privilege. I cringe that no effort ever seems enough.

Saturday I loaded a small box packed with mostly canned goods into my car and, with my son, drove the two hours to Richmond. (To be fair, I have a 30-60 minute drive to get to any of my “local” game stores....) It was some quality time with my son, who got a fast-food lunch as a perk. We arrived at Waterloo Games and dropped off our box before spending some time browsing the shelves, finding some good deals, splurging on some pre-painted terrain, and chatting with Rob, who makes everyone feel welcome no matter how far they drive or how frequently they visit. It was a nice day trip to treat myself with some game goodies before the holiday season consumes my time.

Waterloo Games isn’t the only shop helping out. I’ve seen food and toy drives run by clubs, conventions, and game stores. My son informs me his school is running a food drive, too; like we did for Waterloo Games, we’ll head out on a special trip to the grocery store to buy items to donate, hopefully with a portion of my son’s allowance he wishes to use for the effort. I’m sure the holiday season will offer plenty of opportunities to donate, whether canned goods, unwrapped toys, or a few dollars into a collection jar. If you have the means, please look out and offer a helping hand to your neighbors in need.

In ordinary life we hardly realize that we receive a great deal more than we give, and that it is only with gratitude that life becomes rich.”

Dietrich Bonhoeffer

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