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The ticket to happiness

The Life Less Traveled

October 01, 2014
Last month, I got a lesson in economics from a 4-year-old at Chuck-E-Cheese.

For the uninitiated, let me explain how the Chuck-E-Cheese economy works. When you show up for a birthday party, you pay real money for tokens. You use tokens to play games. You play games to earn tickets. You trade in tickets for cheap prizes from China.

Of course, there's one other way to get tickets at Chuck-E-Cheese. It's called the Ticket Blaster. If you're the birthday boy or girl, not only do you get pizza, cake and a song, but you get 30 seconds in the blaster, which will completely blow your mind.

The Ticket Blaster is basically a phone booth with an air hose attached to the side and a floor filled with tickets. Once they put the birthday kid inside the booth, tickets start flying like confetti at Times Square. It's pretty much awesome.

In the flurry of excitement, the kid is supposed to grab as many tickets as their pepperoni-soaked fingers can handle. There's even a special ticket worth 100 tickets. And, in the tradition of Willy Wonka, a golden ticket worth 1,000.

This is the equivalent of winning the Chuck-E-Cheese lottery. If it's your birthday, there could be no great honor than snatching the golden ticket.

Unless you're the 4-year-old little boy I saw a few weeks ago. This kid operated by a different set of rules.

His parents put him in the Ticket Blaster. The worker flipped on the switch. And this little boy started dancing like crazy. The tickets swirled around his head, but he wasn't trying to grab a single one. He was too busy having a blast.

Meanwhile, his family was freaking out. "Grab the tickets! Grab the tickets!"

They screamed. They pleaded. They begged. But it didn't make a bit of difference. This kid wasn't in it for the tickets. He was in it for the joy.

He clearly did not understand the economy of Chuck-E-Cheese, but what he did understand was how to have a good time.

Forget the tickets. Enjoy the ride.

When I grow up, I want to be just like that little guy. All of our lives, people are screaming at us to grab the tickets. Get rich. Buy stuff. Look young. Lose weight. Be popular. Follow your dreams.

Grab the tickets! Grab the tickets! Grab the tickets!

But what if we chose to say, forget the tickets? What if we just chose to enjoy the ride? Instead of worrying about the tickets, what if we danced and smiled and laughed like my 4-year-old little friend? What if we drank in each moment of life as a gift from God instead of trying to figure out what we can trade it in for later?

Sure, we may end up with a few less trinkets at the end of the day, but we'd have a lot more fun, a lot less stress. Who knows? We might actually just find ourselves enjoying the life God made us to live.

Jason Byerly, a 1990 graduate of Crawford County Junior-Senior High School, is the children's pastor at Southland Christian Church near Lexington, Ky. He and his wife have two daughters. For more, visit www.jasonbyerly.com or follow him at www.twitter.com/jasondbyerly.

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