She must have been about four. I saw her standing and sadly looking up at her mother who sat on a stool in front of a gaming machine in a local quick-stop store. It was about 6:30 am and I was on my way to work. She looked tired and bedraggled. I heard her mom say roughly, “Go to the car and get me some more money” as she handed her a set of keys. This little child proceeded to make her way through the isle of that store to the big glass double doors and disappeared outside. I paid for my gas and headed for the parking lot. As I reached my car, I stopped to look around me and noticed that the child was climbing out of a car with an oversized handbag. She slammed the car door and without looking, dashed out into the parking lot where several cars were pulling up and out. I held my breath as she ran between the moving vehicles. Unable to view the top of her head, I saw the big glass doors open, and I whispered a prayer of thanks that she had made it inside safely. However, this child was certainly not safe. A big ravaging wolf called “Gambling” was chasing her, threatening to devour her very existence.
This child was a victim of one of the biggest threats of our society. How much longer will we allow this “wolf” to gobble up our children, destroy families and bleed our Medicaid and Medicare systems dry? I shudder to think how many other little ones are just standing by while Mama or Daddy or another family member shoves their grocery and clothing money down the wolf’s throat.
One summer my husband and I took a bus trip with other adults from the Carolinas to Massachusetts. We toured many historical and recreational sites on the way and on the return trip. One place in particular that was a stop was at a casino. Our bus took a long winding route for what seemed to be an hour. Suddenly a building appeared. This huge, magnificent structure was the epitome of luxury and grandeur. Inside it had the atmosphere of an elegant hotel and the technology of a state-of-the-art theater. Outside, it had spacious terraces of great splendor overlooking one of the most perfectly groomed gardens and grounds I had ever seen. Buses were pulled up to the entry way and hundreds of people poured inside. I learned later that those buses came and went all day long, transporting people 24 hours a day. They even had to have a reserved space in order to claim a parking place. I studied the folks as they climbed off the buses and to my amazement most of them were elderly. They came with walkers, wheelchairs and even pulling oxygen tanks! Inside, as I walked up and down the isles of both floors where gaming machines hedged around me, I noticed the faces of those who sat in front of those machines. This wrinkled, graying population were frantically shoving money and pushing handles. Rarely did I see a smile. Most were solemn, if not frowning. There were a lot of voices and noise but not laughter. You did not have to go anywhere else to eat or drink or use the restroom. It was all provided for you so that you could make a quick return to the tables or the machines. But the most ungodly shock of all came when it was finally time to leave and my husband and I made our way to the exit. On the wall, near the door was a sign informing moms and dads (and, of course, grandparents) of the daycare provided there.
What are we, as a nation, thinking? It is no wonder that our children are growing up with the idea that life is only a game of chance without any real purpose. It is no wonder that our elderly suffer from despair and don’t have enough of the basic things in life—shelter, groceries, clothing, heat—to survive. No wonder they have to have government assistance while gaming institution fill their pockets. Is it of no consequence that the assistance will soon not be there? No wonder we have children who are abused and neglected and grow up to prefer gangs rather than disinterested family. No wonder people are not focused on the true and precious things of life, but instead settle for a false hope and a quick buck.
If we don’t choose to wake up and begin to build our lives out of the lasting “bricks” of life, the big, bad wolf will be chewing up the last of our nation’s prosperity and heritage and that’s no fairy tale.