Figure the Odds


A strange thing happened when I first started my new job in Seattle. I keep meaning to write about it, and it has finally bubbled to the top of my consciousness, so here it is.

Earlier in the Spring I agreed to serve as assistant director for a local one-act play, focusing on a meeting between a Confederate and a Union soldier during the Civil War. Although I was away in Michigan for much of the time immediately before the play, I took my duties as assistant director somewhat seriously and tried hard to direct and encourage the two young actors in the short time that I had just before the play was performed.

For some reason I was not asked to handle the lighting this season.

Last season I was in charge of the lights for a Christmas play, and we had a lot of trouble getting the wiring set up in advance. On the fateful day of the dress rehearsal, everything was plugged in and ready. I flipped the switch on the control box and three of the four stage lights blew out. Apparently the box had been mis-wired, and I had not thought to make sure the lights were off before turning on the controls … perhaps we could have blown only one of the lights if I had been more careful. In any case, they did not ask me to “help out” in that way again.

The first day of my new job was also the last performance of this season’s play. Due to my commuting schedule, I couldn’t be at the theater in time. Later that evening, the real director brought by my gifts … both he and the two young actors had remembered to give me a gift, in stark contrast to my own failure to remember gifts for them. I felt pretty lame, and yet have done nothing about it in the intervening weeks, although yesterday I did manage to at least say “Thank you.”

Due to my habitual use of caffeine to prop up my flagging energies, I am rarely seen at a rehearsal without a Diet Coke in my hand. The young actors noted this, and gave me a six-pack of the new Lime-flavored Diet Cokes (a choice I favor) as well as a generous supply of Pop-Tarts for my daily commute.

The director who had graciously covered for me during those last weeks before the play gave me a 1-liter Diet Coke bottle … just the thing to get me through the morning. I noticed that the bottle cap advertised a “1 in 4 Wins!” game that Coca-Cola was offering. “Figure the odds,” I thought grumpily.

Let me tell you right now that I do not win games like that. While I routinely win board games and computer games (and even, occasionally, card games), as soon as there is any stake involved, I lose. Perhaps this is God’s way of protecting me from a predilection for gambling … but it gets a little discouraging at times. Odds of 1 in 4 for most people average out to, well, 1 in 4. But for me, I can pretty much count on 1 in 16 or perhaps 1 in 32.

As I drove along on my second day of work, rubbing the sand out of my eyes and considering the day from the bleak perspective of a man without much sleep, I opened up that 1-liter Diet Coke and glanced at the bottle cap indifferently. Imagine my surprise when I discovered that I had won a free 1-liter Diet Coke! For some reason this really warmed my spirit … I felt somehow that God had not forgotten me and was watching over me, even to the extent of providing free caffeine.

(My mom, who for many years drank 5 cups of coffee before most people wake up, disapproves of this ‘beastly habit’. Now that she has reformed herself, she seeks to proseletyze others, and I’m sure that she would have difficulty seeing the hand of God in this matter. Nevertheless, I persist stubbornly in feeling that God was taking care of me.)

This went on for a week. Each day I would open the 1-liter bottle and glance with increasing hope at the bottle-cap … five times in a row I ‘won’ the free 1-liter pop before that fateful day when I was relegated back into the ranks of ‘not a winner’. I began to feel rather sheepish as I redeemed the prize at local stores along my route … but the sense of being in the eye of God continued. Those of you with a mathematical background can calculate the likelihood of this occurring … 1 in 4 odds extrapolated over five times. Roughly, assuming that Coca-Cola replaces each bottle I win, that is 1/4 * 1/4 * 1/4 * 1/4 * 1/4, or 1 in 1024! (Those of you who were not asleep in Probabilities and Statistics 101 can correct me on this.)

I know a lady who used to pray for parking spots … and her prayers were frequently answered! We serve a God who is Lord of the little things, as well as the sweeping events of history.

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