On December 3, 1894, writer and poet, Robert Louis Stevenson was talking to his wife and straining to get the cork out of a bottle of wine when he suddenly exclaimed, "What's that?" and then asked his wife "does my face look strange?" He collapsed and died within a few hours at the age of 44.


Stevenson was Scottish, but would have passed for a Confederate general looking at some of his photographs, if you didn’t know better. When most folks hear his name, they think of books that they probably read or were assigned to read in school. Books like “Treasure Island” or “Kidnapped.”


Stevenson is the source, or claimed source of one of my favorite quotes, “Life is not a matter of holding good cards, but of playing a poor hand well.”

American novelist, Jack London, is also credited with it, or something real close, “Life is not a matter of holding good cards, but sometimes, playing a poor hand well.”

I guess Jack threw the “sometimes” in there.


How appropriate is that quote? It was appropriate in the late 19th Century, just as it is today. So many of us have not been dealt “perfect hands.” I would wager to say that pretty close to all of us don’t have the perfect cards at the start of the game.


We have heard “Play the hand you are dealt,” what about, “It’s just not in the cards for me to …” when things didn’t work out the way they planned. Then, when someone has tried everything and seemingly ready to give up, they say, “Let the cards fall where they may.”


As I have noted before, I was taught math by my Daddy with a deck of cards, a pair of dice and probably a box of dominoes. Having made a living with my knowledge of mathematics, I have a thing for cards and the science of gambling. Not gambling myself, but the science and numbers behind it all. I am afraid I would enjoy it too much to get started actually doing it.


Speaking of gambling, have you been watching the guy on the game show, “Jeopardy” who is setting all the records? He’s won over a million dollars and just keeps going. He notes his occupation as being a “professional gambler.” He answers the questions and wagers big dollar amounts when given the opportunity. Being a professional gambler, he notes that he is not scared away from the high dollar amounts.


How did he get so smart or how does he know all of these obscure facts? He says he gained much of his knowledge “by reading books he had no interest in reading.” So, when your child comes home from school and tells you they are not interested in reading any books from the approved reading list, tell them to pick the one that sounds the most “uninteresting.”


Guy Laliberté was a fire-eater (think one of those fellows who swallows swords and stuff) before founding Cirque du Soleil. He’s now worth over a billion dollars.


Starbucks founder Howard Schultz grew up in a housing complex for the poor. He’s now worth about three billion dollars.


Born into poverty, Oprah Winfrey became the first African American TV correspondent in Nashville. Then she went on to even bigger accomplishments. She’s worth more than the other two fellows mentioned.


We could go on and on, because people love the rags to riches stories. However, they often forget about the normal folks like us, who have some pretty extraordinary stories of playing our “poor hands well.” Maybe it took some of us a little longer and maybe our stack of chips isn’t as high as what others have collected.


In my case, my “chips” are my children, and I can’t measure what they are worth to me.


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