Scratch tickets. It was scratch tickets, not asphalt, that carpeted the streets and sidewalks of my neighborhood. These small, flimsy, square pieces of thin cardboard layered the hot, hard ground and stuck to the rusty chain-linked fences that lined our street. One-dollar, two-dollar, five-dollar, and even ten-dollar tickets made our section of Worcester seem like the unluckiest corner of the world. Any lost chance to become a few dollars richer sent the soles of my shoes sliding every time I ventured out of the house.
Monday mornings on Richards Street were silent. Around 7am, if you walked down the sidewalk, nothing but the muffled hit of your own rubber sneakers on the street disturbed the peace. Sometimes the Wonder Bread truck rumbled by.
All of those discarded tickets made you wonder, though. What was luck, anyway? Was there such a thing? Did our fate really depend on what we did or did not do? I counted 17 tickets on Monday morning. Just on my side of the street. Just on my block.
Monday mornings held all of the potential for “luck” that anyone could possibly want or need. If you had a job, maybe you just came off of a Friday payday. Or maybe you were getting paid this week. Either way, there had been, was, or would be money in your pocket pretty soon. Not in your bank account, though. Not a lot of people I had talked to on our street had those.
If you didn’t have a job, maybe you were going to get your welfare check, or your EBT card would be renewed for the month. If you were a God-fearing man, maybe you had gone to church yesterday. But maybe you hadn’t.
Maybe none of these things determined luck, or were lucky themselves. I thought about this as I walked down Main Street, passing a man wearing a brown baseball cap with bold, capital, yellow-stitched lettering on the front.
“JESUS IS MY BOSS”
It made me think. Was luck like religion? Maybe that was all luck was—a deity-void explanation for the way things were, and hope for the way that things could be. Luck could quite possibly be the religion of the hopeless and the faith of the desperate. When nothing else could be counted on, an event could always be defined as lucky, or unlucky. We could always throw our fate—or our $5 bills to the wind, and hope that it caught the sails of luck. We could hope to scratch out better days.
And for those who assigned a face to the way things were—that face being God—then the way things were could be defined as God’s plan. Both the good and bad were said to have “meant” to happen.
And for those who believed in both God and luck…
Well, maybe that just made us twice as lucky.