I found this letter on the breakfast island this morning.
Dear Prize Givers,
Thank you for considering me for this prize. I love your puzzles! It is very clever how you put in an added puzzle within the word search by making me look for a secret word after I found all the words. If you select my name and give me the prize of $1,000, I will use it wisely. I will give half to my sister and we will both put this toward our college plans. Thank you again.
A very thankful fifth grader, (very fancy signature)
I brought this to my son and asked him what he would like done with this very polite letter. He found his worn and wrinkled puzzle book to proudly show me the back page where all the contest information was boldly displayed. “Look at this, Mom! There’s going to be 150 first prizes and 5 grand prize winners!” He is my eternal optimist. He went on, “They are going to announce the winners on March 18th, Mom, and that’s really close to my birthday! Wouldn’t that be great if I get the money almost on my birthday?” As his mother, I thought it might be my duty to explain that yes, he could win, but is more likely that he won’t. “I know, Mom, but what if I do? I know you think it’s just like those Claw Games – no one ever wins the good stuff – but somebody has to win this!”
So we found the address and read through the rules. That’s where he discovered that all participants must be at least 18 to enter the drawing. He suggested I just sign my name instead. I explained that his letter was much more appropriate for him, and that we would need to rewrite the letter. But then I started to get the prize-winning mojo with him, and I loved his words of sincere enthusiasm more than whatever dull, adult greeting I would write. “Okay, Mom – just take out the part at the end about the fifth grader… and the part about the college plan.” I stopped him there to compliment his choice to share with his sister and his plan to save for college. I asked him about what he wants study in college. “I don’t know, but I know I’m going to go, so I don’t have to stand on the corner outside with one of those stupid sale signs – and this prize money will be the perfect start!”
In the last couple of years of harder economic times, we’ve seen quite a few people holding signs on the corners at busy intersections advertising “Going Out of Business Sale” signs. And I guess that on more than a few occasions, my husband or I have indicated our preference for our children to go to college… so they don’t have to stand outside with a sign for their profession. Maybe we’ve been hitting that a bit too hard. Anyway, I heard some shuffling and witnessed a few random papers flying out of our junk drawer. The contest fever was getting hotter, “Where’s a stamp, Mom? We need to get this in the mail by midnight! Also, can I have a metal detector for my birthday? I think I’m on a lucky streak!” This had me thinking: I don’t know if it’s harder to raise the kid who wakes up with a snarl and is sure it’s going to rain – or the kid who jumps out of bed and is ready to bet all the marbles on the half-dead horse?
Note to self: Next lecture opportunity, add in a few words about the possible detriments of gambling. I’ll keep you posted on the contest results… somebody has to win.