A story about gambling and Louisiana

By Curtis K. Shelburne: Religion columnist

I don’t think I’ve ever been more against gambling than I am right now. At this moment, I could preach a pretty poignant sermon against the sin of filthy wagering.

My brothers and I were together in Houston to help with a memorial service for our sister. Ruthie had actually passed away several weeks before this and her funeral was held in Robert Lee, Texas, but she’d requested that we also have a memorial service in Houston for friends there.

The service went well. When the time comes I won’t care, but one funeral will be enough for me, thanks. It was a time of sharing warm memories with dear friends, and it was great to be with family. Ruthie would have loved it.

Apart from the service, we also had another goal for those few days — to make some headway in cleaning out my sister’s stuff. Pack-rat-ism is evidently genetic. Mom had it. We all have it. And we knew for sure that Ruthie did.

So, with one memorial service behind us, and at the end of a long hard day of cleaning, sorting, walking down Memory Lane, finding a few fine family mementos, and getting loads of pack-rat nest-building material ready for the Dumpster, we were totally tired out, collapsed all over one brother’s living room.
That’s when Brother No. 1 says, “Well, guys, I guess we oughta make some decisions about what to do with…”

Ruthie had recently bought a laptop computer. I’d helped her set it up back in June. And she had a TV, a lot nicer than I’d remembered, a flat screen, high-definition Sony TV. And an older desktop computer.

We’d rather have a healthy sister. But that wasn’t an option. So what to do with the stuff?

We didn’t much care. We talked about whether or not any of us really needed any of it. Not really. We even talked about Solomon’s wisdom: cut the booty (not the baby, this time) in fourths with a really sharp sword. Nah!

So, draw straws? Okay. But we decided to draw quarters instead. Four quarters. Four states. Whoever draws Louisiana wins. Three drawings, before which I’d have said that I’d always prefer Kentucky over Louisiana. But no longer. I hate Kentucky.

My younger brother Jim now loves Louisiana. And he can learn more about it on the Internet on his computer or on the Discovery Channel on his high-def TV.

It’s terrible what greed does to people. Jim wouldn’t believe me when I told him that late in the night in the room we were sharing, I was awakened by a mysterious presence and looked up terrified to see a hand writing on the wall: “Mene mene tekel You! Jimmy!” Aramaic for “GAMBLING IS A SIN, JIM. Give that stuff to the poor. (Or to Brother No. 3.)”

In truth, I don’t need to win anything to be rich. I was born into a family with a father who truly loved us. That makes it easier for kids to love each other — even if one son evidently has a Louisiana trick quarter.

The good news? Anyone who is God’s child is a rich heir of the best father of all.