Monthly Archives: July 2010

Life is like a game of UNO ….

No … not chocolate … UNO.  That’s right, you heard it here first.  Today I start a series on lessons I have learned playing this game (using it as a therapeutic tool) with elementary school students.  You may be asking yourself … well, and that’s assuming someone has found this to read, seeing as I actually formed this blog … oh holey moley …. June 2009? … anyways, I digress.  You may be asking yourself, “how is life like a game of UNO”?  Well, before we get into my theory, lets see what some others have said life is like:

“Life is what happens to you while you’re busy making other plans.” – John Lennon

Sure, rub it in, Johnny.  I know I’ve left this digital space to rot.  I get it.

“Brief and powerless is man’s life; on him and all his race the slow, sure doom falls pitiless and dark.” – Bertrand Russell

Now, if you knew the guy (as the cold and logic driven philosopher that he was), this would make sense.  I argued with him in a philosophy paper way back in undergrad, but that is a story for another day.  His view, in my humble opinion, lacks the fervor and energy that is existence.

“There is no human life so poor and small as not to hold many a divine possibility.” – James Martineau

Jimmy here strikes on an interesting idea, that all life, no matter the condition, has the hope of possibility, or betterment of itself.

Well, to be honest, I could do this for a long, long time, but then I would just be rambling.  So … to the point:

“Life is like a game of UNO … no one knows how long it’s gonna last.” – Thomas (

No worries, this is the first thought of many.  Third graders can be quite the short of stature teachers, and they have taught me quite a bit.

So, lesson #1:  The game never lasts as long as you might think, expect, or anticipate.

While this point will be more apparent when I start talking about some of the other lessons (ones about the different rules that people play with), here are the scenarios (these are actual occurences, though names have been changed to protect the innocent):

The game has just begun and little Johnny (a second grader) has a fistful of cards (he likes starting with 10).  It doesn’t stay full for long. Three turns, and a string of SKIP, DRAW 2, and REVERSE cards, he proudly plops a WILD card to win the game.

Susie and I have been at this game a while (she’s a fourth grader) and we are in a situation that we have been in before in this particular match.  We are each down to a single card.  Now, Susie likes playing with the rule that if you don’t have a card to play, you draw until you do (as opposed to the single draw and pass option).  Well, as it sometimes happen, hands of single cards easily explode into 10+ or more in seconds.  This particular day, we actually simply had to stop our game unfinished due to time constraints.

Life isn’t much different.  In the last five months, 2 people have left this earth in fashions not unlike the matches noted above.  My grandfather (or Paw-Paw) as I called him, passed away at age 98.  My wife already posted on this topic, so I won’t attempt to add to it (at least not today) ( ).  This past June, I participated both in therapy with students and in the funeral of the death of a third grade teacher at the school where I am stationed.  She discovered that she had a brain tumor in January of this year, and passed away in June.  She was 31. 

I have no doubt that both of these wonderful people are in a place of peace, calm, and well-being because I know what they believed and in whom they believed in their life.  But these life stories share one very real fact:  We don’t know when our cards will run out.  Though we often know that there is an end to the game, it rarely ends how we might expect, and often is at some degree a surprise.

If there is a lesson in this, it seems to terribly cliché, that’s for sure.  We all know it.  It’s in songs, printed words, or in phrases shared by the people closest to us in our lives.

Play your match, and do it in such a way that when it ends, you can say: Good game.

Next time: The cards dealt don’t always pre-determine the outcome.