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Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Keith, Nikki, Bonnie play Backgammon part III

Last Time: Nikki was sharing her interior monologue over the prospect of a backgammon tutorial with Keith.

Before I had a chance to bail, the game board was all set up and the practical portion of the lesson had begun in earnest. As we began playing, I didn’t understand half of Keith’s continuing instructions – the basic rules and strategy were just too much. And my God, all the numbers. And the points. And counting how far you could or could not move your checkers. He might as well have been speaking Klingon.

When I look back on this memory I can’t believe I exposed myself to such a risky situation (playing a new game that I didn’t understand in front of people I didn’t know very well). But Bonnie was gentle and reassuring, and Keith was completely disarming in that warm, welcoming, affable way that, at least in my experience, is a bit of a Roller trademark. His over-the-top goofball nature didn’t hurt, either.

I don’t think the tutorial was ultimately successful – at least not in the conventional sense. The prize for this game would take a different form: the unconditional openhearted camaraderie of her two cousins had provoked a shy little girl to let down her guard and just “be,” at least for a couple of hours.

I couldn’t have appreciated the specialness of this moment at that young age. But I fully understand its significance now. Sure, this memory provides a perspective on my own growth. But more importantly, my experience with Keith and Bonnie on that day honors what I believe is the essence of what it means to be a Roller: to live the spirit of “goodwill toward men” with such ease that it is as automatic and involuntary as breathing.

It would be easy to take this singular quality for granted; it is subtle and pervasive like clear air. (For the members of the Roller family, it also is enduring and graceful like strong faith.) As I grow older though, I find that this brand of kindness, which is unmitigated and unprovoked, is not something I run into very often in the real world. So I have great reverence for it when I do.

As we enter the season of Thanksgiving during a year that has brought many disappointments and many challenges for many people I care about, this standard of kindness seems particularly relevant and extraordinary to me. And therefore it seems like the perfect time to give a little bit of that love back by taking the time to say:

Thanks, Keith and Bonnie for playing Backgammon with me. Thanks to all of the Roller Family for being who you are.

Love, Nikki Roller

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