How to Get Out of Jail

“Go to jail.  Go directly to jail.  Do not pass Go.  Do not collect $200.”

You’ve been there.  Family game night.  You’ve rolled the dice.  Moved the little cast aluminum top hat six spaces ahead and you see that you’ve landed on Community Chest.

This could be nice!  Community Chest!  Most of those cards are good.  Collect money from each player for one thing or another.  You may have even won second place in a beauty contest!

Confidently, you draw the card.  How much will you get?

A long sigh escapes your lungs as you read the message above.  Jail.  Nobody wants to go to jail.  What a rotten turn of events.

Resigned to your fate, you move the shiny little top hat to the prescribed corner of the board and await your next turn.  What to do?

Pay a fine?  Surely not.  You need that money to purchase Boardwalk.

Try to roll doubles?  That’s a possibility.  What are the chances you’ll roll doubles in the next three turns?  What if the fellow with the little dog buys Boardwalk in the meantime?

The answer is obvious.

You will use your Get Out Of Jail Free card.  You drew it an hour ago and have kept it untouched until now.  It cost you nothing, since you didn’t have to work for it.  You can still buy that fabulous property coming up on the other side of the board.

Get Out Of Jail Free.

I saw it happen in the park one day not long ago.  I was stopped for a moment to adjust my fitness program’s tracking since the Lovely Lady had sent me a message saying she couldn’t tell where I was.  (I need her to know where to send the ambulance if I keel over).

Not far away from me, I saw a couple of teenage girls sitting on a bench.  As they talked, one of them gestured frantically toward a figure approaching from a distance.  They looked at each other and grimaced.  Obviously, they didn’t want any interaction with this other girl, but what could they do?  She was coming directly up the sidewalk toward where they sat.  They were trapped!

Almost immediately, one of them had a brilliant idea.  She punched a message into her smart phone, I suppose, sending it to the other girl.  At any rate, she too grabbed her smart phone and began to type.  Heads bent over their phones, they never gave any indication to the young lady walking up the sidewalk that they even saw her.

She passed by without a word.  They were safe.

I thought about the Monoply game.

Who would have imagined?  Smart phones are get out of jail free cards.

It even happens frequently to me.  I don’t blame them.  I am a strange man.

As I walk or run through town on my nightly exercise sessions, I look ahead along the pavement.  A block or two in front, I see a woman coming toward me.  She sees me; that much is obvious.  Suddenly, as I get close, the phone comes out and the fingers begin to fly across the screen.

I’m not offended.

They simply need a get out of jail free card.  Otherwise, they might feel obligated to return my wave or friendly hello.  I understand.

But, I also think about the old wild west movies.  You know.  One of those where the town ne’er-do-well is walking up the dirt avenue downtown.  The society matriarch raises her head another couple of inches and, nose pointed toward the sky, crosses the street to walk down the other side from the undesirable outcast.

There is no need to sully her person with unwanted contact.  She utilizes her own primitive get out of jail free card.

I hope you’ll stick with me through one more narrative today.  The event occurred just a couple of days ago while I worked one afternoon.

I looked out the front window of the music store and realized with a sinking feeling in my stomach that I had drawn the go directly to jail card again.

My cellmate was coming in the door, carrying a beat up old guitar.  I don’t mean the vintage collectible kind of beat up old guitar, either.  It was a piece of junk.  I knew that I didn’t want it.

I sighed and, resigned to my stay in jail, awaited my next move.

The young lady spoke.  “The pawn shop wouldn’t buy this.  Will you?”

Hey!  My get out of jail free card!  She had handed it right to me!  If the pawn shop didn’t want it, I certainly couldn’t be expected to have any use for it.

I started to tell her as much.  It was actually what she had expected.  She knew the guitar was worthless.  It would never play a note of music again.  I began to explain why I didn’t want it.


I was just playing my get out of jail free card.  Do you blame me?

Suddenly, in mid sentence, I stopped talking and looked at the lady.  Head bowed, she was resigned to her fate.  She came in with nothing and would leave with the same nothing.

I took my card off the table.  I asked her what she really needed.  I listened to her story.  She left with what she needed.  She took my get out of jail card, too.

At least, I imagine that’s what it looked like to her.

Funny.  Sometimes, we’re so anxious to escape the place and people we perceive as undesirable that we don’t realize the prison we remain in is so much worse.

Can I remind you of something you already know?

A long time ago, Someone else had a chance to use a get out of jail free card, but didn’t.  Instead, He gave it to me.  He gave it to you, too.  This week, I got to share it with that young lady.

I don’t know if she’ll use it wisely.  That’s not up to me.

I bet you’ve had some chances to share yours, too.  There will be more.

I wonder.  Will we be too busy texting on our smart phones?  Or, crossing the street?

Want to know something else?  When you’re generous with your get out of jail free card, it still gets you out of jail, too.

Strange, huh?

Grace is funny that way.

“Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you.”
(Ephesians 4:32 ~ ESV)

“Stone walls do not a prison make, nor iron bars a cage…”
(“To Althea, From Prison” ~ Richard Lovelace ~ English poet ~ 1618-1657)

© Paul Phillips.  He’s Taken Leave.  2014.  All Rights Reserved.

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