Discovering Life Lessons through BINGO!

“The ability to see and understand life from different perspectives opens the paths to understanding, tolerance and peace.”

Annie Berger

“In the young people of our parish, I see a rich source of new and different ideas which, when shared, can be particularly uplifting. Such is the case with this essay, authored by Mercy High School senior and SS. Isidore and Maria parishioner Annie Berger. I share it with you here today so that you, too, may find in her essay a new and positive perspective on life in our community today.” – Father Mark

Discovering Life Lessons through BINGO!
by Annie Berger, parishioner

“BINGO!” shouted a frail elderly woman nestled in the comfort of her wheelchair. She read aloud her unique combination that earned her the twenty-five cent prize: “B2, I19, N34, G60, O73!”

My Saturday routine consisted of playing BINGO with the residents of Salmon Brook Nursing Home, and it all began with what I thought would be a one-time service event.

“Gross, it smells like pee in here.” I walked through the door of the nursing home; hands stuffed in my sweatshirt pockets. My mom picked up the role as “Youth Minister” at our church, which entailed experimenting with countless community outreach programs. With the lack of interest from other teenagers, my sister and I accompanied her. We were directed down the hall to the large dining room, where we were greeted by thirty residents who sat in front of their BINGO cards eagerly waiting for the game to begin. We were told to pair up with a resident. I briefly scanned the room, to which my eyes focused on a woman with a pale face, soft dark eyes, and a wide grin. I sat down next to her, introduced myself, and conversation began to flow.

I soon learned that her name was AnnRita. As the game began we continued our conversation pausing every few seconds to hear the next number. Green chips sat on the table. She fumbled them in her hands, and utilized them whenever a number she had was called. These chips were much more than objects; the green represented her Irish heritage.

The amount of information I found out about AnnRita the first day we met certainly made up for the fact that she didn’t win a game. From learning about her favorite candy being Werther’s Caramels or the family that she adored; a picture of the complete person began to emerge. If AnnRita were to have an ideal BINGO card I would envision this:

  • B4 – symbolizing her four children. AnnRita often boasted about her children: three boys and one girl.
  • I25 – the memories flooded back to July of 1925, the year she was born.
  • N –  free space, the ability to fill our lives with whatever passions and desires we have.
  • G59 – the number of beads on a rosary. AnnRita proudly wore her faith for all to see, always carrying red rosary beads and her prayer book.
  • O61 – the number of years she was married to her husband, Weldon.

Nobody’s life is perfect; we all have faults. AnnRita showed me how to take those faults and turn them into lessons to grow from. She understood failure, and recognized what hard work can accomplish. She told me to never quit fighting for my dreams. As I head into the next steps in my life, I am looking forward to continue establishing those BINGO numbers that connect to form my own story. Although it may take time with some success and failure, I am excited to see what the journey will look like.

It is possible that my B could be B3, representing my three siblings or the year that I was born (2003). I believe my I will lie somewhere in the twenties, such as I24, where I aspire to begin my career as an occupational therapist. I will keep N as my free space like AnnRita did for all the unknowns and adventures to come. I picture my G as G50, celebrating my 50th wedding anniversary surrounded by children and grandchildren. Sixty-six has always been my lucky number, so it’s only fitting that O66 would fulfill my O column.

Although these numbers may fluctuate throughout the years, I am eager to find my way and someday look back on my life with no regrets and yell BINGO!

Annie Berger is a senior at Mercy High School in Middletown, and a parishioner of SS. Isidore and Maria Parish.