A few weeks ago I had my 4th business trip to Las Vegas. I've told my colleagues several times how I really don't like that city, but have never been able to articulate why until now...
...thanks to my youngest, his innocence, and his school journal entry:
That's exactly it. I feel lost when I'm in Vegas...and I'm guessing others feel lost there, too.
I lose my connection with nature
Maybe it's just me, but I don't see anything natural in Vegas. Sure there's a lot of pretty water fountains and flowers and trees, and the architecture mimics the greatest landmarks in the world.
But it’s all fake. Unnatural. Even the real trees are not naturally supposed to be there.
Nothing in Vegas is real…
…and something deep inside of me bridles against that.
I lose my moral compass
OK. I don't really lose it, but it sure has a hard time pointing me to safety while in Vegas. It tries to point me to Blue Man Group, an oasis of un-naked-entertainment, but the interference from everything else makes the needle spin and lose its way.
But I don't blame the city. So what if it caters to the care-free? The city is not is forcing me to walk slowly by the 'baseball cards' lying on the sidewalk, street, shrubs, and every other surface showing girls for hire.
I don't blame the workers in Vegas. 90% of them are just like me...doing honest work cooking, cleaning, maintenance, IT jobs...so they can support their family. It’s not their clean tables or good food forcing me to turn in my seat to watch while a volcano blows and “Lava Girls" slide out into a 30' Margarita mug.
I don't even blame the 90' billboards of showgirls pointing their bareness at me in glowing lights (although the Hot Girls ads on the trucks that constantly cruise the strip are a bit maddening).
At the end of the day I shake my moral compass and wonder why I didn't stop and wonder if my thoughts and subtle actions throughout the day honored my wife, my daughters, and my God.
I lose my joy
I think others do, too. All I need to hear is the 'ding ding ding" of the slot machines and my whole spirit drops (I'm convinced the gates to hell are lined with Wheel of Fortune slot machines). I walk around watching my peers play the slots, and there's no smiling, not even any conversation. Anywhere.
I really lose my joy (and a few tears) when casino after casino brings out the pole dancers. Mind you, they are not in some corner or secluded club…but in the smack middle of the casino along the walkway between the front door and the elevators. I first feel guilt at even a glance…then I feel shame. I start wondering what started that former 8 year old daughter, made in God’s image, hopefully loved by parents, down the path where she’s making ends meet by dancing for men in a casino.
…oh, and I notice she’s not smiling either.
But then I find...
But as I write this, I'm surprised to think there is something to find in Vegas.
I find a reflection of myself.
My own life is filled with normal, everyday activities that are neither good nor bad. I’m surrounded by temptations (just maybe not as obvious). I can choose to stare at those temptations or choose to follow my moral compass. I fail far more than I care to admit.
My life is also filled with normal, everyday people. Regardless of what they are doing, God loves them and He wants me to love them, too. Not mock them, not judge them, not use them, not ignore them.
God wants me to love them (that scares me more than the roller coaster at the top of the Stratosphere).
In the end, I’m surprised to find that maybe what I really don’t like about Vegas is exactly what I don’t like about myself…
…I can be fake
…I can be amoral
…I can be joyless (and bring others down)
…I can be unloving, uncaring, and use those who God loves.
But a reflection can work both ways…
Maybe next time I can reflect back the good that Jesus is slowly adding to my life. Maybe that will help my little corner of Vegas to become more real, moral, joyful…and loving.