When I realized I could never again beat my daughter in Chinese Checkers, I jumped my green cat eye over the heads of her blue enemy when she wasn’t looking. Simple as walking through the front door. Or stealing in college. Bag the potatoes and frozen shrimp. When the cashier asks, Did you pay for that? Say, Yes. The automatic door opens, no hands. My daughter trusts me, trusted me—past tense. After six months, I confessed. What? How could you? she asked, What else have you been cheating at? Truth is, and I do mean the truth, I haven’t cheated at anything else: Scrabble, aging (no face lifts, etc.), or income tax. Although, a whole lot of cheating seems to be going on around me.

Last year when I worked as a Family Nutrition Assistant for Purdue University and instructed low-income adults about nutrition, I learned about real cheating. One of my clients, a gaunt looking man with hollow cheeks, told me he drank two pots of coffee a day. How do you sleep? I asked.
I don’t, he replied. The man had a lung disease, which called for an inhaler. He did not have the money to pay for it. The coffee helps with his coughing attacks. An asthma inhaler costs me $25 dollars after insurance. Without insurance, the same inhaler costs $125. That means he would have to pay 400% more for the same inhaler because he is jobless, poor and has no insurance. That is a cheat. People who have more money, pay less for the same medicine. A great deal less. This creates a terrible cycle. The man is less able to work or maintain a job because he is sick. He is sick because he is unable to work and maintain a job.

Knowing he cannot win the man might be tempted to cheat. Perhaps steal food, medicine, small comforts like a chocolate bar. If things get bad enough, he might get resentful of “rich” people who receive the poor man’s Cadillac of health insurance: joint replacements or dental care. The greatest earmark of the poor—bad teeth. Then, he might be tempted to cheat in  violent ways.

That is not to say that acts of cheating, theft, or violence are justified.  Perhaps, understandable. In my own case, it would be disingenuous of me to say I regret my Chinese-checkers infraction.  I don’t. What I do regret, is my diminished capacity to think. My inability to cheat time or death.

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