While working with one of my Legacy clients recently, I was reminded of a juvenile game my friends and I played when we were teenagers. At that time, it was not uncommon to lead a meager monetary existence. Kids didn’t have the disposable income sources that they do today, and although a bottle of pop might have cost only a dime, earning that dime was a challenge for us. I received only 25 cents an hour for cleaning my neighbor’s house. My friend got about the same amount for baby sitting her brother.
Since youth is a time for learning, “dibs or no dibs” taught me about setting fiduciary boundaries, loyalty and to be quick-witted. Also, the earliest of my philanthropic lessons was incorporated into the game, which went like this.
I would get together with a bunch of friends on a Saturday afternoon or after school. As was the norm, the gang would inevitably get a bit hungry or thirsty. One or the other of us would suggest that we should head to the local corner store and buy a pop or a candy bar.
As my friends and I would walk along, we would spend part of the trip in confession. Each of us would fess up, in a whirlwind of chaotic excitement, as to who had money, and who didn’t. Amounts were not discussed, since we discovered early on that secrecy was a very wise move to protect one’s financial assets.
If I had a quarter and had my wits about me, I would call, “no dibs,” which then resulted in not having to share my treat. But if I forgot to call “no dibs,” and they already knew I had money, they would very cleverly call “dibs,” and whatever I bought had to be shared with whoever was with me. If it was a bottle of Pepsi, then every one of them got a swig of my pop. If I bought a Hershey bar, I’d be breaking off squares of the sweet chocolate treat for each.
It was really a fun game. Just silliness, we thought, but we all honored it! If I didn’t have a dime and my friends did, I had better call out “dibs” as soon as possible. But, if I didn’t call “dibs,” then the die would have been cast. I would have to watch them drink.
Like the rest of the gang, I didn’t get angry or pout; I just accepted that I had made my own bed, and I had to lie in it … parched, dying of thirst. After all, it was my own fault. I didn’t call “dibs.” Nobody got mad at anybody. It was just fun, more than anything else.
You could tell a lot about your friends by how they played the game. And even more if they shared, even though you had stupidly forgotten to call “dibs.”
Of course, the temptation to run off and sneak a bottle without them knowing was big, too, but deep inside, you would always know that you were rotten to the core if you blew off your friends and behaved so selfishly. “Dibs or no dibs” was the only real choice.
I suppose it all sounds ridiculous, but there was something deeper afoot there. The pastime was really a lesson in loyalty and integrity, dressed up as a silly game with a silly name. It was the beginnings of developing a code of honor among friends, and how you played the game said a lot about you, even as a kid.