3+ME: Take care of others. And also yourself.

If you play arcade games, at least one of the following is true:

1) you love playing the game

2) you love earning the prize

3) you love something else entirely, which I wouldn’t understand because I don’t play arcade games.

I really don’t (with very few exceptions). But my stepkids do.

You know the games I’m talking about, the kind that spit out a strip of paper tickets based on your score, which you can then exchange for cheap toys or candy.

From my observation, my stepkids represent Options 1 and 2.

While my stepson usually cares more about the game experience than the tickets he earns from it, his sister chooses what to play based on the payoff.

Like my stepdaughter, we each have our own supply of resources (or arcade tickets), like time, emotional investment, creativity, energy. Some is meant to be shared — but it’s OK to keep some for ourselves, too.

That’s what happened when we took them to Lazer Gate in Fall River, a haven chock full of these particular games. While my stepson took off with his dad to play air hockey and first-person shooter games, I hung out with my stepdaughter as she mostly targeted the high-paying ones.

She was already on a roll when we ran into a group of other kids — a group that included two friends of ours. We said hi to them, but mostly kept to ourselves.

Until it was time to go.

“I think you did pretty good here,” I commented to my stepdaughter, holding up coiled ribbons of ticket strips. She grinned proudly. There were a lot of tickets there.

Time to cash in. As we went over to the counting machine, a little girl started using the machine next to ours. I recognized her from the group of kids that had included our two friends.

She stood there with maybe a dozen tickets, while my stepdaughter wrangled her own pile.

Looking from one to the other, I had a thought. (I’m not sure if I would have had the thought if I didn’t know the girl was a friend of a friend, but I thought it, so I said it.)

“Hey,” I whispered to my stepdaughter, “see that little girl next to you? She doesn’t have all that many tickets, and you have quite a few. If you wanted to, it would be really nice if you maybe shared some with her.”

She nodded. Pulling out a strip of tickets from her pile, she handed it to the kid. It wasn’t a ton, but the girl seemed thrilled.

I was proud of her for that.

It was a kind gesture to share with friend-of-a-friend, especially when she had a surplus herself. The more opportunities I can show her that she can be kind to someone else, hopefully the more she’ll recognized those opportunities on her own.

But I was also proud of her for something else.

She didn’t overdo it, and that was good, too. She shouldn’t. She didn’t deplete everything she had in order to give to someone else.

And I think sometimes we forget that it’s the same in adult life, too. Not with arcade tickets, but with resources.

Time. Creativity. Energy. Emotional investment. You name it.

We can’t do it all. We shouldn’t. We can’t deplete everything we have in order to give to someone else.

But sometimes we feel like we should. Or maybe I should speak for myself: I feel like I should.

Whether it’s for my stepkids, my friends, my family, my job — whoever the “someone else” is, I feel like I should be on “give” mode all the time. And I feel bad when I’m not.

Whether it’s emotional investment, time, energy, creativity or even kindness, we only have so much to give. Sometimes we can’t give it all.

That’s my self-imposed guilt complex talking — even when no one is actually trying to make me feel guilty.

I walk around apologizing for not doing more, giving more, being more.

And I shouldn’t.

I could learn from my stepdaughter on this one. She gave from what she had, but she didn’t feel obligated to give all of it. It was a great example of how little people sometimes have a better grasp on Life Things than some adults do. Including myself.

So share sometimes, because it’s good to be kind to the people in your life.

But save some for yourself, because it’s good to be kind to yourself, too. And you shouldn’t have to feel guilty for that.

Originally published in The Herald News on Sunday, Feb. 24.

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