Even the Losers

Reflections on Shuffle-Play

Even the Losers

By Tom Petty

Tom Petty died a couple days ago. His death came right on the heels of a mass shooting in Las Vegas. In the midst of all of this, a baby was born in our congregation. Death and life – the seasons go round and round.

I grew up listening to Tom Petty. His older songs were the soundtrack to rides on the school bus, the days I spent glued to VH1, and later on – the music I listened to with friends and boyfriends. “Even the Losers” has had a perpetual place on my running playlist for decades.

You aren’t supposed to say you feel like a loser. No one is supposed to admit to this. We are supposed to see ourselves as winners! Try! Do your best! Believe in yourself! And yet, in our times of quiet truth-telling, most of us have felt like we weren’t winning. I have felt this way – especially when I was growing up.

Painfully shy, I spent all of elementary, junior high, and high school perched firmly on the outer edges of anything cool. I had a rich fantasy life where I dreamed of the handsome popular boy calling me, of being an actress, a singer. When I was alone, I could imagine I was anyone, on the verge of being anything – but when I was with other people I was faced with the reality of my shyness, my inability to ever know what to say, the painful surety that whatever I did say would be wrong, stupid, or simple.

I’m not a whole lot different now. Sure, I can function in society and in my work but I’m an introvert, through and through. I get anxious leading the smallest Bible study. I get a tinge of nervousness just returning phone calls. Before every one of the thousands of sermons I have preached, I’ve felt butterflies to panic.

I don’t spend much time anymore wondering why it is this way for me – rather, I I’ve learned how to build on my strengths: Less meetings, more writing and creative pursuits. I know that if I have a day full of being around people, leading activities, or public speaking, I need to take some time alone after that.

For example, last weekend I went to Homecoming festivities at my old college. I spent most of the day with my closest college friends and that was wonderful – talking, walking around campus, eating together. Then, in the evening there was a gathering for our entire class. As soon as we got there, I wanted to run away. I didn’t have any energy left for making small talk with virtual strangers – I left after about 25 minutes and went home. Maybe if I had started the day with that big social gathering I could have tolerated it longer, but as it was, I had no shred of extrovert left in me.  That Homecoming weekend of constant interaction with friends and strangers left me exhausted – it took me a couple days to feel normal again.

This feels like a flaw in my character and yet I know that it is just the way I was created. I can’t use my introversion as an excuse to lock myself away and not contribute to the world, but I do have to make sure I get quiet time.

It’s a bummer that quiet kids often feel like “losers.” Usually, the popular kids are the loud, animated ones. Everyone knows who those kids are and what they are about. Quieter kids often are harder to get to know – we keep our thoughts close. We don’t like talking just for the sake of talking.  We want the conversation to be about something that matters.

So, we sit on the sideline, looking for the interactions that matter – and we like it there except that sometimes it is a little lonesome. We see the extroverts talking loudly and laughing and gesturing wildly and wonder for a split second how it might be to be like that.

But then we are more than content to go off and write, walk and observe the leaves changing, read, contemplate life, explore – all on our own for quite a long time until another soul comes along to serve as a gentle companion.

I think that is what Tom Petty meant when he sang, “even the losers get lucky sometimes.”  No one is a loser, but every one of us has felt that way at some point – and what a blessing it is when something or someone comes along and we suddenly know we are winning. In our own way. On our own terms. In God’s always-surprising timing.

 

“Even The Losers”
Well it was nearly summer, we sat on your roof
Yeah we smoked cigarettes and we stared at the moon
And I showed you stars you never could see
Babe, it couldn’t have been that easy to forget about me

Baby time meant nothin’ anything seemed real
Yeah you could kiss like fire and you made me feel
Like every word you said was meant to be
Babe, it couldn’t have been that easy to forget about me

Baby even the losers
Get lucky sometimes
Even the losers
Keep a little bit of pride
They get lucky sometimes

Two cars parked on the overpass
Rocks hit the water like broken glass
Should have known right then it was too good to last
It’s such a drag when you live in the past

Baby even the losers
Get lucky sometimes
Even the losers
Keep a little bit of pride
They get lucky sometimes

 


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