Have you ever played the card game War? You know, it’s the one where you divide the deck between two players and whoever has the higher card gets both. He who ends up with no cards at the end loses. Simple.

And yet profound.

This past week my daughter had strep throat. Read: This past week there were very, very long days with a very, very miserable little girl who needed distraction. The card game War was about all either of us had energy for.

So we played. A lot. Aside from the utter boredom of flipping through card after card, the actual war part works as follows: When you pick the same card then you officially have a war in which each side lays down three more cards and then that fourth card determines the winner of all.

Now this game could very well be the longest card game in history. Just when you think it is finally going to end, and you can happily declare defeat, a war will inevitably happen and your darling daughter’s best cards will land with you, creating a huge game changer. It just doesn’t matter if you only have a few cards left — if you have the right cards left, you may very well win.

So time to wax philosophical. As the hour ended and the game was still in full throttle, it dawned on me the power of this for our lives. There are so many times that it just seems a situation is hopeless. I’m running out of time, money or energy, or all of the above. But then something comes along and it is an equalizer. It might even be seemingly small, but after all, a war can happen with the number two card the same way as with the king. But an equalizer it is, and at that point everything is up for grabs.

All it takes is one good card. One good card has the potential to win over other good cards. And from that one step, that other foot is so much more likely to follow. And ready for this? The way we play, the joker card is the ultimate. The joker is greater than any other card and nothing can beat it. Land a joker and all bets are off.

For me that is the ultimate lesson. It is easy to forget the power of the joker. It is simpler to just give up than wait around to see what, if anything, will turn around. And yet just when I am sure there is no hope, that joker will appear. As the famous Yiddish expression says, Der mentsh trakht un Got lakht. “Man plans and G-d laughs.” The Joker. The ultimate Joker. Coincidence? Hmmm, I think not…

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