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Knoebels is a family-run amusement park in central Pennsylvania. At the center of the park is the Grand Carousel, a beautiful century-old merry-go-round. Like many old carousels, this one allows riders to reach out a grab a metal ring as they go by. Most of the rings are steel, but one per ride is brass. The person who ends up with the brass ring wins a free ride.

My first job, when I was 14 years old, was working on the carousel, and one of my duties was to stock the ring dispenser and watch to see who got the brass ring. Somewhere along the line I ended up with one of the brass rings myself. I no longer recall how it came in to my possession — perhaps I found an extra one under the carousel? — but it has been on my key ring since 1985.

The brass ring is a great conversation piece, and it reminds me of being young and living in a simpler time without stress, work deadlines, or college tuition payments. Also, I’ve been fortunate in many ways during my life — excellent health, a terrific family, no driving accidents — and I don’t think that’s a coincidence. I have to believe there’s a greater force at work here, and it likely starts with the brass ring.

I’ve taken my kids to Knoebels each summer for the last 18 years, and no visit is complete without a ride on the carousel. I suppose one of them, or perhaps one of their kids, will end up with my brass ring one day. I hope that it brings them the same luck I’ve been fortunate enough to have.