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Winning Life's Lottery

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Who wouldn’t want a big lottery win? Wouldn’t it be great? A new home, a new car, a luxury holiday; these are just some of the choices which spring to mind. Heck, just to be able to square all of your debts and pay all future bills and purchases in full would be liberating. How could it not be life changing? Of course, for every plus, there’s a potential minus though. You really need to think it through, but that might be difficult whilst you’re running around whooping and dancing, and who wouldn’t? Problem is, once you find yourself in the spotlight, you might wish that you weren’t. Envy is a terrible thing, it can ruin relationships and even the staunchest friendships might be tried by such a sudden turnaround of fortune. There would also be the undeserving beggars and the gold diggers beating a path to your door, not to mention outright criminals who might try to part you from your windfall by a variety of nefarious means. You would suddenly begin to feel very exposed and you would have to relocate, which might mean leaving behind a lot of people and things that you would miss, despite your good fortune. Showing off your new found wealth might be your next pitfall. Lots of celebrities and Wannabees do it, but that’s by way of self promotion. In contrast, the newly rich are often completely unaware of their vulnerability and that can be expensive, if not downright dangerous.
Yes, I’ve given these matters a lot of thought in preparation for the great day and whilst I might give the impression of being a dogmatic and predictable old traditionalist, there’s a buccaneer spirit within me which exults in breaking with convention. If the circumstances ever fell right, I would break the mould and give that spirit free rein to soar. One of the best mnemonics I was ever taught was K.I.S.S.—Keep It Simple, Stupid. I would. Oh sure, I would be comfortable, but having sat and spent time with some of the lowest and the highest in the land, I’ve discovered that the real heroes in this life are the quiet and unpretentious folk who just get on with it and seek no recognition for their incredible generosity and benevolence. For instance, I know a world renowned marine engineer who sweeps a car lot. He’s had many cocky new sales executives look down their noses at him, but when he’s not pushing his broom and polishing cars, he’s the one who is being flown about the world in private jets to remedy problems with the yachts of the super rich and he’s the one who dictates the terms of his employment, too. Many local charities receive large and unsolicited donations as a result. If all that glitters is not gold, then equally, you should never, ever judge a book by its cover.
I don’t easily forget the incredible generosity which my friends and acquaintances extended to me when my life hit a bump. That kind of experience is priceless and it creates ripples like a pebble in a pond. In contrast, one of my most upsetting memories was of being in a shopping mall just before Christmas one year and noticing two young women with babes in buggies. They had clearly suffered some terrible shock. One woman was slumped down on the floor sobbing piteously whilst the other squatted beside her and tried to comfort her. I had a suspicion what had happened and I was right. She had withdrawn a large amount of savings from an ATM with which to buy Christmas gifts, only to have her purse picked from her pocket before she could spend any. The scene suggested that she wasn’t a wealthy woman and that she perhaps struggled to make ends meet at the best of times. What had happened had utterly devastated her  and had it been anywhere within my means, I would have made her loss more than good, right there and then, and afterwards melted quickly and quietly away. It would have been the best Christmas present ever, but times were hard indeed and I could give no practical support of any kind. All I had to offer was a prayer that she might by some means be granted relief and consolation in her hour of affliction. It didn’t feel very adequate.
On another occasion though, shortly after my mother had passed away, my bank account inherited a sufficient boost to push it back into the black and a little while later, I was in a drugstore behind another young woman who had purchased a number of essential items for a baby, including diapers and milk powder. She looked as though she could easily afford them too, but it’s easy to make incorrect assumptions of wealth just because someone takes a pride in their appearance. At the checkout, she was clearly shocked and distraught to have her card declined due to insufficient funds. It didn’t take me much thought, especially when I observed another woman in the queue behind us rolling her eyes impatiently. Intervening and briefly explaining how I had come by a little spare money, I asked to be allowed to pay for the baby goods and without waiting for any affirmation, I slipped my card into the reader and punched in the PIN. The absolute astonishment and relief on the face of that young mother were more precious than a bagful of diamonds and its sparkle radiated to touch the hearts of the cashier and other customers too—even the impatient lady.
As I quickly paid for my own things, the young woman said “I don’t know how to thank you.”
“It’s very easy,” I replied. “Next time you get the chance, be nice to somebody else.”
I still look back on that day with amazement. The buzz that I got from that simple little act of benevolence was out of all proportion to what it cost me. The certainty that its effect is still reverberating and inspiring new acts of kindness is incredibly satisfying.
Edwin Markham captured it thus:
I built a chimney for a comrade old,
I did the service not for hope or hire–
And then I travelled on in winter’s cold,
Yet all the day I glowed before the fire.
Each to their own; and matching noble thoughts with noble deeds might not actually be quite so easy in the event, but there’s a resonance of truth about the concept that the more you give, the more you get and it sits well with me. Given the chance, I should like to explore it further. All I have to do now is win the lottery …


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