Words of Whit


Steve Whitford

The gift of the lotto

Every Christmas is a maker and marker of events that stay in our memory forever. This is the story of a special Christmas my family experienced back when I wore a younger man’s shoes.

Christmas Eve’s shorter days lent themselves to glowing holiday displays that abounded everywhere. Neighbor competed with neighbor with elaborate creations of the season.

Santa and reindeer posed on rooftops, twinkling lights outlined the houses and shops. Personally decorated trees adorned picture windows and some towns still boldly displayed life-sized Nativities. This was a time when my kids were still children, and Christmas wasn’t spelled with an X.

It was our custom to spend Christmas Eve with our parents, as I had married the proverbial “girl next door,” and our parents still lived next to each other.

The drive would take about 45 minutes as there was a lot of hurried traffic at the dinner hour.

As we neared our destination, I noticed an old car parked or pushed to the side of the road. It was packed with children and the father had the hood up in an obvious sign of distress.

I knew they would have a hard time getting any professional help on this night, so I stopped to see if my limited knowledge of auto mechanics could be of any use. After a short discussion and inspection, I determined they had a dead battery and a lame starter.

I jumped their battery and got the starter to work one more time using a trick I knew involving a long screwdriver. With the motor running, they would be able to get to their destination after all, as would we, though we’d both be a bit late.

That was our good deed for the day and those people really appreciated it. The father had very little to offer. What he did have was seven lotto tickets he had purchased earlier and he insisted that we take them. He said they had brought him good fortune already, because we had stopped and helped him, and he wanted to pass the “good luck” on to us.

Reluctantly, I accepted the gift as he wouldn’t have it any other way. It was humbling to see someone with so little giving away what to him was so much. After a wonderful reunion with our parents, our tired, but happy family began the long drive home. As we passed a convenience store, my children reminded me about the lotto tickets and loudly insisted that we stop and find out if the tickets were really lucky.

Surprisingly the store manager looked a bit like Santa. He was old and pot-bellied and sported a long, white, flowing beard that hung nearly to his waist. He looked like what you would expect a Santa to look like in India.

We handed him the tickets to scan, as was the custom in those days. He scanned each ticket, a twinkle in his eyes and an unknown tune on his lips. When he had finished the last ticket, my children could no longer contain their excitement, and it was Christmas Eve, a night of miracles wasn’t it?

“Did we win? Did we win something? Did we?” they shouted. The old store keeper looked down into their eager little faces, and with a knowing smile said,“No.”

If you look for miracles, they’re easy to find because they are all around us. Marrying my wife was a miracle (at least for me). My parents, my children and just being alive are all miracles to me, which brings us to the biggest miracle of all: the reason we celebrate Christmas.