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Episode 16: "The Land Of Plenty"
Living in the land of plenty would justifiably describe the American dream I was about to embark on my next assignment. Thanksgiving and Christmas time was always a delightful celebration for the Smith family. Living in the most elite part of town made everything look like a picture perfect gathering. The red and green colors from the poinsettias brought quite a wonderful atmosphere as the holly brightened up the Christmas tree even more. Nat King Cole’s “Christmas Song” was being played as I was feeling the very essence of the Christmas spirit on this cold and snowy day.
The only thing that was missing was the people. The fireplace was roaring and the food was left on the dining room table. The unwrapped presents were still under the tree. I found myself in a home that looked like a Norman Rockwell picture perfect place. Family and friends were nowhere to be found at this joyous Yuletide occasion.
The location I was directed to shortly afterwards was a hospital where the majority of the people from the Smith’s family were waiting. Richard Smith, the patriarch, had suffered a massive heart attack and everyone was holding on to every word the doctor had to report.
It was still touch and go.
I saw Richard laying there and the feelings I perceived were of hopelessness — Richard included. It was as if he wasn’t meant to go on any longer. I waited a while to wake him up and take him on but I was not allowed yet.
It seems that Mr. Smith used to be a maintenance worker a while back before he won a $300 million Lotto. Needless to say, the lifestyles of the family changed dramatically to the point of having to live with changed personalities. A humble wife changed into a money hungry spendthrift that knew no bounds and was on her way to divorce court with her new lover who happened to be a lawyer.
A good son who was working at a hardware store trying to work his way through college quit trying and just did nothing with his youthful life. His father told him he would be taken care of anyway.
Richard’s daughter got a taste of the riches and decided to move in with her new-found boyfriend. School was out of the question now. There was no need for a high school graduation.
Friends and family alike seemed to come out of the woodwork. The long lost generations of the Smith family appeared at Richard’s doorstep along with their friends. Everybody seemed to know him before he struck it rich although they only came around now that he was rich. They said they knew that he would eventually make it someday.
The pressure was great and the disappointments became even greater for Richard. He thought his worries would come to an end when he won the Lotto but he was finding out that they were just beginning. Richard and his wife had been childhood sweethearts and their marriage was celebrated for 25 years. They were a close-knit family with strong ties to one another. Somehow, their faith seemed to have taken a backseat to the hunger of greed and power. The things that were seen were more palatable than the things that were unseen like faith, compassion and mercy.
A year of this kind of living was a stressful and weary time for Richard and his now well-to-do family. The heart attack became a wake up call for them. They started to realize that money could not cure the real void that was taking the place of their love for one another. Richard’s wife Karen eventually walked away from her affair.
After trying to work up enough courage to face Richard and her family, she wandered into the hospital one day with expectations of saying her last goodbyes to Richard. Son and daughter, Jack and Lilly welcomed their mother in the intensive care unit waiting room while the tearful reunion prepared them for the worst.
Richard was on his dying bed and had regained consciousness. His first words were, “Get me a lawyer.”
The doctor answered, “Wait a minute Richard; you are in no condition for anything much less a business transaction. It is a miracle you’re back. Your family will be thrilled to know you made it.”
Richard answered, “I don’t know if they will be thrilled after they know what I am about to do. I know I am supposed to rest — and I will — but I know what I am going to do.”
A couple of weeks went by and the family was back to its almost happy state. Richard called on his lawyer and began the process of actually giving away all of his money. He started with poor children and sick children. He gave to charity after charity. The elderly were not ignored. He made a special home for the unfortunate elderly that had no means of support. They would be taken care of in conjunction with the government who was also inspired by Richard’s giving. He lit up the hearts of the people who were finally realizing by his unselfish act that we really do need to take care of each other. Soon Richard’s money was gone but the inspiration lingered for many years. His family was back together again with a new hope. They were poor once again but rich in heart. Many thanks were given throughout the years but time took its toll as it usually does.
The clock never stands still for anyone. Richard the maintenance man found himself in the hospital again facing a relapse. Many came and prayed but it seemed that the 70-year-old man would not be going to his house, but would be going home.
As he lay in bed he said, “The only regret I have is not loving enough. But if this is it, it will be all right. I am sleepy and tired. If you don’t see me here or there, I’ll say goodbye now. I love you.”
To the surprise of the doctors, Richard survived once again. Richard was again in the arms of his wife Karen and family. He was a grandfather by now. He decided to play the Lotto again and once again he won. It was going to be different now. The ongoing lessons were learned. It was better to give than to receive. He made a foundation that not only took care of his own family but the family we all belong to.
Richard survived 25 more glorious years when he took my hand and said, “This is the greatest day. Lead on.”
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