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Do you cash a winning ticket?

You are a minister and an outspoken opponent of gambling. After a community kitchen meal for the poor, you find a crumpled lottery ticket on the floor by the coat rack. Out of curiosity you check the numbers on the Internet and discover it’s a winner. What do you do?

By Connie denBok and Bob Giuliano

Every day we serve the undernourished, under-clothed, under-housed children of those who play the lotteries. I have no more sympathy for this racket than for the neighbourhood crack house. Both provide welcome recreation to their clients, pump money into the local economy and don’t bother me — but the business exploits the vulnerable, and it is our collective shame that no civic authority has the will or wits to stop it.

But as I hold the winning number, a greedy little imp has emerged from my psyche and perched itself on my shoulder.

“Think of the good you could do,” it whispers. “Prove you’re an advocate for the poor by cashing in and serving many. Tithe to the Mission and Service Fund. With $3.7 million you can move to Twillingate or some other island paradise and live like royalty far away from the scandal.”

The longer I think about it, the more reasonable it seems. In fact, I have a duty to take that money and use it well.

What a pity I start every day with a Psalm and by luck today meditated on Psalm 49: “Do not be over-awed when some become rich, when the wealth of their houses increases. For when they die they will carry nothing away; their wealth will not go down after them.” Sometimes when I read that book, I feel like God is looking over my shoulder. It’s a little disturbing — like realizing that your GPS is surreptitiously telling satellites high above the Earth exactly where you are driving. At any rate, the thought is sobering enough to silence the imp.

So I’m stashing the ticket out of sight on the upper shelf with all the forgotten half packs of cigarettes. If the owners claim their property, I’ll return it. Otherwise, I throw out all the garbage when it passes its expiry date. 
Author's photo
Rev. Bob Giuliano is a retired minister who lives in Owen Sound, Ont.

I oppose lotteries because they create greed and irresponsibility. At this moment, though, I am full of greed and don’t care. Eight million bucks? I can live with myself. I put the ticket in my pocket, look around the tired old manse and get into my car.

I drive downtown to Second Ave. E., where there are five banks in two blocks. I can lock the ticket in a safety deposit box, and when cashed, put some money in each bank until I use it.

If greedy, I can at least be responsible. I already give to the Mission and Service Fund; I could give more. I support the Stephen Lewis Foundation, so I could also up my gift to help folks with AIDS in Africa. I have a family member who is blind, so I could contribute to the Foundation Fighting Blindness.

I see Brian, Sam and Harold on the street. They live on disability pensions. Brian looks pretty rough today. I will put a wad of cash in their hands and see their surprise.

I drive by the daycare centre where my wife works. People who work with children are the most poorly paid essential workers in our society. We have accepted that and live close to the line on two less-than-adequate incomes because we believe in and like what we do.

I cross the river and pull into the parking lot on Third Ave. W., take a deep breath and go into the police station.

There are three police officers chatting together. I approach the youngest officer, a woman. She has a black eye and swelling around her jaw. “What happened?” I ask. “Domestic,” she replies. “Yours?” I ask. She smiles.

I take the crumpled lottery ticket from my pocket, hand it to her, tell them where I found it and sign the papers.

There are three wide-eyed cops and, for a minute, one troubled preacher. Then we all laugh out loud. It is sweet.
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