There’s a reason I don’t play the lottery or enter contests. I know I’ll never win. Even the one time I did–I collected ten dollars in a magazine sweepstakes–it didn’t make up for the hundred dollars in magazine gift subscriptions I’d bought over the years. So when the cashier at the grocery store handed me a scratch-off prize card around Thanksgiving, I didn’t want to take it.
“It’s free with your grocery purchase,” the cashier said. Okay, if I don’t need to gamble any money away… Still, I wasn’t sure there wasn’t some catch. After fishing for a quarter from my purse, I rubbed away the silvery surface of the card. “Congratulations!’ it read underneath. My prize? A 15-pound turkey.
A turkey? My husband, Gary, and I had been married 24 years, and in all that time I’d never once prepared a Thanksgiving turkey. Every year we drove to Gary’s parents in Vermont, and ate their turkey. I was sure Gary’s mom already had their bird stuffed and trussed. Of all the things I could win, Lord, what will I do with this?
Back home, I was still searching for an answer when my 13-year-old daughter, Michelle, bounded into the kitchen. Then, suddenly, I knew.
For several years, Gary and I had been passing down Michelle’s old clothes to a struggling family in Potsdam. They lived in a dilapidated house that was crumbling around the corners and looked ready to come down. Both parents were disabled and unable to work, and their daughter was four years younger than Michelle, about her size. I’d found out about the family through my church, and they were grateful for the outfits Michelle had outgrown.
Maybe they could use the turkey, I thought.
I called and told the girl’s mother about my unexpected prize. “Would you like it?”
For a moment, there was dead silence. I worried I’d been presumptuous–maybe she already had dinner planned.
Finally the woman spoke. “Habitat for Humanity is rebuilding our house this weekend,” she said. “I wanted to feed the workmen a Thanksgiving meal. I was just praying for some way to afford it… then you called.”
There’s still no way I’m playing the lottery. But if a scratch-off card lands in my lap again, I’ll be sure to have a quarter ready to scratch it, just in case.