I recently read about three young people, who like many, were seeking fame and fortune and a good time. They achieved it. Here are their “winning” stories (slightly abridged).
Dan Carley, a young man, was a winner. The Toronto Star (Aug. 11, 2016) – click on link to read story – reported how ten years ago, he won a $5-million dollar lottery jackpot. That’s a whole lot of money. He had a celebration party with his parents, friends and fiancee. The future looked bright and rosy. He had the whole world by the tail, he thought. He helped his friend kick off a new charity event for Multiple Sclerosis Research. He planned to keep most of his new found cash in the bank to build interest.
The article continued: “Tailspin of drug addiction began after lottery win”. Today, this now thirty-five year old from St. Catherines, Ontario is locked up in a detention centre en route to a Federal Penitentiary, sentenced to two and half years for cocaine trafficking. This was followed by a series of poor investments, aggravated by drug use and being around “questionable characters”. How did this “winning” go so wrong for him and also for his parents to bear?
Rafaela Silva, according to the same newspaper, on August 9, 2016, Rafaela was also a winner. She won a Gold medal in the women’s 57 kg judo competition at the recent 2016 summer olympics in Rio de Janeiro. The caption read: “The girl wins gold for the “city of God”.
Her life story is different from Dan Carley. She grew up in Citade de Deus (City of God), a famously bad neighbourhood. In fact, “World’s most notorious slum”, which inspired the book “City of God”, the 2002 film. She wiped her tears as the Brazilians sang their anthem.
Four years ago she was an Olympic medal contender and was disqualified in London for what was deemed an illegal move. She did not react well: “whatever racism was spewed her way; she saw enough of it. She fired back in twitter; it attracted attention. There was only one racist comment in particular, just one”.
This has clearly burned in her psyche for four years. She said “it was very difficult to overcome the problem of 2012, but insisted that Judo was my life and I counted on my Coach and on God and support from my family and the Brazilian people. Some taunted me saying the place for you is for a monkey in a cage”. She waited to compete again in four years. The article continued “the story is familiar enough that, may be, they will make a movie one day.”
Jesus continued: “There was a man who had two sons. The younger one said to his father, ‘Father, give me my share of the estate.’ So he divided his property between them.
“Not long after that, the younger son got together all he had, set off for a distant country and there squandered his wealth in wild living. After he had spent everything, there was a severe famine in that whole country, and he began to be in need. So he went and hired himself out to a citizen of that country, who sent him to his fields to feed pigs. He longed to fill his stomach with the pods that the pigs were eating, but no one gave him anything.
“When he came to his senses, he said, ‘How many of my father’s hired servants have food to spare, and here I am starving to death! I will set out and go back to my father and say to him: Father, I have sinned against heaven and against you. I am no longer worthy to be called your son; make me like one of your hired servants.’ So he got up and went to his father.
“But while he was still a long way off, his father saw him and was filled with compassion for him; he ran to his son, threw his arms around him and kissed him.
“The son said to him, ‘Father, I have sinned against heaven and against you. I am no longer worthy to be called your son.’
“But the father said to his servants, ‘Quick! Bring the best robe and put it on him. Put a ring on his finger and sandals on his feet. Bring the fattened calf and kill it. Let’s have a feast and celebrate. For this son of mine was dead and is alive again;he was lost and is found.’ So they began to celebrate.
“Meanwhile, the older son was in the field. When he came near the house, he heard music and dancing. So he called one of the servants and asked him what was going on. ‘Your brother has come,’ he replied, ‘and your father has killed the fattened calf because he has him back safe and sound.’
“The older brother became angry and refused to go in. So his father went out and pleaded with him. But he answered his father, ‘Look! All these years I’ve been slaving for you and never disobeyed your orders. Yet you never gave me even a young goat so I could celebrate with my friends. But when this son of yours who has squandered your property with prostitutes comes home, you kill the fattened calf for him!’
“‘My son,’ the father said, ‘you are always with me, and everything I have is yours.But we had to celebrate and be glad, because this brother of yours was dead and is alive again; he was lost and is found.’”
Here are my thoughts:
All the three winners had few things in common to start but the destination differed:
- They were ambitious with great expectations
- All three had friends and well wishers, at least in the beginning
- “Winners” are not dependant on social status. Carley and the Prodigal son had a leg up growing in a good social scene. Silva grew up in difficult social surroundings, handicapped with racial tensions, which few understand, unless you are in it.
I have seen enough in my years the vicissitudes of life, rain and sunshine, ups and downs. Some sink deeper while others claw and climb up from the “sink hole”. It is like the old Board Game Snakes and Ladders.
I detect one plausible but important clue or lesson to learn from. To me it is embedded in Rafaela Silva’s response to the journalists.
She said: “I counted on my coach and God, the support of my family and people”. It is that three letter universal word God that can make all the difference in this world and the world to come.
It is crystal clear: God, family, and friends. I do not wish to be dogmatic. Not everyone is fortunate to have a good locality to live, good friends to chum with, or a fine family to lean on. But God!
God speaks to us in many ways, through nature, good friends, parents, the fellowship of church, and the Bible. But even if one does not have these blessings, a simple but sincere prayer “God be merciful to me a sinner” is all it takes to guide.
My Dad was fluent in English, Malayalam, Cannares (Tulu) and Tamil(friends in India know). This was his advice to me in Tamil as a teenager: “Kadavulai nambinal kai vidathu”- Trust in God, He will never let you down”. This simple phrase has served me well all my life.
God bless, Danny Paul