Jack grew up in poverty and craved money more than anything as an adult, so he joined a gang. On his way to a heist, he found a winning lottery ticket worth $110k and went to cash it. However, he saw a note behind the ticket and made a surprising decision.
Jack stomped at the dirt in the park as he rushed to the local convenience store in Brooklyn. He was going to steal from the store and get out of there quickly. It was a nasty task as this was his neighborhood, but his gang boss had ordered it. He wanted to get it done quickly and get out of there swiftly.
Jack didn’t have anything as a child, and he grew up craving money. But he hated the idea of wasting away at a minimum wage job trying to make it.
His mother didn’t have money to send him to college, and he was never dedicated to school anyway. Therefore, when the opportunity to join a big gang came, he took it and started running errands for them. His mother died shortly after that, so he didn’t have to feel guilty.
Now that he was older, he had to be part of the team, so to speak. He had to start doing specific jobs before he could play with the big boys and earn more money, so that’s what he did. But he wanted to be quick about it because cops frequented that spot, and he didn’t want anything to foil his plan.
“Yes, that’s what I’m going to say if they ask me about it,” Jack nodded to himself and started walking.
His forehead was dripping in sweat as he walked, but he suddenly stopped. A lottery ticket was lying on the ground, and he almost stepped on it. Jack looked around, and there was no one around, so he picked it up and saw that it had yet to be scratched.
He bit his lower lip as he grabbed a coin from his pocket and scratched the surface. To his utter astonishment, it was a winning ticket and the prize was $110,000!
Jack’s mouth dropped, then he jumped in place several times like a little kid and yelled, “Yes!” at the top of his lungs. The nervousness he felt over the last few minutes was completely gone.
“Yes! I don’t need those losers anyway,” he exclaimed and rushed to the convenience store. But instead of stealing from the owner, he was going to ask where the state lottery office was located. Usually, lottery tickets could be cashed in the store where they were purchased. However, the ticket he was holding had to be cashed at the official office because it was a huge amount.
“Hey, sir,” he called to the owner at the register. The burly man with glasses raised his eyes, giving him his attention. “I just won huge with this lottery ticket. Do you know where I’m supposed to go cash it?”
The owner told him exactly where to go. “Did you buy it here?” he asked.
“No, I found it! Isn’t that lucky?” Jack revealed, unable to contain the happiness on his face.
“Well, congratulations! Just make sure it’s not signed by the person who bought it. Otherwise, they won’t give you the money,” the owner said, taking off his glass and pursing his lips.
“What?” Jack frowned, turning the ticket around in his hands. He looked up at the owner, his lips turned down, and exited the store quickly.
There was something on the ticket, in fact, but it wasn’t a signature. It was a message in crooked handwriting that said, “It’s for my mom.”
It was written in pencil, so Jack was wondering about erasing it, although he could say he wrote it himself. “Yes, that’s what I’m going to say if they ask me about it,” Jack nodded and started walking. It would take him some time to reach the lottery state office, and he wanted to cash it and disappear from the city as quickly as possible.
But as he walked, he thought about the kid who wrote that message. His eyes closed in pain, and his feet stopped in their place. He was once that child. He was once a kid who didn’t have anything and wished his mother would win big at the lottery so that they could live a better life. What if the kid who bought it was going through that?
What if he ended up like Jack? Joining a gang and doing things he didn’t want to do all because he needed and wanted money. Jack slapped the ticket in his hand several times, thinking about that child. He desperately wanted this cash and the freedom it would bring him. But he knew he couldn’t take it.
Despite his current “occupation,” he was not a bad person. He could justify doing other gang-related things, but stealing from a child was a line he wouldn’t cross. So he turned around, pressing his lips together, and reluctantly walked back to that park.
He didn’t know how to find the kid who bought the ticket, but he had to start at the park. Maybe the child got home, realized his ticket was gone, and would return to the park to find it.
As Jack reached the general area of the park where he had found the ticket, he saw a boy on his hands and knees, searching for something. It had to be him. A woman was nearby. She was leaning forward as if she was looking for something too.
They were both wearing simple clothing, and the vision reminded him of his past once again. This strengthened his resolve to return the ticket. He was doing the right thing for the first time in his life. He left the ticket on the floor and walked away.
From a distance, he heard the boy yell shortly after. “Mom! Here it is! Oh my god! We won! Mom! We’re rich!”
Jack smiled in chagrin, sighed, and kept walking. He was not going back to his gang boss either. He used the subway, went to Grand Central Station, and bought a ticket as far as he could go. To a place where he could start a new life. An honest life.
What can we learn from this story?
Doing the right thing can be extremely hard. Jack was not the best kind of person, but even he decided to do the right thing after realizing that another kid could be caught in the cycle of poverty.
It’s never too late to change your life. After doing the right thing for a boy, Jack decided to change his life, getting away from the gang and leaving his city forever.
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