My son’s soccer league was trying to raise money as part of a community support program to improve the facilities at the neighborhood recreation center where the kids practice. To do our part, the parents decided to sponsor a raffle at the rec center’s big Halloween carnival. Each family would donate one item, and raffle tickets would be sold for one dollar each, then the buyers could put their tickets in a box with a number corresponding to a number on the item they wanted to win. At the end of the day, we’d select one ticket from each box, and that item would go to the person who bought the ticket.
Some of the parents really out-did themselves. One father made a beautiful hand-carved mahogany picture frame; another put up a $100 gift certificate for automotive repair at his service station. There were lots of delicious homemade treats too – cakes, plates of cookies, apple pies, and so on.
But then, there were the other offerings. One woman who fancied herself an “artist” put a painting she had made up for raffle, but it was embarrassingly bad. One of the kid’s fathers donated an old dart board that wouldn’t have brought 25 cents at a garage sale. Someone else put a stack of old vinyl record albums out.
As the conclusion of the raffle time approached, some of the ticket boxes were brimming, but others were conspicuously empty. I wondered how the organizers were going to diplomatically tell people that their junk hadn’t brought any bids. But when they started drawing winning tickets, I was surprised to see that even the “junk” got awarded to someone.
Then I started to notice a trend: The worst of the junky prizes were all going to Irene, a quiet lady who I had never taken time to get to know. Every time Irene was awarded another prize, no matter how undesirable it seemed to be, she always commented on how lucky she was, and made sure to thank the person who donated it.
Our soccer team raised nearly $700 for the rec center that day, and when it was over, I walked over to Irene and said, “You sure won a lot of … stuff.”
She knew what I meant. “You noticed, huh? Well, don’t tell anyone, but just before the drawing I went around and put a ticket in every empty box. I didn’t want anyone to feel like their donations weren’t appreciated.”
I thought it was one of the most generous things I’d ever seen, and it certainly qualified Irene as a knight in shining armor to me.
— Denise Doyle, California
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