Last year (2014) Americans gambled on winning the lottery, spending a total of $70.15 billion on lottery tickets, according to the North American Association of State and Provincial Lotteries. The next highest expenditure was Sports tickets with $17.8 billion, then books, $14.6 billion, video games, $13.1billion, movie box office, $10.7 billion, and music, $6.8 billion. (http://money.cnn.com/2015/02/11/news/companies/lottery-spending/)
This goes to show that winning the lottery is part of the American Dream, and not just in America. The Canadian figures are also quite high. However, Maggie Loh won the lottery in an entirely different way. My friend, Karen, who sweats hard with me in an early-morning cycle class, is also a swimmer. (which I’m not!) As we were leaving cycle class one day, she waved to a swimmer in the Olympic-sized pool at our gym. Then she commented, “Maggie is such an inspiration. She is 82 years old.” As I picked my jaw up off the floor, I watched Maggie swim another lap. Karen also commented, “Maggie has a incredible story of perseverance.” I told her I wanted to hear it.
A couple weeks later over a sandwich, I heard Maggie’s story. Maggie had gone to Shanghai, China, for college and was looking forward to a bright future, but 1 ½ years later, her world changed. Communism took over and there was no way for her to get out of the country, not even to attend her father’s funeral in Hong Kong. Also, she suddenly had no choice in what field she wanted to pursue. The party now chose her field of study and the party became first, over everything else in her life, including family. They chose the teaching profession for her career.
Things progressively got worse during the next six years. Her property now belonged to the state. A coupon was required for everything. Maggie remembers getting one egg a year, 2 ounces of sugar for a month and a small amount of yarn in order to mend her clothes. The country gradually got poorer and poorer. Hard work did not pay off for the worker, only for the party.
Maggie did become a white-color professional as a college instructor, but the party required all white and blue collar workers to exchange places during the summer months. She was sent out on a construction job. At this time, Maggie was 98 pounds and her job was to carry bricks to the construction site, of which she could only physically carry two at a time! Luckily, the bricklayer was kind and did not turn her in. She and another professor colleague also had to clean the sewer, carrying buckets of waste, hanging and sloshing between them.
A bright spot in her dark world happened when she met Albert. They married and soon had two sons. Maggie knew they needed to find a way out of the country, and unbeknownst to her at the time, it was to be crafted by her clever mother. Her mother sent her an “urgent” telegram telling her she was sick to the point of death and needed Maggie to come see her one last time. (Her mother was in Hong Kong) Her plea must have hit a soft spot, for miraculously, her superior gave her permission for a few days travel to see her mother.Maggie did not pack a suitcase, as she did not want anyone to hold her back. She had a quarter in her pocket, enough for a single train ticket for her and her young sons, and she left for Hong Kong, never to return.
Immediately, Maggie started working three jobs and her mother helped with the boys. She worked 9-5, then 5-7, then 7 to whenever she would finish tutoring. It was a hard life, but she was free, and this was to be her life for the next ten years. However, Albert was still trapped in Shanghai, as a valued Physicist. Albert’s escape happened when smuggled out on a boat by a sympathetic citizen of Shanghai, although he knew there would be revenge on his extended family. (His family was later questioned extensively and thrown out of their house)
After ten years in Hong Kong, Maggie and Albert found their way to the United States, truly winning the lottery in life. It was still not easy, as in order to be a physicist in the U.S., Albert had to completely repeat all the coursework and exams, which he did. It was well-worth it as they were now free.
When I find I’ve had a hard day or my business isn’t running as successfully or smoothly as I’d like, I think of Maggie swimming laps, now as an 83-year old. She is probably all of 5 feet tall, but in my book, she is a giant of perseverance, fortitude and thankfulness for what this country has given her. I don’t need any money to feel like I’m winning the lottery. I just need to look around me to see all the freedoms and choices I can make for myself every day. I hope you do the same in this season as you see the spring of new life all around you. It is truly a season of thankfulness and a season of reflection on winning the lottery in your life.
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