Chapter 157: Louella Gets Some Advice

by Alice Cherbonnier

Louella looked around at the modest furnishings in the priest's office. Boy, they could sure use a decorator in this place! she thought. She realized guiltily that she had never once made a donation to the church.
Father Dougherty came in and carefully put his outward vestment on a hanger by the door. "Got to take care of it!" he exclaimed. "You have no idea how much these robes cost!"
Yes, but you have no idea how much I have to spend for pantyhose in a year, either, thought Louella. "Everything costs so much these days," she replied neutrally.
He settled in behind his desk and folded his hands in front of him. "How can I help you?"
Louella was astonished to realize she was crying. She dug into her Coach purse and found a tissue and dabbed her cheeks. "I'm sorry, father! It's really not something to cry about, I guess. But I won the lottery, and I'm going to have over $32,000 a year from it for twenty years, and I can't enjoy it."
"Can't enjoy it?" The priest's eyes were twinkling as he smiled. "Most people would have a great time with it! What's your problem?"
Louella was grateful she was Catholic, where it wasn't considered a sin to gamble. Her voice caught a little. "I know it sounds crazy, but I don't know what to do with it," she snuffled. "I haven't told my family because my sister and nephew would want me to spend it on them, and my parents need so many things, and-"
"Ah," said Father Dougherty. "You're finding the money is a burden as well as a blessing?"
"Yes, that's it exactly!" Louella felt immensely relieved. "Do other people feel this way?"
"Oh, yes. Like when they inherit money, and they feel guilty enjoying it because the person who left it to them might have lived very frugally and disapproved of waste."
"So what can I do? Things are worse because I'm still out of a job, and my unemployment has run out. I'm going to need to start living on the lottery money and my family's going to wonder how I'm getting by. What would you do?"
"Me? I took a vow of poverty, and my needs are very simple. I'd probably turn the money over to a soup kitchen. You can feed a lot of hungry people on $32,000 a year. And I'd feel great doing that. It would be like a blessing from the Lord."
"I find myself wanting things like a bigger house or a new car. It seems so stupid, and I feel so selfish!"
The priest shook his head. "Imagine it! Spending money for fun! When the world suffers so!"
"But you understand, don't you, Father? I mean, I won it, so it's like funny money!"
"Well, the least you could do is invest in where it will do some good," he said seriously. "Do you remember the story of the Talents in the Bible?"
"Sort of," Louella lied.
"Well, the gift-and the person who has the power to bestow it-is wasted unless it's put to use."
"I can see that, intellectually," said Louella. "But emotionally I'm thinking I won it fair and square and should have it all to myself."
"So you want my permission to have fun with the money?" His eyes were twinkling again.
"Yes, I guess so." This is worse than Confession ever was, she thought.


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This story was published on February 6, 1997.