This story is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places and incidents are either the product of the author's imagination or are used fictitiously and any resemblance to actual persons living or dead, events or locales is entirely coincidental.
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I have to be the luckiest man in the world. I was in the grocery store picking up a few things I needed when on the way out I noticed the sign that the big lottery jackpot was up to $123 million. I'm usually not a gambler, but I thought what the heck, and bought five tickets for the drawing that night. I forgot about it until a few days later. I checked the newspaper and low and behold one of my five numbers was the sole winner!! I took the lump sum settlement which turned out to be $86 million and change.
By the way my name is Paul Jones and I am 50 years old and have been working for the same company for 30 years. I was a widower as my wife of 28 years had died of cancer about 18 months ago. I turned in my retirement papers the next day. I sat around the condo for a couple of days and kept asking myself, "What am I going to do with $86 million."
I was tired of condo living and decided I wanted a house with a little land around it. I contacted a friend of mine who was a real estate agent and ended up with a 6,000 square foot colonial style house with a master suite, five bedrooms, six and one half baths, gourmet kitchen living room dining room, den/office, media room, family/game room, 4 car garage, an indoor/outdoor pool, and a six stall stable on 40 acres, partially wooded. There was a two bedroom apartment over the garage with a separate entrance. I spent about 6 months redecorating and furnishing the house.
After completing the house I wondered what I was going to do with myself next. I was reading the Sunday paper and came across an article about a priest who had a small church in the Spanish section of the city. In addition to handling his parish duties, he was helping a small rural village in Mexico, called San Pedro, which had no running water, sewer system, school or other facilities. He was asking for donations and had twice taken a group of volunteers from the city to San Pedro to do work around the village. Almost all of the residents were farmers working the land around the village barely eking out enough to live on. The children attended school in the same small building they used as a church.
I thought to myself, I'll never spend all of my money during my lifetime, so maybe I can help this village. I called the church and made an appointment to visit with Padre Juan Phillipe on the upcoming Friday. I arrived at the appointed time and was ushered into a small room the Padre used as an office. He came bustling in a few minutes later apologizing for being late. I told him not to worry as I had nothing but time on my hands. He was a small man who looked to be in his mid forties and seemed to be full of energy.
We began talking about his work in San Pedro which is located in southern Mexico on a small river. He told me his grandparents were originally from the village and that is why he chose that particular village. His father had left in his late teens to go to a larger city hoping to find work. He told me his father was successful in finding work and was able to send Juan and his siblings to college. Juan then attended a seminary in the United States. He told me the village consisted of approximately 150 men, women and children, all of whom were very, very poor.
I told him I had a little extra money and would be willing to donate enough to build a school for the children. He became elated and suggested I go with the next volunteer group which was leaving in about a month. I said I didn't know about that, but he pleaded with me saying that if I went along I could help out and actually see what my money was doing. I told him I would think about it and let him know in the next couple of days. I asked what he thought a school would cost and he said he would have to contact Padre Miguel in San Pedro and would work up some figures and let me know. We chatted for a few more minutes and I then took my leave.
I thought about this over the weekend and couldn't come up with any reasons (or excuses) not to go. I called Padre Juan on Monday morning and told him I would go with them as a volunteer and help out as much as I could. He thanked me profusely and said he would include me in the group which consisted of three college students and a young married couple from his church. I asked what the travel and lodging arrangements were. He said we would fly to Mexico City, change planes for Veracruz and then it would be about a two hour bus ride to San Pedro. He would stay with local Padre in San Pedro and the rest of us would be staying with families in the village. We would have most of our meals at the local church and some with the families we were staying with. He said not to expect too much as San Pedro was very primitive.
I knew it would be a long flight to Mexico City and I never liked flying coach class anyway. I told him I would pay the upgrade for all seven of us to first class. I also told him rather than take a bus from Veracruz I would be willing to rent a large SUV for our time there. That way we would have it if we needed to go for supplies, etc. He said that would be great. He stated they were having a meeting the next week and asked if I could attend as they would be going over plans and what everyone should bring in the way of clothing and personal items. I said I would be glad to attend.
The next Wednesday the meeting started promptly at 7:30 PM. Padre Juan thanked everyone for coming and asked that we each introduce themselves. I started and told them a little about myself, retired, a widower and had a comfortable lifestyle, but did not go into any details about my financial status. I said I was more than happy to pay for the upgrades to first class. Everyone seemed very appreciative for my doing that. Jerry Smith and Carl Folsom were students a Johns Hopkins and seniors in pre-med. Tommy Kauffman was a student and UMBC and a junior in Architecture. John Santiago was a construction superintendent for a large local company and his wife, Theresa was a Secretary at a local business. This was the Santiagos third trip to San Pedro and it appeared he would be in charge of what we were to be doing in San Pedro. His boss had graciously agreed to keep John on salary while he was with us as his contribution to the village.
Padre Juan told us that the past two trips the teams had worked on installing a sewer system and this time we would complete the system and be working in installing both electricity and running water to all the houses in the village, and, due to my generosity would be building a school for the children. I felt a bit embarrassed as I was applauded by the others in attendance. Tommy stated this was right up his alley as the last semester he had taken a course in plumbing design and also felt he could design a school building. Of course John knew all about sewer systems, electrical work and plumbing due to his work as a construction superintendent. Padre Juan stated that the village men and women would supply most of the manual labor such as digging trenches, carrying supplies, etc. He also suggested that since we would be staying with the people in the village it would be helpful if we could purchase some of the food for the family as we would be taking some of our meals with them.
He then asked if any of us could speak Spanish. Two of the young men, Jerry and Tommy, had taken Spanish in high school and said they remembered a little of it. I said I had also taken Spanish in high school, but that was many years ago. I had also taken a couple of semesters of Spanish at the college level a few years ago. I said I did this because I felt that Spanish was becoming a second language in our country and felt it would be nice to learn.
Padre Juan then passed out a list of items he thought we should bring based on the past two summers. The list was as follows:
We discussed the list and the only addition was I thought we should have bottled water to drink, but could pick that up in Veracruz after we arrived. We broke up the meeting over coffee and donuts and just generally getting to know one another. Padre Juan said we would be leaving in two Mondays and he had made the plane reservations, but would upgrade them to first class, and told us the itinerary. Everyone was in agreement.