Saturday, December 18, 2004

A lucky guy

One of my students is a very cheerful and smily sort of bloke. He is always happy, and a delight to have in the class. He works hard and his English has improved quite a lot, which also makes him rather unusual. He is an inspiration to other students because he is so comfortable with himself. He makes mistakes, learns from them, and grins. Everybody likes him.

Today I discovered why he is always so cheerful. In his oral test, he told me a little story. It was an unbelievable story, he told me, but true, and it happened ten years ago when he was eight years old. Before New Year he badgered his father for enough money to buy some lottery tickets. At certain times of the year they have 'Jumbo' lotteries, and he wanted the New Year ones.

Eventually he persuaded his father (I don't think it took much), and was taken to buy his tickets. He chose them himself.

On New Year's Eve they show the lottery drawing on TV, and he sat down to watch. His family didn't, but he did. And - you know what's coming, don't you? I haven't exactly set you up for a surprise, have I? - he won.

His family didn't believe that he had won. They thought he must have got the numbers wrong. None of them had been paying attention, and they couldn't check. And after all, he was only eight years old. So they waited for the morning newspaper before getting excited.

But he was right. He had won. One hundred million yen.

When he told me this, I didn't believe him either. I asked him to write the number down. My students are pretty bad at numbers, usually, and especially big numbers. One hundred million was quite likely to be one hundred thousand. He wrote it down, and I counted the naughts. Eight. ¥100,000,000. That's just under a million US dollars, in case you are wondering. Rather a lot for an eight year old.

After I picked my jaw up off the floor I wondered if he was making up this story, but he assured me he wasn't. He then told me about how his family reacted. His mother burst into tears, and then his father started as well, and the whole family went bananas with celebration and disbelief.

When I expressed my amazement at the story he grinned, and I could see he was happy to have amazed me. In fact I got the feeling that the happiness he felt when he won has never quite left him. Who said money doesn't buy happiness? That little eight-year-old set up his family for life, and ten years later he's still pretty damned pleased about it. If he wasn't such a nice guy I'd hate him, but as it was the only malice I could summon up was to ask him whether his family had become fat. He laughed and told me they hadn't.

"Well, I bet they all think you're pretty special," I said, and he nodded, looking ever so slightly smug.

I must remember to ask him to buy me some lottery tickets, to see if some of that lucky, happy glow rubs off on me.