This is the best headline I’ve seen in a while: “Call Her Jane Dough: New Hampshire Lottery Winner Can Stay Anonymous, Court Says.”
Here’s the story: A woman who won the $560 million Powerball in January signed her ticket with her name, as required. Per state lottery rules, this act made her name a matter of public record.
She learned later that if she had signed her ticket with the name of a trust, she could have kept her identity secret. But lottery officials wouldn’t let her make the change. So she went to court, asking to keep her name out of the headlines.
“Her heart is in the right place”
Jane Doe was right to be concerned.
Forbes describes numerous horror stories involving past lottery winners: Craigory Burch was killed during a home invasion in Georgia after winning $430,000 in the state lottery; Andrew “Jack” Whittaker was victimized numerous times by thieves after winning $315 million; Urooj Khan was found dead of a cyanide-induced heart attack in Chicago after the check was cashed for his $1 million scratch-off win.
On Monday, the Hillsborough County Superior Court Southern District gave Jane Doe another win, ruling that she could keep her anonymity. The judge did determine that the name of her town could be released, however.
According to her attorney, “She was jumping up and down. She will be able to live her life normally.”
Here’s the good news for the rest of us: while Jane Doe remains anonymous, her works have not. Immediately upon receiving her lump sum of $264 million after taxes, she donated $150,000 to Girls Inc. of New Hampshire and $33,000 to each of three New Hampshire chapters of End 68 Hours of Hunger. Her benevolence has also brought increased awareness to these charities.
Her attorney was not surprised: “What little I can say is that she and her family have had a long-standing commitment to their community and are thrilled to be able to enhance their impact through targeted philanthropy for generations to come.” The lottery’s executive director agreed: “While we don’t know the winner’s identity, we do know that her heart is in the right place.”
Working to reverse the Fall
Early in Jesus’ public ministry, he returned to his hometown synagogue in Nazareth and was invited to teach. He was given the scroll of Isaiah but permitted to choose any text within the book from which to speak.
Jesus “unrolled the scroll and found the place where it was written, ‘The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has anointed me to proclaim good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim liberty to the captives and recovering of sight to the blind, to set at liberty those who are oppressed, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor'” (Luke 4:17-19).
Then he announced: “Today this Scripture has been fulfilled in your hearing” (v. 21).
We evangelicals do well to focus passionately on the need for people to ask Jesus to forgive their sins and become their Lord. But a salvation experience is only the beginning of God’s intention for our lives. He wants us to serve the poor, the captives, the blind, and the oppressed. He wants us to help those who cannot help themselves.
In essence, God wants us to work with his Spirit to reverse the Fall until his kingdom has come and his will has been done on earth as it is in heaven (Matthew 6:10).
Every gift he gives us, every resource he entrusts to us, every moment of life he grants us is to be used to glorify our Father and serve our brothers and sisters. If we are open to opportunities as they come, our compassion can change the world, one person at a time.
Consider Elner Edman.
Mr. Edman, the brother of Wheaton College’s then-president V. Raymond Edman, was vacationing with a friend in Florida. There they met Billy Graham, who was a student at the Florida Bible Institute (today Trinity College in the Tampa Bay area).
They heard Graham preach, then he caddied for them while they played golf. They were impressed with him and encouraged him to attend Wheaton. Graham told them his mother had always wanted him to attend the school, but he could not afford to do so.
Elner then offered to pay the first year of Graham’s tuition at Wheaton. This was a turning point in the young evangelist’s life and ministry. Every soul touched by God through Billy Graham is an extension of Elner Edman’s benevolence.
“Try to become a man of value”
We can measure success by how many people attend church services on Sunday. Or we can measure success by how many people serve God and others on Monday.
Shortly before his death in 1955, Albert Einstein told a Life magazine reporter: “Try not to become a man of success but rather try to become a man of value. He is considered successful in our day who gets more out of life than he puts in. But a man of value will give more than he receives.”
Will you be a person of value today?