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Stormchaser's jackpot

I’ve managed to wend my way through life without being tagged with a lasting nickname, and there’s been just one that I’ve actually embraced.

I ran around with guys in junior high who had cool nicknames like “Smoothy” and “Rocky,” however the only one I picked up at the time I was glad to lose. One week while attending church camp with four other Davids, someone decided we needed nicknames to tell us apart, and I was ingloriously dubbed “Daisy” for the week. When I came home, that one stayed at camp.

The next nickname was born of beer and brotherhood, as one night in college a drunken fraternity brother dubbed me “Slowburn.” None of us knew why, and I thought it was lame, but the moniker stuck for a couple of years.

After that, the only one that seemed to have any staying power has been “Jimmy Olsen,” coined and perpetuated by my former high school principal, Martin Tice, when I came back to the newspaper in 2006. “Superman” would’ve been nice, but Martin knew me too well to hang that one on me.

The one I’ve taken for myself was given to me by a former girlfriend who grew extremely nervous every time I hopped in my car to go take pictures of lightning and thunderstorms. “Stormchaser,” she called me, and indeed I was, and am. The girl’s long gone, but I’ve managed to hang onto the name, at least for myself.

We’ve been hearing a lot about lightning lately, as in, “You’re far more likely to be struck by lightning than you are to win that $1.3 billion lottery jackpot.”

As a storm chaser, I’ve been far more likely to be struck by lightning than those who take shelter from storms. The best shots are the closest ones, so I always try to get within a couple of miles of where the bolts are blazing.

Inevitably, one will suddenly strike beside or behind me, sending me scurrying for my car, but leaving the camera outside, in reach of a hand and arm extended through an open window to press the shutter button. After all, what are the odds a bolt would hit just my camera, right?

Exposed to far more lightning strikes than the average person, I’ve yet to be hit. I suppose that’s lucky, but it doesn’t bode well for having any better chance of winning the lottery than anyone else.

Still, I can’t help but tempt fate, and if my ticket should miraculously win, “Lucky” isn’t the nickname I want. Instead, I want to be known as “The Great Philanthropist.”

Certainly, I’d sock away some money to make sure my final years on the planet are comfy ones, and I’d get that car of mine fixed up right, including a fancy new ladder on the back. We’ve been through too much together for me to want another.

I’d get the sort of camera I’ve always wanted, and set aside enough to take a couple trips a year to put it to good use. I’d dole some out to family, too.

But the lion’s share of all that loot would go to good causes and people in need. Well, not quite — it would go into investments, and the interest from those would fund the foundation I’d set up to pursue those goals for many, many years to come. My list of charities and causes I’d support is miles long, starting here at home and stretching around the globe, mostly aimed at helping young children and families.

There’s nothing that would give me more pleasure than to put all that money to good use like that, and to think of all the lives it would touch warms my heart no end.

But when the fantasy ends and my unlucky ticket gets tossed in the trash, my prize is still there to be claimed. The true prize isn’t the cash, but the good I could do with it, and while I won’t be any richer, there’s always good to do.

It’s a grand thing to dream of having millions of dollars to help thousands of people and make a better world.

However, helping people doesn’t have to cost a lot.

All it takes is caring, time, and effort, and, once in awhile, a little cash, to make someone’s day a little better right here in this part of the world. When they smile and say thanks, that’s one great little jackpot you can take to the bank and never lose. Stock those up on a daily basis, and you’ll be richer than any lottery could ever make you.

So will everyone else around you.

Don’t lose sight of the real prize by focusing on the cash cow. Lightning can strike at a moment’s notice.

— david colburn

Last modified Jan. 13, 2016

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