Friday 22 September 2017 — Homeport: Falmouth Harbor — Autumnal equinox (It’s officially fall)

Today’s column, dear readers, is brought to you by the word “windfall.” Can you say “windfall”?

If you live in Acushnet, what immediately comes to mind when you hear the word “windfall” is the ripe fruit that falls from the trees in autumn. The succulent fruit is yours to enjoy without the bothersome task of picking it. Acushnet is a farm-friendly community.

The name “Acushnet” comes from the Wampanoag cushnea, meaning “peaceful resting place near water.” I grew up on the Acushnet River, albeit on the New Bedford side. It wasn’t peaceful. The New Bedford side was dominated by the Acushnet Saw Mill, the Acushnet Process Company (manufacturer of Titleist golf balls), and a long row of textile mills. The Acushnet side is, on the other hand, apple and peach orchard country. The social event of the year in Acushnet is the Apple/Peach Festival. It’s a harvest celebration. It’s always the first weekend following Labor Day. Always. 

If you live in Falmouth, though, when you hear “windfall,” a grocery store comes to mind: Windfall Market. Neither a supermarket nor a convenience store, it’s an upscale farm-style market, bakery, butcher shop and flower shop on the harbor. When people in these parts say “windfall,” they mean the market.

These are localized meanings of the word “windfall,” but the term is generally used to mean sudden financial gain. You get hit upside the head with a ton of money instead of an over-ripe peach. Most people would prefer the former. 

The nation was recently abuzz over a windfall. A 53-year-old woman by the name of Mavis Wanczyk of Chicopee, won the $758.7 million Powerball jackpot. Hers was a one in 292.2 million chance. It was historically the largest prize ever won by a single-buyer lottery ticket. I watched Ms. Wanczyk of Chicopee accepting her prize money on TV. Ms. Wanczyk took a lump sum of $480.5 million — a “windfall” by any definition.

There were other big winners as well. Who knew? Six tickets won $2 million apiece, and 34 more were worth $1 million each. Nobody paid attention to these other winners. $46 million is petty cash when compared to Ms. Wanczyk’s jackpot. 

I’m not a fan of games of chance, lotteries, or raffles. In fact, I’ve never purchased a lottery ticket or visited a casino in my life. I did once, however, win a church raffle at the annual penny sale at Immaculate Conception Church in Taunton. I had no use for a set of 12 silver-plated flatware settings complete with a red velvet-lined wooden chest. I gave it to my mother. 

Even so, I couldn’t help but fantasize about what I would do with a windfall of $758.7 million. I don’t know but I suspect I’m not the only one in the nation with such whimsical daydreams. 

I, too, would take the lump sum — the immediate payout — not the 29-year annuity. In 29 years I will be 100 years old. That would, dear readers, be the best-case scenario. There is a worse-case scenario, but let’s not go there. And who knows what will happen with long-term investments over an entire generation? Who even knows if the Lottery Commission will still have the wherewithal to pay me. No. I’d want the money and I’d want it now.

Ms. Wanczyk, when asked her immediate plans, said she had quit her job and was promptly going home to bed. Well, if I won $758.7 million, I wouldn’t quit my job. I don’t really have a job. I have a vocation. I may or may not take an afternoon nap after winning the jackpot, but I would definitely keep a low profile — not that my profile is high to begin with. There are no paparazzi lurking in the bushes outside my residence. That’s just fine with me.

If I won, I would politely decline assistance from cues of solicitous lawyers, financial advisors, investors, and consultants. I would bypass long-forgotten classmates, casual acquaintances, “charity” scams, and distant relatives. 

I wouldn’t splurge and buy a house. I’ve never owned a house and don’t need one now. I wouldn’t buy a car, either. I haven’t owned a car in decades. I lease them. 

I might visit my sister Mary in Denver for a few days, but that’s about it.

No, dear readers, I would simply give away my millions. I would distribute the jackpot to struggling parishes. I don’t mean those whose time has come and gone or those needing tectonic reconfiguration but rather those strategic parishes willing and able to do invaluable ministry that are drowning in decades of debt. You can’t grow a Church without the necessary human and financial resources. I’d set up a foundation for this purpose. If I won.

This foundation would be poor business strategy on my part, but a parish is a community of faith and not a business. 

First I will need to buy a Powerball ticket. Not going to happen. No ticket, no windfall.

Well, it was a nice thought anyway. 

Anchor columnist Father Goldrick is pastor of St. Patrick’s Parish in Falmouth.

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