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I had a rather mixed weekend, as we had what we call bank holiday-your equivalent of Labour Day, so it was a long weekend and very lovely as well. 

1. On Saturday, I was a guest at a wedding of the son of my Acholi friend here in London. The boy came to London as a child about the same time I arrived and I have seen him go through school, graduate from university, start work and now now marry. He is a real success story. Fortunately or unfortunately, he is married to a white girl, but I wish him well. He had a few tough times with youth culture  which has destroyed many young people,  but I was always there to support him and his parents, and kept encouraging him to  keep fighting on because  there is nothing in Kitgum for him to go back to. 

But on my way to the wedding in Woolwich, I passed by  our small market town called  Deptford to buy a few goodies for the wedding party; Deptford has the typical English outdoor/street  market where traders erect stalls and sell everything under the sun- food, groceries, electricals, furniture,  clothings etc,. As I walked through the market, suddenly there was commotion. Two irate black men were trashing the stall of a Pakistani muslim man who was selling mobile phones and accessories. The men were really frightening: they broke down the stall and started tossing mobile phones into the air. No body could stop them. About 5 or 7  Pakistani muslims gathered around looking helplessly; eventually, I intervened; may be because I was very smartly dressed as I was going for a wedding, I somehow looked like a very important person. It was a great risk on my part to intervene because there is an epidemic of knife crime here among black youths- nearly one black youth is  knifed to death everyday  since the year began, so no one intervenes when there is trouble involving a black man- they just wait for the police.  But these chaps listened to me, and they then quickly disappeared before the police arrived. 

But the police have been harassing me since saturday, asking whether I know the boys or not, how come I could control them, why did they listen to me,  etc, because the Pakistani muslims reported the incident as as a " robbery" rather than a racist or even religious confrontation. Many of these Asian market traders treat black people as potential thieves and this sometimes attracts violent reaction. But I never got round to finding out  what started the confrontation- it is only the police now who are wasting my time- asking me to make statements etc about two boys I may never meet again in my life.

2. But the second incident is the most moving, again involving a black man, a Jamaican whom I have known for more than 10 years. I have helped him in the past- he has had a lot of run-ins with the law and many times I have had to stand surety for him, bail etc. Of late, he turned a new chapter and was working as a bouncer/security guard in a night club/pub  Friday last week, he had a bust-up with his girlfriend and she threw him out-  He had only £12 on him as he went to work at night- he was so frustrated- he phoned me- and I told him not to loose his rag or he would go back to jail again if touches the woman. He has a gambling habit, so just on the spar of the moment, before he stated work, he went and bought a Lottery ticket (scratch card) for £10, leaving him with only £2 to face an uncertain future, waiting for his next weekly payment. Fortunately, the club manager had agreed he could work at night and sleep in the club in the  day time until he sorted himself out. So on Friday,  he started work at the door- fridays are very busy nights in London. At  2 AM he, took his break,  and then went to the toilet and scratched his lottery ticket. The man could not believe his eyes when he found out he had won £1,000,000; Yes Sir, a Cool One Million Pounds!!!!

He did not know what to do. His head keep swirling round and round- but he calmed down and went back to work. But it was a real torture just keeping the ticket in his pocket- it was like fire burning him he said, and he kept moving it from one pocket to another. As a club bouncer, a fight can break out anytime, and his ticket could just disappear or get destroyed! But he finished the night,. And he kept going to work for the rest of the week, keeping his lottery ticket with  him at all times, not separating from it for even just a second. He says he never slept for the entire 7 days, thinking someone may have discovered his secret and may bump him off!!

Lottery winnings can be claimed  personally at their HQ in Watford, about 2 hours away from London, or by post. But you have to register and insure such a huge winning if claiming by post  in case it gets lost. But my friend had only £2 left on him, and his next weekly payment would be next  Friday- another one week away. He could not afford to travel to Watford (£15) to collect personally,  or insure the ticket and post it (£150). So he kept the ticket with him for a whole week until he got paid last Friday, and he could a train ticket to Watford on Saturday and claim his winning.

He said it was the worst week of his life. At one point he kept checking on the ticket every five minutes- while working, he would rush down from the club to the small room where he he hid it in his bag, to check it was till there! But both he and his winning ticket survived. And so as from last Saturday, my Jamaican friend is now a millionaire!!! He says apart from me and the National Lottery, and his old mother in Jamaica, no one else knows about his luck. He also says he has no plans to let his girlfriend know about this sudden twist, because he now wants to have a new start in life.; he says if she had not kicked him out, he might never had had the urge to buy the lottery ticket as he was undergoing gambling rehabilitation at the time; he just bought the ticket out of total frustration as a confirmation that things could not get any worse for him..

I have not discussed his  new found fortune with him. I told him I don't want to know how he spends his money. I was only useful to him when he was a poor and bewildered person who needed a shoulder to cry on,  but he has no need for me now. He has accountants,  lawyers, financial advisors etc to help him navigate the new minefield that has opened before him. Dealing with millionaires is not my area of work, or even interest.

But he was generous to me as well. That's why I am convinced  kindness always pays back in the end. He knows I run a number of charities, so he wrote me a cheque for £10,000!!!!. This is going to come in very handy. This last 18 months have been very expensive for me in terms of responding to the needs of people facing great suffering- I think I have spent nearly £30,000 of my own money, which is the largest I have ever spent in my entire life of supporting people in need. In fact I already have a lot of requests for help from the Philippines because of the calamity that is happening there, and also on-going requests from Uganda, so this donation will help. I am very grateful to my good old Jamaican friend. I hope he turns his life around at last- although  winning the lottery has often turned out to be a curse rather than a blessing for most punters. I hope he bucks the trend. 


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