This time last year Maria Murray was broke. Yeah, it happens to us all around this time of year, but this poor woman was facing a really hard time. Unemployed, but occasionally working part-time at a local cafe, Miss Murray was so broke after splitting up with her partner of ten years that she couldn’t even spare the £1 per week she usually spent on the lottery and had to stop buying tickets. Tim Hunt, the 48 year old mechanic and father of the children who broke up with her in June, had offered her a loan to tide her over but she’d turned it down. With Christmas coming closer she explained to her four children (seventeen year old Todd, nineteen year old Rikki, twenty year old Toni, and twenty-one year old Terri) that she couldn’t afford to buy gifts for them. It was a situation that had happened before in their household and the children, understanding that times were hard, said that as long as they had a Christmas card and dinner, they’d be happy.
You can imagine their surprise when they sat down to Christmas dinner and found Christmas cards from Maria, containing £300 for each of them. In what some people are describing as a Christmas miracle, Maria spent the last £5 in her possession on a lottery scratchcard at her local newsagents in Bristol. She bought the card sometime between one and two in the afternoon on Christmas Eve, scratched it and came away one million pounds better off. The jackpot was won on the Merry Millions seasonal scratchcard. Maria has promised her children £100,000 each from the money she won and immediately announced plans to buy the three-bedroomed council house her family lives in and to fulfill her ambition of owning a Mini Cooper.
I’ll be honest with you guys. When I first started writing this (last Christmas) I was writing a story about a selfish fool who spent her last money gambling while denying her children Christmas presents. I didn’t put that article up as I had the feeling I should watch how the story develops before making my final decision. Maria, who has vowed not to let the money change her, returned to work on the 8th of January, serving people at the same cafe for £50 per week. She still expects her children to pay £150 per month rent and board, saying that it’s the best way to make them understand the value of a work ethic. After watching these events unfold I decided I’d write the story up for Christmas 2009 to show that sometimes miracles do happen, but only to those who are mature enough to properly handle them.