Mellie hit the brakes for the thousandth time. If she missed this seminar, the company would never hire her. She let off the brakes to creep along with traffic.

And they stopped again.

“Excuse me, ma’am.”

Mellie jolted. A man stood next to her car, crouching to look in at her.

“I didn’t mean to startle you,” he said, grinning despite his worn overalls and badly stained T-shirt. He carried an olive-toned knapsack on his back. “I was hoping you could spare some change?”

“Oh,” Mellie said, “Yeah. Yeah, hang on.”

With disappointment, she found only pennies in her cup holder. Mellie remembered the thirteen dollars in her pocket, the last of her money.

Hesitating briefly, she handed him eight bucks. “Here, I hope this helps.”

“God bless you, ma’am.”

“No problem,” she said, and drove forward.

Traffic finally broke, but then a lady tripped as she crossed the street. Several large packages tumbled to the ground. Mellie glanced to the clock on her car’s dash, sighing, and parked. She sprinted over and helped the woman collect the thin, rectangular parcels.

The brown packaging paper nearly ripped completely off of one.

“Is this a Cremble?” Mellie asked, admiring the fine detail of the oil painting. “I used to paint a little, as a hobby, you know.”

“Not many recognize Cremble.” The lady smiled, reaching in her purse and handing her a pamphlet. “Stop by the exhibit over here on First Street later.”

Mellie thanked her and returned to her car. She loved to paint. She remembered in high school, how she dreamed of painting for the rest of her life.

She started backing her car out, glancing at the time.

A guy on a bicycle pounded on the trunk of her car, cursing at her. Mellie slammed on the brakes, watching the cyclist continue down the road.

She drove forward, put it back in park, and stepped out onto the street.

For as long as she remembered, she considered adulthood synonymous with money. Happiness, the same as money.

No.

Mellie strode down First Street, into the art exhibit. Cocktail dresses and suits filled the room.

“Excuse me, ma’am.” The homeless man grinned. “I hear you enjoy painting?”

“Um, well…”

“This exhibit is a fundraiser to help those in need,” the woman from the street explained, stepping into view from behind the man.

“Earlier, I was conducting a social experiment. I wanted a video to use for this evening,” the homeless man said. “Would you care to say a few words?”

That was four years ago. Now, as she stands in a room of her own art, she reflects. If she denied the Assistant Dean of Hollister Arts Institute those eight dollars, or ignored his assistant when she tripped, Mellie’s dreams may have withered.

Luck is not a mystical or random force; it is a return of that which you place into the world.

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