Previous Challenge Entry (Level 2 – Intermediate)
Topic: Prosperity (05/11/06)
TITLE: Look It Up For Yourself
By Tim George
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The first time I saw those six maddening characters was at the home of Jonathan Samuels. After months of negotiations and plain old begging for an interview, he finally agreed to grant me one hour in which to ask him whatever I wanted. Samuels was one of the richest men in the world and had lived in near total seclusion for over twenty years. And now I had the chance to interview him!
Medical equipment surrounded his bed and the constant hiss of oxygen accompanied his intermittent coughs and wheezes. The gray flesh of his face topped by a shock of snow white hair gave him the appearance of Marley in Dickens’s “A Christmas Carol”. He wasn’t “dead as a door-nail” yet but he wasn’t far away.
Trying to mask my emotions, I looked down at my note pad and then back at the dying man. Regaining my journalistic composure I began to ask the usual questions. You know; things about his upbringing, his family, how he amassed his wealth; all the right questions for a good article.
In mid-sentence the old man raised his head up as far as he could and glared at me through pale sickly eyes. “Is that what you’ve been hounding me for the last few months? Why, you could have opened any of twenty different copies of Newsweek, Time, or The Wall Street Journal from the last fifty years and gotten all of that pabulum without bothering a sick old man who has one foot in the grave!”
His fell back to his pillow and his breathing grew shallower. The brief but impassioned diatribe had apparently cost him what little strength he had left. He looked at me and whispered, “You’re wasting both our times. You can’t get the right answers if you don’t ask the right questions.” And then he grew silent.
What was the right question? Finally in a moment of inspiration I knew what I wanted to ask this man who controlled vast empires of industry and commerce. Hoping he had something left with which to answer I leaned closer. “Ok, Mr. Samuels. In your long life, what is the single most important thing you have learned? If you could tell me the secret to lasting prosperity, what would it be?”
And that’s when it happened. A heart monitor began to beep and a nurse hurried in. She started to rush me out but the dying man held a feeble hand up to stop her. He tried to speak but could not. In a final surge of energy he grabbed my notepad and pen and wrote those six maddening characters in a scrawled and nearly illegible hand … PS1188. And then, he was gone. He died with the pen still in his hand.
Over the years that followed I consulted every expert I could think of to decipher the meaning of his note but to no avail. Every free minute, every spare dollar and every last ounce of sanity I had, went into unlocking what must be the secret to fabulous riches and unlimited power. Instead, all those six characters did was nearly drive me insane and leave me penniless.
That’s how I ended up at the Salvation Army shelter. With no money and no family, it was the last place I wanted to be but the only place that would have me. I’ve searched for twenty years for the meaning of that phrase and tonight I finally found it.
I was giving my usual “mad man” rant about PS1188 and how it had ruined my life to a volunteer at the shelter. She looked at me and smiled. “Why Randall, don’t you know? PS1188 must mean Psalm 118:8. It’s the middle verse of the Bible. I think that’s what that man was trying to tell you. She grabbed a Bible and flipped it to its very center. And there it was; the middle verse of the entire Bible. It had always been there; I just looked in all the wrong places.
What’s that? You don’t know the secret to true prosperity? It’s always been there. Look it up for yourself.
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