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wishful thinking

There is a fountain in the park where I live—it’s a nice community park that all the neighbors help to maintain. Both residents and visitors use the fountain as a “wishing well,” tossing coins in, closing eyes, and making the customary secret wish. I never really thought about the build up of coins until one day when I saw my neighbor collecting the change from the bottom of the fountain. This seemed wrong to me. First of all, isn’t he stealing wishes? And secondly, who appointed him the collector of this fortune? He told me he used the money to buy garbage bags for neighborhood clean up days, but I still can’t get over the idea that he’s stealing wishes!

My Two Cents

The Myth-Breaker says: Wishes are great. I wish people could just get along. I wish there was no such thing as poverty. I wish I owned a flying unicorn…

Seriously, there isn’t a Tooth Fairy, Easter Bunny, or Santa Claus, Genie in a bottle, and there is no magic element that is going grant a wish because a coin has been tossed into a fountain. I may well come off a bit rude here, but bravo to your neighbor. Perhaps he was wishing that someone would help him tidy up the neighborhood (or at the very least contribute some coin to pay for supplies). Wish granted!

Dining Out says: Perhaps you and your neighbors should try viewing your wish thief differently. He’s obviously in need of positive thoughts and benefiting from the generosity of your community. Those wishes definitely belong to each individual but we’re all part of a greater entity. If he’s really doing a good job of collecting bottles and clearing trash from your streets, just let him be.

The Straight Perspective: Maybe the folks who visit your fountain are in fact standing there, fingering their lucky dimes and thinking to themselves, “Gee, I wish someone would clean all the garbage out of this neighborhood.”

The Norseman says: Some ancient belief systems identified bodies of water as being homes to various gods or goddesses. Believers would make offerings to these deities by tossing valuables into the water.It’s thought that the contemporary tradition of throwing coins into a fountain is a tame extension of this practice. I often smile at young parents, taking pictures of their little children making wishes and tossing pennies into wishing wells. It’s all so beautiful and innocent, full of hope for the future. I’m assuming it’s the degradation of that sentimental concept that’s offending you—that in some way this neighbor is making off with a solemn offering made by an innocent soul to an indifferent eternity.

But wishing wells have long been sources of extra income for shopping malls and amusement parks for the very reason that parents are suckers for sappy nonsense that they think will make their children happy. It’s understandable and predictable. That’s why wishing wells are a time-honored carny trick.

I think you’re making too much out of nothing, but if you really want your neighbor to stop taking the change, pick up a hammer and walk up to him very casually when he’s raking it out and start up a conversation:

“Doesn’t the park look nice this summer? Thank goodness we all pay our block club dues and pitch in on clean-up days to keep it that way. Did you know that in Norse mythology, the god Odin plucked out his eyeball and threw it into Mimir’s well, in return for good advice? Mimir—whose name meant “wise one”—was then decapitated in a war between the gods, and afterward Odin used to carry his head around whenever he wanted some straight talk about the future. This morning, I awoke from a dream where I was carrying around Odin’s head. He told me to tell you to stop stealing people’s dreams or he would send Thor after you with his hammer.”

Then just stare at him, kinda crazy.

Ruthless says: I though I’d heard it all with that pharmacist from Kansas City, MO, Robert Courtney, who diluted his clients’ chemotherapy drugs to save money. Already a millionaire several times over, Courtney nonetheless admitted his motivation was none other than greed. Over a period of nearly a decade, he diluted an estimated 98,000 prescriptions of medications, affecting some 4,200 patients, at least 17 of whom have since died. His estimated earnings from this fraud approximated $20 million, although he is now serving a 30-year sentence and owes a settlement of over $2 billion.

And then there was that funeral home director, who never really buried the bodies he just burned ‘em in the yard? There are actually too many of those stories to name names and cases.

And of course, there’s Bernie Madoff.

But stealing wishes? As they say, there must be a special place in hell…

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