Good Things Sometimes Happen to Good People

Sometimes I come across a story so good, so compelling that everyone in America and around the world should hear it. This story has nothing to do with making money, but everything to do with adding value to your, or someone else's life. After you read this short story Ill bet you will change the way you think about the rewards of gaining wealth. For example, you might now be thinking that you will use your money to buy a Rolls Royce or travel to the worlds best islands or build a mansion or hire a personal tailor to fit you or...? Nothing wrong with that but the real reward that comes with wealth is the ability to do something good for someone other than yourself.

The story that follows here came to me last year while driving the Southern California freeways. The story was a throwaway one of those end of the newscast bits that means the station did not have enough death and destruction to talk about that day. but was so compelling I found myself thinking of it constantly for many, many days. Then something happened a few days ago that made this story so incredibly good that I want you to know it.

There are nearly thirty million people living in Southern California, almost ten of those thirty million in the small geographic space known as the city of Los Angeles. The suburbs from north of Los Angeles to San Diego host the remaining population. In a city as large as LA things happen on a regular basis that might make big news elsewhere but are lightly mentioned, if at all, in LA. Such is the story of the abandoned babies.

Debi Cifelli was reading the newspaper one day in 1996 when she read one of the all too often stories of a baby being found dead and abandoned in a duffel bag on the side of one of Southern California's freeways. She wondered what happened to these babies; after all, they had nobody to speak for them, had no name and, presumably, had no instructions for their care.

Debi called the County of Los Angeles and was told that the babies are held at a county facility for a period of time and then, if not claimed, are cremated. “Are they given a name?” she asked. “Does anyone memorialize them in any way?” she asked. “Do they even have baby clothes?”

The answers both astonished and saddened her. The babies, she was told, are placed in cold storage and then removed for cremation after the specified time. All work is done efficiently, impersonally and in the interest of clearing space.

Debi couldn't stand the thought that a new life would be brought into the world, the umbilical cut, the baby discarded into a trash bin like an empty milk container, and the baby's only knowledge of life a cold, painful, hunger wracked few hours of suffering, never held, never cradled, never warm. And then to suffer the ultimate insult of being buried without ever having been loved.

Debi suffered through the County bureaucracy and finally reached an agreement with the county: the county would keep the babies the prescribed time but then, instead of cremating them, would turn them over to Debi who would pick them up, clothe them, give them a name, tell them they were loved, and then provide a dignified burial with a service. She buried the babies in receiving clothes and gave each a stuffed animal to share the space.

Desert Lawn Cemetery, located along Highway 10 between San Bernardino and Palm Springs in Southern California, close to Debi's home, agreed to provide a burial space for her abandoned babies. The new space was named Garden of Angels.

There are now 70 babies who have been respectfully interred in their own section of the cemetery. But Debi didn't stop there, she was instrumental in California passing Safe Arms for Newborns legislation in 2000 which allows mothers to drop newborns off at hospitals and fire stations without consequence. The law has now been passed in 46 states. So far 67 babies have been saved under California's law.

If the story ended here, it would mark Debi Cifelli as Americas Sister Teresa. Along the way, Debi and her husband, Steve, set up a foundation to purchase more land to assure future burial sites.

Then in early December, while Debi was shopping, her husband called to tell her their lives were about to change. They had purchased the winning lotto ticket at a small store in nearby Yucaipa. Their share of the winnings amounted to just over $10,000,000! That's TEN MILLION DOLLARS AND SOME CHANGE.

Everybody was ecstatic. The mayor of their small town said this is the first time he has ever heard of an entire community literally standing and applauding lotto winners. This story should have been on the front page of every newspaper in America and should have been the top story on newscasts worldwide.

Now Debi and Steve could continue their work for the newborns and live a life of leisure. But, instead of buying a mansion or a yacht or traveling the world, they earmarked most of the money to set up scholarships in the names of each of the 70 unclaimed babies resting at Garden of Angels cemetery. “We feel, honestly, like this has been a gift to us and it is very important that we honor the children in the Garden of Angels. I feel like it is really (the children) just saying, Thank you for taking care of us..”

Debi and Steve Cifelli still live and work in the same community, and they remain committed to the cause of the newborns. Of the 67 babies saved so far Debi said: “Who knows what they are going to do with their life now that they have the opportunity to live”. Who knows, maybe one of them will continue the mission after Debi passes the torch.

Why have I included this story in Ask Mr. Lazy? In my information letter I tell you that Money is not the meaning of life, but it sure changes the way you can live your life. Maybe your motivation, when you typed in was more money, and maybe you never thought about what you would do with more money if you had it. Maybe now you will be even more motivated to make money because you have something really good to spend it on if you do.

And maybe, just maybe, you will find yourself driving south on Interstate 10 on the way to your dream vacation in Palm Springs when you will look to the right and see the little Garden of Angels cemetery, pull off the freeway, and stop to talk with the children who are buried there. Somehow, the money you have will mean just a little bit more.

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