It's last Wednesday, and Sharon Parker, a lottery regular from Swissvale, Pennsylvania, wins $16 in the Powerball.
It's not exactly enough to retire on, so Sharon does what lottery players do: She plows the $16 back into Thursday's Big Four at a convenience store downtown Pittsburgh near Kaufmann's.
That night, when she calls her mother for the numbers, it turns out to be another loss for Sharon, so she tears the tickets in half and drops them in a trash can at Fifth and Smithfield.
Back home in Swissvale, she finds out from the late TV news that mom had the numbers jumbled. The correct version shows that Sharon, who is 35 and is taking community college courses, has won $200. That's not retirement either, but it's enough to make her feel bad and leap into action. So next morning, at the crack of pre-dawn — 5:40 to be precise — Sharon is at Fifth and Smithfield with gloves on, flashlight in hand.
She remembers that the can she threw the ripped-up tickets in had apparently just been emptied, so she figures she has a shot. A Department of Public Works crew has already been through and bagged the trash for pickup.
Sharon starts to tear into the bags, but finds there are more people than she thought Downtown at 5:40 a.m. This stops her: Must work through official channels.
She calls DPW and tells them she's lost "an important piece of paper." The answer she gets is surprising: They'll send someone in 10 minutes. That someone turns out to be Matt Mazza. Sharon tells Matt exactly what the "important piece of paper" is. He does not roll his eyes. Far from it. He's a man on a mission.
Sharon is not sure which of four trash cans at the busy intersection might contain her prize. The first bag yields a bunch of slimy lottery tickets, but not Sharon's.
Second bag, nothing. Sharon is starting to lose heart. Hey, $200 is not the end of the world.
Third bag, nothing. She's getting angry and frustrated, ready to give up. "I'm one of little faith," Sharon would say later. "I'm real pessimistic."
Matt is not. No, we're not stopping, he tells Sharon.
Now, the fourth and final bag: The very first thing Matt pulls out is a lottery ticket in perfect shape. It is Sharon's ticket, not ripped in half as she "clearly" remembered but a ticket crying out for redemption. Yelling and weeping, she hugs Matt, once, twice, three times, and goes right into the store to cash in it.
But for Sharon Parker, this surprising little episode isn't all about money. She sends Matt a card and a reward.
"I needed the money, of course," she told The Morning File, "but it was more like a story of Matt showing me how to have faith and to be optimistic."