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My father was defaulting on house payments, and his phone was about to be shut off, which meant no one could reach him for work even if they wanted him. He packed up his trombone one night and went to a local jazz club to sit in, meet some musicians and maybe borrow a couple of dollars. A friend of his, a saxophone player, listened to my dad's tale of woe for 15 minutes—the saga of the holes in the kids' shoes, foreclosure notices, etc. The sax player finally asked my dad if his wife and kids were healthy. "Well, yes," he replied. Would he have a roof over his head tonight and enough food on the table for breakfast in the morning? "Well, yes," he replied. So you are a lucky man? "Well, I guess I am," he replied.

The sax player gave him $20, which at that time was a lot of money. He also passed him a pamphlet, outlining the basic principles of positive thinking (though Dr. Norman Vincent Peale's book The Power of Positive Thinking was not published until 1952). My dad clutched the $20 and promised to read the pamphlet. Semireligious in tone, it explained that the universe is unfolding as it should under God's law. It also pointed out the basic laws of attraction—if you put out good energy, good energy comes back to you. My father surmised that knocking on doors, begging for work was turning off prospective employers. He was giving negative and getting negative back. He also realized he needed to further himself musically.

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