$3000 found in old book - Susan Smith photoAfter many years of searching for his life’s purpose, James Smith, 22, of Hickory, N.C., finally discovered his passion in the world of art. Last November he started using spray paint, ink and acrylics in combination with black lights to create neon explosions of color on canvas or clothing. He found a niche and the future looked as bright as his paintings.

He booked live painting performances and won a competition for the chance to display in a local art gallery. But the opportunities before him required an infusion of cash to keep up with the demand for more artwork and supplies.

Last Wednesday, his mother, the Rev. Susan Smith, asked what more she could do to help. Her son had moved back in with her recently and she could see his intense desire to succeed. James replied, “Pray that things get better.” And, that very night, things did get better.

He knew his mom had done all she could as a single parent. His father, Michael Smith, passed away suddenly in 2007 and it had been a tough time for her during the recession, and beyond, with financial struggles continuing in the non-profit agency for which she worked.

That night, Susan prayed that opportunities would come so that James could continue pursuing his art full time.

In the middle of the night James woke her up exclaiming, “Mom! You won’t believe what I found!”

He had been in the basement looking through old books that had been packed up years ago when the family downsized to a smaller home after Michael passed away. James’s father had always loved picture books, and had a habit of tucking special items like pressed flowers, holiday cards, pictures, and personal notes between the pages in their library.

James was looking through a box of books where many had molded from the damp basement. The last book in the box was a gift from his dad to his mom. It was a 1926 fairy tale book called “Tales Told From Holland”.  Between the pages he found 30 crisp $100 bills — three thousand dollars.

James Smith's Black Light Performance ArtHe couldn’t believe his eyes. His father had left no explanation about where the money came from, but surely it was meant to bless his family in the same way the other items tucked away would be found and enjoyed one day.

James immediately shared some of the money with his mother and sent some to his sister in Charlotte.

He is now able to lease studio space where he will be able to produce much larger works, and take more orders for commissioned pieces. He is planning to fly to Texas in March to do live performance painting with one of his favorite musicians, Ernest Gonzalez of San Antonio. He is buzzing with excitement about executing his ideas, purchasing supplies in bulk, and realizing his lifelong vision for starting his own business.

When asked what finding this money from his father means to him, he said, “I am fortunate that my dad continues to impact my life, even after he is gone.”

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