Some words when put together can create magical images about dreams fulfilled from out of nowhere. Sometimes, those are the very thoughts that help us through the day when we daydream. Sometimes, just sometimes, they do come true.

We get to see the manna falling from heaven, feel the pennies of good fortune that pour down on us, and even find the proverbial bucket of gold at the end of the rainbow. Bless those dear leprechauns.

These bits of hope are meant to refer to an unexpected benefit or form of assistance, especially when it is needed most.

Where do these idioms come from; you may ask? We can thank Irish mythology for our rainbow-baring gold beliefs.

A song sung by Billie Holiday in 1936, and made famous by Bing Crosby, whose version of the song took on legs and even became a movie title, Pennies from Heaven. Manna from Heaven has an even richer story behind it.

The term manna comes to us from the Bible’s telling of the Hebrews’ Exodus from Egypt. The food God miraculously provided to the Israelites as they wandered in the wilderness for forty years.

I was raised with my mother always saying, “Find a penny, pick it up. All day long you’ll have good luck.” I still bend over when I see a penny, I still believe that it can’t hurt.

My grandfather took it up a notch. He would take me into a tunnel that led from Detroit to Canada, but he told me, and I still believe him 68 years later, that we went to a magical place called Franastan. Once you had been to Franastan a part of it flew into your heart and it would never go away.

It might be quiet, but when you needed to feel love, it was there waiting. But his real cincher was found in the snow. I was to make a wish, and it would come true if my grandfather reached into the snow and pulled out a piece of silver. We were very sincere about our ritual, and it was magical. Every time he reached down, he’d pull up a shiny silver quarter!

Now Franastan does not have a catchy idiom, nor is it known to anyone but me, but I still think that anything golden, be it physical or of the spirit, springs from there.

In my life, I have had manna from Heaven more than a few times, and if you really think about it I am sure you have as well.

One time, years ago, I lived in Canoga Park, in Southern California, with my three young children. We were just getting by. Our meals were a lot of hamburger helper and hot dogs. My then-husband worked nights and I was nervous at night because a lot of crimes had happened near us.

I saw an ad for a free dog in a toss-away newspaper. I called the number and a lovely woman named Laura came by to deliver the dog. She sat and talked with me and my children, although my youngest merely cooed and oohed.

I felt comfortable with the woman. I shared that life for us was kind of tough. She nodded and said it is hard to raise three children, especially those born so close together.

When she asked how old I was she gasped when I said twenty-one. She laughingly asked if I had my first at five. I said no, very earnestly, I had been seventeen. I felt calmer when she left like I was a kitten that had just been petted.

To my amazement, a few hours later, Laura’s station wagon pulled in front of our rented house again. Her teenagers knocked on my door bearing overflowing brown grocery bags. They made three trips.

As they carried the bags in, this manna from Heaven, my children’s eyes popped. There was ice cream and a roast, a bounty of wonderful things I could never have afforded.

After I called to thank her, Laura explained that when she and her husband were young, they were down on their luck, and someone had delivered groceries to them. She had promised herself then that one day she would pay it forward.

About twenty years later, it rained pennies from Heaven. I was living in Watsonville at the time. I was very involved at our church. I created a jail ministry with the cooperation of another church from Santa Cruz.

I loved helping out the young women who got out of prison and had no one to talk to. I also was the moderator of the deacons at our church. I loved volunteering to serve our parishioners in need. Ironically at the time, my husband, a union electrician, had been out of work.

As Christmas approached, I knew there were no funds to buy presents. I joked about needing to find a pot of gold at the end of the rainbow. Then around Dec 15, I got two Christmas cards in the mail. There was no return address on the cards.

I opened the first card and a check for five hundred dollars fell out! A note on the card was signed “from your admirers at the Santa Cruz Presbyterian church in honor of the time you dedicate to your jail ministry.” I cried. It was truly a bucket of gold!!

Then I opened the next card, my face beaming with joy from my first envelope. Unbelievably another check, for, yup, five hundred dollars fell out of a card signed by the congregation of my church in gratitude for all my work. It was just too much to believe. Christmas was saved, plus I paid my PGE bill that was past due and bought food for a few weeks!

I sure believed in the magic of manna then. Now I come to the present day, April 6th. Funds have been tight since my divorce, and my grocery budget is especially tight, with my dog and cat food as a priority.

I know several women in my complex who also live carefully. Easter was just around the corner and they had no one nearby to celebrate with. And as for me, I was getting tired of so much cereal and canned soup.

Each day I walk my dog Yogi about five times. When I took him out at about seven thirty in the evening, we looked up at the stars which now mean so much more to me as I have grown older and live alone.

That night, as we headed back to my duplex, I noticed there were bags on my porch. Eight bags from Walmart. There was a last name on the bags (not mine), so I started to knock on my neighbors’ doors, asking if they had ordered food from Walmart. No one had. I called Walmart’s delivery line, but it just rang and rang.

So, I brought in the bags, making sure to put the perishables in my refrigerator so the real owner’s food would not go bad. The first thing the next morning I called Walmart’s home delivery line, and someone picked up.

I told them my story, and that I was worried about the people getting their food. She checked the number I saw on the bags, so she could match the bags to a name. She explained that when this happens the people usually call when their food does not come. Then we refill their order and deliver it to them. She then informed me; I could keep the food or throw it away. Not to worry it was just now mine.

I put down the phone and went to look over the bag’s contents. I was in shock, there was a ten-pound spiral of hams, steaks, ground chuck, lots of fruit, milk, bread, eggs, vegetables, and even the Excedrin migraine medicine I take, and I only had one pill left. This was truly Manna from Heaven!!

I called my single lady friends and invited them over for an early Easter feast. I even used my good China for the first time since I moved almost a year ago. It felt wonderful to be able to have this expensive dinner for my friends, and they were so grateful.

We had a wonderful time. I made a toast thanking Heaven, and of course, Walmart. I even got to send food home with my guests when they left. My mind is searching backward to remember every magical gift that came at just the right time, I have been very fortunate.

None of us really know when the manna, or pennies, or gold will come our way. But it sure is fun to know that miracles can happen. I hope they happen for you.

Diana J. Ingram

Diana Ingram has been a columnist for Los Banos newspapers for four decades.