Saturday, January 16, 2016

I didn’t win the Powerball lottery.

From today's Ashland Times-Gazette:
I’m disappointed that once again, I didn’t win the Powerball lottery. Of course, I didn’t buy a ticket, so I had no chance of striking it rich overnight, but the thought of waking up one day and having a boatload of money sure is alluring.

A disclaimer is appropriate at this point: I’m not a betting woman. The tenets of my faith tradition frown upon gambling, and I’ve witnessed its addictive power. No magical thinking for me, as I gave up my Cinderella dress a long time ago – it’s a fairy tale. As for my own luck, I can’t even win the door prize at a baby shower, so purchasing a ticket would be, as the saying goes, throwing good money after bad.

Realistically, the odds of winning the Powerball lottery are astronomical, so if I was a gambler, I’d chose better odds, like betting for the Cavs or against the Browns and Bills. However, hope does “spring eternal in the human breast,” as Alexander Pope recognized in his “Essay on Man,” and the Browns do have a new head coach . . .

As for the lottery, the thought of spending a dollar to win 1.5 billion dollars (930 million after taxes) is mind-boggling, and it’s been driving millions of people to the lottery sales outlets. It’s also a terrible temptation to the poor among us, as a lottery win can look like their only possible “get out of jail free” card to escape the struggles associated with poverty (a conversation for another day).

But what would I do if I won, if I suddenly had a financial windfall? When asked that question recently, my answer was immediate – I’d give it away. Right off the bat, I’d give a good portion of it to the government, not out of the goodness of my heart, but because those winnings are taxed at a pretty high rate. And if they didn’t get a cut of the money, I’d send some to the City of Ashland to help with street repair.

Of course, I’d want to pay off the house, and take care of the outstanding college loans that place a heavy burden on our kids. We’d definitely paint the barn behind our house (maybe even splurge for vinyl siding), and find a permanent solution to the water problems we’ve been having when it storms. Heck, we might even paint the living room, and I’d definitely arrange for weekly maid service, as housework and I have never been on close terms.
I’d make sure our sons and their families had adequate housing, and I’d set up a college fund for the lovely Madelyn Simone and the delightful Elizabeth Holiday (as well as any other “gleam in their father’s eye” grandchildren). And I’d probably rent a bigger house at the beach for our annual family trip to Maine.

But beyond that, I’d give the money away. A few well-funded endowments for organizations that matter to me would top my list, as I know the pressure that constant fund-raising places on the leadership of non-profit agencies and ministries. I’d also love to put a check in the mail to people whose lives have intersected with mine, or to those who are having a hard time. I’ve been the recipient of another’s generous heart, and I’d like to pass that on.

Once in a while, it’s fun to dream of what could be, but my little exercise in lottery fantasy has been self-revealing as well. While I wouldn’t mind having a few extra bucks (who wouldn’t?), I’m content. We’ve been blessed with a comfortable home and our needs are met. And the desires of my heart (healthy relationships, peace and justice, and cuddles with my precious granddaughters) aren’t for sale, no matter how much is in my wallet.

Author Alan Cohen writes: “Money is but one venue for generosity. Kindness is an even more valuable currency.” The lottery may promise to wave a magic wand for its believers, but instead of depending on a fairy godmother, I’m betting the farm on the wise words of Cinderella’s mother: “Have courage and be kind.” That’s the currency I want to spend in the days ahead.

JoAnn Streeter Shade

Ashland, Ohio 

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