In a few hours, someone will scream for joy when they find out they won more than half a billion dollars in the second biggest jackpot in lottery history. But it probably won’t be me, and it probably won’t be you. The odds are better that George Clooney will ask you to marry him, or that you’ll suddenly learn that you’re an heir to the throne. And would you want to win anyway? I don’t know if I would.
If I won the lottery, I wouldn’t quit my job at Helping Children Worldwide. I work with the kindest, most creative and purposeful people, and I believe in our mission of breaking the vicious cycle of poverty for children in Sierra Leone. Also, work gives purpose and structure to my day, a reason to get up and leave my house and talk to the public, which I wouldn’t do if I weren’t forced to, but which is very good for my mental health. So that wouldn’t change.
I don’t think I’d move either, because I like my funky little neighborhood where there are no deed restrictions, and if you want to dig a moat around your house or install a lookout tower, no one will stop you. At Christmas time, Pleasant Valley is transformed into a delightfully tacky wonderland of twinkling lights and inflatable Santas and plastic Nativity sets. It’s a friendly, unpretentious place and I don’t really want to live someplace where I’m going to feel a lot of pressure to keep up with appearances.
If I won the lottery, I would give most of the money to charity, although I wouldn’t give it all in one place. That much money would swamp most charities. I would sponsor more children through Helping Children Worldwide and Compassion. I would make more micro-loans through Kiva, an effective way to help people escape the heavy yoke of poverty without robbing them of their dignity.
A couple million for International Justice Ministry, because they are on the front lines against trafficking and slavery. Maybe I could fund a Fisher House for families of Wounded Warriors. I would do it all anonymously. It would be so fun to give secretly like that.
Last summer when we were at the beach, there was a lottery jackpot that was almost as big as this one, and we walked around until we found a 7-Eleven to buy tickets. It seemed like the thing to do, but James refrained. “I don’t want to win the lottery,” he said, “I feel like it would sap all my initiative.”
He’s probably right about that. Winning the lottery, as awesome as it sounds, would probably create more problems than it solves. A recent Reader’s Digest article said that 70% of lottery winners run through their money in five years or less. One of the lottery winners bought a home in an exclusive gated community and planned a huge Fourth of July party, but none of the neighbors came, because they hadn’t “earned” their money.
I don’t know whether all that money would corrupt me, but the sudden acquisition of half a billion dollars would be like a deus ex machina ending to my story. Like a fairy godmother waving her wand and turning me into a beautiful princess and making all my problems disappear–it sounds so wonderful in the stories, but I want to solve my own problems, and learn my own lessons. I don’t want everything that challenges me to magically disappear under a blizzard of money.
The challenges and problems, even the disappointment and heartbreak, have made me wiser, humbler, more compassionate and stronger. In so many ways, I am the sum of my struggles. Life is an adventure, an unfolding story. I don’t know what’s going to happen, and I kind of like not knowing.
Life is not a problem to be solved, but a reality to be experienced. Soren Kierkegaard
So I don’t know if I’ll buy a ticket or not. But if I do, and if by some strange twist of fate I win all those millions, don’t expect to find out about it. It will just be my little secret. (Yes, Marie, I will pay off your student loans, I promise.)
Did you buy a lottery ticket? What will you do if you win? Let me know in the comments, I’d love to hear what you think!