By nature and experience I am not a gambler. My first lesson was when I was 8 or 9 and was the treasurer of my classroom library fund. I was the trusted holder of about $3.00. That is the same $3.00 that I lost in a poker game with my older brothers and their friends. My tears were enough to get my mother to make the boys give me back the money, but the lesson still held. So when our state started the lottery I wasn’t immediately interested. I also believed as I heard from a comedian that our chances of winning are about the same whether we buy a ticket or not. But in spite of this history I became a regular lottery ticket buyer. With the purchase of every lottery ticket, I won something. Even before the drawing I had a benefit that was more valuable than the potential winnings.
It all began when my teenage daughter started talking about the car she would love to have and would buy if we won the lottery. Since we never played the lottery the chances of that were pretty slim .
She was at that stage where we didn't always have the most pleasant conversations, if any at all. So her animated, cheerful musings were a nice diversion. We talked about the model, the color of the car and the various safety features and add-ons.
Then I started talking about what I would do if I won. What material things I'd like, what trips I'd take, different favors I wanted to do for people and causes I wanted to support. It was such a nice interchange that I decided there might be some potential in getting a ticket each week.
The result was quite surprising. No matter what teenage funk my daughter was in at the time, I could almost always engage her in a conversation about whether we should do a quick pick or choose our own numbers or some new thing I'd thought of doing with millions of dollar.
We even had conversations about whether we would move into a fancier house. I was pleased to hear that she would not want to. We had a nice enough home, and I admired her sensible nature and sentimental feeling in making that decision.
Her younger brother couldn't figure out why we didn't just buy one of those "scratch-off things". He clearly didn't understand the point of the lottery, or the point of the lottery for us. I usually bought the ticket on Thursday so that we could have maximum time to share our musings about spending huge amounts of money.
As a psychologist, I used to do workshops on values, and on living in a way that is consistent with those values. Having people talk about what they would do with lots of money is a wonderful way to explore and clarify those values. While my daughter and I visited about our millions we did just that, and I got the opportunity to reinforce values I hoped I had already instilled. We talked about the things we would do for others and of being a responsible and charitable citizen of this world. She had thoughtful ideas about providing for little children and of donating to animal shelters.
Lottery tickets were the price of admission to many pleasant conversations with my sometimes-distant teenager. For that, they were a bargain. Moreover, the conversations were sometimes about the fact that, in the eyes of most of the people in the world, we had already won the lottery. We didn't need to wait for the Saturday drawings to do good works with the resources we already had. An unexpected benefit was that some of our lottery-inspired conversations inspired real charitable actions that recognized this reality.