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Tom Finneran: Powerball Madness

Friday, November 30, 2012


Tom Finneran, GoLocalWorcester MINDSETTERâ„¢

Headlines blast the news---$587 MILLION JACKPOT!---and lines outside every Lottery outlet underscore the madness.

Mathematicians tell us that the chances of holding a winning ticket are about one in one hundred and thirty million. Despite such odds, when the prize gets this big, even clear-thinking cloistered nuns get caught up in the whirlwind.

We just found out yesterday that two very lucky individuals will split the record $587.5 Million jackpot. But now, here is a question I have for you:

What would you do? Seriously, if you held the winning ticket what would you do? Can anyone who has not known real generational wealth- the kind of wealth that insulates you from day to day and lifelong anxieties- handle such a sudden surge of enormous riches? Think of it for a moment. No need to work, ever again, for the rest of your life. The same of course would be true for your spouse or partner, your children, and your children’s children. Is that really healthy? For you? For them?

Most of us sweat the monthly mortgage, a car payment or two, an occasional modest vacation, college tuitions, and, if you have daughters, the cost of weddings! Even after taxes are taken out, the winning ticket represents a staggering sum of money and it becomes a life-changing event.

First question: Would you even tell your family?

Second question: Could you keep it secret for a day?

Could you sleep? Where the heck would you keep the ticket? It’s a little three or four inch square of paper, easily lost, and it represents the most astounding event of your life. Where would you go for honest, anonymous, and sound advice? How many heart-rending stories are out there, how many worthy causes, which would quickly beat a path to your door to seek your generous support?

Options would abound for you now and they would vigorously beckon. Hobbies? 

You can indulge every whim you’ve ever had. Education? You can pursue law degrees, medical degrees, engineering degrees… Uou name it and you can pursue it. 

Charities? Your parish, your archdiocese, your favorite causes, all magnificently strengthened by a simple generous “yes” from you.  Golf?  You could buy several courses for you and your friends.

I almost start to feel sorry for the super-rich. How do they handle the pressures? Gee, I’d sure like to find out!

Sociologists tell us that the great board game Monopoly enjoyed huge success during the Depression. Apparently the fantasy, the momentary ability to escape from the harsh realities of a horrific economy, captivated people’s imaginations. For an evening at least they could be the landlord, the wheeler-dealer, the power-broker, the Daddy Warbucks who bought Boardwalk and collected oodles of rent. They were Trump before Trump was born.

The Powerball drawings give us all a little window of indulgence, of escapism, of fantasy. And yes, it would be wonderful to escape the paycheck-to-paycheck pressures we all feel. But I suspect that it would do us and our children a world of good if we didn’t forget where we came from.

Meaningful work, a hunger for challenge, a thirst for justice, and awareness of the plight of others less fortunate are worthy daily companions as we make our way along life’s road. Sure I might buy a boat (probably a kayak) and take my family on a trip to Disney.  But I’d also be sure to remember the churches and zoos and aquariums and museums that mean so much to us and to every family.

So here’s wishing luck to you. I hope you win a Powerball jackpot someday. And I hope that you don’t forget where you came from.


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