As you read this editorial, odds are that someone's life changed dramatically at approximately 9:59 p.m. CST Wednesday when the winning numbers were drawn for the $1.5 billion Powerball lottery. Interest already was high Saturday after 18 drawings in a row failed to produce a winner.
Saturday marked 19 in a row, which put the Powerball frenzy into full gear. People who normally wouldn't buy tickets found themselves laying down a couple of bucks for a single ticket — the price of admission to dream of riches at least up until the drawing.
And dream they did, as the water cooler talk over what this person or that would do with the money ran the gamut — at least here — from helping the poor and buying a new car to buying a third-world country. It seems $1.5 billion is a lot of money.
We all agree winning $1.5 billion would be a life changer. But it might not be positive, because money does not all things fix. We have seen some miserable millionaires and billionaires and we know some very happy "thousandaires."
The wealthy know the power of money; those who aren't wealthy would like a shot at learning about that power. There's also a group that knows there is a reason the best-selling book of all time, the Bible, points out that money is the root of all evil.
Having a lot of it can amplify that for some, and there are cautionary tales out there, even documentaries that look at what has happened to some of the past big lottery winners. Look at these found on Time.com:
Evelyn Basehore won the lottery twice — a $3.9 million jackpot in 1985 and $1.4 million five months later (beating 1 in 15 trillion odds). She gambled it away in Atlantic City, telling Bankrate, "Winning the lottery isn't always what it's cracked up to be. Everybody wanted my money. Everybody had their hand out." She was broke by 2000 and moved into a trailer park.
Jack Whittaker, at the mature age of 55 and already worth $17 million, won $315 million in 2002. What happened? He donated a lot, a whole lot, but then came alcohol problems and strip clubs. Robbers stole $200,000 from his car in 2004, he reported thieves emptied his bank accounts in 2007, and he is now being sued by an Atlantic City casino for $1.5 million. "I wish I'd torn that ticket up," he told reporters at one point.
These are extreme examples, but they are not the only ones. And while most people who win the lottery at least are better off at the end than they were at the beginning of the process it does give us pause to reflect, a reality check so to speak.
We'll treat it as a welcome diversion worth the couple of bucks as we ponder the 1 in 292 million odds of winning. Every Floridian would have to buy 15 tickets each just to equal 292 million tickets.
The fact, though, is that this country was built by dreamers and their dreams and we hope the winners find happiness and the rest of us take comfort in what we already have.
Yes, we bought a lottery ticket on our way home Wednesday. And if no one won last night, word is the next jackpot would approach $2 billion.
REPRINTED FROM THE PANAMA CITY NEWS HERALD
Photo credit: Robert Couse-Baker