It's the Lottery Losers Who Can Make the Most Difference

If you're reading this, you didn't win the Powerball jackpot. I assume the winner has far more pressing commitments at this time than relaxing with a cup of coffee and reading the day's news. Meeting with accountants, tax attorneys, or perhaps even hiding out from the media (and long-lost relatives) are likely on the winner's priority to-do list as we speak.

In the days leading up to the drawing itself, it was fascinating to observe the public's frenzied reaction to the increasing prize value. Of course it's fun, and even an escape, to fantasize about the life-changing windfall and how one's existence would drastically shift, literally, overnight. The constant chatter-- on social media, in line buying the tickets themselves, or at work-- of "What would I do with the money?" was the theme of the week. Some people discussed the topic in jest while others were flat out convinced they were actually about to become the recipient of the 1.5 billion dollars, as they "just have a feeling". I give the latter credit for positive thinking and hope their reality didn't crash down too hard at 7:59 pm pacific standard time Wednesday night. Real life was still there waiting for them. Their jobs more than happy to have them back the next day.

Nonetheless, what I found to be uplifting was what I heard so many people--friends, social media connections, co-workers, and strangers-- earmarking their future millions toward. I had expected most to speak of the yachts, European grand tours, cars, islands, and material items which now could all be obtained. There was some of that, but what pleasantly surprised me was the mass altruism in everyone's heart. People want to give. It feels good and there is no shortage of need. The conversations were excitedly centered on children's organizations, animal rescue foundations, veterans' groups, disease research, and on and on. And the passion with which these discussions were taking place was impressive. Most people did not sound cavalier in the slightest. They were not expressing their charitable desires out of obligation or expectation. The excitement and desire to give was sincere and genuine. It was apparent that, truly, people want to make a difference and they see that specific opportunity knocking when money falls in their path. When money--big money-- enters the picture, people seem to really start thinking about what their values are and where they wish to help. The stronghold of a budget no longer exists so people allow themselves into the world of "what if". Money gives them freedom to let go of the practical; they are no longer trapped within the limitations of solely focusing on the mortgage and day-to-day life expenses.

But what if it didn't take millions to make an enormous difference? What if that same burning passion to help-- in the days before the drawing-- was applied by each person, yes, even sans millions of dollars? It's very possible-- it is volunteering. This is not a Pollyanna view; it is simply holding on to the same giving excitement so many people felt pre-drawing of the lottery numbers and putting that excitement into real action long after the lottery is over. It is implementing that instinct to assist and not letting those altruistic feelings end up in the trash with the non-winning lottery ticket. Of course, tens or hundreds of millions of dollars can contribute much more than one's time and greatly increase the possibilities on the playing field, but the two--time and money-- are not mutually exclusive. The two are very much apples and oranges. A price cannot be put on the joy a 97-year old resident of a nursing facility feels when he has a visitor sit and talk and share with him. Perhaps it's been weeks or months since he's had much pleasant interaction at all. In his mind, he has won the jackpot. A dog's ecstatic reaction to a volunteer removing him from his cage--even for 15 minutes--and going on a walk while simultaneously receiving touch and attention does not cost millions. It only takes a little time. No winning lottery numbers required.

It would be an incredible shift in our country if each and every lottery loser-- who had such good intentions pre-drawing to give millions to their favorite charity-- would take that same enthusiasm, apply action to the intentions, and give their time. The difference would be measurable and everyone would get to be a winner in that game.