There is a lottery ticket craze going on this week, the Mega Bucks game with tickets sold in 42 states and and the District of Columbia is currently at 540 million dollars. The odds of winning are 176 million to 1.
Lot's of daydreaming today among those holding tickets, I'd wager.
But winning the lottery is not all it's cracked up to be, we've all heard stories about the mess former big winners get into. But let me tell you a personal story about how winning a lottery can change not only a winner, but how it changes those close to him/her.
Back in the day when I was teaching at a local high school, I had a small general math class. About halfway through the school year we found ourselves going through a chapter on 'odds'. I decided that a good way to demonstrate odds was not rolling dice a certain number of times to see how often 6's came up, but to use the Illinois lottery scratch off cards. I purchased one of the dollar cards and saw that the game figured the odds of winning were 1 in 4 and miraculously the class had 8 students so it divided perfectly.
I brought 8 scratch off cards in the same game to class and spent the first part of the class going over what we'd do if someone actually one the huge prize. We talked about greed and unselfishness. We tossed around ideas and decided most of it would go to the school and other charities. The excitement to get going scratching off their cards got more palpable as the time went on. And as time went on they went from being charitable in their thinking to totally materialist and selfish.
Finally I gave them the go ahead to scratch off their cards. Whoosh. Out came pennies and off came the black coating. As it turned out there were two winners, exactly 4-1 odds. That struck me as fantastic, finding the odds as written worked out perfectly.
The two winners held a 2 dollar card and a 'free' card and those 2 students were fist bumping the air while the others sat back resentful and actually jealous. Why them? Why them? One of the winners, the two dollar guy, was the shyest person in the class, someone who never said one word to anyone. Suddenly he was smiling and gloating. The others were in almost physical pain, they'd so begun to count their winnings and their spending.
I learned that the thought of big winnings changed people in a heartbeat and did not like what I saw among even the nicest of kids. It's a lesson I carry with me even today when I listen to the excitement of the 540 million dollar lottery payout. I will not buy a ticket.