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Why does lottery make difference?

I received a sign from God in the wee hours of the morning Thursday. Or at least I thought I did, as I jolted out bed to the sound of bells accompanied by a bright light.

Alas, it was only a text message from my mother sent at 4:42.

Barely awake, I picked up the phone and read the message.

“Should run across the river and get your lottery tickets today. Mega Millions up to $500,000,000.”

In my bleary stupor, I considered, for just a moment, whether the message was truly God-inspired. Like Moses and the burning bush, I wondered if I should jump out of bed and make my way to the B-Kwik in Vidalia.

Instead, I fell back into bed, left to dream about what I would do with half-a-billion dollars.

Only once in my life have I bought a lottery ticket. To be honest, it really wasn’t my ticket. My grandmother and I drove across the Alabama state line to buy a Florida lottery ticket at a convenience store just past the Flora-Bama lounge.

My grandmother was a God-fearing woman who read her Bible every day. She had nothing against the lottery, especially when she could prod her grandson into buying the ticket for her.

We didn’t win a dime that day, and I haven’t really felt the urge to buy a lottery ticket since.

But maybe half-a-billion dollars is enough to get me over the state line again.

Louisiana is one of 42 states participating in the Mega Millions lottery. Since January, no one has won the jackpot, which now stands to be the biggest lottery award in U.S. history.

A single winner of the lottery could get $19 million for the next 26 years. It’s a number that is hard to comprehend, but not dream about.

Other people have been dreaming too and leaving comments on news websites and Facebook. Most of the comments I have read are what you would expect. Many say they would buy a new car, pay off the mortgage and go on a vacation. By far, though, a majority of the comments center on things much bigger than worldly possessions.

One person in Georgia wrote of buying up a blighted city block and turning it into a park and giving it back to the city.

A woman in Texas dreamed of starting a foundation to help the homeless and address poverty issues. Another professed a hope to build new schools and improve education in her community.

Most people around us could never imagine ever coming close to making $500 million, including many millionaires. Just a fraction of the jackpot could take care of one’s every conceivable need.

It is interesting that when the dollars reach a point past our ability to comprehend, people begin to look outside themselves to the world around them.

As one resident of Rome, Ga., told her local newspaper, “I’d take care of my family first, then friends and then the rest would go to charity.”

The question is how much does it take? How much money would convince you to forget about yourself and start thinking about others?

Is $500,000,000 enough?

How about the $1 spent on the ticket in the first place?


Ben Hillyer is the design editor of The Natchez Democrat. He can be reached at 601-445-3540 or ben.hillyer@natchezdemocrat.com.