A Handful of Change

A Handful of Change March 31, 2012

Recession, re-shmession.

I know it’s tough out there. I know people have lost jobs and healthcare coverage. I know firsthand that, practically overnight, some of our homes were suddenly worth nothing. Not even what we spent on new landscaping. I know that people have been displaced, heartbroken, cheated, and kicked around in general by the economy these last few years.

But people, we spent $1.5 BILLION on lottery tickets this week. You and me. And only 3 of us won.

Now, lottery is all in good fun. Most of us spend a few dolloars on tickets knowing that we probably won’t win. But we buy into the frenzy for the sense of commaraderie, for the few days of dreaming with our family and friends, and for the momentary escape of the ordinary. We like to think, yes, that we would do SOOOO much good with it, and give SOOOO much away, and the universe should bless us with this win because we would be such great stewards. We like to think about how humble we’d be, and how little we’d change about our circumstances.  But i’ll be honest. I was also thinking about what a beautiful house I would buy, and how i would never–as long as i lived– ever clean a toilet again.  Why not spend a few dollars to have that dream for a day? Sure, some people blow harmful chunks of their savings to make their chances seem a little more real, most of us spend a few dollars that won’t break our bank.

But my $5 and your $5, and somebody else’s $25, and somebody else’s $200…this week, it all added up to $1.5 billion. So again i say…recession my foot.

We are still rich.

On the tiniest, fraction of a hope of changing our own lives, we came up with enough money to dramatically transform the world. $1.5 billion could develop sustainable agriculture projects in broad, sweeping areas of the developing world. It could provide clean water where people die every day for want of it.  Were it organized and mobilized, that would be a heart-breaking amount of cash down the drain.

I’m not naive. I realize that your $3 and my $5 would rarely, in this lifetime, get funnelled to the same place, even if you and i got together and decided that we cared about the same starving corner of the planet. The world is broken, and no government or organization has the infrastructure in place to do what the lottery does–and that is, to get all those little pockets of change funnelled into the same place and working for the same purpose.

We can blame the broken system if we want–but it being Holy Week and all, i think we must acknowledge the painful truth: that we are far more likely to spend our few dollars of hope and dreaming money on a chance at changing our own lives. Even if it is a small chance, and even if it is only for fun.

I spent $5 on a lottery ticket this week–but i know that i could have spent $500, or even $5000, and still had a place to sleep and food to eat and even a car to drive and a television to watch. (I may not, however, have a husband, if i made a habit of buying $5000 lottery tickets.  Then again, that would cut down on the grocery bill…) Anyway, in gratitude for my relative comfort and safety, I’m giving an extra $10 to Week of Compassion this week. It isn’t much, but it is more than i spent on my long shot at uber-wealth and luxury.

If nothing else, let this week of hopeful, frenzied spending remind us that we are rich. We are powerful.  And if anybody ever got our hopeful dreaming and our selfish spending organized and mobilized, we could truly change the world.

Whether you are a Jesus person or not, it is a good week to think about what it means to be sitting at a computer right now when half the world suffers for want of the most basic, life sustaining things. It is a good week to realize that our comfort is costly, and that some of our hopes and dreams are ultimately foolish and utterly self-serving. Still, it is a good week. It is, in fact, a Holy Week. And we get to choose, every single day of it, whether our hope rests in the motorcade, in the long shot, or in love that rides in on a donkey.


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