We were supposed to be the winners. I absolutely knew for certain of all the stories that are told about past winners, we had the ingredients to be the perfect story.
Lotto. Last week for the first time in my life I bought a ticket.
The idea came after my morning coffee talk with my mom who had informed me she had purchased tickets for each member of our family. The giggle and excitement in her voice was infectious. As she shared with me the amount $9.9 billion, according to my mom, which I may have misheard ($1.58 billion was the actual amount). Needless to say she had me at “billion,” so I decided to join the fun and include “the ladies.”
Shooting a text to our office staff, the decision was made and everyone quickly chipped in their five bucks for a chance at the Mega Millions jackpot.
Trusted with the responsibility, I quickly sent a separate text to my Sista Cuz, Michelle Kendig, who is not just a dear friend but an office mate as well. “Can I buy them at your liquor store?” She replied yes.
Entering the store, another text to Sista Cuz, “Do I just ask them at the counter? I’ve never done this before.” Yes, was the reply once again.
As I shared with the clerks my quick picks were for one of their favorite customers as well as a few more from our office staff, they also got excited. “We all benefit if this has the winning numbers,” I shared, “you too!” They thanked me for including them. We shared a chuckle and off I went to share our winner numbers with “the ladies.”
Later that night on our way home from dinner, Sista Cuz and I began dreaming about what life would be like if we won. As we discussed our potential futures, I confided in her how I just knew we had the winning numbers.
A captive audience at how I could know such a thing, I explained my theory.
We had the perfect story for a winning ticket. A single mom, battling cancer, earning a living as a journalist at a small town paper buying a chance for financial freedom for her and her office mates. Not to mention the whole ‘never bought a ticket’ before, living in a town of 22,000 in rural America and each of the back stories of my office mates (which I’ll keep in confidence).
“Our is a story winners are made of!” I exclaimed.
And she believed.
That is until Wednesday morning about 6:45 a.m. when the text came.
“Did we win?” Sista Cuz shot over.
I quickly replied as a rookie, I had no clue. Followed with a photo of our ten rows of numbers. Losers. Darn it.
We gave little energy on searching for who won and what their story actually was. This would also be the time that the group shared with me it was not a $9.9 billion dollar jackpot which somehow lessened the sting.
Then something funny happened and it’s a bit of a departure from where I saw this story going; my daughter and I went to church.
It was the Sunday following the day dream of being a Mega Millions winner and the sermon was “People over Things.”
As we waited for the guest speaker I must admit, I sat smugly thinking oh, I totally got this.
I’m a pretty simple person, not impressed by things and mostly driven to build a life based on experiences, adventures, memories and not stuff. Personally, I learned in my journey early on more isn’t always better. The latest movement of simplicity and purging is refreshing, however people still long for stuff and justification is alive and well.
As the speaker began his sermon, he asked the question … “How many of you are thankful you did not win the lottery?” Instantly stuck in my tracks, he had my attention.
That money was going to change my life. I had big plans, humble plans, but plans all the same.
It’s a fun thing to think about and yes, money will not make us happy, but it sure could take out the sting of the struggle.
Surrounded by my family, with my daughter at my side, I listened further to the message and the blessing of not being burdened with that amount of money. Okay, truth be told, I’m struggling with that sentence. As we make our way through some final steps of cancer stuff and as a mom I try to continue to create solid memory experiences for my kids, I’m not sure I can think of a little extra money as a burden.
However, what it did remind me was of all the blessings that we have, which do not stem from money. During the sermon he spoke of the invaluable gift of people, friendship, family. As a family we are very blessed and rich in this area. He spoke of connection and the richness of fostering relationships through phone calls, lunches … in person connection … not texting, not social media. And yes, while I get that is hard to do, there is nothing that brings a smile to my face more than to see a friend’s name pop up on my phone via a phone call.
As the sermon went on, I was reminded of all the things I already knew which made our lives rich. A richness that doesn’t come from money, a rich life provided by the people, places and experiences we are blessed with.
So for now, I’ll keep that simple list of humble “wants” if I should ever play again or someday be the recipient of such riches. Yet in the meantime I’ll swim in the richness of a life which was crafted for me by something much bigger than a quick pick from a liquor store.
Teresa Hammond is a staff reporter for The Oakdale Leader, The Riverbank News and The Escalon Times. She may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or by calling 209-847-3021.