Forgetting I Already Won

Forgetting I Already Won

This month I had the wonderful opportunity to visit the University of Mary campus in Bismarck, North Dakota. I don’t know when this particular habit started, but when I travel away from home, I usually buy a lottery ticket in hopes of making my “time off” more permanent.

Truthfully, I don’t know why I buy lottery tickets. I know the statistics. I know I have a better chance of being struck by lightning twice today than winning the lottery. But then again, I do believe in miraculous things. 

My wife actually ruins the lottery for me. She insists that I check the numbers to see if I actually won. In this, she ruins the magic. I keep telling her the “magic” of the lottery is the dream, and these dreams are great until they get dashed by the reality of looking up the winning numbers and documenting my futile attempt at escapism. Like most of us, my dreams of winning include walking away from my job as well as divvying up winnings among family. I resist the notion of promising God that if I win then I will finish the bell towers at St. Raphael the Archangel Catholic Church and/or give 95% of the winnings, after taxes, to Feed My Starving Children or another my family’s favorite charities.

So, upholding my tradition and on my last day in Bismarck, I spied a North Dakota lottery sign while filling the gas tanking in my rental car. Laughing to myself that I should “expense these tickets,” I made my way to the gas station counter and purchased the upcoming North Dakota lottery Powerball and Mega million tickets.  Of course, I was expecting lightning to hit me a couple times that day because I used the random pick option for this purchase. For the record, I did not expense the tickets. That would be bad karma!

Now here’s where in the story becomes classic “Greg.” The day after returning from North Dakota I thought to myself “where did I put those lottery tickets?” I searched my suitcase, my backpack and even the dirty clothes that I wore the day I bought the lottery tickets. They were nowhere to be found. Then it struck me – what if I had won and didn’t have the ticket? My wife would kill me. She is used to me doing dumb things, but this would be the topper. So, I went on the internet to see if North Dakota was reporting that a new millionaire had bought the ticket in a Bismarck gas station and, they were waiting for him/her to come forward. No such luck. 

The other notion that creeps in when guys do stupid things is whether we should actually tell anyone one what we did.  Nope. I was not airing out this laundry yet. I don’t think “dad losing $100 million lottery ticket” would just stay on our list of “things we don’t tell our kids.” No, this is something she would be gleefully telling everyone while kicking me for losing her new Lake Michigan vacation home that we would’ve bought with the winning ticket. Since I normally try to avoid praying for minor things in life, I did not ask God or St. Anthony for help with this matter either and, I still resisted the temptation to promise finishing the bell towers at St. Raphael the Archangel Catholic Church as well.  

Discerning this endeavor, the Catholic side of me at least took solace in that a hardworking maid in Bismarck may be paying her bills now with my ticket. Yeah, I don’t think that will make my family feel much better… Fortunately, during my internet search of North Dakota lottery winners no such news story of a “maid finding the winning ticket in an empty hotel room” was discovered either. I still had wiggle room for now.

Normally when I lose things, I jip St. Anthony of my five dollar finder’s fee. I considered bringing him in to this cause for a moment but, since the odds of my winning were so remote anyway, that would be a poor five dollar return on investment. It was tempting though, as my mother always invested in St. Anthony’s services for every lost cause. No, I deferred to my traditional stance of “it will show up eventually.”

And they did! A few days later, while filling out my expense report from the trip, I found the missing lottery tickets. Ha! Masterful filing after all. However, with finding the tickets new dilemmas arose: (1) should I actually check the numbers and ruin my dream of winning and (2) should I tell my wife so she can add the story to her “my husband is a bonehead” file. I did both. Because I am writing this instead of relaxing on a Lake Michigan beach, one can easily see I once again missed out on the winning numbers. In fact, once again I didn’t have any of the individual winning numbers on either ticket. Also, since I didn’t actually lose $100 million lottery ticket, I came clean to my wife on how I stressed myself out for the previous 48 hours.

These are the stories in life where we just have to sit back, smile and even laugh at the goodness of creation. God has a sense of humor. I love the pictures where artists depict Jesus laughing. God created us in love and joy. In moments where there is “no harm, no foul” we should just sit back and celebrate the gift of life and our small stumbles along the way.

I don’t need a $100 million dollar lottery ticket to tell me how blessed I am. I am blessed with health and more importantly I have been blessed with recovery when the health wasn’t so great. My wife has remained at my side for more than three decades – “richer or poorer, in sickness and in health, in good times and bad until death do us part.” I am blessed with a home that is bigger than I need. We filled it with three gifts of God’s creation, several wagging tails and even added a few son-in-laws along the way. I grew up in a country where I still have the right to seek liberty, despite the crackpots we seem to elect.  

I am blessed knowing that I was created in the Imago Dei. I am blessed that Jesus loves me enough to be crucified, died and buried for my sins. He resurrected on the third day, so that I may too.

Despite the paths I veer off to, the battles I fight chasing windmills or in my head – no one walks the planet as blessed as me. I have as much as or more than Bill Gates in the things that matter. I am blessed beyond silly monetary means and the only ticket I needed was my baptism and finding my other half.    

Yes, I already won the lottery. It is well past the time I started to embrace this joy and live like it too.

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Written by
Deacon Gregory Webster