Steamboat Springs The story is that Bernie prayed religiously every day of his life to ask God to let him win the lottery. This went on for upward of 30 years. "Oh, God. You know that I'm a good man but have always been poor. I deserve to win the lottery. Please, Lord. PLEASE!" Finally, God got tired of hearing the same prayer daily for all those years. One day as Bernie started echoing the same old prayer, the clouds rolled back. The thunderous voice of an exasperated God aimed right at this beggar: "Bernie, meet me halfway. Buy a ticket!"
How many people out there would love to win the lottery? Just about everyone, eh? Well, before I play the Grinch and tell you why I think it wouldn't create nirvana, let me also admit that I wouldn't turn away a hundred mil either. But I'm also not silly enough to think it would erase every obstacle to perfect happiness for me.
I have 20 grandchildren and like most grandfathers, I want to have a positive influence beyond being the generous Santa Claus at Christmas, etc. But we all know just how much attention moralizing does with kids. You might get more accomplished chatting with that big oak tree in your back yard : and it won't talk back.
It's also true that the paradigm is not remotely the same as it was when I was a kid. I firmly believe that the temptations are multiples today compared with 40 years ago. And so often, what used to be considered on the dark side is now so out in the open and in your face so it's virtually impossible to ignore. Some even appear to be sanctioned by the powers-that-be such as the state governments. The lottery is one such vice, if we're allowed to call it that these days.
My argument with the lottery and gambling in general begins with the fact that it is stupid. Almost no one wins. And the toll it takes on the millions of gambling addicts is horrific. Further, the stories are now becoming legend how most winners pretty much ruin their lives upon acceptance of the check.
But like most initiatives, the bigger question is the unintended consequences. When one spends a good deal of time hearing about becoming a multi-millionaire overnight, your thinking can change gradually so that you start accepting the promise that winning is possible and it will change your life for the better, like heaven. Studying and hard work gets shunted to the back burner.
So I make sure that all my grandchildren hear me when I declare that the closest thing to producing a hell on earth would be to win a big lottery, be known for nothing else and have everyone in the vicinity know it. The point? When someone has lived life the way it should be lived, by studying and working hard and exerting energy to help your family and community, you earn justifiable respect. This is the antithesis of the guy who can build the biggest house in town because he scratched off a winning number one lucky day. Oh, he will be envied (and resented), but if we accept the American notion that life is a matter of growth that comes from having the scars along with the plaudits to have earned your peers' respect by doing the right thing more than the wrong throughout your life, it becomes obvious that the lottery winner may also inherit a curse with that astronomical check.
And my grandkids? Is the story working? I don't know, but I sure hope so.
Gary Hofmeister is the owner and operator of Hofmeister Personal Jewelers in downtown Steamboat, a company he founded in 1973. He is a Director of the Conservative Leadership Council of Northwest Colorado and a former Republican nominee for Congress in the 10th District of Indiana. He made 18 trips to the former USSR to teach democratic-capitalism during the 1990s.