Joanne Palmer: Hope for a winning ticket
April 3, 2012
Steamboat Springs — What do spring and the lottery have in common?
Last week's $656 million Mega Million jackpot inspired hope in millions of Americans. There was a frenzy on Facebook with giddy posts from people who had purchased tickets and were speculating about what they would do if they won. According to USA Today, Americans spent $1.5 billion on tickets — the equivalent of $5 for every man, woman and child in the country.
The odds of winning were 1 in 176 million.
Gamblers were seven times more likely to be struck by lightning and nine times more likely to be hit by a falling TV.
But despite the astronomical odds, people flocked to convenience stores and other outlets to plunk down a dollar for a chance to fulfill their dreams. Put simply, they had hope.
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Hope is in short supply these days. The economy can't seem to find its footing, and many Americans continue to lose their jobs, homes and life savings. The firm faith Americans once had in the American Dream has been tested. As a nation, we seem to be plodding through wet cement. Every step forward requires a Herculean effort. The news media sends mixed messages about the economic recovery. One minute things are getting better, the next they are not.
For a few days, hope came back. Daydreams began. There was light at the end of the tunnel. People thought their lives could improve.
A lottery ticket is a guaranteed mini-vacation — a chance to escape the daily routine and hop on board the fantasy train. It's an opportunity to turn off the TV and talk to your friends and family about what you would do if you won.
I think most Lotto winners have similar fantasies — pay off bills, help family members, travel, buy a new house and car, donate to charity, etc. But the fun part comes when you fill in the blanks. Where exactly would you go? What exactly would you do? Write the great American novel? Would you run the rapids on the Snake River? Or helicopter over the Grand Canyon? Learn to surf in Costa Rica? Whale watch in California? And what type of car? A sporty coupe? A Mercedes convertible? Or would you tour the national parks in a VW van?
While you were daydreaming about sipping umbrella drinks on a sunny beach, your blood pressure plummeted, your breathing slowed and a general feeling of peace and well-being coursed through your veins.
It was a good thing.
Spring is a good thing, too. It ushers in a season of hope. It's a time of renewal, with flowers emerging from the ground and birds chirping in budding trees. Every year, I marvel at the miraculous rebirth all around me. Trees, flowers and grass that have been gray and dormant all winter long suddenly come back to life. It reminds me of the first stanza of the Emily Dickinson poem "Hope."
"Hope is the thing with feathers
That perches in the soul,
And sings the tune — without the words,
And never stops at all."
I think Dickinson was right. We need to sing the song of hope — whether or not we know the words. Clearly, we can't rely on Washington. Hope has to reside within us — and that's the winning ticket.