I got a text from EA as I was getting ready to leave work the other day. She suggested that I pick up a few Powerball lottery tickets. Why not? The jackpot is a ridiculous $1.4 billion. So I drove to a local gas station, displayed massive ignorance at buying lottery tickets, and went home with a few.
And I was immediately seized by terror. What if we win?
I know abject fear is not how people typically think about winning the lottery. But my imagination started stampeding away. My sons were turning into spoiled, entitled layabouts. People would begin preying upon us. Individuals to whom I have not talked to in years would suddenly want to be my friend and thus confirm every insecure fear I've ever had about whether people like me. What does it do to a person to become that wealthy without having done anything? We would have 15 minutes of fame for being rich. My God (and that's not taking God's name in vain because I was pretty much praying at this point), would we become like the Kardashians?
After I calmed down from that minor panic attack, with which I'm sure a psychoanalyst would have a field day, I began to reflect on what beating these astronomical odds would actually mean. What would I do if I had a billion dollars? I wouldn't rush out to get a new car or house. I wouldn't even quit my job immediately. Firstly, I would want to take care of my family, secure college education for our boys, give back to relatives, loved ones, and ministries which have given us so much. But with a billion dollars, that would be a drop in the bucket.
Here are a few ideas that crossed my mind:
There are several problems with this. For starters, a billion dollars only gets me part of the way. It gets me the gadgets, the cool vehicles, and the Batcave. But I would still need to get myself in peak physical shape. I would need to become an expert in countless martial arts. And if I ever pulled those things off, being Batman would mean missing bedtime with my children every night. Psychotic supervillains would be a normal part of my daily routine. Coming home alive would be a 50-50 shot. It would be a horrible life. I mean, Batman is my second favorite superhero, but anyone who legitimately wants to be Batman is insane.
Buy a Scrooge McDuck-style Money Bin
There were two times when kids of my generation lost their childlike wonder. The first was when we discovered there was no Santa Claus. The second was when we discovered that it is not actually possible to dive into and swim through coins like Uncle Scrooge did in DuckTales. After that second one, you just begin to expect that the world will let you down.
Buy a Sports Franchise
The Atlanta Braves were bought in 2007 for $450 million. At first, this seems like it would be kind of fun. I'd get to hire all the people, make the trades, and even probably decide what kind of bobblehead promotion nights we'd have if I wanted. But owners typically seem to be the ones who receive the wrath of fans if things go wrong. Plus if the team did poorly, would I want to be personally responsible for my favorite team losing? I don't think I would.
Make 1,400 People Millionaires
By this point, you've probably seen the meme suggesting that we just split the jackpot with the 300,000,000 Americans and we'd solve poverty because everyone would get over $4 million. This is why the rest of the world is destroying us in math. The reality is you'd get enough for maybe a burger and a Coke; not a value meal mind you, just the burger and a Coke. But you could split that $1.4 billion between 1,400 and make them millionaires, which would be kind of a whimsical thing to do. It also sounds like a show that ABC would have put on the air after Lost became a success. "1,400 people have just become millionaires. But what is the mysterious secret that binds them all together?"
Buy an Election
Hahahahahahahahahaha! Just kidding, that never happens. Everything is totally above board in our election process. Yes sir.
The truth of the matter is receiving that much money would be an overwhelming responsibility. It would have the potential to do a great deal of good or ill in the world. If I had a billion dollars, I would want to make the world a better place. But where? There are so many places where people need help and so many issues (public health, homelessness, literacy, education, etc.). And how? Just putting money in places doesn't necessarily mean that situations would improve. It would need to be in the right places with the right people. I would feel a lot of pressure not to screw up such a ridiculous gift.
I hope that whoever wins the jackpot is a compassionate person. I hope they don't waste it all on themselves or burn through the money and become destitute (which happens fairly often with lottery winners). I hope that their hope and joy is not in money. And I hope they don't think that winning the jackpot will fill any sort of voids in their lives. To whoever wins that thing, good luck and Godspeed.
But to close with a question: What would you do with a billion dollars?