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When You Didn’t Win the Powerball


The conversation between my husband and my four-year old last night at 5:30:
“Daddy can we play on the ipad?”
“What did Mommy say?”
“She left.”
“She’s not here?”
“She left?”
“She went to go play a game where you get a ticket and then you win millions and millions of dollars.”

On a whim, my ten-year old and I drove six blocks to our neighborhood gas station to buy a Powerball ticket. I had just explained the lottery to my children and I wasn’t even sure they sold tickets at the gas station, but Genevieve and I went on the five-minute adventure to buy one (I also thought they were $1 not $3, that shows how long it has been since I’ve bought a lottery ticket.)

My eldest had heard middle school rumors like you are more likely to get bit by a polar bear and a brown bear on the same day than win the Powerball. More likely to become President of the United States. More likely to be struck by lightening twice. My statistician ten-year old looked at me and said, “We’re not going to win.” That was part of the life lesson I was offering my girl, but it was fun and one $3 ticket every 20 years is okay.

But in that short drive from my house to the gas station, my mind went to all of the things we could do with a billion and a half dollars. My first thought was the $700,000 my husband Derek is currently trying to raise to renovate a historic Denver home to become a real home for young people coming off of Denver’s streets. That would be taken care of, spare change really. More properties, more homes, for those coming out of homelessness, suddenly seemed possible. And then of course college for four children. We don’t plan on saying you can go anywhere you want for school and we’ll pay for it, because it doesn’t make sense to go tens of thousands of dollars into debt for a “better college experience”. But what if you weren’t going into debt? The roof was lifted off some of my fallback mental limitations with that kind of money.

As we stood in line, the lady in front of us joked with the gas station attendant through the plastic shield that separated them about her chances of winning. Like us she didn’t seem too invested in her life changing forever, but there was that sliver of possibility. She turned around to face us to leave, “You’ll share with me right? If you win?”
“You too right? If you win, we’re just one ticket away from the winning ticket.”
She laughed. “We’re all just one ticket away, aren’t we?”
What were her go to dreams for a billion dollars?

My non-winning ticket

Coming off of a nine-month experiment of loving my actual life, the one that is here and now and within the constraints of my reality including my middle class budget, I couldn’t help but wonder what was being stirred up in people? Money offers choice in lots of circumstances. But what can we change today to love this life right now? Within our actual circumstances to make today more enjoyable?

We all can come up with dreams to spend a billion and a half dollars. But can we come up with dreams for today? Tomorrow? That we can make reality? I’m talking small changes that take only five minutes of our day, but help us love our actual lives a little more. Because chances are (ha!) we aren’t going to win the Powerball in this lifetime. We are however with one hundred percent certainty going to live the one life we’ve been given. What can we do today to love our lives a little more?

If you’d like to learn more about the project my husband is working on you can find out more about Providence Network here and the newest house here. If you’d like to read more about my experiment to love my actual life, I chronicled it in a book appropriately called Loving My Actual Life that you can pre-order here.


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