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Thankfulness, contentment buried beneath lottery dreams

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Column by Ben Sheroan, editor

By Ben Sheroan

Less than a week after counting our blessings across the table from loved ones during a Thanksgiving feast, the $550 million Powerball jackpot created days filled with daydreams. It provided an interesting contrast.

Instead of focusing on what we have and hold, many conversations last week were punctuated with speculative spending plans for the multi-million promise that seemed just $2 away from reach.

Thinking about sudden riches, many of last week’s dreamers described generous acts. These imaginary gifts included erasing debt for their entire family, providing thousands as gifts for co-workers, establishing scholarship funds, contributing to churches or bestowing a few million to fight disease, help the poor or address social issues.

The consumer nature crept into those conversations. Luxury houses, classy cars, giant televisions and world travel appeared on most wish lists. For me, an early priority would be selection of a yard care company. This make-believe millionaire never would cut grass or rake leaves again.

The sane players recognize that the lottery, like any form of gambling, never favors the players. It exists to collect money from the masses to cover all its expenses, including promotional costs, and deliver the excess to its owners. Players are suckers in the process. Most receive zip in exchange for their hard-earned cash.

But no one wrote cold checks based on the jackpot coming their way. The reality of the long odds is clear. At the same time, temptation quickly moved minds from Thanksgiving to personal getting.

Contentment could be a lost virtue.

Society generally looks down upon contented individuals. If you are happy with what you have, it must mean you have no ambition or goals.

But that’s not true. Contentment shouldn’t be confused with complacency.

My father exhibited the trait. He was content with life but never complacent. He looked for ways to improve while at the same time enjoying what each day offered.

Instead of being jealous of another person’s steak-and-eggs lifestyle, he enjoyed his biscuits and gravy.

While friends fretted over ways to meet the mortgage payment on their two-story brick house, he slept peacefully in his concrete-block basement home.

Contentment is a quality of adulthood that many of us struggle to develop. Envy, jealousy and desires get in our way.

Many of us still live with a child’s Christmas attitude. We’re searching through catalog wish books, circling our desires. If Santa’s not visiting our chimney any more, maybe the lottery will.

One last thought about Dad. Each year around December, he had the same answer about his Christmas list.

“All I want is for everyone to be healthy and happy.”

As a kid, I was convinced he was nuts. Everybody wants something, right?

Christmas would arrive and his presents were predictable and ordinary “dad gifts:” handkerchiefs, flannel shirts and some new socks. But he enjoyed the celebration the most. His smile always was huge as children’s eyes glowed with excitement and the room filled with laughter.

The family was healthy and happy. Much of the celebration had been built upon his and Mom’s sacrifices. And he was content.

He never hit the lottery but he knew how to enjoy life’s jackpots.

Ben Sheroan is editor of The News-Enterprise. He can be reached at (270) 505-1764 or bsheroan@thenewsenterprise.com.