A couple of years ago, before Tennesseans could buy lottery tickets at the corner store, I drove to Kentucky to buy Powerball tickets. I think I spent five dollars on tickets and probably more on gas.
But in the category of “entertainment dollars,” this money was well spent.
During the drive up and back to Nashville, I daydreamed about what I would do with one hundred million dollars.
It was like the scene in The Fiddler on the Roof in which Tevye has a conversation with God. He imagines what life in their small Russian village would be like if he had more money. He would fill his yard with chicks and turkeys and geese to squawk for all the townspeople to hear. He’d make sure his wife looked like “a rich man’s wife with a proper double chin” as she ordered their many servants around the house. He’d renovate their single level house to two levels with lots of staircases, even one just for show.
But after dreaming about the material goods that would make his life more comfortable, he realizes that what he wants most is to have time to read the Holy Scriptures and discuss them with other learned men. “That would be the sweetest gift of all,” he concludes.
I wonder how many of us, if we had the financial freedom to do anything we wanted, would turn more deeply to a life of Scriptural studies and prayer.
Sure it would be easier to devote more time to these studies, since all our bills would be paid and we would be surrounded by all the comforts of home. Life would be easier. We would now have time to do the things we really wanted to do.
I thought the same thing during my drive home from Kentucky. With so many millions, our family could build a bigger house in the country. Each of our teenagers would have their own bedroom. There would be plenty of storage, big bathrooms, a bigger kitchen, a soundproofed den for music and a big theater room to watch movies.
Of course my wife and I would be able to quit work since college tuition payments would be easy to pay. We would spend that time managing our investments, transferring funds to different portfolios, and enjoying the walk to the mailbox to collect the interest statements and dividend checks.
A good portion of our windfall would also go our church, alma maters, Vanderbilt Children’s Hospital and other worthwhile organizations across the country. With such an abundance of riches, it would be easy to give lots of time and treasure to these programs.
But after thirty minutes of dreaming about the easy stuff, I got down to the things that matter the most. I thought that if I had all the time and money I needed, I would talk more with my family, especially my 90-year-old grandmother. I would spend more time writing, especially devotionals based upon my favorite movies. I would also spend more time at church with my music ministry and possibly record a couple more albums.
Suddenly I realized that I could do the things that matter the most WITHOUT winning the lottery. Sure there are many demands on my time, but if I manage it better, I could find the time to write, to call Grandma, to sing and to pray. And if I spend the most time on the things that matter the most, then I’ll be able to deal with the daily struggles in a better frame of mind.
By putting my family, my faith and my lay ministry ahead of everything else, I’ll be working from a Christ-centered mindset. I can do that now, without the luxury of mega-millions and fancy homes. I bet you can too.
So God, thanks for the opportunities to write this column and sing at church. I don’t think it will “spoil some vast eternal plan if I were a wealthy man,” and I won’t shun the opportunity to cash in the winning ticket if it ever comes my way. I just pray that you fill my heart with love and help me spread that love to those I meet every day.
Talk to you again soon. I think I’ll go now and call Grandma.
First published in the May 20, 2005 issue of The Tennessee Register.
© 2005 Christopher Fenoglio.