Project Thankful: Reason #20

The ginormous lottery jackpot is no more!  Two tickets hold the claim to the massive jackpot from last night’s drawing.  I am not one of the winners.

I’ll admit, winning the lottery is a very appealing idea.  The money would certainly help with many areas.  While money can not buy anyone happiness, it can help ease the financial burden many face.

To help curb my “Ah, shucks!” feeling, I thought about what winning the lottery would feel like.  On the one hand, it would be pretty awesome.  On the other hand, and this is my prevailing feeling, it would feel hollow.  I like to earn my money.  I might not like the work I have to do to get that money, and I especially do not like how little money I get paid, but I like the feeling that when I get my paycheck that that money is money I worked for, that I earned, that I deserve for what I did. 

I think our culture has become one where the idea of winning the lottery has become woven into the American Dream.  I had to teach students the concept of the American Dream as part of their background on F. Scott Fitzgerald’s novel The Great Gatsby.  I looked up the definition of the term, and the closest one I could find was by the man who coined the term, James Truslow Adams:

“But there has been also the American dream, that dream of a land in which life should be better and richer and fuller for every man, with opportunity for each according to his ability or achievement. It is a difficult dream for the European upper classes to interpret adequately, and too many of us ourselves have grown weary and mistrustful of it. It is not a dream of motor cars and high wages merely, but a dream of social order in which each man and each woman shall be able to attain to the fullest stature of which they are innately capable, and be recognized by others for what they are, regardless of the fortuitous circumstances of birth or position.”

A couple of phrases are distinct in that definition: “opportunity for each according to his ability or achievement;” “not a dream of motor cars and high wages merely;” and finally, “a dream of social order in which each man and each woman shall be able to attain to the fullest stature of which they are innately capable, and be recognized by others for what they are, regardless of the fortuitous circumstances of birth or position.” 

The American Dream is about opportunity.  Opportunity to grow based on “ability or achievement,” to grow based on what you do.  Not what you win.

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