An Unintended Lesson About Gambling

“To be human is to confuse a satisfying story with a meaningful one, and to mistake life for something huge with two legs.” Douglas Powers


Meditations in Motion

Photo by dylan nolte on Unsplash

Every family has its stories to tell. Our family is no different. We have some stories we tell over and over, sometimes forgetting whom we have shared them with. I am sure we have bored our friends more than once with the following story, but here is one we tell whenever we have the opportunity.

Our first house was in a small town about 15 minutes away from our current one. We lived down the street from a dentist’s office, a gift shop, and a newsstand.

We sometimes went to the newsstand to purchase magazines, a newspaper, or even a candy bar. My middle son Rob, probably four or five years old at the time, was fascinated with the lottery tickets they sold there.

We explained how lottery tickets worked and how remote the chances of winning were, but he persisted in his desire to purchase one. Finally, in desperation and hoping to teach him a valuable lesson about gambling, the worth of money, and some basic probability, I told him we could buy a lottery ticket if we used his money.

Meditations in Motion

Now, his money was valuable to him. Even at his young age, he understood the concept of saving for something he wanted. His birthday money, allowance, and the money he received from his grandparents for “doing chores” all went into his piggy bank, usually with a goal in mind.

It took him all of three seconds to agree to spend his own money on a lottery ticket. We went to his piggy bank and withdrew $2.00.

We carried the money to the newsstand, where he gave it to me to buy a ticket, then we walked back to our house and used a dime to scratch off the numbers. He had won a free ticket.

Upon learning the result, he insisted we immediately go back to the newsstand and redeem his winning ticket for his free ticket. Back to the newsstand we went for his free ticket, then back home again to scratch it off.

He won $2.00 with his free ticket.

That didn’t work out well,” I thought. He got his money back. Not the lesson I wanted to teach him.

Meditations in MotionRob asked if we could use the $2.00 he won to buy another ticket. I agreed, hoping he would lose his money so I could still salvage the evils of gambling lesson.

We walked back to the newsstand and exchanged his winning ticket for yet another lottery ticket. I was sure his luck would run out. The next ticket he bought was a $20.00 winner.

All in all, we shuttled back and forth to the newsstand at least three or four more times and each ticket he got was a winner.

I finally called a halt to the process after 45 minutes, when Rob had pocketed around $35.00, enough to buy the big Lego kit he had been saving for and to dash my hopes for teaching him the desired lesson.

Now, this story is not necessarily a meaningful one. Rob is not addicted to gambling, nor does he buy lottery tickets to finance his current purchases. The lesson I hoped to teach him was unnecessary.

I suppose you could say that it is a satisfying story, however. At least for Rob.


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