by Melodie Davis
for release June 9, 2000
Gold Fever: Fishing for Suckers
When the $350 million dollar pot of gold was available in a multi-locality lottery awhile back, there was much media attention, as usual. But the question I wanted to ask was not "What would you do if you won?" (like so many interviewers asked). Rather I would ask, "If there were a charity collecting at every convenience store, grocery store, and discount store, would you donate, and how much?" $1, $10, $20? If not, why not? What makes us willing to pony up for a lottery ticket, with money going to state or provincial treasuries?
Well, a few people do make small donations in places like convenience stores, but most of us would not be inclined to give anything at all. Why is it that we seem to need a chance to "win" something before we donate to worthy causes? When you go to a high school ball game, who would donate $2 or $5 to the athletic boosters just out of the goodness of their hearts? A few, maybe, but somehow we need that "raffle" incentive to part with our dollars. We need the lure of personal gain.
And I admit to succumbing to that lure from time to time (at least raffles, if not lotteries. Some would say there is little or no difference between the two). When they draw names for prizes at the company picnic, I'll still admit that my heart beats just a little faster, hoping I'll win (even though the prizes are mostly things I already have). Something for "nothing." Greed seems rampant. It is one of the "seven deadly sins" of old. Greed is an evil that continually tempts us, eats at us. Like fish in a stream, if one lure doesn't work, greed tries various fancy lures to get us to bite.
And like the fish, when we bite, we can get hauled in painfully, hook in mouth, to either be eaten or tossed back to see if we have learned our lesson. Whether it is sweepstakes, prizes for touring a timeshare, mutual funds, squabbling over an inheritance, or million dollar athletes holding out for even more money, greed drives much of society. In the movie "Wall Street" Michael Douglas's character makes the following statement: "Greed is what keeps our markets and economy running. All of our freedom is based upon greed."
I once met a businessman who said, "When I open a business, my purpose is to drive my competitor out of business." These things may be true, but outright greed is an embarrassment to all who participate, an embarrassment to any civil society.
Darius I, King of ancient Persia in 521-486 BC, wrote of Nitocris, queen of Babylon, that when she was buried, she had the following inscription put on her tomb: "If any king of Babylon after me should be short of money, he may open this tomb and take as much as he wants, but only if he really is in need of it." Darius, although he had no genuine need for the money, thought it a shame that such riches should go to waste. He had the tomb opened, only to find no money there at all. Beside the body of the queen, however, was a second message: "If you had not been greedy of gold, you would not have thought of ransacking the graves of the departed."
And that is how it is with greed. How often do our money grabs or power grabs end up being only an embarrassment to ourselves? Later in history the great teacher Jesus warned, "Watch out! Be on your guard against all kinds of greed; your life does not consist in the abundance of your possessions" (Luke 12:15).
Greed can be held in check. We can temper our tendencies for wanting more and more by being involved with those who have less. This not only helps others, (presumably) but keeps our "want list" smaller when we see how much we already have. We can volunteer for groups or efforts to help the needy, and give generously of our time and money. If greed is a natural part of our nature, then we must counter that with giving. And if that includes indulging in an occasional raffle ticket to help out a good cause, then I'm a sucker.
For a free booklet with help regarding greed that is out of control, write for the free booklet, "When Someone You Love Has a Gambling Problem." Send to: Melodie Davis, Another Way c/o Name\Address of YOUR newspaper; or e-mail: Melodie@mennomedia.org.
You can also visit Another Way on the Web at www.thirdway.com.
Melodie Davis is the author of seven books and has written her column since 1987. She taught feature writing and has won awards from a number of organizations including the National Federation of Press Women, Virginia Press Women and the American Advertising Association. She and her husband have three growing daughters.
NOTES TO EDITORS: text = 750 words; end material = 105 words
We would appreciate it if you would include the "Globe Syndicate" bug at the end of the column.
©2000 by Globe Syndicate, all rights reserved.
Return to Another Way