I won the lottery!
No, not the Powerball and not any of the other lotteries that are played in supermarkets and convenience stores all over the country.
I won the lottery, or, more accurately, a handful of lotteries and didn’t even realize it until just recently.
I won the race lottery. I’m Caucasian and as white as one can be. I don’t experience any of the challenges that people who are born otherwise face. It doesn’t ever occur to me to be concerned about how a police officer or a court might treat me. I can visit just about any part of the country without a second thought. I’ve never had the slightest concern that my name or my race might affect what school I could go to or what job I could get.
I won the sex lottery. I’m biologically male and don’t face any of the struggles females face. I don’t face wage discrimination. I don’t get told I’d be more attractive if I smiled. I don’t have to deal with menstruation issues. When my children were infants I never had to worry about if I could feed them in public. I’ve always had the right to vote. Nobody “man-splains” things to me. Nobody assumes that I need help in a hardware store. Nobody assumes I’m successful in my career because I’m attractive or, even worse, used my body to get an advancement. There is no male equivalent term for “Resting Bitch Face”. I’ve been aware for quite some time that there is nothing easier about being female – I can even pee wherever my pride allows me. I may have input, but I will never know, first-hand, the turmoil of whether or not to have an abortion.
I won the gender lottery. I’m cis-gender, meaning my gender identity matches the biological equipment I was born with. I don’t experience any discrimination whatsoever, as such. There’s no learning curve for anyone around me. Nobody has to make accommodations for me, linguistically, architecturally, emotionally, politically or in their faith. Nobody assumes I chose to be “Cis” because I’m looking for attention, I’m some kind of freak, or, even worse, some sort of pervert.
I won the sexuality lottery. I’m straight. I don’t believe I chose to be, either. There was never a moment during my adolescence where I decided to prefer females. I’ve never had to hide my orientation from my family, my friends, my school or my church. I never had to worry that I could marry whomever I loved and that my marriage would be recognized everywhere – by my country, by my state, by a hospital or by my church.
Speaking of church, I won the religion lottery. I was born into a family that went to a Methodist church, but I’ve had the freedom, both legally and within the communities I’ve lived, to explore my faith however I like. I could even choose to be an atheist and not face any consequences. Since my Methodist youth, I’ve had the freedom to join whatever church I liked. I’ve been a member of the United Church of Christ. I’ve been Baptist. I was baptized by an African Gospel congregation. I was Roman Catholic for 5 years and even spent an extended period in a monastery. Now I’m joyfully experiencing my faith as a Lutheran. At every turn, as my faith unfolded, I never faced a single moment of judgment, other than an uncle who slightly sniffed at my Catholicism period. I’ve never had anyone assume that because I was a certain faith that I might be aiding terrorists.
I won the health lottery. I wasn’t born with any life-altering disability. I haven’t had to live with any sort of medical issue, short of occasional discomfort from an injury or the natural process of aging. I can choose to participate in any activity I like.
I won the affluence lottery. No, I’m not able to live like a Hollywood star or high-tech billionaire, but I grew up in a family with stable, perfectly adequate incomes and, other than a few years of struggle in my early twenties I’ve always been able to earn a decent living. There has never been a single moment in my life where I or my family had to wonder if there would be a roof over our head that night or where our next meal would come from. I’ve never known hunger; the only food challenge I face is the discipline to not consume too much.
I won the birthplace lottery. I was born in the United States and didn’t have to know or do anything whatsoever to gain my citizenship. I’ve never lived in a part of the country that is experiencing an economic decline. I’ve never lived in a place where economic hardships, persecution or open warfare forced me to uproot my family and cross a border, possibly with nothing but what we could carry on our backs. I can even exercise my right to vote as a citizen without even leaving my house. I’ve never had to walk a single mile or cross a single river to enjoy citizenship that I obtained by simply plopping out of my mother in the right place.
I won the Veteran lottery – I served in the Army for almost 11 years, but never saw combat and don’t have to struggle with PTSD or any of the challenges so many of our veterans face.
I didn’t earn any of these wins. I didn’t have to put even the slightest amount of effort into most of them.
The only choice I face is the same choice every lottery winner faces: what should I do with what I won? Should I hoard it all, shut myself off from the world and try to protect what I won from all the people that are certainly going to try to take it from me? Am I going to use my winnings foolishly and squander it away on ridiculous, temporary distractions? I’m not sure that’s possible.
Or will I recognize that I cannot lose what I won and that I’m free to invest my fortune to serve all those who did not win the same?
I’m free to invest my fortune to raise the fortunes of others.
It’s not even a difficult choice.