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Choose between lottery or lettuce

By Roger Barbee

My math skills are not the best, much to my regret. However, as I read two of the front page articles of the Nov. 29 Daily, I was taken back by the number of tickets being sold per minute in the $550 million Powerball lottery. Taking the word of the Associated Press, it seems that folks nationwide were spending $260,000 per minute for a dream. Wow, I thought, that is a lot of money. It was then that I read the article by local reporter Sally Voth concerning the dire straits of Bob Blair and the Volunteer Farms.

The dream to win $550 million dollars is understandable. We all like to think of what we would or could do with that much money. Folks are interviewed and gladly share how they would buy such and such, but also give some of it to charities or individuals in need, and never have to work at a job that is not rewarding or even enjoyed. Who of us does not dream of those circumstances? However, it all strikes me as somewhat mis-spent energy and priorities.

As far as I know, we do not know how much money was spent in the valley for tickets to the Powerball drawing. If, however, the valley is a microcosm of the country, a good sum was spent here in pursuit of a $550 million dream.

In the 1980s, I owned a small painting business. One of my best painters was a young man named David. He and his wife Karen had no children, they both worked hard, and each Wednesday night would attend a Bingo game in one of several locations. About once a month they would travel to a casino and spend the weekend gambling. They enjoyed gambling so much that they finally moved to Sparks, Nev., so that they could pursue their hobby more. They were financially responsible people, owed no one for anything, and viewed their gambling as entertainment. Like all gamblers, they lost more than they won, but David explained that they gained enjoyment from it. For them, it was like saving money for a week at the beach. I understood his reasoning then, and I continue to today. I understand why someone would plunk down $2 for a ticket that could gain them $550 million.

What I struggle to understand is how a community that says it prides itself on values of family, and religion, and small government can watch something like the Volunteer Farms close for lack of money? Perhaps I am missing something about a lottery or a farm that grows more than 165,000 pounds of food to give to hungry folks. If I am, someone will correct me. However, if more than 1,800 folks can volunteer to help this past year, and most of those were under 18, can we adults in the valley not pledge to give just some of our lottery, tobacco, and liquor money to such a venture as the Volunteer Farms? It seems to this writer that it represents all that we say we value - family, religion, and small government.

Think about it: if each adult gives the price of one lottery ticket, or one beer, or one can of snuff, or one soft drink, or one pint of alcohol, or one pack of smokes, or the price of one fast food meal to the Volunteer Farms, it will continue to feed the hungry. It's not much.

Roger Barbee is a retired educator who lives in Edinburg with his wife Mary Ann, four dogs and five cats. Email him at redhill@shentel.net.


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