I wouldn’t consider myself a gambler. I never learned to play cards, my poker face is the exact opposite of Lady Gaga’s and a night at the horse races never elicited much interest from me. However, for the past five weeks, I have found myself tucking a tiny, white, good luck giraffe into the pocket of my shorts, and heading out my front door to join thousands of other Springfield residents who are hoping to win the Knights of Columbus Mega Jackpot.
The Knights of Columbus raffle is in its 93rd week, and there are only seven squares out of 100 left on the game board. It seems impossible that it’s taken so long for someone to choose the winning square, and each week that a winning number isn’t chosen, the pool climbs considerably. What started as a modest sum has now grown into an astronomical prize. In fact, if someone takes home the jackpot this Thursday, Aug. 15, they will be leaving $430,643 richer.
So why am I so deeply involved? Have I secretly harbored addictive genes that cause me to throw caution to the wind and gamble away all my hard-earned cash? By spending $10 each week on 12 raffle tickets, I hardly think that’s the case. The allure, at least for me, is how this enormous jackpot has brought so many people in our community together. The raffle has gotten so colossal that satellite locations are popping up all over town to help contain the overflow of thousands of people who have hopped onto the bandwagon just like myself. If I said we weren’t in it for the money, I’d be lying. But there’s so much more to it than that.
Right now the world is a mess. We’re scared, stressed and tired. We disagree over everything and it’s impossible to have a conversation without offending someone. Family ties are being severed and friendships are suffering, and we hide behind screens to type things we would never have the courage to say to each other’s faces. We’ve forgotten how good it feels to be around other people and rub elbows with our neighbors. But that’s the joy of the weekly raffle. You can’t just buy your tickets and then wait at home for a windfall of cash to fall into your lap. You have to be there to win.
For the past five Thursdays, I’ve met with girlfriends at our favorite satellite location to sip cold beers and joke about what would be the politically correct thing to do when one of us wins. Would we be required to buy a round of drinks for the crowd? Or could we just zip out the side door right into our new life as a high roller? Among the crowd I see the faces of people I recognize from around town, but whom I don’t really know. We nod and smile at each other and there’s a feeling of solidarity in knowing that the person has shown up once again. I make small talk with just about everyone around me about how they might as well go home because this is “my” week. Not only are they finally going to call my name but, contrary to the unlucky players before me, I’m actually going to choose the right number on the board and come home almost half a million dollars richer.
The truth is, winning the raffle money would be wonderful. I imagine that kind of cash would be life-changing to not only me, but to just about everyone who has put their name into the barrel each week. Nevertheless, I don’t think that the possibility of winning is the only reason people keep coming back week after week. People are craving connection and commonality, and the raffle has given us that. It’s given us a reason to feel hopeful and excited and to cheer in unison for the exact same thing, and right now we need that.
To all the people reading this who have shown up each week for a chance to win, I want to wish you good luck this week. I have a feeling things might be wrapping up and there might actually be a winner on Thursday. To those of you who haven’t yet joined in on the fun, I wish I could tell you to go buy some raffle tickets, but that’s beside the point. After all, this week is “my” week.
Lana Shovlin is a professional freelance writer and blogger. She currently resides in Springfield with her husband and three young children. During her free time she enjoys reading, walking, spending time with good friends and eating delicious food.