When I was a kid, my grandmom played the lottery. A dollar here and a dollar there, some scratch off tickets that she let us scratch. I never learned all the ins and outs of the different ways to play the lottery, just that the line was often long in the deli because there was only one machine to process the numbers.
I also learned that it is really exciting to scratch the paint off the scratch off cards - carefully deciding which spaces to reveal first. Sometimes I'd scratch them fast and furious, but sometimes it was really hard to pick.
There is no control in a scratch off - there is no skill, no strategy that will actually help you win. It is a game of pure luck.
I've been scouring the internet ads looking for leads and today my husband, neighbor and I went to a car dealership to see some of the options. We didn't have any luck at all finding a car, but Amalio found a 100 peso coin* on the ground and decided it was lucky. So lucky, in fact, that he and Joel needed to play the lottery because of it.
There is a banca on seemingly every corner of every poor neighborhood and campo in the Dominican Republic. There is no need to wait in line in the deli anymore, the lottery has their own set up - little "houses" with permanent electricity and a computer to sell "the numbers." The banqueras - bankers - are usually young women, often attractive, and always poor. Their sole purpose is to get you to play your numbers, preferably in their banca each time you play.
I still haven't learned the ins and outs of the lottery system, but it seems similar to the numbers my grandmom played when I was a kid. There are straights and doubles and triples, scratch off cards, mega loto with a huge jack pot and more.
Undoubtedly, the major commonality is hope.
Every single time I scratched a ticket as a kid, I hoped that I'd win something - even just a dollar! And today, when the guys stopped at the banca to play a number on the coin they found, they hoped to get me more money for my future car.
Looking at all the bancas around me sometimes makes me sad: poor people pouring money into false hope. I've had people tell me that you have to invest in the future, and that playing the lottery is a type of investment. I usually want to roll my eyes. I want to scream that education and training and healthy meals and exercise are investments in the future, not a game of luck. But, I get it.
When there is little opportunity for investment in your future, you invest in the ways that are possible. You buy into the idea, the hope that you'll make it big and that your little investment will turn into something big. 20 pesos here, 20 pesos there. It's not much different than the dollars my grandmom spent on the state lotto.
There are so many things to be hopeful for. But, it's never as easy as scratching off a box on a piece of paper - and it's never as easy as a simple financial investment of 20 pesos here or a dollar over there. Maybe I've become more optimistic in my years here, but I do believe there is a light at the end of every tunnel, but we won't get there if we don't work towards it. Sure, it'll cost some pesos or some dollars, but it'll also cost hard work and determination and faith.
How are you investing in your future?