Wednesday, July 1, 2009

Gambling that is GOOD for you!

I was fascinated by psychology in college…I was originally a psychology major…and although I pursued a career in the most opposite of fields, I am still mesmerized by the human mind. I learned so much in the few classes that I did get in, things that I have used in everyday life, raising children, and most certainly – dealing with others in the world!

One of the most interesting subjects that we covered is the reward systems that shape our behavior. It is so important to provide motivation for folks to behave in a manner that will be most beneficial for the society in the long run. Through poorly thought out plans, well meaning folks have set in place a variety of systems and programs that provide incentive for exactly the opposite. I could go on all day on THAT subject!

But let’s talk about gambling. Gambling is incredibly addictive simply because there is the hint of a reward for your efforts. It is not a guaranteed reward…rewarding every effort…because that would eventually grow old. The subject would tire of the reward, and the behavior would cease or taper off. (AND it would put any gambling establishments in serious danger of financial failure!) It is not a reward spaced at regular intervals, which again becomes repetitive and the activity loses it’s excitement.

It offers a reward that may or may not happen on the next roll…or the next turn of the wheel. Okay, if not THIS one, then the next, or the one after that. It is the randomness that makes it all the more exciting and addictive. We imagine that just ONE MORE will net us the prize. Or maybe two more…and before you know it, you have used all of your resources and the payoff is still not in sight.

(Then, just after you quit, some old lady with a cigarette in one hand and a drink in the other stumbles up to your machine, plops in a quarter, and wins YOUR prize!)

It’s called Random Reinforcement, and it is the most powerful of all reward systems. It creates a behavior that is nearly impossible to extinguish.

I am not a gambler. I am cheap, I am conservative, and I just can’t give up my money that easily! But I have my own gambling issues.

I have found an activity that has the same reward system…and is equally addictive. I contribute a block of time, and every so often, I am pleased to be blessed with a great treasure. The rush is incredible! And then no matter how long it took me to achieve that payoff, I am ready to invest that much more time to feel that again.

I’m talking about Family History research. I have dabbled a bit, and just when you think that the river of information has stilled and nearly become stagnant…something pops up out of the depths and you find yourself paddling to the next set of rapids.

I’ve had a great amount of success, all things considered. I have some incredible stories of how I have found information, and how the pieces all fit together so perfectly. I can tell you of the angel hands that I believe have been involved. That is the ultimate goal, to unite with family who have left this earth without completing their lifes’s work. To give them a place in our family tree and remember them. For them, my gambling addiction can be a beautiful thing.

My most recent obsession (should we call it that?) is the Washington Cemetery, the old graveyard that we visited with Hubby’s geocaching group. I am still haunted by the names that I saw there, and wanting to know their stories. I can’t imagine how they came to be so alone and neglected! I want someone to claim them, to share their ambitions and dreams.

My thought is that I could make a website for the graveyard, with a list of names. There are lists out there, but they are not complete! I checked my pictures against the list, and I found at least 27 names that were not on the original list. Maybe someone is looking for them! My hope is to spend some time there, and with the unofficial curator, a neighbor that has fallen in love with the graveyard and tries to take care of it. Maybe we can even flesh out some of the names with their stories.

I’ve started a spreadsheet with the pertinent data…I can cross reference it with any hits that I get on or…usgenweb, anywhere that I can find any data. I can post the information that my cousin, N, has given me. Screenshots of census data, obituaries, photos. I can hope that anyone who might be looking for these names will stumble across it. Maybe even give us more information.

Did I mention that I’m somewhat of an overachiever, too? I have big plans. I have grand ideas. We’ll see if I can find the time to “gamble” on making a connection. Wow. What a payoff that would be!!! N suggests that you spend 10 minutes a day on Family History, and see how much you can accomplish in that small amount of time. I think that I could do that.

Or…maybe stay up all night researching and organizing the data.

See what I mean? It’s compelling!

How is YOUR Family History coming along? What can you do in 10 minutes a day? Can you actually resist that urge to spend the time and maybe stumble across some big find????

It’s gambling that is good for you…and even better for your relatives!

(gravesite of Mary "Mollie" Hanley, and the photo of her parents (William Jackson Hanley and Mary Campbell Hanley that N found)

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