I like to imagine just for fun what I would do with a huge lottery prize. I remember being a teenager when the 6/49 first went to a large amount – $11 million – which was a shock to many. My dad, being the practical planner, got us talking about how we would handle winning that much money all at once and pointed out some very important factors to consider. It was fun to dream about it, but also a good learning experience because since then I’ve always had a plan. Sometimes the plan is updated or tweaked, but there is always a plan. I’ve heard of too many people winning large sums of money and having their lives ruined because of it and based on my personality, my upbringing, and my general perspective on money, I think having a good solid plan in mind will save me from falling off the cliff should the occasion ever arise that I find myself holding a winning ticket.
I rarely buy tickets, because I figure that if God wants me to be rich, he only needs one ticket, right? It’s not like he’s sitting up there thinking, “I’d really like Ann to win the lottery this week but she just isn’t paying attention.” No, he’s God, so if he really really wants to give it to me, he will use one of the rare occasions on which I actually take a chance.
Last week the Lotto Max went to $60 million and I bought a ticket. Nobody won the big prize so it’s now carried over for this coming Friday. While driving with my daughter on the weekend we had one of our fun “what would be do if we won?” conversations. It helps with the plan. And basically, what I discover time and again is that I don’t have a list of things I want. I have a list of things I want to do. For other people. As anonymously as possible.
And then we moved into another part of the discussion, which is what prompted this post:
THERE ARE EXPECTATIONS WHEN YOU HAVE MONEY.
Now first off, I do believe that those who are blessed with wealth are meant to share with others to make the world better and that having money is not just about being rich and doing whatever you want. We live in communities; we help each other and sharing is as good for the giver as it is for the receiver.
There seems to be a lot of fuss the past while (and maybe it isn’t just the recent past, but I’ve only been seeing it regularly in the past while) whenever a person of wealth donates money to a particular cause, gives freely to certain people, or uses their money to do something beautiful that enhances a community. Some people jump all over them with questions about why they didn’t instead do this, or that, or give the money to this group, or that group, etc. etc. etc. with no thought for the fact that this rich person is probably doing lots of things no one knows about and people should mind their own business.
IT REALLY BUGS ME.
I remember when a lady walked into Toys R Us in Edmonton at Christmas time and paid off every layaway account, anonymously, as a gesture of good will. The criticisms came immediately in the media: why wouldn’t she instead help homeless people …
I remember a story about a man who bought a historical mansion to fix it up and bring it back to life and instead of people appreciating the effort and the restoration of beauty which is often lost on this generation, they jumped on him for using his money there instead of giving it to charity…
When our country started accepting refugees and a Church group got together to raise money to help support some of them as a project of their own, they were criticized because money was being given to outsiders and not to veterans, or other local charities …
I’ve heard local gossip when others have won money but public gifts haven’t been seen or heard about …
It’s obvious that in our society, with all its social media and quick reactions to everything, NO MATTER WHAT GOOD YOU TRY TO DO, SOMEONE WILL SAY YOU SHOULD HAVE DONE SOMETHING ELSE, and they’ll assume you aren’t already doing it.
The conversation with my daughter was filled with great ideas of personally lifting up other people by sharing our money in unique and private ways. It made me feel great just thinking about it, never mind how I would feel if I could actually do it. But it wouldn’t be good enough. Once the word got out that we had won there would be expectations and, because we would prefer to help people anonymously, others wouldn’t know what we were doing and we would be criticized for not donating to this or that community effort – even though people would have no idea whether or not we did it. Sixty million is a lot of money and unless our picture showed up in the paper presenting a big fake cardboard cheque to some group leader, many people would assume we gave nothing. And that’s pretty sad.
*This is no judgment on anyone whose picture does appear in the paper presenting money, because there is a time and a place for that, and often businesses need to have this publicity for reasons other than mere recognition. Those who want to do it should be free to do it. But the fact that a picture doesn’t appear is no indication of a lack of action.
As a side note, when our family was hit with the tragedy of my husband’s accident, donations came to us from so many people, most of whom we are not aware. There is no way for me to know who or how many people put money into the trust account that was set up for us to help with our immediate and ongoing expenses incurred while trying to cope with the shock. Many donations came directly to me; many more were directed through the account with no names. I still walk down the street and have no idea if the person I am walking past was someone who helped me. And I don’t need to know because in my mind the community helped me. Yes, there were other causes. Yes, there were others who were worse off than I was. And yes, I believe that the people who generously gave to our family, also gave to others because they are GENEROUS. I don’t need to know when, where, or how they give. It’s not my business.
Why can’t people just look at an act of generosity and be thankful that it happened? Why can’t they assume that if a person cares that much they are most likely doing other good things too? Everyone has their “pet” cause (and no, just for the record, I’m not donating a bunch of money to PETA). We’re all different and different things speak to our hearts. We have life experiences and insights and compassion and we’re each led in different directions by these things. Where and how this leads us to share our money is our own business and no one else’s.
Our conversation left us satisfied with our own ideas and plans should we ever hold a winning ticket, and at the same time wondering if the best thing to do would be to move away to a place where we are not known, a place where we could share our money as we please, in private, without anyone expecting anything or asking questions.
I still think my dad’s plan was a good one: go claim the prize, deposit the cheque in a branch of your bank where no one knows you, get on a plane and go somewhere for a while to think and plan so that when you get home, you’re ready. In this day and age, you can’t stop people from knowing you won but you CAN keep them guessing!