Wednesday, August 9, 2006

Will They Do The Right Thing?

Life presents us with little challenges all the time. Sometimes these challenges are disguised as great gifts, which are really opportunities to demonstrate that we've learned our responsibility to help others while we're here on earth.

The hardest part about these challenges is that they often have nothing to do with our legal obligations, or even our moral obligations. A strict reading of either would tell us to carry on with our lives, no real obligation exists. Despite this, we may feel that twinge of guilt, the little voice inside of us that asks us to wait, think a little and reconsider whether or not we really should act and do "the right" thing.

I've linked to an article that I found in the paper today that is a perfect example of one of these situations. By now all of us have heard of the Wisconsin cheese factory workers who went in on the Powerball together and won. As a result of their good fortune approximately 100 of them will split a total pot of $208 million. For each, this translates into a take home of around $700,000.

How great would that be?

One person who must be asking that question is Shelly Pittelko, a co-worker who ussually contributes her $1 to the pot when her co-workers play. Unfortunately for Shelly, she was on vacation last week and forgot to leave a buck for her share of the pot, and now finds herself out of the loop when it comes to splitting the winnings. Shelly says she isn't bitter and certainly doesn't feel her more fortunate co-workers owe her a dime. This is undoubtedly correct from both a legal and a moral point of view.

But is it right?

Obviously not. Shelly was apparently part of the gang that went in on the Powerball every week and enjoyed the friendship and comradery of dreaming the big dream together. Certainly, they all shared the common fantasy of "what would happen if we all won and walked in together and quit?!" at one time or another. So why now should she be frozen out? It this the way we should act towards one another, or should we aspire to a higher call?

I'd suggest that in a world where we are so often compelled to our lower instincts of self interest, Shelly's co-workers have an opportunity to stand as an example. What appears as a windfall is really a chance for them to do something quite selfless.

And it would be so easy. One of the problems of having to split a big pot with 100 other people is that what seems like a stupendous win in reality is only kind of amazing. The wonderful thing about this though, is that the cost of splitting the pot between 101 people is only 1% for each person; the difference essentially between ordering a Suburban instead of a Yukon.

I guess then they have to ask themselves one question. What is more valuable; a slightly larger gas guzzler, or the smile on Shelly's face when they let her know that when the real opportunity came calling, they embraced their friend and reminded her that she was still one of the gang.

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