Five, 16, 41, 46, 50 and 1- Who would have thought that these six numbers could change lives forever?
On Sept. 16, Harold and Helen Lerner of New Jersey were declared the sole winners of a $258 million lottery drawing with those numbers. The couple will receive $156.1 million from the Mega Millions jackpot after federal taxes, lottery officials said. Even though there was only one winning ticket, many lives will be changed, simply because the winnings went to a gracious couple.
Winning such a large amount of money poses some crucial questions. What should people do with such a large sum of money? Should they use it to improve their community, pay off student loans, buy an exotic car or buy their parents a big house? It’s intriguing to think about, isn’t it? But there could be some obligations as well.
In the wake of recent events such as the thousands of displaced Hurricane Katrina and Rita victims, gas hikes, and so many other socio-economic issues, there remains a question concerning obligation. Is there an obligation to help others and to try to “make a difference?”
The Lerners have some credible options that they have already acknowledged. The couple has announced that they will donate some of their earnings to Hurricane Katrina victims and to Mrs. Lerners’ alma mater, Seton Hall University. Less charitably, Harold Lerner said that he will buy a yellow-checkered taxi cab, a reminder of his childhood in the Brooklyn borough of New York, and aid anyone who wants a free ride.
Just two weeks before, the couple probably was in no shape to help the hurricane victims in any profound way while complaining about extremely high gas prices just like everyone else. Yet with newfound riches, they can now make a difference and not worry about $3-a-gallon gas prices.
Regarding charitable obligations, across our nation there has been a silent agreement to help the victims by any means. It says a lot about a person’s character when they use their financial stability to help those in need.
However, the situation seems to change for people who come into large sums of money. Great pressure is placed on them to give a huge chunk to charity, which the public expects them to do. Perhaps people believe that lottery winners and people of similar cases have not truly earned the money and are therefore obligated to contribute it to a reputable cause. It is looked at as a civic duty.
People should not be pressured to distribute their wealth just because they have more money than the average person. But we all should be willing to help as much as we can, especially in situations such as Hurricanes Katrina and Rita.
Times like these reveal the sincerely benevolent of heart, and the Lerners definitely fall under this category. While Harold and Helen Lerner do not yet know what they are going to do with the complete sum (besides retire immediately), it is refreshing to know that they first thought about how they could help others.
Jennifer Ogunsola can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.