One Million Dollars

March 31, 2007

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Here’s the text of that podcast…

A few weeks ago my aunt and uncle gave one million dollars to cancer research.

In an age where many homes cost a million bucks, people pay multi-millions to take a flight to the moon, pro athletes sign contracts worth billions, and a Machiatto at StealBucks goes for almost a million—this might not seem significant. But a million dollars is still a lot of money.

To put things into perspective, at $25 an hour, you would have to work 40,000 hours to earn a million dollars. That’s only 20 years of working. Nobody even stays at the same job for more than four years, so how are you going to work 20 years straight and save your million?

Further, where has the respect for the lowly million gone? These days, people won’t even play a lottery that has a prize of ‘only’ a million dollars. They want the PowerBall jackpot that is at least $75Million before they’ll play.

Which brings me sideways to another point…the lottery is the worst way to get a million dollars and nobody should waste their cash on it. Remarkably, nobody will admit to playing the lottery but the jackpots get really big all the time. Must be one guy who is buying all the tickets.

Getting back to Alice and Steve. They gave this money away for myriad reasons. Alice’s father had cancer and so have other members of their extended family – including my mother. They’ve been involved with Dana Farber Cancer Center for years and they understood that every penny – and especially 100 million pennies or is it 1000 million pennies (good thing I’m a writer instead of an investment banker) – could do a great deal of good for research in fighting this disease.

Finally, they gave away the money because it was the right thing to do. Which brings me to the real point of this podcast…doing the right thing.

Here’s a quick mental exercise.

Old woman standing by the side of the road with a shiny metal walker. She obviously is looking for an opportunity to cross the street. Do you: A – slow down and hold up the progress of the universe to let her cross – angering other drivers and perhaps instigating road rage? B – Hide your face from the woman and drive slowly past? C – Smile broadly at her while slowing down, then floor it, squealing tires and frightening her badly…secure in the knowledge that her eyesight is probably pretty bad too, so she won’t be able to see your license plate number for the police report?

Busy restaurant on a Friday night. You and your date are seated at a table that still has the check and the previous patron’s money on it – but it is all hidden in the decorative table tent and the hostess obviously doesn’t see it. Do you: A – Bring the check to the attention of the hostess and hope that the restaurant will reward you with a free drink or maybe a tasty dessert? B – Wait until the hostess departs and then discuss with your date how much you should skim off the tip because you had to wait 40 minutes for a table? C – Quickly pocket the check and the cash and discretely leave that restaurant, heading for a more expensive joint now that you can clearly afford twice the dinner you had planned?

Cold Sunday morning. You venture down to the foyer to get your newpaper and see that your copy is all wet from the snow and a less-than-attentive paper carrier. Your neighbor’s paper seems to be pristine and you’re pretty certain that he won’t be coming down to the lobby within the next three minutes. Do you: A – Grab your paper, turn on the electric radiator and dry out your paper while making breakfast and a cup of English Breakfast tea? B – See how badly damaged your paper is and then see if you can ‘appropriate’ some of your neighbor’s paper so you both have a little damage and both have some good paper? C – Grab all the papers in the foyer and dash back up to your apartment? Then call the newspaper and complain that the papers didn’t arrive and that you want a free week and some logo gear, perhaps an umbrella and a laptop bag. Then settle into your favorite chair to do multiple versions of the crossword puzzle in pen, just because you can.

Clearly, you can see where I’m going with this. Doing the right thing isn’t always easy, but if you prefer to take advantage of people, look out for only number one, and generally tell the world to bite you—I hope your old mother never gets across the street, your friends are banned from their favorite restaurant for seemingly chewing and screwing, your favorite paper goes out of business because it can’t sustain repeated losses, and the cancer you get isn’t one of the ones that Alice and Steve’s donation helped research.

More to come…