What would you do if you won the lottery? We’ve all been asked that question before, and we’ve probably all given the usual answers: a luxury yacht, a mansion, a sports car, bribing a socialite to be seen with us in public. There are the more realistic answers too; paying off debt, taking care of family, bribing Dale Winton to never present a lottery game show again. I’m pretty sure mine would be a combination: pay off the parents’ mortgage, buy an Aston Martin, and spend a vast sum on a library full of poetry (I’m that cool). Most of us would probably give some to charity as well – but how much? 10%? 20%? 50%?
How about 98%?
That’s exactly what the stars of this week’s column have done. Allen and Violet Large, a retired elderly couple from Nova Scotia in Canada, won 11,255,272 (about £7 million) on the lottery earlier this year. After taking care of their family, they chose to keep around £130,000 for a rainy day, and donated the rest to a combination of cemeteries, fire departments, churches, the Red Cross, the Salvation Army, hospitals where cancer-sufferer Violet has had treatment and more.
The Larges insist that they already have enough for their needs having saved up all of their working lives towards their retirement, and had found their new-found fortune “a big headache”. Given Violet’s condition at the time, they were also concerned that they may be taken advantage of (she has since completed chemotherapy), and therefore agreed to give the majority away. Ultimately, says Allen, “That money we won was nothing. We have each other.”
In a world where we’re more used to stories of greed and consumerism than kindness and charity, this was the piece of news that made my week. Once they’d taken care of the needs of themselves and their loved ones, the Larges had no use for the rest of the money, so they made sure it went to good causes that did. I think for most people, it’s hard to imagine being prepared to do the same.
Or at least that was the impression I got from reading other people’s responses to the story. Looking at the comments on a couple of news websites I couldn’t believe what I was reading. Many responses are full of admiration for the Larges’ largesse (a pun I had to use somewhere). Still, there are large numbers of objections, including people asking why you’d play the lottery if you didn’t want the money (one called them “idiots” for this); the other key criticism is that they are denying their family a huge inheritance which would enable them to live what one response termed “the life of Riley”. Another comment claimed that the writer would hate their parents for doing what the couple have done. Others have said that, since the amount donated to each organisation is undisclosed, the Larges may well have given nearly all of it to their family and barely given any to charity (which I’m not convinced would be so terrible a crime).
It’s that kind of cynicism that threatens to overshadow a story like this, and I find it really sad that some people would feel that way. Nevertheless, for every negative response, there seems to be at least one further positive. From my point of view, those who speak about Allen and Violet’s decision as inspirational and enough to restore their faith in humanity are much closer to the mark. My favourite response to this story also came from the same websites:
“I just had to know what kind of crazy lunatic would just give away 11.2 million dollars. Apparently the crazy lunatics are a wonderful old couple who are clearly already rich beyond measure.”