Out Of A State Lottery, A Golden Rule Moment

We're NOT going to be selfish and exclusive, even though we can and you expect us to!

“We’re NOT going to be selfish and exclusive, even though we can and you expect us to!”

It never seems to work out this way, and thus it is interesting to speculate why the office lottery pool at Keller Williams Partner Realty in Plantation, Florida treated a dilemma so differently, and so much more ethically, than the key participants here, or here.

Jennifer Maldonado had only been working as an administrative assistant at the company for two weeks, and because she hadn’t received her first pay check, she decided not to join the office Powerball pool when she was approached. The organizer even offered to loan her the money: nope, insisted Maldonado. Not this time; maybe next. Naturally, the pool not only won that week, but won big: a million dollars to be divided among the 12 person staff…except Maldonado, of course.When Maldonado showed up for work and saw everyone screaming, crying and celebrating, she thought they were playing a practical joke in her to teach her a lesson. “I knew I was the only one who hadn’t put in the money, so I thought they were pranking me and going out of their way to make me feel something,” she recalled, that “something” presumably being “rotten.”

Jennifer obviously didn’t know her co-workers yet. Not only weren’t they trying to make her feel badly, they had held a meeting and decided to give her a cut of the winnings even though she hadn’t opted in to the enterprise—not a full share, but a significant amount. Jennifer didn’t expect anything, wasn’t going to sue them or hold a grudge, and yet they made her part of the group’s good fortune anyway. This is the Golden Rule exemplified. It is also exemplary ethics: generosity, kindness, empathy, and inclusiveness. The staff”s gesture said, and eloquently, “Welcome to the family! You can trust us. We care about you. We look out for each other, and we handle each other’s mistakes.”


Why did this group act so ethically when so many others have allowed lottery winnings to tear them apart? Usually the difference is one influential and ethical group member, a leader, who persuades the group to think beyond narrow self-interest. Maybe the Keller Williams Partner Realty management has worked to develop an ethical culture, in which case, you residents of Plantation, buy and sell your property there: they will not cheat you. I considered whether the group would have reacted differently and less generously if the winnings were much greater, but I can’t envision why this would be the case.

Maybe I’ve told this story this before, but it is still germane. Some years ago, I agreed to sit for hours in a room with some other trivia experts, waiting for a phone call from a friend appearing on “Who Wants To Be A Millionaire?” in case he needed to “phone a friend” when a question from Regis stumped him. Sure enough, the call came, and one of our group provided the answer that won $250,000, which ended up being our friend’s total winnings. A couple of weeks later, we all received our tokens of appreciation in the mail: some cookies. My wife still blows a gasket when she thinks about it.

I didn’t agree to be a “lifeline” to my friend for a cut of the cash, so the cookies didn’t bother me so much as amuse me. I know I would have handled it differently if the positions were reversed, but I had no right to anything more than a sincere thank-you, just as Jennifer Maldonado had no right to a share of the windfall jackpot. In her case, however, those who had the money were moved to be generous. This is when the Golden Rule is most useful, making us pry open windows of ethical sensitivity slammed shut by non-ethical considerations, like money. If everybody reasoned like the gang at Keller Williams Partner Realty, the United States would be a better place to live in a multitude of ways.

I wasn’t thrilled with the rationale given by the wonderfully-named Finkelstein Reader, the lottery pool organizer, who said, “If we do the right thing and always care about other people, the right thing will happen to us.” We should do the right thing and always care about other people whether we think it will ultimately benefit us or not. But in the sense that every such act makes our culture a little bit more ethical than it was, he’s right.

Facts: Miami Herald

Graphic: www.thebookishsnob.com


4 thoughts on “Out Of A State Lottery, A Golden Rule Moment

  1. I considered whether the group would have reacted differently and less generously if the winnings were much greater, but I can’t envision why this would be the case.

    In fact, I think it would be that the smaller the prize, the less likely they would be to share it with her…

    a proportional cut remains the same, but the bigger the original pile, the less you notice it. I, for example, would be hard pressed to notice a great difference between 5 million and 4 million…

  2. Sometimes I believe in karma — that both good and bad deeds come back to you one way or another. Unfortunately, as we all know, this isn’t always the case.

    However, and I know you hate the movie, Jack, but “Pay It Forward,” comes to mind. I’m sure that Ms. Maldonado now views both her firm and the world differently, and will possibly be a bit kinder, a bit more generous, and a bit more understanding of others than she was before (even if she’s the nicest person around). “Pay it forward,” Ms. Maldonado.

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