Everyday Ethics

I’m pretty proud of my Midwestern work ethic; efficient, steady, reliable. Still, I spend a lot of time imagining what I would do with my lottery winnings – pay off student loans, pay off family debts, buy a house (or three), invest, dole out a million or so to close friends. You know, the usual.

When I was in India a couple of years ago, I awoke early one morning to voices in the kitchen. Grumpy, groggy, jet-lagged, hair askew, I stumbled into the kitchen to find my mom talking to the milkman in the kitchen.
My mother motioned me over so she could introduce me; she seemed fairly excited. I wasn’t in the mood to meet anyone, let alone the milkman, but I tried to put my best face on.

It wasn’t until he left that I found out why my mom was so excited for him. Apparently, our milkman in India had become a millionaire (yeah, millionaire) by buying a couple acres of land in a prime area before the I.T. boom. It was an urban legend, once in million Cinderella story. (And then they made a movie about it, I think it was called Slumdog Millionaire or some such. I kid, I kid.)

What made the story especially notable to my mother (and apparently to
me, since I’m writing about it two years later) was that even with the
millions of dollars he’d fallen into he continued to deliver milk to
his route day after day, stopping to chat with his customers,
fulfilling his responsibilities. He bought an extra buffalo or two to
add to his business, bought a house for his parents and got married.
Otherwise, he continued to live much the same as he always did.

My mother, who loves a rags to riches story as much as anyone, had
asked him why he didn’t quit work to travel and lie on a beach
somewhere. His answer? His parents had taught him to work hard, have a
purpose in life (even if that purpose was delivering milk on time every
day), and live the simple life – in sum, to maintain a good work ethic.
That was their path to happiness and they wanted the same for their

Personally, I thought it was a heartwarming story, but most of my
friends asked if the guy was crazy. I know you’ve all considered what
you’d do if you won the lottery, so tell me this: would you continue to
work if you came into millions?
Or would you live the high life?
Does working (whatever work you may be doing; without outside help I
would consider motherhood a full-time job as much as being the CEO of a
company) enhance your character and help you live a more ethical life?

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