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posted: 3/27/2014 11:23 AM

With or without money, we can still make a difference

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Overheard in the checkout line at our neighborhood convenience store:

Customer 1: "Two Lotto tickets."

Customer 2: "You buying those things again? What would you do if you won, anyway?"

Customer 1: "Well, I wouldn't work, that's for sure!"

Customer 2: "I don't know. I think I'd have to do something just to feel like I made a difference."

Store clerk: "Hey, Ken, there's your next column: 'Why People Need to Work.'"

Me: "I could write it; I don't know if anybody would believe it."

So what would happen if we won the lottery and didn't have to work anymore?

I do think most of us would change our lives radically if we were relieved of the necessity of working. Many of us are caught up in jobs or careers that we really don't like, or that are no longer challenging or satisfying.

We have unfulfilled dreams -- travel, education, luxuries, etc. -- for ourselves and those we love. All in all, most of us would have little trouble to begin with in spending our time or money.

"… to begin with …"

Somehow I don't think all our leisure time, travel, new cars, etc. would satisfy us forever. Sooner or later, we'd begin to feel the restlessness that says "something is missing."

But what? With everything money can buy for us and our friends and families, what else could we want?

That's where my recent conversation -- and Customer 2's comment -- fits in: "I think I'd have to do something just to feel like I made a difference."

Don't get me wrong. I'm no great believer in work as the end-all of life. I don't think a person's worth is measured in what he or she produces. Value is not a matter of dollar signs, titles, or records set. I've met too many people who have learned how to be "successful," but failed to learn how to be human.

I do believe, however, that there is within each of us a need ("God given," if you will) to be of use, to contribute, to make a positive difference in the lives of those around us. That's why so many really wealthy people volunteer time, energy and resources to charities and service organizations. They are in touch with their need to make a difference.

That's also why so many "successful" people wind up never feeling satisfied with themselves, or caught up in aimless thrill seeking, or in a counselor's office.

Sadly, they have not been able to get in touch with their need to make a difference and continue to seek fulfillment in more and more self-destructive ways.

Now, I don't know about you, but becoming independently wealthy is not in my long-term plans. So what does all this mean for us?

It seems to me that we each need to find some way in our lives to be of use, to contribute, to make a positive difference. If it's not in our jobs or careers, then it needs to be in what we do outside our workplace. Homemaker, factory worker, businessperson, professional or lottery winner -- ultimately, the need is the same. Thank God for that.

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