COMMENTARY 892.5: Worth More Than a Million Dollars

If you had the choice of winning $1 million in the lottery or saving a stranger’s life, which would you choose? I suspect many of you think you should say, “saving a life,” but what you are really thinking is how much better your life would be if you were rich.

If the test was which act improves the world most, sets an example most worth following, or is most noble, then the “save a life” option wins hands down. But what if the test was more self-centered: which is most likely to meaningfully improve your life? I think the answer is still: save the life.

Sure, you can do a lot with a million dollars, but for most people, doing something that is worthy has a greater and more lasting value than anything you can buy with money. In earlier times they would say a good name is the most valuable asset you can have. Is it really any different today?

Strangers may envy, but they don’t admire, a lottery winner. Friends and family may rejoice, but they aren’t proud of, the lottery winner. And no feeling of worthiness comes to the person who was lucky to hold a winning number.

Saving a life. That’s something special. That’s a form of immortality. And that’s what a dozen bystanders in Utah experienced when they engaged in a spontaneous act of spectacular humanity and courage as they lifted a blazing car to save a stranger.

There was a collision between a motorcycle and a car. Both vehicles caught fire and the cyclist slid under the car. Dozens of bystanders, mainly college students and construction workers, watched in horror. One man tried futilely to lift the car then five others ran to join him. Unable to budge the car they retreated and the flames grew. A woman looked under the car and reported the cyclist was still alive. The six rushed back soon joined by six others. Together a dozen strangers easily lifted the car, and 21-year-old Brandon Wright was dragged to safety. The diversity of the daring dozen — grad students in math from Lebanon and Ghana, construction workers and businessmen — adds to the symbolic significance of this act of unity and humanity.

The rescuers won the undying gratitude of Brandon and his family and, best of all, a lifelong title: heroes.

What’s a million dollars compared to that?

This is Michael Josephson reminding you that character counts.

Comments 11

  1. So, what if it were $1 billion dollars instead? With $1 billion, you could donate to many worthy causes that could potentially save thousands of lives.

    Then it would come down to whether to save the stranger’s life, or to save the lives of thousands. And wouldn’t it be greedy to save the life of an unknown stranger so you could have the “lifelong title” of hero, when you could have saved thousands by taking the $1 billion?

    1. But Kim, someone else would win that lottery money and could theoretically save all those lives. Only the people present have a chance to save that one life.

    2. I think you’re missing the point of Michael Josephson’s message. His point is that there is more personal satisfaction to be found from helping others than from gaining material things, such as money.

    3. I’ll agree that taking $1 billion dollars is the better decision if one key factor is included in your scenario: you are going to donate the entire billion dollars.

  2. I don’t think that Kim got the message from the text.
    “Does a life cost more than one million dollars to you?”. Instead of “How many lives can you save with one million dollars?”

  3. People have lost their humanity and values. No money in the world could pay for the life of a person. We need heroes like these twelve who endangered their own lives to sav a stranger so we can put our feet back on the ground. The illusion of this world has blinded so many that we forget that our time is borrowed and we should live more gratefully.1 Timothy 6:10

  4. Actually both are good -Saving a person’s life is good. So is a million dollars.
    Wouldn’t it be nice to be both rich and heroic.

  5. Thanks for sharing … Imagine taking that approach within our own families. Being a hero to someone suffering from mental illness to ensure that person’s family stays on the bright side of caretaking. A family that would trade a million dollars for a healthy dad.

  6. Brandon Wright would say ‘Thank you for saving my life !!! ” The perspective of these issues alters the discussion. A priceless and miraculous life is a gift from God; hence I believe best NOT to trade that “gift” for money !! :):) The source and nature of the COURAGE involved by the 12 people, plus the power of the woman declaring “Brandon is alive” are also a very intriguing part of this story. How did the woman achieve 12 people to risk their lives??

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