The “We Are Lucky” philanthropy project was born under rather unusual circumstances. The story goes like this. Once upon a time, a man working in an insurance company made a ridiculous amount of money. He suddenly had more money than he knew what to do with. To celebrate, he did the coolest thing that a present-day millionaire can do. He booked himself on to a Virgin Galactic space flight. The price tag of $400,000 seemed reasonable enough. As a child, he had entertained dreams of going up in space. This was his chance and he was lucky number 421.
Everything was set. But sometimes, things take an entirely different turn. While talking to friends, the millionaire realized that the $400,000 that he was spending on the space flight was a “life-changing” amount. He also realized that his friends had better and more generous ideas for how they would spend the money. So he cancelled the Virgin Galactic space flight and did something crazier still. He decided to give away the flight money, £1000 at a time to people that he meets randomly. Still an anonymous Joe, the millionaire businessman goes by the name of Mr. Lucky. His project We Are Lucky, is as unique as it gets. In a world where millionaires prefer donating their wealth to deserving charities, Mr. Lucky is getting regular people into the charity business. Philanthropy has never been so much fun!
The Idea Behind We Are Lucky
This is completely unlike the occasional global party for good cause. It would have been far easier for Mr. Lucky to donate his possibly unending stores of cash to a big charity. But he had other ideas. The millionaire philanthropist who prefers to remain anonymous took to scouring the streets for random strangers to be his beneficiaries. The reasoning behind this was simple – Mr. Lucky wanted to spread the cash around but he also wanted to experience a sense of kinship with the recipient of the money.
So insurance guy became a modern-day Lady Luck, passing on his own good luck to random people on the street. There was a condition, however. The beneficiary needed to do something positive with the £1000. Thus, Mr. Lucky was getting other people involved in the business of giving. You would not get the money if you simply wanted to blow it all up in a Las Vegas casino. This was all about passing it forward. Remember that evergreen Spiderman quote, “With great power comes great responsibility.” By extending the gift of £1000 to regular people on the street, Mr. Lucky was sharing the responsibility as well.
How Does It Work?
As mentioned earlier, Mr. Lucky leaves the house with plans of giving away £1000 to a deserving candidate. It is not always that easy. Mr. Lucky reports that on some days he manages to hand the cash-filled envelopes to five or six lucky people. On other days it is hard to locate even one suitable person.
Finding the right person is essential for Mr. Lucky who is hopeful that the money will not be wasted and will be put to good use. So he goes armed with a questionnaire to make sure that these are indeed deserving beneficiaries. The questions keep changing, but the themes are similar – What will you do with the money? Do you feel lucky or responsible? What does good mean to you?
Not that there will be anyone checking to see if the recipient has followed up on their mentioned plans for the money. Mr. Lucky simply trusts that the people he picks will do the right thing. What is the right thing? What is a suitable purpose? These are all subjective. As the We Are Lucky website says, “The only criteria is that the money must be spent on something good. The interpretation of that remains open.”
The Lucky People
Go to the We Are Lucky website to see the kinds of people that are lucky enough to receive those cash-filled envelopes. If you are trying to locate similarities between the recipients, you might as well give up. Is there a type? Does not seem like it. Mr. Lucky has smiled on people as diverse as an eco warrior from Bermuda, a charity worker from London, a housekeeper from South Africa, former athletes from Hertfordshire, an obstetrician from Colorado, a 50-year-old DJ from Cape Town and even a Vicar from Las Vegas.
Several of the recipients decided to donate the money to charity. A whale expert from Bermuda is funneling the money into research. Several others are giving the cash to people they know personally. Nandi, a makeup artist from New York, is giving the money to the lady who cleans her apartment, so that her grandson can go to high school. A cowboy from Colorado chose to give the money to a friend, “He could use it.” One of the highlights was Therese, a hospital worker who initially blew Mr. Lucky off. She got in touch later with plans of donating the money to the hospice where her mother had passed away. Incidentally, Mr. Lucky’s father had also been admitted in the same hospice while fighting the final stage of cancer.
Mr. Lucky has certainly spread the luck. But his recipients are just as eager to pass it on. Sue, a grandmother from Bordeaux, puts it beautifully, “I didn’t think about spending the money on myself. I think the project is too special. I feel privileged to be part of it and eager to share.”
Is Mr. Lucky A Little Crazy?
That question comes up a lot, I am sure. In fact, Mr. Lucky was worried about the same thing. So he began by practicing on friends and family. In time, he felt brave enough to reach out to outsiders, to random strangers who might put the money to good use.
Since starting out in 2011, Mr. Lucky has built quite a gallery of lucky people who are probably right now sharing the luck. While most of the lucky recipients are from London, Mr. Lucky has taken his envelopes of £1000 cash other parts of the world. You will find people from France, India, Indonesia, Bermuda, America and so on.
Is he crazy? Maybe, maybe not. The important thing is this. Browsing through the photos and stories of real people on the We Are Lucky website is sure to leave you feeling warm and tingly inside. And maybe, just maybe, it will convince people around the world to start spreading the luck. Are you feeling lucky today?