Perhaps you’ve heard of the friend who loves to cook, so he invites people to his apartment or they invite him to their house and he prepares a loving, wonderful meal they couldn’t buy anywhere in town. Often his friends bring the steak or salmon, but they can’t do all of the shopping for him because he knows exactly what he wants and orders some of the spices in bulk. His chief ingredient is himself.
Perhaps you live in a community of volunteers, a place where people help each other regularly. They’re led by a few who seem to have a gift of seeing needs and knowing how to respond. They’re always painting, carrying, cleaning, assisting, or delivering something with others and probably chewing on someone’s ear at the same time. These people generously give their time and spirit.
What does the generosity of these friends cost them? Some of this work can be quantified in dollars, but at least half of it cannot. It’s skill, love, kindness, and optimism. It doesn’t break down easily, if at all, into dollars, but it does cost something. It isn’t free.
If you were one of these people, cooking a meal or helping a neighbor, what would you say your generosity cost? Why do you do it? Why do others do it? What would your life look like if no one ever gave anything like this to you?
These may not be easy questions, because we tend to think kindness doesn’t cost us anything. Skill may be the work of a lifetime, but what does it really cost on a particular project? When we aren’t paying for it, we may not see it.
But nothing is free. Everything costs something to someone.
I’m sure many people do believe some things are actually free, because they refuse to think beyond themselves. But I think many more people understand that things do cost something to someone, and they don’t care what it costs so long as whoever-it-is continues to pay for them.