The other day I was visiting my parents, something I do as often as I can when I have the extra time, and while I was inside visiting them, someone came up to the door and knocked on it. I opened the door and saw a little kid who looked like he was about 9 or 10 years old, standing outside on the front porch. He looked up at me, somewhat sheepishly and asked, “Can I have a dollar?”
My first thought was, “Wow, kids sure are changing from when I was a kid!” My other thoughts were that his siblings almost definitely put him up to this. I usually see them across the street playing football or basketball outside of their parents’ house, in groups or 5 or more. He went on to explain how he wanted to get something to eat from McDonalds. Now, being that I know he is a kid from across the street, and being that I know the family has money for food, I’m not quite sure why he asked me for money for McDonalds.
At any rate, my answer to his request was as follows. “Sure I’ll give you a dollar. But what are you going to give me of fair value in exchange for my dollar?”
He looked up at me quizzically, and said… “I don’t know.”
So, I told him, “I’ll tell you what. Go and find something you can sell me, anything you can think of, and I’ll give you your dollar.”
After a few minutes had passed and he hadn’t returned, I decided to go outside and see if they were all still across the street. I saw the young boy, instead of finding something to bring back to the house, across the street, knocking on another neighbor’s door, presumably asking them the same thing.
Now, at first, I didn’t really think much about it. But then after a few moments I got to thinking. This kid could have come back up the door and said, “Here’s a rock. Can I have my dollar now?” And I probably would have given it to him. Because the whole reason I told him that was to instill in him the lesson and value that, nothing in this life comes for free. Everything in life has value, and value is what exchanges and trade is all about. But rather than bringing me a rock, or a snail for his dollar, he sought out to get a “free” dollar.
And it reminded me of just how many people in life are like that. Rather than working, even menially, for something they desire, they consider themselves helpless, and would much rather just wait for someone to come along and give them a free dollar. It was a little hard to swallow that this mindset is already at play in children this young, but it reminded me of how glad I am that I have never been that type of person. If someone offers you a way out of a situation you’re in, find a way to bring yourself out of it.