What We Obtain Too Cheap, We Esteem Too Lightly

Thomas Paine; a painting by Auguste Millière (...

By Carol McClain: @  carol _mcclain

Thomas Paine’s writings have been echoing through my flu-addled brain. Thinking of our American world of entitlement, the quote, “What we obtain too cheap, we esteem too lightly,” has especially resonated.

As I lay ill in my bed, BBC World videos played on my Neflix account. One especially stirred me. In Nepal, a ten-year-old girl would join her brother in school for the first time. To do so, the father and siblings packed for a week’s journey (the father had a two week one since the wife expected him home again). The spring thaw came early, but their road was a frozen river.

Together the three walked the river, poking for ice weakened by the spring thaw. They crawled under rock ledges on ice bridges that were ready to collapse. The terrified daughter didn’t want to crawl over the bridge, but the loving father coaxed her. Swallowing her fear, she made it through, and her brother followed.

Using rebar hammered into rock faces, they climbed nearly impassible ridges. After a week, the father delivered delighted children to their boarding school. Here they removed snow gear and donned school uniforms. Their smiles rivaled kids at Chuck E. Cheese.

I won’t even go into the sacrifice the parents made in not seeing their children for a semester.

You can bet, these children didn’t throw spit wads, fiddle with cell phones or complain to the teachers, “Why are we studying this?” (Imagine a whiny, nasally adolescent sneer). School had value and it cost them dearly.

We are a spoiled society

  1. Free food because they were supposedly hungry, food recipients complained about getting carrots. Families tossed aside powdered milk. Yes, we have tastes and powdered milk is gross. However, if I’m hungry and I open my fridge, I eat the leftovers. I might even heat up (yuck) mashed potatoes. If I’m not really hungry, I’m picky.
  2. Obamaphones are given to welfare recipients. I don’t know why seeing as house phones can run only $10 a month. One teacher took away a student’s phone because he continually texted or otherwise consulted it. His response? “It’s an Obamaphone. They’ll give me another.” When is this a necessity?
  3. Free lunch/college/fill in the blank. Americans still have not learned that nothing is free. Someone has to pay for it. Free lunch for all students doesn’t remove the stigma. The affluent will bring their own lunches and still create a status gap. Free colleges have made many students less invested. Classes get dropped or students quit because it didn’t cost anything. What we obtain to cheap we esteem too lightly.

This isn’t a modern–or a revolutionary–concept. In order to stop a plague, God ordered King David to make an offering. He was to use the threshing floor of Araunah the Jebusite. Araunah offered to give the king his threshing floor. David responded, “No, but I will surely buy it from you for a price; nor will I offer burnt offerings to the Lord my God with that which costs me nothing.” Without a price, the sacrifice held no value.

Lightheartedly, I can say–free ebooks have eroded the value of an author’s work. If you want to buy a really good book (and reward my hard work–check out https://carolmcclain.com/books/


  1. Cynthia says:

    Truth! Thanks for your honesty, as always 🙂

    • Carol McClain says:

      Thank you, Cynthia.
      For whatever reason, wordpress didn’t notify me of your comment. I so appreciate your faithfulness.

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