The Free and the Priceless

What is the financial value of a hug from one of your children?

You might scoff at this question or think that it’s somehow foolish, but I’m serious. What is a hug from one of your children worth?

Five dollars? Ten dollars? Thousands? Nothing?

It probably has a lot to do with your own internal values. If you relish being a parent, a hug likely has a higher value than if you dislike parenthood. If you had a deep connection to a child when they were young and now they’re older, a hug probably has a premium, too.

Not a parent? A hug from a child may have little value, or none at all.

The challenging part of a question like this is that a hug, like many other things in life, can be given freely with no real cost to the giver. The same is true of a kiss or a kind word or a laugh or some companionship.

Yet, by giving such things, value is received by the recipient and, often, by the giver as well.

Value is created for the giver and the receiver through a simple free act. After all, if there wasn’t value created, people wouldn’t want one.

This begs the obvious question: why not fill your lives with these free value generators? If there’s a free way to generate positive feelings and positive energy in your life, why not fill your time with those things?

To an obvious question, there’s an obvious answer.
We pay for experiences that go beyond what we can get for free.

For example, going to a new release in the theater rather than a free movie at the park means you can talk about the latest release with friends, you get to see a movie you’re excited about sooner than you might see it otherwise, and you get the communal theater experience.

Another example is that we pay for computers and home internet access so we can access websites and other resources at home instead of going to the library.

Most experiences and things you pay for are just upgrades on things you can get for free. Often, we pay for convenience or for speed.

But what about the things you can’t get? When I go to a movie night at the park, I can bring a picnic supper made with food I actually want to eat.

Better than that, I can curl up with my wife and kids on a blanket. My three year old drifted off to sleep in my arms, his arms wrapped around me in a hug, while watching a free public movie not too long ago, with my wife leaning her head on my shoulder. In a crowded theater? My child isn’t going to sleep – he’s going to get fussy. In a crowded theater, we’re probably boxing our kids in so that they don’t run around, so we can’t cuddle next to each other.

I would not trade that hug for a chance to see any movie showing in the theaters. It’s free, but it’s also priceless.

My advice to you is to always give the free version a shot. Look for the things to appreciate in that experience and you just might find it gives you enough of what you want and some extra little things on the side. You might miss out on a few premiums that you might get from paying for it, but the free events sometimes are the best.

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