“How much do I cost?”

file000589859880Saturday morning conversation with my seven-year-old:

Little Cecilia bounced around the kitchen. “How much do I cost?”

“What do you mean? You’re not for sale.”

How much would I cost? Three shekels?”

I was wary. What were we discussing? Slavery? Biblical currency? “What do you mean?” I asked. (The adage seek first to understand and then to be understood seemed to apply here.)

She giggled. “If I was a puppy dog, how much would I cost?”

“But you’re not a puppy.”

“But if I was a puppy, how much would I cost?”

I decided that I needed caffeine if this conversation continued much longer, so I brewed some tea while she munched on multigrain cheerios. Halfway through her bowl, she announced, “I bet in the old days, I would’ve cost only two shekels. But now it’s three.”

We’ve read the Little House series to both daughters multiple times, and little Cecilia persists in referring to the pioneer days of the Ingalls family as “the old days.” So she has picked up on our subtle economics lesson on inflation (the rise of prices from “the old days” until now). She has understood that different cultures have different currencies (the puppy’s cost in shekels, not dollars or cents). But the difference between girl and puppy—she hasn’t quite mastered that detail yet.

(At least this time it’s dogs. For a while, she pretended to be a pig—you should hear her snort!—and wanted hedgehogs as bridesmaids for her future wedding. Pink and purple hedgehogs, at that.)

But the conversation reminded me of a slave narrative. Harriet Jacobs, a runaway slave who hid for many years in an attic, describes her master’s advertisement for a reward for her capture. Her narrative states a $300 reward. Scholars found that the reward was actually $100.

Why did she add to her value? Vanity, belief that she was worth more? Humiliation, that her master priced her so cheaply?

Why be bothered by this trivial fact at all? At the time of writing, she’s free.

But does she understand that her worth cannot be measured in dollars?

I wonder if one affect of slavery is to grind into the slave’s mind the notion that they are a commodity, a thing with a value that can be quantitatively measured.

That can have a price tag slapped on it.

That can be raised or lowered by the buyer’s perceived need or desire for that object.

That can be thrown away if deemed worthless.

“How much do I cost?” my daughter asks.

No, sweetheart, you’re valuable, and that value is not measured in dollars or shekels, and that value will not change based on economics or physical appearances or mental capabilities or talents. You are valuable because God made you. By the simple fact of your existence, you are valuable.

And we all are.

(Photo credit: hyperlux, morgueFile.com)

Tomorrow is the big fundraiser for the ladies’ association, so I’ve been at my daughters’ school all week and today and will be there tomorrow as well. So I probably won’t have a chance to check comments for a while, but I will read them and reply. I value your thoughts–you have no idea how much they encourage me!

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4 thoughts on ““How much do I cost?”

  1. Laura, your post reminded me of something my father told me when I was just shy of seven and living in Dhahran, Saudi Arabia (in an ARAMCO company compound): My father told me that because I was fair-skinned with freckles and hazel eyes, I would be very valuable to a sheik as an addition to his harem. While this may seem an incredibly inappropriate thing to say to such a young child, what I have always taken from his statement and our following conversation is that not all girls or women have the rights that American women do. That in countries, such as Saudi Arabia (as well as in Biblical times and the stories with which your daughter is familiar), girls and women are still and were historically commodities. I also was struck by the relative cultural values of beauty, that one culture would find my freckles and fair skin a commodity. Honestly, my feminism was born of such conversations with my father. My parents raised us to be skeptics, to question authority (except theirs, of course), and to question cultural norms (at least intellectually).

    Liked by 1 person

    1. What a valuable lesson to learn, Kitt. As we read the Bible to our girls, we constantly have to tell them how women were viewed (and still viewed, in many places) as men’s property, without right to vote, own property, who they’d marry (and when), and so on. It’s hard for them to understand, but at points when they do understand, they both protest: That’s NOT FAIR! Of course it isn’t. That’s not how things should be and that’s not how God wants them to be, and we should work to promote equality and fair, just treatment of all people, whether they live in our house or across the globe.

      Liked by 1 person

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