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!