Everything comes at a price. Even love. Especially love.
Years ago, as I studied for my MBA, I first learned the basic concept of price as the sum of cost plus profit. Of course, getting from price to profit is much more complex than simply subtracting cost.
Cost accounting throws curve balls like amortization, the cost of capital, and good will. Every entry on a balance sheet demands to be classified as a credit or a debit. You owe someone or someone owes you.
None of this quibble strikes at the heart of my initial observation about price. Ironically, price rhymes with sacrifice, and sacrifice, of one kind or another, is the true conversion cost of love’s labor.
A few days back, I woke up in my godson’s bedroom. Stanley is seventeen and a rising senior at St. Joseph’s in Greenville. He is an honor student and captain of his football team. The night before, I landed at the Greenville-Spartanburg “International” Airport from a business trip in Cleveland. My mom spent the week at my brother’s house and I retrieved her for our return drive to Beaufort.
Stan’s room is comfortably cluttered but clean. Propped up by four pillows and snug in freshly laundered sheets like a guest in an Upstate B&B, I was a middle-aged tourist visiting the teenage forest of football and Xbox. On the wall to my left, a Fathead (Google it!) decal of Steelers’ strong safety Troy Polamalu defied gravity in a frozen pose defending or possibly on the verge of intercepting a pass. A giant Notre Dame helmet is pasted to the wall above Stan’s headboard and the entire room is outlined in navy blue and butterscotch.
Amid the gridiron glory and baseball memorabilia from days in Cooperstown, two crosses sit atop the doorways. There is a crucifix above the bathroom door and a hand carved cross over the entranceway. Waking in this room drew me into a kind of Saturday morning Zen, a mixture of energy generated by youth, God, and everything Apple.
In a flash, I remembered that Stanley had sent me his college entry essays a few days earlier and I owed him a response. Reading those essays in his bedroom at dawn, I learned a new concept of price and how my godson has sacrificed to earn a place at some collegiate table.
The topics for the essays were failure, a key event, and a personal statement. Stanley drew me into a world of pubescent evolution, moving from a chubby sixth-grader to a high school junior who reframed his body by tracking his daily food intake and setting a weight loss goal. I read about a baby boy whose parents chose to carry him to term despite a doctor’s recommendation to abort because of a predisposition to Downs Syndrome. Finally, Stanley shared his mantra – Make It Happen – passed down to him from his father. After breaking his leg in the final pre-season football practice of his freshman year, Stanley recovered through hard work and by staying focused on recuperating. Stanley’s screensaver rotates another lesson, “Work Hard. Stay Humble.” Now, I had the third key. Make It Happen. Lessons from a young man thirty-eight years my junior.
Every paragraph in Stan’s essays told a story about price. Do you want to improve your outward appearance? Implement self-discipline. An unborn life swings in the balance of uncertainty and parents take the risk of loving at any cost. An injury jeopardizes dreams of high school stardom and an athlete works to recover to rejoin his team mates.
There are greater sacrifices. Lives lost in war. Firefighters and first responders lost to natural disaster or manmade tragedies. Organ and marrow donors dying to self so that someone else can go on living. Everything comes at a price. Loss of life is the ultimate sacrifice but each one of us trades bits and pieces of our time and substance to make someone else or ourselves better.
The things we want most in life do not come easily, if at all. I believe the driving force behind sacrifice is love and there is no cap to how high that price can go. The cost of love is not fixed, it is variable, and the profits of our efforts may not be realized in our lifetimes. Such are the real life economics of sacrifice and sometimes the price of love is beyond our means, or so it may seem at the very moment we are confronted by our greatest challenges.
In little and big ways, every day, prices are set and someone pays. It doesn’t take an MBA to understand.