Paying for things we get for free, or "one comment = one canned good"…

Once in a while, in the midst of my usual cynical inner ranting about the general selfishness of humans, I hear a story that rocks my world.  Today’s came from a friend in Madison, who posted on her facebook page that a man (dare I say gentleman?) after receiving free tickets to Four Seasons Theatre’s The Spitfire Grill (I should have linked to Four Seasons a long time ago – I’ve fixed that, at right), paid for the tickets because he didn’t want to accept them for free.

Now, if the show had sucked, maybe he wouldn’t have paid.  But I choose to ignore that fact.  I’m trying to remember the last time I deliberately paid for something that was given to me for free.  I’m not sure I ever have. Why haven’t I?  It’s not as if the things I was given had no cost associated with them.  Of course they did.  Someone put time, energy or even actual money into them. And yet, for some reason, I got them for free.

If you think about it, we expect to get a lot of things for free these days.  Free concerts, free lights on the downtown square, free parking, free shipping, free bags on Southwest, free exchanges, free eating for kids under 12, and giveaways left and right.  It’s nothing new to say that when we give things away, we imply there is no value to them, even though there most certainly are costs associated with them (and yes, I know, cost and value are NOT the same thing).  Yet over and over and over, we do it, especially in the arts.  Sometimes, we’re thanked, but more often than you’d think, the seat goes empty.  For the person who got the tickets, there’s nothing more to think of.  For the artist who played to an empty seat or the marketer trying to make her sales numbers, though, that empty seat lingers in memory.

I see a parallel here to the internet, which has, for me, been illuminated with clarity over the past few days.  Comments, Reply-tos, tweets, facebook updates…in a lot of ways, these are free communications.  They don’t cost the author much, if anything, and eventually they just fade away into the quagmire of digital communications.  But for the recipients, all of these free reactions will linger.  Someone reads that flippant comment.  Someone is on the other end of that snarky email.  Someone follows the things written on that facebook page.  And someone, often more than one someone, has to figure out if, and how, to respond.

What would happen if for every online comment, reply-to email or retweet, we put a penny in a jar?  Imagine…we could see the “cost” of our incessant need to comment and share every moment of our lives.  I’ll bet we could cure a few diseases, or at least preserve a historic building or two.  And who knows, maybe we’d make our fellow man happier, like that gentleman in Madison. His action is the stuff we should be sharing.

So, in that spirit, I’m going to donate 1 canned good to NWA Foodbank for every comment I get on this post. Seriously, I mean it!  So go ahead and comment, then share, retweet, and spread the word!  And this time, that comment (even if it’s snarky) will have value – to someone who’s hungry!  Thank you in advance, and thanks to that gentleman in Madison.  He certainly made my day.

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2 thoughts on “Paying for things we get for free, or "one comment = one canned good"…

  1. I confess. I love free stuff, free samples, winning prizes etc. I might eat my way through Sam's Club on a Saturday at lunchtime. The restaurant that fed my daughter for free typically got our business. We love the free resources at the library –the public one not Barnes & Noble. No, seriously, Barnes and Noble is not a library. They expect you to pay for your books before you read them and get coffee stains on them. But, I'm very thankful for the blessings in my life and do my best to pay it forward in some way every day.

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