ALMOST everything in this world costs something. A run or a stroll in the park is free, but factor in the parking, or the bus fare to get there, then it’s not. Otherwise, the trees, the greenery, the fresh air is free. But think again, the trees are there, thanks to taxpayers. And the fresh air, oh, that’s thanks to Indonesia when they aren’t busy burning palm oil trees.
So what exactly are the beautiful things in life that are free, absolutely free?
Kindness, friendship, family, and above all, love. One cannot put a price on a smile or a hug, a listening ear or warm words of encouragement. Sometimes, these gestures are not only free, they are priceless. Think of the numerous lonely, dying people whose hands Mother Teresa had once held, whose downtrodden spirits she had given hope to. The act may be priceless, but the rewards are abundant.
That’s one of the things about kindness and love. Like mercy, to quote Shakespeare, kindness and love are “twice blest, / It blesseth him that gives, and him that takes.” Apart from the blessings, there is no fee to kindness and love. And so, whenever I help my friends, either by saying something nice, something thoughtful, there is this warm, fuzzy feeling in the heart.
One thing I find great joy in doing is to write letters to my friends a few days before the exams, letters I would give them on the morning of an exam. I would write something like this: “Good luck, don’t stress!” and other rah-rah’s like “Believe in yourself!” Discount the fancy paper from Rilakkuma and the gold ink and other girlie accessories, the act itself is free. It is happiness all around, for Olivia, Gladys, Hana, and me.
It is happiness all around too, whenever my mother does all her mother things, which, as you know, are endless. She would be the first to attest to that, though sadly, we kids would be the last to recognize it. Sure, Mom is always there with her purse, her cash, her credit cards. Whatever we want, whatever we need, she’s there to get it for us. But Mom stands for a million other things—things that can only be best described as “best.”
Can you put a price to her listening ear? How about her intuition, how she’s always clued in to your whims, your sorrows, your joys? In a world where we pay for advice, for special skills, we don’t really pay Mom, precisely because all the glorious mother things she does for us are priceless. It’s not about the paying, it’s the repaying.
And however we do that—today, tomorrow, all the rest of the days that fill our lives—whether it’s through a cake, a card, a trip around the world, all that may not be free, but what’s priceless is the intention and that thing called love, which would always be nothing compared to hers.
Becky Lai, Secondary One
This is a special feature essay celebrating Mother’s Day.
This essay was written in response to the ‘O’ Levels 2014 exam, Question #4:
“The best things in life are free.” Write about some of the occasions when you have found this to be true.
For more essays by Becky, visit Becky Writes