Appreciating Value

Thursday, January 1, marked the beginning of 2015, and I like to use the beginning of the New Year as a time to take stock of what matters to my family and me.  Over the past decade, I have tried to focus on value rather than cost.  My recent bout with kidney stones is a good example of the concept.

The hospital and doctors will receive a large sum of money from our insurance company and a relatively smaller amount from my pocket for the treatment I received over a two-week period.  The value I received from that care; however, is essentially priceless to me because without it my life was miserable.  When you are in constant, intense pain, the value of simply not being in pain is really high.

My current good health and freedom from pain allow me to enjoy all the other things in life that are important to me.

I feel the same away about living in a safe community.  Life is difficult when you know there is a real chance someone will try to kill you every day.  We all face this risk to some extent, but thankfully it is a very low risk in a place like Albany.  The value I receive from professional law enforcement and the judicial system that supports it is consequently very high.  Safety, of course, depends on much more than good policing; and I am grateful for all the people and institutions that make our town much safer than most places around the world.

Education is certainly an important piece of this picture.  All of us receive immense value from our investment in an educated society, whether it’s in the form of the doctors who provide our health care, the researchers who develop life-saving medicines or technology, or the people who provide daily services to make our lives better.  We tend to focus on the failures rather than successes of our education system, and I think that undermines how critical a continuing investment in education is to our well-being.  Personally, access to books and information is also essential to my mental health; so I find extraordinary value in the library, newspapers, and on-line resources.

Safe drinking water, decent food, and comfortable shelter are probably high on everyone’s list of things we value; and I am no exception.  I am most grateful that throughout my life, even during times when I worked at very low paying jobs, I have never really been without these essentials.

Focusing on the basic necessities that deliver the most value to our lives should illustrate an obvious point.  We need each other.  In addition to the value we receive from the many people we rely on every day to meet basic needs, perhaps the greatest value we receive from others is the love and respect that allows us to maintain a healthy perspective on life.  My hope for the New Year is that we will all enjoy a year of sufficient peace and prosperity to sustain our appreciation for the value we receive from others every day.