How do you put a price on someone’s life? To actually be able to see how much an individual is worth? Is it by the amount of money they make (their net worth), the amount of positive change they have brought to the world (humanitarianism), how many lives they have saved (a hero), how much they mean to those closest to them (a loved one), or simply the price someone will pay to have them as their property (a slave)?
I remember times throughout middle and high school when we would read a book with the topic of death and the teacher would ask us to do an exercise and rank which person we would keep or kill from the story or boat or island; and then justify it to the class. What an odd thing for a 13 year old girl to do. But yet, here at 24, I still find myself and those around me, weighing the cost of a life every day.
Did you know it costs $245,340 to raise a child from 0-18 in America (Thomas, 2014)? And if, by chance, your child enters the prison system, you (as a taxpayer) will continue to pay $167,731 per year to house and care for your child (Associated Press, 2013).
Did you know that children who are being sold by human trafficers can be purchased anywhere from $2 to $25,000 per child, depending if you want a little girl from Mozambique or a kid from the UK (Havocscope, n.d.)? Imagine, buying a child…a little human life…for only $2. When compared to a British child, that little girl’s life isn’t worth much.
Furthermore, it costs on average around $3,500 to have a hospital birth in America (Fetters, n.d.). However, the drugs for lethal injection only cost around $100 (Erb, 2014).
Then there are those groups in society that don’t value based on money, but on merit. Doctors and lawyers and engineers are more valuable and important than garbage-truck guys. And I won’t deny, those people are vital and necessary….but so is the garbage guy. Just think…if the 8.1 million people who call NYC home did not have their trash picked up for even a few weeks, what a mess there would be!!! You see, each person on this Earth has a purpose and role to play. The Bible tells us in Psalm 139 that God knew you in your mother’s womb and formed every aspect of you before you even breathed a breath. You are fearfully and wonderfully made! Yet, there are those people around you who live their life putting a price on your head.
In my studies for therapy I have spent a lot of hours both reading about and interacting with those with mental health. I worked for 3 years in an acute-care hospital, surrounded mainly by elderly and dying patients. I’ve watched friends and family enlist in the military to fight for our country and freedom…knowing it is quite possible they won’t make it out alive. I’ve encountered educators who have changed my life, and strangers who have changed my way of thinking. Each and every single one of these people are important.
I was born in the most wonderful country on Earth, to two loving parents, in a neighborhood surrounded by good people. I am white, female, educated, and Christian. I could not be more privileged.
That being said, I can never know how it feels to be another person. Of a different race or circumstance. I don’t know what it’s like to be you, and you don’t know what it’s like to be me. Regardless of our spot on the ladder, there are struggles and difficulties. But I can tell you one thing…all lives matter.
Black lives, white lives, Asian and Hispanic lives, police lives, criminal lives, mentally-ill lives, elderly lives, abused lives, abuser lives, homeless lives, wealthy lives, child lives….they matter.
And you know why these lives matter? Because they exist.
The violence and divide that has plagued our America for too long is getting worse, not better. Those who break a law are being killed over a small misdemeanor charge. Police are scared to do their jobs, for fear of backlash from the public and private sector. What does that say about us, as a nation? What does that say about you, as a person?
Pastor Rudy Rasmus says, “You can never remain unchanged by your circumstances. Everything you encounter affects you, either for the good or the bad.” You play a role in this world. You may not live in Ferguson or Baltimore or Atlanta or any other place of violence…but you are making a difference there.
You see, Pastor Rasmus says something else…he says, “those who see themselves as fellow travelers on the road of seeking God have the greatest impact on people.” This could mean you. People around America are thirsting for a leader…a positive role model who is open and honest and has a heart for the people. Our country is full of those who are manipulative and conniving with a hidden agenda.
Be different to make a difference. Just take the time to do so, and I promise you will see results. That’s what Jesus did, and that’s what we are called to do. When Jesus called out to Peter and Peter jumped right out and attempted to walk on water….he wasn’t very successful. However, Jesus saved him simply by extending a hand. It has been said, “Jesus created the entire universe with a word. Certainly, He could have simply spoken and rescued sinking Peter. In His dealings with people, however, He often chose to touch them.” Have you ever truly thought about that? Jesus touched him, and that simple act saved Peter’s life. Maybe your touch could do the same.
Violence and protest and discourse has become common-place in our world. However, we can’t allow the frequency to determine our reaction. There is a song by Jack Johnson with lyrics that say, “Why don’t the newscasters cry when they read about people who die? You’d think they could be decent enough to put just a tear in their eye.” Yet we have all become numb to the needs around us. We don’t allow the needs we see on television, or even the needs we hear about around our family dinner table, to touch our hearts.
Today, and every day, we need to practice valuing our neighbor….regardless of who that may be. When Jesus commands us to love our neighbor, he doesn’t let you pick and choose. All neighbors, close to home and across town. And if we will just extend that love to others that Jesus shows to us, we can’t help but scream ALL LIVES MATTER!
Associated Press. (2013). NYC’s yearly cost per inmate almost as expensive as Ivy League tuition. Retrieved from http://www.foxnews.com/us/2013/09/30/nyc-cost-per-inmate-almost-equals-ivy-league-education-expenses-tied-to-rikers/
Erb, K. (2014). Considering the death penalty: Your tax dollars at work. Retrieved from http://www.forbes.com/sites/kellyphillipserb/2014/05/01/considering-the-death-penalty-your-tax-dollars-at-work/
Fetters, A. (n.d.). What to expect: Hospital birth costs. Retrieved from http://www.parents.com/pregnancy/considering-baby/financing-family/birth-hospital-costs/
Havocscope. (n.d.). Human trafficking victim prices. Retrieved from http://www.havocscope.com/black-market-prices/human-trafficking-prices/
Thomas, E. (2014). This is how much it costs to raise a child in the U.S. Retrieved from http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2014/08/18/cost-of-raising-a-child_n_5688179.html