My sister and I spent most of our growing up years watching Westerns on TV. Inevitably, the action centered, at least for a while, on the main street of town. They always had a saloon with those cool swinging half doors that looked like such fun to push your way through. We enjoyed seeing when some bad men were thrown out of the same swinging doors after too much “fire-water” or for cheating at the poker table.
Somewhere close by there was always a Trading Post, where folks went to see if they could find something they couldn’t make themselves. Often, they were looking for furs or some kind of tools or farm equipment or goods made in neighboring towns.
Thinking about the Trading Post got me to wondering about the whole idea of ‘trading’ and how common it is in our lives, although we might not think so.
Here’s what I mean.
The concept of exchanging one thing of value for another works not only when applied to others, but to ourselves.
One of the challenges is that we may not agree that the values of what’s being traded are equal. Then what do we do? I guess that’s where bartering or bargaining comes in. There may have to be a haggling process to arrive at a satisfactory conclusion.
It seems to me this process happens all the time in the world at large. Whether it’s boundary disputes, influencing important decisions, pursuing social justice or making economic choices…the list is endless.
Viewed from a distance it appears that the outcome takes one of two directions. It is either a mutually satisfactory trade or it is not. When one side gives more than receives, it feels wrong and the giver often becomes wary of the next trade.
When you add in other factors like power, money or influence, the process is often compromised and any satisfactory outcome is placed in jeopardy.
It takes a great deal of commitment to fairness and a sense of justice for a trade to be considered good.
And what about the trades we make with ourselves?
As I thought about what trades I make with myself, the first thing to appear was the idea of ‘time’. What amount of time do I have to give up in order to receive something else of value to me?
This turns out to be a pretty important question for me to answer.
Is it worth it to me to trade hours of my life in a classroom in order to obtain a college degree? Is it worth it to me to trade some of the money I earn in order to be protected against certain events beyond my control (car, home and life insurances)? Is it worth it to me to spend time exercising to improve my physical wellness and health for the future?
There are of course even more important trades to consider.
Is it worth the investment of time to maintain friendships with important people in my life? Is it a fair trade to donate money to folks who are in desperate need so that they have enough to live a better life? Is it worth all of the time I dedicate to enhancing my personal relationship with (god)?
Answering these questions ON PURPOSE has turned out to be quite enlightening for me and completely worth all of the time I’ve spent.
I wonder what your thoughts are about the ‘trades’ you make. If you care to share, I’d love to hear your thoughts.
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