Over thirty years ago an ordinary painter sat down to a blank canvas and outlined the contours of a mountain.
So what did you buy as a reward for yourself after your first real paycheck? For me, it was two paintings that I happened to pass as I walked to the parking garage after work. This was in the fall of 1990. One was of a ship. The other, a mountain scene. For the ship, I paid $100. For the mountain scene, I paid $160. The price I paid for the two paintings was a grand total of $260. But what was the cost?
It took me some time to really understand this, but the cost of those two paintings would be far greater than the $260 price I paid on that day. The cost is what I forever gave up by choosing to spend my money in that way at that time. If I had simply taken my $260 and invested in a stock index fund, it would have grown to about $4,080 today.
“We will pay the price, but we will not count the cost.”
Rush, Bravado, Roll the Bones, 1991
We are now being asked to make extreme sacrifice as a nation. Actually, more than for our nation. This is for humanity. We are being asked to self-quarantine. To isolate. To protect not only ourselves, but others with whom we may come in contact. If we do not observe the quarantine, the price that we may pay is quite clear. We face a small chance of death, a greater chance of illness, as well as the risk of exposing others. For some of us, this may seem to be a reasonable price to pay in order to continue with our daily lives and avoid substantial economic hardship.
But what is the cost? The cost, unfortunately, is far greater than the price we can see. If we ignore the self-quarantine, we risk exposing many others. Those we expose may go on to spread the virus to countless more. And the numbers will certainly grow exponentially. And people will die. That is the true cost for the risk we think we are only taking for ourselves.
We always should be aware that the consequence for our decision is often far greater than we initially realize. Every careless word, any selfish act, from the inconsiderate to the overtly hostile will carry an immediate price as well as a long-term consequence, the cost, which will be far greater. Sin imposes a price we may see as well as the cost that only reveals itself over time.
But this is where we can turn the narrative on its head. To a complete good. We will often see the benefit in the small actions we take, the little sacrifices we make. But the final impact of the little acts may be much greater than we imagine. Treating others with respect, with consideration. Giving to someone in need. Staying indoors not for our own safety, but for the lives of others we will never meet. We only ever see the small picture, but our individual impact may be beyond comprehension. Often, the ultimate good will reveal in ways we never expect. A butterfly flaps its wings.
Over thirty years ago an ordinary painter sat down to a blank canvas and outlined the contours of a mountain. What we often fail to realize is we also hold a brush.