The Cost of Things


Yesterday, out of the blue, Viola, my daughter gave an Amazon box to her brother, Varen. Curiously, Varen opened the box and found a brand new gamer headset. He got so excited about it. All these times, Varen has been using my old cheapy cellphone headset that only works on the left side and Viola’s old laptop headset that only works on the right one. Combining the two headsets cleverly, Varen gets a balanced audio for his two ears. But, of course, it has become a hassle since he has to deal with more cables and four ear pieces. Perhaps Viola had noticed that and decided to give a gift to her beloved brother. 


The new headset looks amazing to me. When Varen opened the box, I was in awe as well. It has a futuristic look and with a little mic wand on the headset makes Varen look like a pilot in a sci-fi movie. Handsome. When Varen went away to try the headset, I asked Viola how much money she spent for that. In my thinking, that headset must be well around $100 and I was curious where she got the money to buy it. She whispered, “fifteen.” I was disbelieved, “fifty?” I asked her back. “No, fifteen!” she answered back. What? That’s it? I didn’t believe it. I took the packaging box and examined it. I was astounded. The price of the new headset became a discussion topic between Vania and I. 


There are all kinds of costs involved in the making of that headset: the design, the plastic mold, the paint, the head foam cushion for the head and the ear parts to make the wearer more comfortable, the technology inside it: the electronic chips, the cable, the transmitter, even the packaging box that looks amazing must also have costed a lot of money to make. Not counting the cost to import the headset from China to the US. How come it only costs $15? Hundreds of skilled laborers were put to work in order to produce one headset and Viola only had to pay $15? Unbelievable. No wonder kids nowadays take things for granted, I said to Vania. 


As I reflected more, I realized that it is not just kids that take things for granted. We are all at fault in this matter. When I look around my house and everything that I have bought: the dining table, TV,  IKEA book shelves, guitar, drawing pens, paper, etc…each one of those items came with a price tag. And behind those price tags lies the life stories of the people who made them. A story of a single mother who has to get up every morning to assemble my bookshelves in order to feed her children. A story of an overworked engineer who had to design the chips for my TV. A story of a lumberjack in Brazil who lost one of his arms from an accident cutting wood for my guitar…We traded these life stories with the amount of money that’s not even enough to pay our hourly minimum wage to do what they do. Sometimes with the money we earn and spend, we don’t even think about these labor forces until their stories become our stories. 


Knowing that there is somebody like us working tirelessly to provide us the inexpensive comfort we know we enjoy would give us a better appreciation about life. And more importantly, a sense of compassion to those who work. Because we owe our priceless comfort to them. 


“May the favor of the Lord our God rest on (those who work and labor) us; establish the work of (those who work and labor) our hands for us— yes, establish the work of (those who work and labor) our hands.” Psalm 90:17


Love and prayers, 


Vincent Arishvara 04222021