Recently I realized that the value of many things is far greater than I ever thought. The most basic economic principles teach us that supply and demand determine value. If there are ten apples and ten people want one then it works out perfectly; however, having fewer apples or more people wanting them creates an increase in value. If there are a thousand apples and only ten people want one there’s a surplus and the value of apples decreases. Conversely, when there’s a shortage of something that people want, the value increases. One of the most well known examples is fuel. U.S. demand for fuel remains relatively consistent; however, fuel supply varies based on a myriad of factors such world economies, war and transportation. As a result, the value of fuel increases, and that value is reflected in the price
These principles can be applied to nearly anything. For example, a hug. At home hugs were readily accessible, but here they aren’t. My want and need for them still exists but the quantity available plummeted. Consequently, hugs increased in value. That may be a strange comparison following the fuel example, but the same principle holds true. It’s human nature to lose a deep appreciation for things when they are readily available. In some instances we even take them for granted. Even more so when there’s an abundant supply.
I never imagined that a fork or pen would become such a valuable commodity, but here they’re prized possessions. They aren’t provided with meals and stuffed in drawers. It was through kindness of a fellow inmate that I acquired a fork. Believe me when I say that each of us here knows the value of a plastic fork and we don’t take them for granted.
At home, I always had a napkin nearby when I ate, a bowl to pour cereal into, a glass to drink from. Here, there are no napkins, paper towels or tissues. We wipe our mouths with toilet paper, if at all. And, the same is used to wipe away our tears. Even then, we must be consciences because three rolls must last a week. And a pen? Don’t even think about it!
Recently they began offering a bible study and the woman who runs it is a volunteer from the community. She gave each attendee a pen. She might as well have handed me a hundred dollar bill. She has no idea how valuable that fifty cent pen is to me.
The list is extensive and I share all of this not as a complaint but rather the opposite. It comes from a place of gratitude. I value a pen and fork differently than I used to. I can’t buy them or find one sitting around. No one can send me one. Regardless of demand, there is no supply. We make do. We look to one another for resources. Even then, borrowing often comes at a cost and requires some form of payment. We all cherish the little things differently than we previously did.
I miss hugs, a pillow and a desk drawer full of pens. I miss salt and pepper, a mattress and shoes that fit. Eventually, I’ll walk out of here, my life forever changed. I’ll regain my freedom and the small things I’ve missed, but I’ll never forget what it feels like to be without the simple things.