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What gives an item or service value?

What price would you pay for a glass of tap water? A bottle of water? How about a bottled water with a fancy designer label on it? What if you were dying of thirst? Would it matter if you were broke or if you had money to burn? How much would you pay to give a thirsty child a drink?

What gives an item or service value? The dictionary defines value as monetary worth: an amount expressed in money or another medium of exchange that is thought to be a fair exchange for something; full recovered worth: the adequate or satisfactory return on or recompense for something; worth or importance: the worth, importance, or usefulness of something to somebody.

A couple of weeks ago, my friend came to me and asked for my help. She was asked to provide a castle shaped card box for a fundraising benefit for a little girl who is battling cancer. I told her I didn't have time to make a castle but I could paint it. Her son and husband engineered a five tower cardboard castle complete with a drawbridge, chains and all. It was mainly made of used cardboard boxes, tag board, along with time and talent.

She said she would pay me to paint it. We did not set a price but she knows I wouldn't take advantage of her. Setting a price should be easy enough, materials plus time equals monetary value. Time is money after all. What is my time worth? I wanted to help my friend out. It wasn't hard painting it. I found the project enjoyable.

If I charge too much I feel guilty. If I don't charge enough, I feel used. To avoid all of my internal negative self-talk, I just donated my time and supplies, after all, it was just painted cardboard. But most of all it was for a good cause.

This past week, my husband and I have been busy making wood duck and wren houses to donate to the local sportsman's club fundraising banquet. Dan puts extra effort into his woodworking and has a high standard of craftsmanship. His unique gift is creating jigs, tools and templates to help make projects. A typically unknown behind-the-scenes special talent, something he shrugs off. Last weekend Dan and I assembled the parts he had previously cut out. He didn't really need my help but we had an enjoyable time being productive together.

For the past three years, I have been using my creativity to make our wood duck houses unique, even though it will not matter to the future fowl who will call it home way out in the wetlands.

Dan dug out his old wood burner. I transferred a duck and cattail scene onto the front of each house. Evenings I would relax and wood burn into the wee hours. The first year I accidently used a mallard duck on the wood duck house and the guys at the sportsman's club still give me a good ribbing. Now I know better.

This year I choose a couple of different wood duck pictures. I bought oil paints and added a little color to the scene. I can't wait to see how much our donated projects will fetch for the club. I guess it will depend on the buyers - if they are thirsty or not.