Once there was a young man who wanted to make something of his life, so he decided to try and get into the top elite university of his country.
He wanted to be one of the leaders and innovators of the next generation, and graduating from this university would give him a distinct pedigree, setting him above his peers.
So the young man spent the next few years scrimping and saving, working multiple jobs and living very frugally. He was the top salesman of his region five quarters in a row. He studied relentlessly and his parents hired a tutor for him so he would score better on the standardized tests.
After his parents gifted him a sum of money, he finally had enough money to pay the tuition for a top education at one of the world’s elite universities. His test scores were also good enough to earn a spot at this university.
His friends and family threw him a party and wished him well. The next day he traveled to the city where the university was located. After dropping off his belongings at a hotel room he would use as a temporary residence, he walked to the university to enroll and pay his hard-won tuition. Head held high, he was ready for this new season, satisfied in knowing he had worked hard enough to earn this amazing opportunity.
He arrived at the enrollment office and filled out his paperwork. He waited patiently for his name to be called to go back to the enrollment office, where he would present his test scores and pay his tuition. When his name was finally called, he strode back to the enrollment office, ready to cash in on everything he’d worked so hard for.
But when he arrived, he was shocked to find that they didn’t need his test scores, and they didn’t want his money.
“Someone recently gave our university a huge endowment, sir,” the enrollment officer explained to the young man, “So the board decided to simply offer the superior education our university offers for free, to any student who wants to learn. Tuition is free, and will be forever!”
The young man’s mouth hung open for a few seconds before he replied. “But I saved up all this money! I worked so hard for this! And now just anyone can come waltzing in here and get an elite education?”
“It appears so, sir!” the enrollment officer replied. “Isn’t that wonderful? We are so grateful for our donor. I think this could revolutionize education in this country.”
“What’s the use of an elite education if anyone can get it?” the young man spluttered.
The enrollment officer tilted her head slightly. “I’m not sure I understand your point, sir, but classes start tomorrow, and it’s completely free, so we can’t take your money.”
Suddenly the young man’s face contorted. He blinked at the enrollment officer with astonishment, and stood to his feet. He heard the giddy voices of new students excitedly talking with one another outside the office door, and realized with disgust that this was not the university for him.
“Maybe this university isn’t as elite as I thought!” he exclaimed. “I worked hard to achieve what I have, and you’re insulting me by letting people like that in here for free.”
The enrollment officer just looked at the young man and shrugged her shoulders, unsure of how to help. The young man blew out a breath quickly, rolled his eyes in revulsion at the entire institution, and stormed out of the office.
As he walked back to the parking lot, the young man decided he would find a different university to attend, one that would honor the hard work he had put in by congratulating him on his test scores and taking his money.
“Did not Isaiah say clearly that the waters of life are given to those, precisely, who have no money?” – Thomas Merton
Come, all you who are thirsty,
come to the waters;
and you who have no money,
come, buy and eat!
Come, buy wine and milk
without money and without cost.