When I work, I get paid. My employer pays me for the work I do, and if they stopped paying me, I'd stop working for them. I need to be paid - I have a mortgage and a family and bills to be paid and food to be purchased. I am not wealthy; I cannot work for free. I am also an adult karate student, and I pay to be taught by an expert. I've been doing it for well more than a decade now. Twice a week, every week, I'm sweating and hurting and (hopefully) learning in the dojo, and I pay for that. I also volunteer my time to help teach the kids and the beginning adults. On rare occasion, I teach the entire set of classes on an evening, kids, adults, advanced adults, etc. So yeah, I guess I'm 'free labor'. However, my status as a student would not change if my circumstances changed and I could not volunteer my time anymore. Or if I just decided I didn't want to do it. No one would expect me to do it or think less of me if I could not or chose not to. It's something I am happy to do. I'm not the only one. Some don't teach; some simply come in early or stay late a few minutes and help clean and organize. Some purchase supplies from time to time. Some don't teach in a formal way, but they jump in and help when they see a student struggling. However, although I am a volunteer, I get paid. Not in money. From my students, I learn many things. They point out my weaknesses by imitating everything I show them. When I do something poorly, they do it poorly, in exactly the same manner. I look at them and see the flaws in my own techniques. Because I do not want to be the person teaching them poor techniques, I am forced to fix my own mistakes. They are all individuals. They learn at different rates, in different ways. Some need information to be doled out a drop at a time; some want large chunks of information all at once. Some are easily distracted; some are easily upset. They are, after all, children. But they teach me to remember how we adults are all different too. I learn from my students how to interact with them in the way that works best for them; and this informs how I interact with adults outside of the dojo as well. We're all different. We all have our own unique ways of processing information and reacting to stress, and if we look for the ways to best provide that for each other, we can interact much better, understand each other, get things done, avoid misunderstandings. They have gratitude. They have joy. They haven't learned how to pretend not to have those feelings, as we adults have. I see in their eyes and hear in their voices that they are eager to learn, that they enjoy learning; and I get the benefit of being able to be part of the reason they are happy. This is the purest kind of reward I can imagine; making a child happy. I get to see them grow. For those students who have kept training, I get to see them sprout up, become young men and women; good people, strong people, confident people, competent people. They are not bullies; they are not thugs. They are not criminals or delinquents; they are what society needs most. I didn't cause that to happen; but maybe I was able to be a good role model at a critical time in their lives, and if that's true, I am grateful for it. They are, in some small way, a legacy. I have fond memories of mentors and role models I have had in my life; even if they are now gone, I hold their memory dear. This is the ultimate hubris, but if someday, some former student thinks of me with fondness, I am gratified. I don't have anything else to give; this is all I can offer the future, but I offer it gladly. The world is often transactional. We work, we get paid. We need something, we buy it, or we do without. It's all about what can you do for me, how much does it cost, what's the bottom line. But not everything in our lives has to be transactional. Sometimes, we can simply give of ourselves, and in so doing, get something in return that far exceeds anything we could have contracted for or expected to be paid for. Do I get paid? You bet I do. In ways that money cannot touch. I am grateful for the opportunity.