Several years ago, I was at a breakfast with a really smart businessman. As we ate, our young server came by and asked us if we wanted some orange juice, and he said "it's free." The gentleman I was with replied nothing was free; someone had to pay for it.

Some might think the man was being rude or surly toward the young server. Instead, though, what he was really doing was giving the young server a valuable lesson. Someone paid for the thing that may be free to us.

As I listened to snippets of the recent debates, free stuff was promised for all sorts of things. The list seemed to be endless. It all sounds good, doesn't it?

There are two things to be cautious of when you take the bait of getting something "free." First, you must realize it isn't really free; somebody has to pay for it. Second, when you are on the receiving end, the person or entity providing the "free" item then has the say over you as long as you have the "free" item. In other words, you usually give up a part of being "free" to get something for "free."

Here is a quick lesson to be learned: No matter how much everyone pays in taxes, it will never be enough. I hear things like, "Those new taxes are only on the billionaires," or "We are only talking about taxing the top 1 percent" - things like that. That is not only a very slippery slope; it is also a politician's answer when he doesn't have an answer or plan. It sounds good to some who are struggling. Problem is, no matter how hard you try, kindness and giving cannot be forced and work well in the end game. You cannot mandate love of another.

For example, have you looked at our government-run housing? I don't think anyone would truly want to live there if other options were available. Many families are in really bad places and they cannot get out. Being there and accepting "free" continues them on a downward spiral of more and more free, thus becoming less and less truly "free," because they become so dependent on others they ultimately are helpless to truly help themselves. When you become too dependent on government, you are putting your trust into those who could turn on you in the future. In other words, you may be feeding a snake that could bite you at some point. So you see, free is not really free.

Don't get me wrong. I want to help those in need. However, I like the idea of giving a hand up, not a hand out. Programs to assist those in need have their purposes, and the overall reason for them is a good one. When someone falls on hard times or gets in a bad situation, those programs are there to help. However, they should be there as a temporary solution for the common good. It troubles me is when those programs become the norm and the expectancy of those who are unwilling to do their own fair share - when the programs are used as entitlements and not as temporary solutions to a temporary problem.

A very smart man I highly respect and once worked for made this statement in many of his speeches: "A rise in tide raises all ships." For me, that tide raises when we all work and experience for ourselves economic prosperity. We do not get that by simply getting free handouts year after year. We have to be part of the tide that raises the ships. In other words, we need to lift where we stand. We don't get that by taking and not giving. Realize your "free" came at a cost to someone somewhere. So, what are you willing to give so someone else can have "free?"

Now, with that, I'm off to the breakfast buffet. I need to buy myself some free orange juice.

Randy Gibson is the former director of the Tahlequah Area Chamber of Commerce and the Texas State Rifle Association.