I swear if there is a greater word in the English language than the word "merit" I don't know what it is. Just the sound of it and you think of other great words like: rewards, prizes, kudos, money, advantages, beer, recognition, privilege, honor, pizza, beer, candy, gold stars, fame – a life suddenly made better than what it was before.
Like, open the door and let me on this ride, right?
We merit free cat food when we buy ten 20 lb. bags of cat food at the local cat food store, even if we don't own a cat, and merit points when we use point cards with almost any purchase anywhere. And when we get merit rewards in return for our patronage this tucks us into bed at night with a cuddly sense of accomplishment.
We work hard and get Awards of Merit when we do something that others think is excellent. Some even get merit pay for performing well, merit commendations for pulling babies out of fires, mentions in the pages of publications or maybe even a day named in their honor (which would include a free pizza lunch if they're really lucky). People plan their whole careers around what merit points they will collect next, like a person hunched over a kitchen table with snubby-nosed scissors cutting out coupons from weekly shopping flyers.
It's interesting to note that when we help others, or when we're kind, or we do great work, or choose to lead exemplary lives, or perform well, it's not always to get something back. Sometimes we're just doing what we probably would have done anyway. For the joy of it.
“Heaven goes by favor; if it went by merit, you would stay out and your dog would go in” ~ Mark Twain