There is a fruit and vegetable stall that is erected daily at Williamson Square in Liverpool City Centre around 8 in the morning. It’s just about put up when I walk by it on the way to work, and likely operating throughout the day, but by the time I walk home after 17:30, it is already gone. I tend to buy apples there during the colder part of the year, and stone fruit (peaches, apricots, nectarines) during the summer, to eat at work. The guys keeping the stall know me by now, and have, in fact, let me have fruit in the past without paying immediately when they had no change for my freshly-disgorged by the ATM £10 bill - “just bring it tomorrow or whenever“, they’d say (and I obviously would).
The amount they trust me to pay them back is inconsequential – it is usually less than £1, but it is not the amount that matters, but the fact that I, the person, would be happier with my lunch than without it, or having to go to the supermarket (which would have change… and also wouldn’t care, nor ever let me have a couple of apples on trust).
Today, during my usual trek workwards through the city centre in the chill haze of a mid-October morning, I stopped to buy apples as per usual, and while the stall attendant was wrapping them up for me, I admired the huge translucently yellow-green pile of grapes, large and with wax-dusted skins making them look matte, and beautiful and utterly delicious. I commented that the grapes are gorgeous, and that it’s a shame that they’re not too practical to buy for work, upon hearing which the attendant picked up and wrapped a small bunch for me, saying that I should take them even if they aren’t practical.
It was a small gesture, and in the overall monetary scheme of things, probably is not a huge cost to the stall, but it made me smile all the way to work – not the fact that I had a small bag of grapes that I could have easily paid for, but that someone bothered to give me something for nothing (it’s not like I’d have taken my patronage away had they not offered me free grapes!), just because it’s nice to do that for people sometimes.
The existence of the fruit stall, and what it stands for in terms of personal contact that is all too rare in the world of supermarkets and chain stores of all kinds – the occurrence of episodes like the one this morning at all, makes me feel a little better than my usual (rather misantropic) view of humanity at large. The Taoists teach, “trust, and you become trustworthy“. It is a semi-inversion of that truism, that by being trusted, I become trustworthy to these people – after all, I wouldn’t consider not paying them the 60p back for the occasional apple. Why? Most immediate answer would be, because they trusted me to do so – the first time, when they knew me far less than even the “unnamed girl who walks by here on the way to work for the past year and a bit” that they know now.
If and when people do such things that bring them no added profit, and no publicity either (I very much doubt that the guy had it in mind that I’d write a blog entry about him when he did it, nor do I even know any of their names), simply because they are nice things to do, I feel hopeful that perhaps there is some good in people that is not motivated by personal gain. And it makes me think that perhaps I, too, should sometimes be more considerate and kind (until the next person disappoints me again, anyway).