They stood by the side of the road, at the end of their driveway. A sister and brother, seven and five years old, perhaps a touch younger, perhaps a touch older. We could see them shouting, jumping up and down as we approached. Jonathan slowed the car and I rolled down my window so that we could better hear what they had to say.
“Do you want some food?” she asked, her eyes bright, her smile big.
I glanced over at Jonathan. He shrugged. We’d just come from running a local 5K – one whose route had taken us past this very house, in fact, though I had been too focused on maintaining my pace to notice whether these two had been watching, cheering us on. We’d had some snacks at the end of the race, and my stomach still had that tight, empty feeling that comes after heavy physical exertion, so no, I didn’t really want food. But how could I turn down such enthusiasm?
“Sure!” I replied, returning her smile.
“Wait here!” they commanded in unison, then scampered around the corner, behind the fence, out of sight.
I looked at Jonathan again, and he raised his eyebrows, then chuckled. I dug around in the center console, but to no avail: not expecting to be accosted by tiny entrepeneurs, we had no cash with us.
This posed no problem; they did not expect any sort of recompense. When they returned, he was holding a small metal mixing bowl. She reached into it, then placed their small offering in my hand with a flourish: two small grapes, two cherry tomatoes, a sprig of parsley. As soon as the transfer of goods was complete, they turned to go.
“Wow! Thanks!” I said, then asked their retreating figures, “Where did these come from?”
“He grew them in his garden!” she said over her shoulder, the pride evident in her voice, in the grin he turned to give me. And then they were gone.
They gave to strangers, excitedly, joyfully, so thrilled with the thought of sharing what they had made with others that they expected nothing in return. They poured their time and energy and abilities into creating something of value, something they then offered freely. And their pride and their joy and their enthusiasm were clear, contagious. It left me smiling, thinking of them long after our brief encounter (though I must admit, I never did eat what they gave us).
Somewhere along the way, the world interferes and adult responsibilities beckon and bills must be paid and we become disillusioned and it seems there is no time for work that fills us, work done purely for the joy of it and the joy of sharing with others. Somewhere along the way, it becomes about a paycheck and food on the table and clothes on our backs, and while none of those are bad things, the dreamer in me can’t help but imagine a different world, one in which we all are children with metal bowls in our hands, standing at the end of our driveways, searching for someone with whom to share the bounty of our dreams.