Monday, October 13, 2014

Apple Picking: a Story of Kindness

I saw him walking toward us as we pulled up to the orchard. He was slightly stooped from years of carrying heavy apple pails and walked slowly with an old gray-haired dog by his side.  The big kids clambered out of the car while I wrestled Elijah out of his carseat and we all gathered in time to hear him boisterously proclaim, "Well!  Looks like you brought your helpers!"  He introduced his dog (Pickles) and lead us over to a small apple tree.

"Here's how this works," he said as he plucked an apple from the tree.  "You taste an apple from each tree until you find something you like, and then we pick you a bucketful.  These trees were all planted from seed 30 years ago.  They popped up in our compost pile the year after we made a huge batch of apple juice and dumped the waste out there.  We transplanted the strongest seedlings here and they've been providing us with apples ever since. The trouble with starting from seed is you never know what you're going to get. Every single tree out here has a different kind of apple, that's why you have to taste them all first."

 He wiped the apple of on his shirt, grinning a little sheepishly, and handed it to me. The first apple was too tart for applesauce, so we went on to the next tree.   The kids and I declared that variety delicious and, after a quick equipment tutorial, we started picking. We went through this same routine 3 more times, and each time he wiped off the apple on his worn flannel shirt for me before handing it over.

It was a gorgeous fall day.  I had eager helpers and Elijah was content to sit on the thick grass and munch on an apple with his two tiny teeth.  It was one of those rare times when an anticipated outing turns out even better than you'd expected.

Before long we'd filled up 4 buckets with 4 different kinds of unnamed apples.  Ellie made friends with the old man as they walked along together from tree to tree; she asked questions and told stories as only she can.  Ethan trotted along beside them, interjecting his insights only when he had something truly important to share. They talked about the old man's family (he and his wife had 9 children--7 of them girls!) and the farm animals, among other things.

We were all uplifted by the sweet old man who took the time from his full life to help our family. I am sure he has helped countless families in the same way over the years.  We packed up our load of apples, plus some extra bonus gifts: a bagful of "good eaters" (apples our new friend gave us for the road) and a bag of fresh lettuce, filled to bursting.

As we drove away my heart was filled to bursting as well, full of a fresh desire to offer small kindnesses to those around me.

What examples of simple kindness have you witnessed lately?

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