(With a smile and nod to Anna who told me the story…)
She squealed. She actually squealed with delight when she spotted them in the produce section – right there by the bananas.
A treat from her Mississippi Gulf Coast home, they are a hard-to-find fruit and the craving had gone unsatisfied for a long time. She scooped some into a clear plastic produce bag, tied off the top, finished her shopping, and headed for the checkout.
The collection of tiny orange footballs stopped the cashier. She held up the bag, her eyes questioning.
“Kumquats,” my daughter said. “Starts with a K.”
The cashier found them on her list and typed in the code. “I’ve never heard of them.”
My daughter extolled their virtues, then noticed the bag boy as he picked them up. Our neighborhood store employs people with special needs to help with bagging and helping people take their groceries to the car. Anna had just noticed the man ahead of her being rude to this young man, so she smiled as he looked up at her, the bag gripped in his fist, the little cluster of kumquats swinging.
“But what ARE they?”
“Fruit! They’re like an orange. You eat them peel and all – just pop ’em in your mouth and chew them up! The peel gives it a slight bitter taste, then the inner fruit is so sweet… They’re delicious! You want to get them cold, though. They’re so much better when they’re cold.”
By now the young man is resting his entire upper body on the conveyor, turning the bag in his hand and looking at the fruit with the squinting eye of a scientist.
“I’ve never even heard of ’em! Never seen ’em before! Where’d you find ’em?”
“In the produce section by the bananas.”
“Huh. I didn’t look there.” (Her smile widened, and she winked at me when she told that part.) “I musta been going the wrong way. You know how somebody asks you in the store if you need help and you say no and then you really DO need help because you’re goin’ the wrong way?”
They nodded seriously at each other, in obvious mutual agreement. Then he sighed, straightened, and finished bagging her groceries.
I gaped at her as she finished telling the story, made even better by gestures and facial expressions.
“Is he still in the car?” I asked, a familiar comment referring to our desire to grab up and bring home someone who has touched our hearts in some way.
“I dropped him off at the park to play first. I told him the kumquats would be chilling in the fridge.”
A young man had a story to tell when he got home from work yesterday. About this new little fruit with a funny name that he had missed because he was going the wrong way in the produce section and how you just pop the whole thing in your mouth and chew it up and how it’s better if it’s cold. And about this nice lady who told him all about them and answered his questions and looked him in the eye and smiled the entire time and thanked him and called him “sir” as she left.
I’ll bet he didn’t one time think about the man just before her who had been rude to him.
How hard is that? Just being nice. Just being human. Made a day just a little better for two people. Then three. And now more.