Many years ago, when I was in my early 20s and on my first round of living in California, I found myself without a car for a few weeks. It was an inconvenience, but not a huge problem; the town I lived in was small, and I could walk to most places that I needed to go, as long as I planned in advance for the extra time.
One day, on my way home, I saw my friend David walking away from my house. This was unusual, as he lived on the other side of town. “Oh,” he said, casually explaining. “I heard you needed a car for a while.” He hadn’t meant for me to see him; he was walking back to his house after dropping off a car for me to use for as long as I needed it, with a note on the dashboard telling me to enjoy. It was an old yellow hatchback, with a finicky stick shift, and I loved it immediately.
I’ve thought about that car many times, and about the gesture of kindness even more often. I remember that David left a CD in the stereo, and when I first started up the car, the music started, too. The song that played was “Days Like This,” by Van Morrison, and whenever I hear that song, I think of driving down the road in that bumpy yellow hatchback, keenly aware of my own bourgeoning sense of both freedom and community. It was an enormous gift.
I thought of the car this weekend, when I came home from a walk early Saturday morning to find a box waiting for me on my front porch. In it was a pile of freshly picked apples. No note, just these delicious and perfect apples. Though I figured out who had left them, it took me a moment; many people have told me in the last several days that they would be happy to bring me some, as the fruit is currently weighing down branches in town left and right. I don’t have an apple tree in my yard (though I did just discover that I have calla lilies, which is almost as good).
The apples made me think about how I like that in this area, there is a sense of generosity that runs through many interactions. It comes in part from the fact that we are a small community; though I don’t know all of the stories yet, most of my colleagues can fill me in on the history of various families and people, sometimes going back generations. There is an awareness here, of others, and of the struggles they’ve had, and sometimes it seems like people handle one another with a level of acceptance, even if it’s not agreement with specific actions.
It’s a nice characteristic about life here. I know this is definitely not utopia; the problems are huge, and I’m learning more about them on a daily basis. But the old yellow hatchback and the box of apples – to say nothing of the fresh vegetables that appeared at work last week, free for the taking, or the eggs that find their way to me – remind me to take notice of the people around me, the strangers and friends to whom I am now connected.
On that note, it’s time to go to work. I have an apple in my lunch bag, and a loaf of banana bread to share with my coworkers. And though it’s not borrowed or yellow, I’ll soon be zooming down the road in my own little hatchback, music on, wondering what the day will bring. Maybe it’ll be one of the sweet ones, when everything falls into place, like the flip of a switch…