Her name is Winnie and she is an active, proud, redhead Kenyan, always moving, her eyes darting to acknowledge a new customer. She has a tiny stall right on the street where she sells fruits and vegetables – avocadoes, mangos, bananas, zucchini, a box of tomatoes or two. She happens to be located within walking distance of Shayne and Cherrelle’s home. And at least a couple of times a week, Cherrelle drops by on her way home to pick up some fruit from Winnie.
Sabrina and I drove up to Winnie and introduced ourselves as Cherrelle’s family. She rewarded us with a huge smile and then helped us find some beautiful ripe bananas. We paid her by M-Pesa and the transaction was completed. Next thing we know, she filled another bag for us with one mango, three avocados, an orange and an apple. She did not want payment for this. It was like we had come to her little home and she was offering us gifts. When we resisted, she shoo’d us away with a wave and a smile and then took time to accompany us to the car to meet the rest of the family.
This incident has stayed with me deeply. Winnie was certainly not rich. She was barely making a living, surviving day to day. And yet, she shared what little she had with us. There was no expectation, no obligation, no agenda. She did not know whether we would come back. She was not repaying a favour, or expecting one. She gave because she desired to give.
Her action has inspired me to think about how I interact with others. So this past week, rather than just rushing through the day, getting things done, I have been taking a little bit of extra time to see how I can give a little bit more of myself to the other. For me this was sending a note to a friend telling him of the difference he has made in my life. It was extending a coaching session in service of a client who was having an “ah hah” moment and needed that extra time to explore a concept. It was paying for a coffee for a stranger. It was delighting a vendor at the Masai Market by giving her more for a necklace than she asked for, and tipping the waitress at Art Caffe 50% of the cost of the meal. Going beyond the transaction, to connect with the humanity of the other.
And when we got home to Toronto after an extremely long flight, we found dinner waiting for us in the kitchen. A thoughtful gesture from a treasured person who desired nothing more than to make things better for us when we returned home, tired and hungry. Giving for the joy of giving.