I was in Manchester yesterday, to see the one and only Amanda Palmer, and ask if she’d sign my book. Or her book. Whatever. Look, she wrote a book, and it’s really really inspiring and beautiful, and I have a copy, and now she’s signed it for me, and I’m very happy (if a little short on superlatives – I’m tired, OK?). If you haven’t listened to her music yet, or read The Art of Asking, then you absolutely should.
ANYWAY. I was in Manchester yesterday, and it was gorgeously sunny, and massively busy, and I was hungry after standing in a queue in Waterstones (ZOMG so many lovely booooks) for two hours. There was a hot dog stand, which was tempting (and I can never work out why), but I decided to stop at the fruit and veg stall nearby and buy a punnet of cherries instead. And as I walked back towards the station, through the sunshine and the crowds and all the people trying to give me leaflets, I discovered something amazing. Enlightenment through soft fruit choices: I had something to share. Giving people (especially strangers) things is often weird, and hard to stop from feeling like charity. But somehow sharing things is completely different. It’s like people are happier to take something from you if you are still keeping some – or most – of it for yourself. That way they are receiving, but not really depriving you of anything, so they are not in your debt. And you know what’s great for sharing, on a sunny hot day in a big city? Cherries.
“Leaflet?” “No thanks, but would you like a cherry?” “Oh, how kind, thank you!” That kind of thing. I’ll borrow from Amanda Palmer’s book here, but really, it’s exactly how it happened to me too – people were surprised when I spoke to them instead of mumbling a ‘no thanks’, or just striding past, eyes averted. Handing out leaflets, or newspapers, that nobody really wants, must be a thankless job indeed, and it was lovely to look people in the eye and say ‘would you like a cherry?’ – which really meant, ‘I see you. You are a person, like me, and it’s a hot day. Have some fruit.’ There was a homeless guy with a massively chunky Staffordshire Bull Terrier, who asked if I had any change. I had to admit that I’d spent my last change on cherries, but would he like a cherry? He said no thanks, but we had a chat anyway, and his scary dog with a head the size and weight of a bowling ball climbed on my knee and licked my ear. I may have made a complete cabbage of myself when I came face to face with one of my heroes (I have no recollection of what I mumbled at the lovely Amanda, it was probably cringeworthy), but through her inspiration and permission, if you like, I shared a connection, and smiles, and a lot of cherries, with some complete strangers – who I’m sure are somebody else’s heroes in their own right :)