Walking through by neighborhood earlier in the summer with a friend. We passed by one of the many well-cared for and redone mission style houses in town. In their side-yard was an old, large pear tree laden with ripening pears. They had a hand-painted sign leaning against the trunk of the tree. It read, “Please don’t pick our pears. Thank you.”
My friend and I laid eyes on it at about the same moment. His response was “That’s the wrong attitude. Look how many they have. They should share!”
My response was a bit different. I saw several things at once before I settled on something. First, I thought that these are their pears, and they are not obligated to share them. Then, I thought they must have experienced their tree being stripped of pears in secret more than once to feel the need to post a sign. Then I thought they certainly did have more than they could possibly eat, but perhaps they can them in jars as gifts each year, or give them to people that they have agreements with. Standing in the street looking at the lovely, fruitful tree there was no way for me to know their circumstances in order to decide what they should be doing.
I mused that if it were my tree and I needed pears for canning or to make income, I would place bushel baskets filled with the extra pears near the curb with a sign offering those to passersby.
I shared these thoughts with my friend. He saw the possibility of other possibilities. That there could be many scenarios that would make that sign not an expression of selfishness but of self-protection.
“There’s always another way to look at something,” I said.
As we walked along, it occurred to me that it’s divisive to decide what anyone else should be doing. I don’t mean this to include protection of our own and others’ safety in cases of egregious harm such as abuse or violence. But in this case, I’m speaking of our daily responses to one another’s choices about which we are ill-informed. Even if they share their reasons with us, we don’t know the completeness of another’s heart. Many past experiences, beliefs, and desires go into choosing even simple things.
So back to the pears. My friend’s lovely desire, the framework of his point of view, is for a world where people share and give and create goodness for themselves and others when they experience bounty. That’s a lovely paradigm. Until is is placed on another as a rationale for judgement.
I’d like to leave you with this: Perhaps holding an open and safe space for others to have their own moments of loveliness and fear, response and reaction would help allow room for understanding and therefore to create a more lovely world for ourselves and others.