There’s no such thing as a free lunch, or so the saying goes. There’s always some implied barter or quid pro quo implicit in the donation of a free lunch. The donor is expecting something in return – usually.

I was on Liverpool Street in London the other day. There’s usually a homeless man selling the Big Issue near the pedestrian crossing across from one of the station’s exits. He’s not a British national, as you can hear from his extremely chirpy ‘Good morning, ‘ave a good day’, accompanied by a thumbs up, to hundreds upon hundreds of passers-by during the 2 rush hours.

I was feeling particularly virtuous, or so I thought and I went up to buy a copy of the Big Issue from him. Sometimes I will give the Big Issue vendors a quid or two and not take the magazine, but on this occasion I fancied a read. I hadn’t read it for a long time.

A young chap, late 20s I would say, got there first, so I waited behind him. Except that the young chap didn’t buy a Big Issue, or slip him a quid or two. He gave him a lunch, a lunch in a paper carrier bag that he had just bought, and walked off.

What a lovely gesture it was. Thoughtful, easy to do, and for a few quid he’s made the man’s day. I’m slightly welling up as I recount the story. I felt that my own magnanimity has been seriously compromised as I profferred my cash for the magazine, and rightly so.

If we all made the young man’s gesture once every month or two, what a difference that would make.

The lunch donor didn’t look for anything in return, except perhaps his own reflected feel good factor. Maybe there is such a thing as a free lunch after all.

Advertisements