The Grape Thief: Message from the Morning Man by Kojo Yankson


The Grape Thief: Message from the Morning Man
by Kojo Yankson

26th August 2015

I love fruit – any kind of fruit, really – but my favourite are grapes. For many years, on my way to work, I would stop at my favourite fruit stall just outside London Bridge train station and buy a bunch of green grapes. I’d then sit on a bench, waiting for my train, cheerfully munching on the juicy fruit, while reading the newspaper.

One morning, while I was engrossed in my usual “Fruit and Financial Times” routine, I noticed out of the corner of my eye that the rather smartly dressed man sitting next to me was reaching boldly across to help himself to the grapes I was eating. Now, I’ll be honest, the whole thing took me aback a little, but I didn’t want to cause a scene, so I pretended I hadn’t noticed what he’d done.

Then he did it again. This time, with even more boldness. I lowered my paper and looked directly at him so he would know I’d seen what he was doing. But that didn’t stop him. He just smiled at me, picked a couple more grapes from the paper bag and popped them into his mouth without the slightest sense of shame or embarrassment.

I couldn’t believe what was happening. Was this guy alright? Why did he think it was ok to help himself to MY lovely grapes that I’d bought for MY personal enjoyment? To prove my point, I drew the bag a little closer to me, picked a handful of the juicy berries and stuffed them in my mouth. To my amazement, the man simply laughed, drew the bag back to its original spot between us and grabbed a handful of his own! I watched in bewilderment as he stuffed his face with even more of my grapes. This man was bent on “shorting” me, eh?

I took another handful, and he did the same. I took some more, and this incorrigible man took some more too. The guy matched me grape for grape until there were just a couple left. He peered into the almost empty bag, and to my chagrin, smiled at me and said, “Go on then mate, you can have ’em”.

The cheek of this guy!

Just then, the PA system announced the arrival of my train. Quick as a flash, I grabbed the nearly depleted bag and ran for my train. I settled into my usual window seat, opened my backpack to put away the newspaper, and… right there at the bottom of my bag was a full pack of grapes! I stared at them in horror for what seemed like an eternity. If these were the grapes I bought, then that must mean I’d been munching on that poor man’s grapes with impunity, all the while, imagining that he was rather helping himself to mine. That meant… I WAS THE GRAPE THIEF ALL ALONG!

My friends, I share this adventure of mine with you this morning just so you can share in the wide smile that splits my face whenever I remember that massively embarrassing moment – not because there’s any particularly profound lesson to be learnt from it.

Wait a minute, there actually is a fairly important lesson here.

It is often easy for those of us who are fortunate to assume a certain sense of entitlement to the blessings we enjoy, without realising that we only have our good fortune because someone allows it. If you’re making loads of money from a thriving business, don’t be tempted to lord your riches over others, because it’s thanks to your loyal clients that you have money.

If you work in a shop, resist the urge look down your nose at your customers. It’s the money they spend in your shop that pays your salary.

If you’re a civil servant with a cushy job from which you can never be sacked, don’t be tempted to lord your post over the general public whose taxes keep you employed.

If you’re an elected or appointed leader, remember who put you there. Remember who you work for. Don’t hold in contempt the same people who provided you with your privileges. You may think you own your blessings, but in truth, you’re only blessed because someone allows it.

My name is Kojo Yankson, and I thank you for the grapes.