I smiled and replied, “It’s $3.19.”
“And your gum?”
“A dollar fifty.”
The man smiled and shook my hand, leaving without ever acknowledging my friend. Obviously, she was confused, as I had no candy or gum visible. A puzzled expression appeared on my friend’s face and she asked, “Why are strangers asking about your candy?
I laughed and gave her the background on the guy that I and the rest of my bookstore staff affectionately refer to as Candyman.
He comes into the bookstore every day–a man somewhere between his late 20s and early 30s, scruffy, and when he smiles he displays a set of teeth in various states of decay. He points to our Chocolove chocolate bars and asks the same thing he asks every day:
““How much is your candy?”
““They’re $2.99 plus tax each,” we reply.
He points to a box of chewing gum. “And your gum?”
““It’s a $1.50 with tax.”
He smiles and thanks me and walks out without buying or continuing the conversation. He’ll return tomorrow, like clockwork, and ask me the same questions again; I’ll reply as if he were asking me for the first time.
All I know about him is what I’ve shared with you. I sense, however, when I have tried to engage him in further conversation, that he is mentally challenged.
Candyman has done nothing to make me believe he’s dangerous. In fact, I’ve felt more concerned about my self-preservation while more watching a frazzled parent unhinge interacting with a difficult child than from any interaction with Candyman.
But because Candyman is different, I suppose some people will feel threatened and give him a wide berth and, unfortunately, treat him unkindly.
I like to think that people who challenge what we perceive to be normal are sent into our lives to give us a broader understanding of what it is be human and cultivate more compassion. Maybe Candyman’s daily ritual gives him some sort of consistency that contributes to a stable environment. Perhaps I just tell myself to make myself feel better.
Mostly, it’s a good reminder that kindness is free and, usually, easy, and never seems to run out.