On the way to our weekly [Asian Language] class, we drove by a pumpkin patch less than a mile from our military housing. On the side of the patch was a sign: Free Pumpkins.
"Dad, can we stop and get a pumpkin?"
"Sorry, kids. We've got to get to your class."
During class, I forgot all about the pumpkins. But on the ride home, we saw the sign again and scores of people scouting through the pumpkin patch.
"Dad, can we please stop to get a pumpkin?"
"Let's go home and have lunch, then we'll see."
As we drove into our neighborhood, all I could see was pumpkins. Pumpkins of every size, on every porch. Even our neighbor had ten stacked up on top of each other. Only our doorway stood barren and obviously neglected. It needed a pumpkin.
Lunch was lovingly made, and quickly eaten.
"Dad, now can we go get a pumpkin?"
"Okay, [Token Asian Friend], let's go get a pumpkin."
We drove two minutes to the pumpkin patch, now void of people. We stepped out and began to search through the fields for that special pumpkin calling my name. As we waded through pumpkin rinds, shredded leaves, pumpkin guts, and uprooted pumpkin plants, I thought, "What a waste. If people hadn't been in such a hurry, all of these pumpkins would still be usable."
After 15 minutes of searching, I found the one. The little pumpkin that was perfect for me. I began to walk toward my dad when I heard a voice.
It was an angry voice.
"Hey! HEY! WHAT do you THINK you are DOING?" The man was yelling at my dad, who was piling up what pumpkins he could find.
"We saw a sign that said, 'Free Pumpkins' so we thought we'd come take a look."
The angry man looked at my dad and said sternly, his voice quivering, "Now, you tell me. Who in their right mind would spend $5,000 dollars on pumpkin seed, and spend six months of their life growing them, and then put up a sign saying that they were all free?"
I saw in my mind the mass of people in the patch. I saw the pumpkins lining the porches of my neighborhood. I saw in my mind that small simple sign, hand written on a piece of poster board: Free Pumpkins. I put my pumpkin down, and walked toward my dad. We apologized and left the angry old man alone in his empty pumpkin field.
I learned a lesson that day.
The best things in life are free.
But pumpkins aren't.