When is picking fruit stealing?


I have a deep moral and ethical conundrum for you all to ponder but first I have a confession. I have picked fruit from God’s garden. I’m not talking about the garden of Eden and the snake and that whole being thrown out of Paradise thing.  I am talking about going on a walk and picking up fruit that has fallen on the grass verge near the footpath, or picking fruit from branches hanging over the fence.

I’m not talking about stripping a tree or being greedy. I am talking about going on a walk and returning home with my pockets full of fruit. I learned this habit from my mother and my auntie. My auntie’s favourite sayings is, ” Let’s go for a walk in God’s garden.” She and mum often come home with a plastic shopping bag full of goodies that they found on their walk.

My auntie is a superb  cook.  She doesn’t have to buy bottled olives as she makes them herself. She gathers the olives from public parks where there are lots of olive trees.  No one else seems interested in the fruit and she doesn’t see the point of them going to waste.

Clifton Terrace School pupils Emily Cumming, left, Lola King and Keira Tootell, with twins Caitlin McKnight back left and Charlotte McKnight, while picking olives at Miyazu Park olive grove.

Clifton Terrace School pupils Emily Cumming, left, Lola King and Keira Tootell, with twins Caitlin McKnight back left and Charlotte McKnight, while picking olives at Miyazu Park olive grove.

In my mind there is a line that I don’t like to cross but my auntie does not have the same line.  My moral and ethical line respects fences and boundaries of private property. My ethics say that all is fair in love and war if the branch is overhanging the footpath but last year I violated this rule for the first time.

There was a tree that was huge and absolutely loaded with fruit that not many New Zealanders eat.The fruit are called Kumquats and you cannot buy them in the shops.  As the lawn was littered with hundreds of the ripe fruit and the tree was absolutely loaded I concluded that the owners had no interest in eating the fruit. I knocked on the door to ask them if I could pick some but no one was home.  On my way down the drive I gave in to temptation telling myself that what they didn’t know wouldn’t hurt them. I picked five pieces of fruit and as I started to leave they pulled up the driveway.  I was caught red handed and they wound down the window and looked at me. I told them what I had done, apologised and then fled the scene.


Kumquats are the fruit that led me astray

I swear that I am cured. I will never again ignore my boundary rule.  I walk past their tree every day and watch the fruit rotting on the grass but I will never ever go knock on the door and asked to gather it up. I wonder what they made of me, this 40 something-year-old fleeing the scene red-faced and totally embarrassed.  I know I got what I deserved and really I got off lightly. Am I the only one with this naughty habit? Ethically and morally what do you think the boundaries are?

As a side note when we lived in Mellons Bay we had an enormous grapefruit tree. It had been there for decades and was known to the locals for having really big delicious grapefruit. When we first moved in I had three different people knock on my door and asked to pick the fruit. I said yes to all of them as there was way more than any family could ever eat. I came back a couple of years after we sold up and saw that the new owners had cut the tree down. I doubt that they realised how much that tree meant to the neighbourhood.

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