Free Sample

<– Asian Maple Tree in Autumn.

As I approached the Chinese Food booth at the mall food court, a small Asian woman popped towards me with a juicy piece of chicken on a toothpick. “Free Sampo,” she said in broken English.  My son and I eached grabbed a toothpick, and tasted the surprise treat on a stick. “That’s good!” we agreed.  “I would like two meals please, with rice and green beans, and two bottles of water.”

We took our food and sat at the booth directly in front of her food stand. She was quickly slicing off the ends of green beans, and putting the beans into a bowl. Each time she spotted a shopper walking close to her booth she would pop up, with toothpick in hand outstretched towards them and repeat, “Free sampo”.  Some folks ignored her, others said, “No thank you.”

I watched 20 people go by without accepting her offer. Then a shopper and her small daughter stopped and tasted the chicken. “Do you like that?” the shopper asked her child. She nodded in agreement. “We’ll be right back,” she promised the Asian woman, as she escorted her daughter towards the restrooms.

Moments later, the shopper appeared again and kept her word. She and her daughter ordered a meal.

I felt deep admiration as I sat watching this Asian woman. For every 20 rejections, she got one acceptance. I imagined myself in her place. Would I be able to ask all day for someone to try my food, only to be rejected 95% of the time?  I thought of the bravery of this woman: to come to a new country, to learn a new language, to yell out to strangers in broken English, to be rejected more often than accepted. I don’t know if I could do that. In the short time I watched, everyone who DID take the sample bought a meal. So that statistic was 100%. If they try it, they buy it. That must be what she concentrates on.

I know that in other cultures it’s quite common to sit in the marketplace and verbally advertise the products for sale. I suppose it’s common that those folks have similar ratios of rejection to acceptance as this woman does.

There are many reasons people did not accept the free sample, and most of them had nothing to do with her as a person. First, it was 10:30 in the morning.  Not everyone wants spicy chicken at that hour. Some people had just eaten breakfast and were not hungry. Others were there for Christmas shopping, and shopping only; they were on a mission.

As I thought about this Asian woman, I realized it was not only a free sample of chicken she was giving away, but a free sample of courage, persistence, entrepreneurship, work ethic, and possibilities. This free sample is what used to be called “The American Dream.”

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