This is a term, the origin of which should be self-explanatory. I assume that the apple eaten
in the Garden of Eden would've been the first example of this phenomenon. It roughly translates as, "good things which can be gotten with a minimal amount of effort."
It is often used in the world commissioned sales when a salesperson takes over a new block of clients whom he previously did not have. For instance, in the business I was in for most of my life, life insurance, it would mean that an agent working for the same company had either retired, gotten fired, died, etc. and his block of clients must now be serviced by someone different. This happened to me when my company had a very experienced and respected agent in Northwest Arkansas (just south of Branson, Missouri) retire and I was given a chance to pick up his block of business. This fellow was a nice guy but he had never stayed abreast of the times, thus there was a load of low-hanging fruit sitting there waiting for me. This could be in the form of guaranteed term conversions which would turn out to be a much better deal for the client while at the same time making me a lot of money. He was pretty diligent about keeping in touch, so I did not get the benefit of low-hanging fruit that comes from neglect. If you are in the business of selling new cars, this phenomenon might come in the form of inheriting a Rolodex file from an ex-salesperson and flipping through the file to find clients who bought new cars from your dealership every year for five years when the new models came out but haven't bought one in three. That's someone you might want to call as soon as possible.
However, the low-hanging fruit now also applies directly to me as a terminally ill atheist. My dear wife has groups of friends whom I don't really know. Some of them are in her yoga classes; some of them are in the Unitarian church which she attends infrequently but sometimes; some of them come from a food buying club where she gets most of her vegetables, fruits, and other homegrown items which she does not want to pay for at a chain store. These are very nice people, and often when they come over and they bring tasty homemade food which saves her a lot of trouble in the kitchen and also has served to put back on any weight I might have lost during all this ordeal of illness through which I have been going. So I really do appreciate the effort they are going through to provide these meals which have been hand-delivered.
Unfortunately, they seem to all be Born again Christians and are eager to try to discuss both their faith and my future. After all, there are no atheists in foxholes, are there? (I think whoever said that might have interviewed Russian soldiers in WWI or II.) I'm sort of used to this because I have been an evangelical atheist pretty much my entire life. And I tell them when they get started, first of all, I would really rather not have this conversation. Second, if you are intent on having this conversation I must warn you that there is as good a chance that I will talk you out of it as you will talk me into it. Then, without missing a beat, they start their pleas.
It would be one thing if I thought they were actually doing this for my benefit. But my theory is that they are trying to win some sort of contest and score personal brownie points with their version of the sky God they so dutifully worship. In other words, I think they're just trying to get a better seat in their own personal vision of Heaven instead of actually trying to help me get to that place in which I don't even believe.
There's this guy see at the gym almost every time I go. He's got the bodybuilder build and I've always wondered what he did for a living. I assumed he was a paramedic or some other sort of health professional because he seemed to be able to diagnose what was going on with me pretty much from sight. So recently before my last MRI I saw him at the gym and I asked him what his profession was. He told me he was a pastor who had its own small church which was more traditional than Church of Christ, for instance. I assumed that this meant they still stoned adulteresses. But he's a friendly guy and when I told him I was having MRI the next day he asked me if he could pray for me. Even when these people who bring food over tell me that I am on their prayer list and that they are personally praying for me, I tell them that I really do appreciate that, and I mean that with all my heart. However, I do not wish to be a part of that prayer. This preacher at the gym suggested that we pray together right there and I said, "okay," not wanting to hurt his feelings. He put his hand on my shoulder and said a fairly short little prayer and the next day the MRI showed that the tumor had recurred and was going to require 30 days of low dose radiation to try and slow the growth. When I told this story to one of my neighbors who brought food and tried to talk me into God again, she asked, "so you blame God for the recurrence of your tumor?" I replied, "Oh, I blame Him for so much more than that.” This is when I was about to go into my Christopher Hitchens rant about the damage caused both in history and today by organized religious efforts. I stopped myself before I went down that road, but if this continues, there is going to be a day where I absolutely lose it. This would not be a big problem for me, but it upsets my wife a great deal when these things begin. She was raised a Catholic as a child and currently has no set of religious beliefs. She considers herself on a search for some sort of spirituality, and these sorts of arguments aren't helping her a bit.
So we're at a point where I am either going to have to wear a sign around my neck saying, "NO PROSELYTIZING ALLOWED." Or we're just going to have to give up free food. I am printing out the sign in 32 point Tahoma right this minute.