Louise and I picked 60 pounds of apples last week, and the sauce was starting to bubble on the stove. I realized I needed more canning jars (where do they all go??) and made a trip to Fred Meyer. Typical for a Saturday morning, it was bustling.

I slowly made my way along the aisles and listened as the chatter in my head picked up. Did I want to give to a smoker? Would I never give to a smoker? Someone with THAT much beer in their cart? Isn’t that high-octane beer? That woman making a selection from the olive bar must have plenty of discretionary income, right? I found myself making all kinds of assumptions about the young families (white, well-dressed kids snacking on organic fruit rolls: they’re doing just fine).

One youngish mother caught my eye but then I noticed that her cart was full of chips and soda and I kept moving. I said hello to the woman passing out samples of cake to a small crowd and realized I wanted a little bit of privacy for myself and the recipient.

I found the jars I needed and got into the checkout line. It was moving slowly. The woman with the high-octane beer got into the line behind me and I sadly noted that the only other item in her cart was white bread.

Then I noticed the woman staffing the Playland area, where parents can drop their kids off while they shop. A large, cheerful middle-aged woman, she was talking to everyone who walked by in between checking on the two kids who were there. With all the smiling and laughing she was doing, it looked like she didn’t have a care in the world.

You never know, I reminded myself. I got to the cash register just as I saw a mom pick up one of the kids at Playland. The cashier asked me, “Did you find everything you were looking for?” and I wondered what he would say if I told him I was looking for someone to give $100 to. I finished checking out and went over to the Playland counter.

The woman said hello, gave me a big smile and looked down over the counter. “Do we have a little one here?” she asked. “No,” I said, “I just wanted to talk to you for a minute.” “Okay,” she said. Then I launched into the spiel I’d been practicing in the checkout line: “This might sound kind of strange.” “Okaaaayyy,” she said, and her eyes opened just a little wider. “I’m giving some gifts in honor of my mother and I would really like you to have this.” I handed her the $100 bill and gave her a big smile and started to edge away. “Wait a minute! You’re giving some gifts?” She looked puzzled and then looked down at what was in her hand and said, “Oh, my god. Give me your hand! I’m gonna cry.” She took my hand and we both got teary-eyed. I told her again that I was honoring my mother; that she had died not long ago and had left me an unexpected gift. “So you’re just passing it on and blessing others. Wow. Wow. You don’t know, you just don’t even know.” Then she told me that she didn’t have a single dollar in her wallet. She and her husband had both been paid the day before and had spent every last penny on their bills. “I drove here on fumes. I was just thinking how I had to call my mama and ask to borrow $10. Thank you so much!” She held onto my hand for what seemed like a long time and we just looked at each other.

I don’t even remember walking to the car, but I sat there for a while feeling flooded with gratitude.

My applesauce is finished. It tastes especially sweet.

26 Responses to Not a Care In The World

  1. Carole Barkley says:

    A really lovely story.

  2. amy says:

    Yay. You found the perfect person

  3. Suzy says:

    Nice to hear your voice all the way out here in CO. I shared this story – read it out loud – to my mom. We both got a little teary and then had a great conversation about money. Thank you!

  4. Cathy Staller says:

    Perfection. You made a difference 10 fold. Its only day 2.

  5. Kathy Rodgers Pettit says:

    Now THIS is what it’s all about. God blessed both of you and all of us reading it.

  6. Grandma says:

    Just plain awesome!!!!
    What a beautiful story; surely, you are the tribute to your mother.

  7. Penny Gruver says:

    Love how it is unfolding, Jill!

  8. deb bernstein says:

    Your whole blog is just wonderful Jill, I love the way you observe your own process. This entry has me sitting at my computer crying. Great project; wonderful writing. I’m proud and I know Gina would be, too.

  9. Jamie Smith says:

    I think what you are doing is beautiful. There are so many people in the world that just need a little helping hand. Remember that movie “Pay it Forward”? Sometimes all it takes is an act of kindness to start changing the world.

  10. Thanks for reading; I haven’t seen the movie but maybe after the month is over I will check it out!

  11. Timea says:

    I have been so busy I could barely breathe. And I am busy now. But I said to myself I wanted to see what my dear friend Jill was up to on her second day — I will NOT wait another second (no pun intended). And, man, am I glad I did! I think Gina (if there is anything like an ‘afterlife’) is smiling ear to ear, and I mean it. (I had met the formidable lady, remember??)
    Love you and this story, and I’ll be back.

  12. Timea says:

    And excuse me but…. SIXTY pounds of apples????????????????? I am scared of you guys! 😉
    Oh and another totally idle and amoral (NOT immoral!) comment: the COLOR of that applesauce is gorgeous.

    • Apples are big and heavy (compared to, say, blueberries)! It took us under an hour. My friend Penny taught me long ago not to peel the apples (which were a beautiful color). I cook them down and then put the sauce through a food mill. Voila!

  13. Wow. This is a very powerful essay about how assumptive we are about others. This recipient seemed to be carefree, yet she was stressing about how to make ends meet with no cash on hand. You made her day. She deserved your sweet gift not only because of her money situation, but because she chose to forge ahead with a smile at work.

  14. Trudy says:

    I am making my first batch of applesauce this afternoon. I just read the article about your “$100 A Day” in The Oregonian this morning. I too have a mother who grew up in Germany. She was not a Holocaust survivor, but escaped from Eastern Germany during the war when she was just 17 years old. My mother died last August. I can identify with many of the things you talked about. Thank you so much for sharing your journey!

  15. Nancy says:

    Thank you for the gift you are giving all of us by sharing your experience. This entry made me cry–in a good way!

  16. […] day”, I decided to head back to the place where it really all began: Fred Meyer (see Day 2: Not a Care in the World). That was the day I let the inner judgments start bubbling up to the surface and the first time I […]

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