October 17th. My 17th hundred. Halloween decorations peppering the neighborhood remind me how soon the month will be over. Already I can say that this process has been a success. I am changed – more aware, more open hearted, and in general more generous.  I have heard from others that they have been inspired, and I have seen a look of  surprise, joy and relief on the faces of over a dozen strangers.

We went to see the movie RED today. Great fun, as anything featuring Helen Mirren and Mary Louise Parker would have to be! John Malkovich, Morgan Freeman, Bruce Willis and the Russian guys weren’t bad either. While we were at the mall I saw Alberto, who got a C-note on the 10th. I kept my distance.

As we were leaving the parking lot a driver gestured politely, yielding the right of way. I made note of his old car and two young kids in the back seat. I abruptly circled back and spotted the back of the car just as the three of them were getting out. I pulled over and jumped out, chasing them across the street.

“Excuse me!” The man turned and smiled, holding the door of Barnes and Noble open for me. I went in, then thanked him for being so polite in the parking lot. “Oh, it’s nothing,” he said. “We all have to do what we can, you know, take care of each other on the road.”  The kids were watching quietly. I gave the brief version of my spiel and handed Dad the $100.

“Are you sure?” he asked. “Are you sure?”

I told him I was. “I chased you down, didn’t I?” He laughed and asked my name, then introduced himself and his two children, ages 4 and 9. He shook my hand and said he’s a teacher at Head Start. And that he would do something nice for the kids with the money. The 9 year old boy was grinning from ear to ear. I was happy for him to see this strange white lady do something nice for his Dad.

It’s striking how consistently people have a ready explanation for their kindness as if they, too, are just looking for opportunities to reach out with a generous gesture.

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11 Responses to It’s Nothing

  1. Betsy says:

    Your last statement — I agree. I nearly (really!) got slammed into on the road today because I began to pull out in front of a car going very fast. But the STOP sign was for me, not him. He hit his brakes hard, swerved, avoided me, took a little side road and proceeded on his route. I tried to catch his eye so I could at least wave an apology, but he was gone. I thought later that a lot of people would have been so scared, then mad, that they would have stopped to bawl me out. In this case, we both meant well and I was glad.
    Jill, your accounts do keep demonstrating to us how open people are, even if at first wary. It seems to me your commitment to initiating a conversation even in the face of that wariness is what enables you to connect with so many people, and not necessarily the 100 dollar bill. Hard to tell, though. What do you think about that?

    • Yes, I agree. The $ gives me permission but in most cases is not essential to making the connection. The factor of surprise has been really important, and that is the effect of giving the money. It would be really different to just stop and chat, although doing more of that would definitely be a good thing.

      I’m glad disaster was averted for you!

  2. Susan Bolton says:

    I’ve noticed how you’ve become less procrastinating in approaching people…I remember every day’s post…and I’ll really miss them come November!!!

  3. Melanie says:

    That last sentence is something I’ve never thought about before. But I hear some explanation almost every time I say thank you. I know that part of your reason for doing this is that you wanted to change how you see people, but I think you’re changing a bit more than your perception of those around you.
    It’s beautiful what you’re doing.

  4. dean kessler says:

    Dr.Ginsberg, your giving away money doesn’t surprise me at all. It just underlines your generous spirit and love toward the other person. I have been a recipient of your legacy via the health clinic a few years past which probably saved me from some bad health consequences. I think of you often and have wondered what you were up to lately, now I know. I’m sending much love and good thoughts to you as I write this. Dean

  5. Timea says:

    It’s such a pleasure to pick up the thread of your story. I am wondering something: if I were to send you $ 100, would you give it away for me? It would mean a lot to me. To keep this going. Perhaps others will follow my example if you say yes!

  6. Of course I would, but how about you find someone in your fair city to give it to???

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