October 25th. Day 25 of My Month of Hundreds.

It was a kind of strange day today. The Sunday Oregonian article brought a lot of attention and traffic to the blog and I found myself having a mini anxiety attack. I loved all the comments on the article, and was very moved by people sharing their own stories, telling how they felt inspired, and really getting what I am doing. Even the negative comments were somehow comforting, as they mostly reflected things I have thought myself and have been expecting to hear from others. I want to respond to every comment and message and I will, eventually.

I’m also kind of freaking out that it is DAY TWENTY-FIVE. I have absolutely no idea what I am going to do come November 1, but I know there is no turning back. It breaks my heart to think about being “done” with this project. I want to keep going, even without the money piece. Sometimes it feels like it is about the money, and sometimes not. Mostly it feels like the C-note is a shorthand way of getting people’s attention and letting them know that they made an impact on me and I want to do the same. Strange.

It was a busy day and I put off my gift till it was starting to get dark. I had to do a few errands and thought the opportunity would arise at the library, or Rite-Aid or, surely, at the grocery store. Not today.

Walking by the laundromat I saw a woman with two pre-teen kids. They were all folding clothes, obviously a well-oiled team. I wasn’t sure but thought maybe the younger kid was wearing pajamas, and imagined that all the clothes they owned were in the piles on the counter. I sidled closer but felt the urge pass when I saw the three Starbucks cups lined up next to their folded clothes.

Leaving the grocery store I seemed to see affluence everywhere and was starting to panic that I wouldn’t find the right person tonight. It had gotten pretty dark. I got in my car and started slowly heading home, feeling rather defeated.

I was sitting at a red light behind a row of cars when I saw someone standing in a small halo of light at the bus stop.  I pulled the car over and jumped out.

It was a woman in a big puffy black coat and a hat pulled down over her eyebrows. She was surrounded by plastic shopping bags. “Hi,” I said. “You waiting for the bus?” (Brilliant, I know.)

“Yeah,” she said. “I’m headed to the laundromat. I hope I’m going the right way.” She smiled, revealing two broken front teeth. “It’s just my second day here.” She told me that she had come from Atlanta over the weekend. “My life wasn’t going so good down there and my friend said she was moving here, so I decided to come too.”

She was friendly and didn’t really seem to think it strange that I had left my car a few feet away to talk with her. I told her about my mom and she said she was sorry. Then I gave her the hundred. “You serious? For real?” I said yes and she said, “Give me a hug! I’m gonna cry now.”

She said her name was Cassidy and she normally wouldn’t take a handout but that she really needed the cash. “Technically, I don’t have anywhere to stay tonight. Thank you so much. I applied for a job today. If that comes through I’ll be okay.”

I told Cassidy that I hope our city treats her well and that things work out for her. As I got into the car she gave me a wave. As I drove off I looked back and saw her wiping her eyes.

What am I going to do?

34 Responses to Welcome to Portland

  1. Renee says:

    I’ve thought about doing my own version of this. I could never manage $100, but I’ve thought about $10 or even $5. like you, I belive it’s less about the money than it is the concrete proof that people made an impact in each others lives. So if everyone is already expecting nothing, wouldn’t even $5 garner a similar impact?

  2. Web says:

    Hey JIll

    Read the article and now I am hooked wondering who you are going to “encourage” in your journey each day… I know you said in the article that you didn’t believe in God…, thats easy to do as God is so often miunderstood and misrepresented in this world we live…, but I believe you are wonderfully reflecting God… He is leading you.. and quite frankly the rest of us who consider ourselves “Christians” or religious should be embarrassed by our actions and remember that Jesus said.. “You will be known by your love one for another”!! Its time for us all to get mov’in! Thanks for loving others and continue to be led by His voice within you! Web

  3. Betsy says:

    Can you say what it is like to go on home after an encounter like this one, and think about the woman’s prospects, how she will cash a hundred dollar bill, where she will stay, and what about when the money runs out, again?

    It seems most of us can insulate ourselves from the pain of that train of thought by not making contact; but you are putting yourself directly in the path of awareness and everything that comes with it.

    • Betsy- I must admit I thought of bringing her home with me. It is only in brief flashes that I can allow the reality to sink in; it is painful indeed. I get a bit down the path in my thought process and then find myself veering off. I thought people would balk at the C- note but no one has. Hopefully no one will have trouble cashing it. Thanks for being a great reader. Jill

  4. There is so much I want to say to you but will not because it will show in your blog reply.
    I could write a book, having done this in smaller and larger amounts all of my life. It is the pleasure of giving to those ‘at just the right time.’ I am the one who is blessed. Blessed to have a little extra, blessed to feel you have been a blessing to others in some small way. Everyone needs an atta boy, a kind word, a warm smile. There has yet to be a recipient who was not surprised and deeply moved by your act of kindness
    Call it what you want, some say Karma, I call it being led…
    Lives have been changed by one small act in a time of need that will never be forgotten,
    You are the one blessed beyond words having a rich memory bank full of seeing pure joy from fellow humans.
    Beware, this is addictive.
    A prediction.
    You will not be able to stop. You will give outrageous tips to servers, strangers and anonymously to friends in desperate need. Some times ten bucks is enough to let someone know someone else cares. If you really NEED it, ten dollars is a lot of money.
    It is a meal, a drink, a phone call they could not have had.
    It is hope for tomorrow.

    • Sandra- Thank you so much for all your comments. Yes, I am indeed blessed beyond words and you never know what impact a gift will have. I’m glad to have you as a reader. Best wishes- Jill

  5. The symbolism today is very striking: “Standing in a small halo of light”. I’ll bet you made quite a positive impact on this woman. Prior to that, she was probably wondering why she left sunny Atlanta for our rainy, windy Portland 🙂

  6. Pru McDonald says:

    WOW, Jill, this one hit me hard… /your last sentence blew me away, and I have a jillion questions I want to ask you… mainly, how hard was it to leave this woman tonight? It’s inconceivable to me that you were not shaken to your toes by this incredible encounter with an incredibly BRAVE woman, starting a new life in a new city. I will carry this story with me to bed, through my dreams, through tomorrow…
    What a glorious journey you have embarked upon, my dear, and how CHANGED your life will be. The ramifications of what you are doing are echoing in the souls of all of us who read your words, are moved by them, inspired by them, not to mention those who partook of your generosity.

    I feel immensely blessed that I followed my instincts, followed this magical, extraordinary story, and can only imagine all the good that is coming from it in a hundred thousand different ways!
    Peace and blessings, dear Jill!

    • Dear Pru- Many thanks for your heartfelt comments and for allowing these stories in. It truly has been an amazing journey and hearing from people like you is one of the very best parts!

      It was HARD to leave that woman. We have a big house and I considered bringing her home with me. I hope she is okay. I like knowing that she got a warm welcome from at least one person and I hope others treat her well.

      A hug for your sweet self- Jill

  7. I think your blog has inspired people further afield than you realise! My friend (who lives in the US) recommended it to her facebook friends, and you’re now being read by at least a few of us over in the UK.

    You’ll find some other way to touch people once the 31 days are up, I feel sure of that. Keep blogging though, I for one want to see where you go from here.

    Best wishes from a very wet and windy UK!

    • How wonderful to be sharing this journey with you over there in the UK!! That is a thrill! I am so grateful to be living in a time when such things are possible. Facebook is amazing. Thanks so much for reading and commenting. Jill (in rainy Portland!)

  8. DJan says:

    Up here north of you in the town of Bellingham, I’ve read and followed every single story, and have read the article in the paper. Some comments puzzle me, but others show the same kindness toward others that you have shown this month. I, too, hope that you take the month’s experience and find some way to give me more inspiration to practice random acts of kindness. I find myself thinking of you when I’m on the bus, looking at the various riders and who they are. I truly hope you continue to write about how this experience has changed you.

    • DJan- What a beautiful comment. Thank you so much for following my journey and for letting the intention of it into your heart. I don’t know yet what I am going to do come Nov 1 but I do know I won’t be going back to life as before. Warm good wishes- Jill

  9. Jill,
    I think of the axiom “give a man a fish and you feed him for a day, teach him how to fish and you feed him for a lifetime” — or something like that:) So, I’m already trying to guess how you’re going to continue after this experiment and I see you teaching a class on money management. A free class. But where? The folks who often need some money management advice don’t know it! I smiled to myself when I got to the line about the Starbucks coffee cups. You and I agree on that! A couple of Easters ago I read a news blurb on how many MILLIONS of dollars are spent annually on candy — candy! And it really made me step back and look at this country of ours — what wasted wealth we have. Where women think manicures and fake nails are a necessity and $3 cups of coffee are the NORM. The folks who suffered during the Depression of the 1930s would trade our depression/recession in a heartbeat!

    • Thanks for your comment Trishia. I agree that our spending priorities are a bit messed up, especially when we spend so much as a country on things like war and have 50 million people without health insurance. I am not opposed to spending money on niceties for oneself, but I have this little voice in my head that makes lots of little comments whether I like it or not. Best wishes- Jill

  10. Pru McDonald says:

    I too am guessing what Jill will do next on this spiritual journey on which she has set sail. She had specific reasons for this particularly
    generous endeavor, from which I would gather she received far more than she gave.

    But money is not the only way to impact others. At 79, I live on a fixed income, so that’s out of the question for me. However, since I firmly believe that our purpose in life is to help one another, there are a million ways we can do that in everyday life.

    A smile works miracles, for one. Setting a goal to do one good deed a day for others is another. So easy to do! The satisfaction is enormous. Surprising strangers with a kindness brings such great rewards, and who knows how much good it generates, and perpetuates

    I think Jill will definitely find another meaningful way to bless others and to enlarge her own life. She has taken the first step.

  11. Kay Dennison says:

    Having been homeless for a short time, I understand the woman’s plight and how much your c-note meant. It’s why I treasure my life now and remember those who helped my in my time of gesperation. It’s not what most people consider a good life but it’s mine and I’m comfortable with it.

    • Kay- Thank you very much for your comment and perspective. I have been amazed at how willing perfect strangers are to share their stories with me. It tells me, among other things, we need to listen to each other better. Best wishes- Jill

  12. Amy A says:

    I just found your story in the news today. And here I was mindlessly enjoying a mostly sunny October while in Portland small miracles are occurring on a daily basis. I sat here and wasted most of my day reading your entire blog. You are an inspiration, not just for the giving, but for the approaching of people. We so often avoid talking to strangers, no wonder most of your recipients seem so apprehensive. I would be. Yet your story draws out the ordinary-ness of people, the honesty and hard work of so many. It is a perspective we sorely need in this day and age of statistics, politics, and assumptions about people. We all need to really reach out and help each other. It is just somehow so hard to take that first step. But you have taken several steps.

    • Amy- Thank you for reading the entire blog and for your comment. Wow! I must say that it is not hard for me to talk to strangers; I am nosy and love asking people questions. It’s one reason that being a doctor is a good fit for me. But I don’t always make the effort that I should to really connect with strangers. Best wishes- Jill

  13. Sounds like exactly the right person for your act of kindness–the universe had you wait until the perfect candidate showed themselves to you. Keep on with your mission, it is wonderful.

  14. Judith says:

    What a joy it has been to read your stories! I discovered them Sunday and spent the better part of the afternoon reading EACH one! There is no way I would have rather spent my time! Today you left us with the question “What am I going to do?” Do you hear our chorus? “What are WE going to do when this little journey comes to an end?!” Thanks for inspiring us to do ‘random acts of kindness’!

  15. Pru McDonald says:

    Dear Jill,
    I would like the opportunity to read your entire blog, and have gone to SUPPORT to ask how to do that. Meanwhile, I’ll ask YOU!

    In the meantime, I am thrilled to read your fascinating story, and find it extremely touching and inspiring. I have, like most of us, led a unique life. Known violence and tragedy, been blessed immensely as well. At 79, I find myself reading Buddhist thought, and enjoy it tremendously, finding it to be the total opposite of my Catholic upbringing, (call myself a “Recovering Catholic”, seriously!)

    I have expressed my personal feelings and goals earlier here, so I won’t repeat myself. I will only thank you once again for sharing this very personal journey you have taken, and would like very much to follow your journey as it continues to evolve. You have captured my imagination, and given me much to reflect upon, and I am most grateful! Pru
    p.s. I believe we are kindred souls, regardless that I am 20 years older than you!

  16. Pru McDonald says:

    Oooops! Forgot! I DO very much appreciate your kind responses to my comments!!! So thoughtful of you to take the time, and to make the effort!! Hugs to you! Pru

  17. preppyplayer says:

    My good friend Susan Bolton sent me over here- and I’m glad she did!
    Sounds like you’ve been getting back more than you give and I love it.
    I think that this project is such a symbolic tribute to your mother, the ultimate shiva 🙂
    So what will you do next?

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