Mama! A white lady just gave me $100!

October 26. Day 26 of My Month of Hundreds.

Five years ago I had another amazing adventure and helped a local pastor start a free health clinic for uninsured adults in North Portland. Through the generous support of the community and our volunteers we’ve been able to provide services to thousands of neighborhood residents. A couple of times a year I go out with the paid staff for Happy Hour to celebrate their hard work. Today was the day.

There’s a place we like a few blocks away from the clinic and the five of us headed over there shortly after five. A bus stop and a gas station sit across the street, and I often see a fair collection of characters in the vicinity. I had my eyes peeled and the C-note in my pocket.

Just as we went in a woman hurried past. Everything about her look and posture said, “don’t bother me.” It was all the invitation I needed.

“I’ll be right back,” I said to the group. “Somebody order me a drink.” I got outside just in time to see the woman duck into a store about halfway up the block. As I closed in I could see that she had gone into the liquor store.

I had second thoughts and then remembered the cold beer that was waiting for me back at the restaurant. So… it was okay for me to look forward to a drink at the end of the day but not this lady? Because she looked poor? Seriously? The chatter in my head is insistent, even when I would swear I know better.

The woman was standing at the front of the small store viewing the wares, which were all behind bars. I walked up behind her. “Hi, how you doing?” I said. She turned and I got my first real look at her. I noticed her long eyelashes and sad countenance.

“I’m blessed. You?” I thought for a second. “Yeah, I guess I could say the same.”

She went back to looking at the bottles. “Can I talk to you for a minute?” The woman turned to me again. “Yeah? What?” I took a different approach than my usual; not sure why. “I’m Jill. What’s your name?” Her eyes widened. “I’m not gonna tell you! You might be the poh-lice!” Then she laughed.

I launched into my story and told her my mom had died not too long ago. She fixed me with a steady silent gaze. I told her I had a gift to share and gave her the $100 bill. She gasped and her hands flew up, covering her eyes. She started to sob and grabbed me in a bear hug. “Oh, my God! I don’t have any food! Jesus!” Then she told me her name was Deanna.

She was crying hard by now and was talking fast about how she had been praying for help. “I’m gonna call my Mama! She won’t believe this!” She pulled out her phone.

“Mama! You know how I’ve been praying?? A white lady just gave me a hundred dollars! Jesus! I swear it!” She pushed the phone at me. “Talk to her! Tell her it’s true!”

I took her phone and heard a voice murmuring on the other end. I couldn’t make out the words. “Hello? It’s true what she said. Have a good night.”

I don’t really remember what happened next. Somehow we said goodbye and I carried on with my happy hour.

16 Responses to I’m Blessed

  1. Pru McDonald says:

    Someone else said it first, and she was SO right! You are a natural at writing, at expressing your thoughts as they roll off of your mind! You and I, our paths were meant to cross, and I hope some day, somehow that happens. Please feel free to use my email, if it feels right to you. Meanwhile, You also have incredible instinct, the ability to intuit people’s spirits, and that is a beautiful gift!

    Because I had a violent childhood, was a battered kid, with a battered mom, I grew compassion at an early age, and can feel those who have suffered, and am able to connect with others in this way. I feel blessed by this gift, and see it in your writing as well.

    I believe you have a book in you, and perhaps that is where the Universe is taking you, leading you on this interesting path you have chosen. I have not read the negative responses to this blog,
    and wonder where they are? In OregonLIve? I’ll check it out.

    Meanwhile, thanks you for pointing me in the right direction, to Archives, and I am absolutely delighted at the thought of reading this entire blog! Gracie! Sicilian Pru

  2. Pru McDonald says:

    p.s. I can’t IMAGINE why anyone would disapprove of your blog!
    Twisted thinking, for those who don’t understand that you could NOT have honored your mother’s memory in a more fitting way…!

    I am personally blown away by it! Love, Pru

  3. Judith says:

    I KNEW there was a good reason to stay up so late! I got to read today’s entry!!! So it became my “bedtime story”…and as I knew it would, it left me blest.

  4. June Kansopon says:

    Great day. Great story.
    Next time I order a beer at 5th Quadrant or New Old Lompoc, it will be a pint of their C-Note glass raised with a nod to you.

  5. Susan Bolton says:

    Those genuine tears say it all… you are my new favorite humanitarian!!!

  6. DJan says:

    Okay, I’ve had my morning cry. You had not posted this when I went to bed last night, but the first thing I did was check your blog (it’s still only 6:30 am) and just LOVED this one.

    I do wonder what it is that pulls us in certain directions. What was it about Deanna? My theory (actually my hope) is that her Guardian Angel was whispering in your ear that she was the one for today. And you heard her.

    • DJan- A friend took a tumble last night and I was with her in the urgent care clinic, tapping away on my laptop while she got her chin sutured! Thanks for all your comments and for passing on this story. I can’t really explain what guides me as I do this. I think I’ve said elsewhere that it is a combination of observation, intuition and imagination. In other words, guardian angels!! Thanks for reading and taking the project to heart- Jill

  7. Found your blog through DJan’s blog. Great post and a wonderful thing to do! What a fitting memory to your mom.

  8. Pualana says:

    So beautiful. Thank you for continuing to share your story with us.


  9. Trudy Hussmann says:

    Since I read the article in the Oregonian on Sunday (and later the bad Chinese translation), I discovered your blog and have been reading that, too. I’ve been moved and impressed by how many of your recipients were so needy that they burst into tears when they saw your gift.

    You’ve also inspired me to open my eyes a bit wider to people who ask for help. For example, I was walking around at noon today, and I stepped into Peets to get a pumpkin spice latte. There was a guy out front with a sign begging for money. I felt drawn by him vs. put off. After I got my coffee, I thought I’d give him a few bucks. First it was going to be $2, and then I thought, I should at least give him as much as my latte cost (over $3)! So I ended up giving him a $5 bill.

    He said, “Thank you so much.”

  10. BJ says:

    Today, October 27th, is my birthday. Every year on this day, I wake up and find a card or a sweet handwritten note, sometimes with a flower or perhaps a small gift. The house is always quite, I am alone with my special treat to savor all to myself. I always find it perched somewhere near the coffee nook of our kitchen. My dear husband is responsible for this ritual. He has done this every year for as long as I can remember and it has become somewhat of a tradition between the two of us. Each year I look forward to it, and even as old as I am today, I still get excited about what I might find. It is always the first thing that I think of when I wake up on my special day. However, this birthday morning was a bit different, because added to my curiosity of what surprise my husband had devised for me, I found myself somewhat more curious to know if you had posted a new entry to your blog!

    This birthday morning, as I sat at my laptop sipping my coffee and reading “I’m Blessed” I could not help but feel that I too am also blessed, and I have felt that way all day today. I often caught myself reflecting on life, where I am as a person and where we are as a society. Thanks to reading this blog and following along with you as you go through this experience, it has renewed me with a great feeling of satisfaction and pride – almost a feeling of relief really. Relief to know now that there really are people left in this world that still care about others and that share the same compassion that I feel. To be quite honest with you, over the past few years I was beginning to wonder about where we all were heading. Reading your blog, your journey, so to speak, and reading all the wonderful comments left by others, I feel hopeful again. These events and tribulations we are facing in our world have not changed and jaded everyone. They, you, we, are all out there, making a difference in some way or another. Large or small, we keep at it; we keep it going, and keep paying it forward. (pardon the pun) We do it not because we have to, or because someone is telling us to, we do it because we “want to” and because it is the right thing to do, we know it in our hearts; no one can tell us any different. It’s just that simple. Giving and reaching out to help others is infectious, I know it is infections to me, and I hope and pray that it is (or could be) to others as well. If more people would act on their compassion, I cannot help but believe that this world might be in better shape. Hillary Clinton said, “It takes a village to raise a child” well, I say: “It takes a village to raise a village.”

    Thank you Jill Ginsburg, thank you for all you do and for all you have done for others. Thank you for this blog, I have enjoyed reading every word of it, and I look forward to reading more. Lastly, thank you for making my birthday this year even more special than I ever expected. ♥‿♥

    • BJ- Thank you for the amazing comment and Happy Birthday!! I am honored that you took the time to share your birthday with me. You reminded me of my childhood ritual, where my Dad would hide a present under my bed every year on my birthday. I think most people are good and want to do good. There is hope!!

      ps BJ was my nickname until I went to college (Baby Jill, coined by my father)

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