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 weâ€™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.
Thereâ€™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, â€œdonâ€™t bother me.â€ It was all the invitation I needed.
â€œIâ€™ll be right back,â€ I said to the group. â€œSomebody order me a drink.â€ 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. Soâ€¦ 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. â€œHi, how you doing?â€ I said. She turned and I got my first real look at her. I noticed her long eyelashes and sad countenance.
â€œIâ€™m blessed. You?â€ I thought for a second. â€œYeah, I guess I could say the same.â€
She went back to looking at the bottles. â€œCan I talk to you for a minute?â€ The woman turned to me again. â€œYeah? What?â€ I took a different approach than my usual; not sure why. â€œIâ€™m Jill. Whatâ€™s your name?â€ Her eyes widened. â€œIâ€™m not gonna tell you! You might be the poh-lice!â€ 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. â€œOh, my God! I donâ€™t have any food! Jesus!â€ 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. â€œIâ€™m gonna call my Mama! She wonâ€™t believe this!â€ She pulled out her phone.
â€œMama! You know how Iâ€™ve been praying?? A white lady just gave me a hundred dollars! Jesus! I swear it!â€ She pushed the phone at me. â€œTalk to her! Tell her itâ€™s true!â€
I took her phone and heard a voice murmuring on the other end. I couldnâ€™t make out the words. â€œHello? Itâ€™s true what she said. Have a good night.â€
I don’t really remember what happened next. Somehow we said goodbye and I carried on with my happy hour.
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