October 27. Day 27 of My Month of Hundreds.

I really need some time to sit and think about all that has happened and where I go from here. I DO NOT KNOW. What does all this mean? How has it changed me? Have I accomplished what I set out to do? Where DO I go from here?

I feel the end of the month looming. No one is holding a gun to my head saying I have to stop as of November 1 (“this is a stick-up: stop giving away money!”). But having a finite perimeter around the project helps me measure its impact. At least, I imagine it does. Some things seem less certain than ever.

Five more C-notes. Five more giveaways. I have to remind myself not to try too hard to “pick the right person”; what I have been doing has worked just fine. But I do find myself focusing more now on people who appear to be really in need.

After my morning clinic I headed back into town by way of the bakery to pick up a treat for a meeting. Driving by the Dollar Store on NE Halsey I noticed a man selling the Street Roots newspaper on the little mall there. He was tall and thin, with a strikingly upright posture. His off-white burlap pants at one point may have lent a sporty and carefree tropical look to the wearer, but now they were too dirty and just a little too short to be stylish.

After work I found myself drawn back to that same area and drifted into the Dollar Store. I used to shop there all the time for baskets-full of ibuprofen and aspirin to give away at the free clinic. Now we’re all grown up and the staff orders that stuff.

It being almost Halloween, the place was a treasure trove of cheap plastic items. I spent a few minutes looking at a vast collection of plastic swords and daggers in all shapes and sizes; my boys would have loved those when they were little. There were even some Christmas things on display and I heard a woman calling out “Happy New Year! Happy New Year!” as she showed some party hats to her friend.

I got a little tingly feeling like my next recipient was close at hand. I saw a middle-aged guy pushing an empty cart; he was looking sharp in jeans and highly polished black shoes and I found myself wondering what he was shopping for. A woman pushing a stroller caught my eye. I got closer and saw a tiny infant swaddled in pink. I liked the idea of giving a gift to a new mother, but she pulled out her phone to make a call and the opportunity passed.

A pretty woman with long braids was speaking softly in Spanish to her little girl. The child wanted a balloon and the woman let out a little sigh. “Okay. Let’s go get you one.” I followed them to the front of the store, looking for the right moment. Then I looked out the window and saw him.

The guy with the Street Roots papers was still standing there. He had a small wrapped bundle of newspapers in his hand and was tossing it into the air, flipping it around, catching it behind his back. He had some serious grace and skill and I watched, captivated.

I went outside and walked up to him. “Hi.” “Good day,” he said, very proper. I told him I had seen him a few hours earlier and was surprised that he was still there at the end of the day. “This is my primary activity,” he explained. I noticed his broken down shoes and the absence of socks. I asked him how he came to be selling the newspaper. His story spilled out.

“Well, I used to be a regular person. Had a job. Just like you.” He told me he had lost his job at age 21 and then couldn’t pay his rent and ended up in a shelter and on the street. “I was there for ten years.” He shook his head, as if he could hardly believe this himself.

“I’ve seen everything you could possibly imagine out there on the street. I’ve seen people born, grow up, get old and DIE. Now, I just try to stay out of trouble. It’s hard not to find trouble when you’re on the street. Trouble finds you.”

He told me his name was Frank. Right about then the guy with the jeans and polished shoes came out of the Dollar Store and handed my friend a Hershey’s bar. “Hey, thanks,” Frank said. He told me he’s living with some friends now and he’s doing good, but still can’t find work beyond the Street Roots gig. He was sweet and polite and I thought back to Colin from Day 4.

I started telling Frank about my project and he listened intently. I handed him the $100 bill and he stared at it for a minute, lips pursed. “Oooo,” he said. “Thank you!” He slipped the bill quickly into his pocket, then shook my hand. I asked if he knew what he might do with it. “That’s easy,” he said. “Pay the rent.”

I told Frank he seemed like a really smart guy and I wished him the best. He was interested in the blog and let me take his picture. He’s really handsome, this doesn’t do him justice.

Frank, a Regular Person

26 Responses to A Regular Person

  1. Susan Bolton says:

    “Well, I used to be a regular person. Had a job. Just like you.” – I actually LOL ~ and nice to see the polished shoe guy give him a candy bar! So carefree…

  2. preppyplayer says:

    I’m back.
    Love his dignity- how proper he was, nice posture, trying to make a buck. Seems like he has hope. I hope that the $100 lets him know that there is a lot of possibility out there 🙂

  3. Pru McDonald says:

    Another memorable story! I love how you intuitively pick your lucky recipients! If I were in your shoes, I would NEVER be able to forget these stories, and would carry them with for the rest of my life, sharing them wherever I went! You express yourself SO well, Jill; you have a real talent for capturing all the most important and relevant details. Again, this should become a book!

    As a graphic artist, semi-retired, writing was one of my most fun responsibilities, and poetry a lifelong love. Since 2006, I have written my memoir, (for family and friends only) and almost 700 poems, of which many are “keepers”. It’s sort of my “therapy”!

    Dear Jill,

    I got home too late from an appointment today to go to the gym, so I took the opportunity to read your entire blog from the very beginning, and am now going back reading all the comments. So much there to absorb, in both venues. I enjoyed this afternoon tremendously, and plan to re-read it all again soon. You are some one I would dearly love to know, face to face. We have so much we can share and learn from one another. My instincts are also quite good: intuitive and usually dead-on.

    Meanwhile, My mother was a Sicilian immigrant who came to this country in 1912, at age 6, whose own marriage was arranged to a much older man, when she was 17. She had a mostly terrible life, was a battered wife; in another time and age, given her fierce will, determination and intelligence, she could easily have become President! She died of bone cancer at age 87. Widowed only a few months before, I was her only caregiver, and while she too had been frugal all her life (but validly so) she would have done ANY thing for her daughter and two sons.

    Just hours before she died, she told me something that absolutely broke my heart, and made me realize that she had indeed learned a valuable lesson about Life, when to save, and when to spend. I would like to share this story with you sometime. It’s a beauty!

    I signed up to receive your additional posts, and comments, but have only received the posts. I am most grateful to still be on the list, and hope that even when you are finished with this particular project, that we can all somehow be kept informed… I know I am
    hooked, and would follow you anywhere! Seriously!

    Please update me on your next project, or how to find your blog…
    Your devoted fan, Pru

  4. Pru McDonald says:

    Dear Jill,

    I so admire you for trying to respond to everyone’s comments… it’s really lovely! But my real reason for writing you again is to apologize for allowing my enthusiasm for your writing, for this blog, to destroy my good sense: I believe I have overstepped a boundary here, and have become a bit pushy. I am embarrassed… Please forgive me!

    I am really usually more aware, more kind and thoughtful… I am so sorry! Pru

  5. Mark says:

    What I find most fascinating about your blogs is that I almost always read something that initially sparks a negative perception of you being judgmental … in the case of today’s, changing your mind about choosing the woman with the cell phone as the recipient of the $100. I then realize I would have made EXACTLY the same call … a very humbling realization and acceptance that I’m a lot more human then I’d like to believe.

    Thank you for sharing your moving interactions with humans like myself.

  6. Yes, thank you! I was initially put off just by the fact that she HAD a phone (an iPhone I think) and then realized how foolish that was, and all the assumptions it entailed. But as she kept talking I didn’t know how to butt in and the urge kind of faded. Interesting to observe myself; can’t help it even when I don’t like what I see! Thanks again for reading and commenting. Jill

  7. Person after person, day by day, you are restoring my hope in the basic goodness of mankind. I have begun my own little attempts at making connections with people. While at Fred Meyer today, I played peek-a-boo with a two year old boy, smiled graciously at the woman ahead of me on line, and engaged in more eye contact with fellow passersby. I must say it makes the mundane experience so much more meaningful. Kudos, Jill.

  8. Betsy says:

    That Frank is a beautiful person, regular though he may be.

  9. DJan says:

    I hear your anxiety about getting to the end of the month. It’s going to be interesting to see what you decide to do with this experience. I truly hope you share it with your dedicated followers.

    I’ve made some virtual friends through my blog that mean as much to me as family; in fact, they are bloggers who write about their everyday lives, or passions, and I follow their ups and downs, as they follow mine. It would make me very happy to follow you through your days.

    And thanks for Frank, BTW.

  10. Joan says:

    In our Adult Sunday School class we are studying homelessness with a curriculum by JOIN. The first week we were to really listen to people both homeless and others in our lives. The second week were to really see people in the same way.

    On my way to the Gerding Theater to see “the Illiad” there was what looked like a homeless person draped over a sign outside the theater. My first thought was to talk to him, but I was with my granddaughter and didn’t want to embarrass her and wanted to get seated. After we got seated in the front row my granddaughter said.”Gramma did you see that man outside? He is the star of this show”.

    I have been looking and listening a little more lately. Thank you for sharing your stories.

    • That’s a great story. It’s so complicated how we interact with each other, the assumptions we make about each other. I am rarely disappointed when I risk making a connection with a stranger but it is so easy to just walk away. Thanks for reading!

  11. Pru McDonald says:

    Loved reading all the comments, seeing how your readers have been inspired to become more aware, more giving in their own lives as a result of YOUR generosity… like a pebble dropped into a lake, the ripples begin to appear and expand to eternity, making this a better world for all… so BEAUTIFUL! An amazing lesson.. many thanks! Pru

  12. Fritz Graham says:

    Hi, Doc.
    Found this blog by accident, became fascinated and immersed in each micro-adventure, and felt compelled to write to add my virtual voice to the cheering throngs who are moved and encouraged by your project. Wow. There’s a story on every corner, along with heartbreak and hope, too. Remember the old old old TV series “The Millionaire”? You’re our 21st century John Beresford Tipton. Hope you feel all the love and goodness coming back at ya! Fritz in Pa.

  13. Carrie says:

    You really have a wonderful heart, Aunt Jill. You are truly SEEING these people and finding out what makes them each special. We should all do more of that. 🙂

  14. Susan Moerder says:

    You never know when the right blessed will come to you as an agel.

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