I guess I was just born nosy, because I can’t ever remember a time when I didn’t like grilling people with questions. Maybe it’s simple curiosity, but I seem to have a greater tendency and need to pry than most. This serves me well in my work as a physician, which is really all about stories and getting to the bottom of things.

Having the intention of giving away $100 really opened up this part of me; I became like a question machine. It was a natural part of the giving process but moreso a by-product of feeling more aware and connected. I am simply amazed at how willing people are to share personal information with a total stranger.

That’s what happened today. I was back at good old Fred Meyer, along with most everyone in the neighborhood. There was a C-note tucked in my pocket. I had stuff to pick up from all over the store, so I covered some ground. I saw the cashier woman from Day 31 and was happy to see that she seemed to be in a better mood. I said hello to a few people I knew as I worked my way through my list.

New can opener: check. Bag clips: check. Spotted a coupon for “buy two gadgets and get one free.” Third gadget: check.

I was inexplicably browsing through the oral health supplies when I spotted a young girl with a white cane. She appeared to be about 14 and was holding on to a slightly older kid’s arm. Every so often he would stop and she would feel her way along the shelves. “What is this?” I heard her ask. The other kid said, “It’s candy. And gum and stuff.”

Seems like I went around the store in circles a few times but I finally grabbed my last item, a bottle of canola oil. A few yards down was the blind girl. She was standing in front of the packaged pudding, the boy standing somewhat protectively at her side. A woman was behind them, giving her directions. “Look to the… I mean, feel to the left. No, I mean the right. That’s Jello.” “It’s already cooked?” asked the girl.

The woman had a shopping cart full of packaged food. She was in her 60s, had a soft round face and short spiky hair. She saw me looking at her and smiled. She took a few lurching steps and I noticed that one of her legs was about four inches shorter than the other. The kids came over and they all conferred quietly. A large man joined them and I realized he was part of the family too.

I stood there and pretended to compare the prices of brown sugar. Lots of people were coming and going. Finally the five of us were alone in the aisle and I wheeled my cart next to theirs. I said hello to the woman, who fixed me with a friendly and open gaze. “Is this your family?” I asked her. “Yes, we drove up from Medford.”

She cocked her head toward the girl. “She’s going to the School for the Blind. So we’re getting stuff to get her cupboards set up. You know, stuff she doesn’t have to cook very much. It’ll be the first time she’s been on her own.” I looked at the small girl standing next to me. “How old are you?” I asked. “I’m eighteen,” she said, her eyelids fluttering.

We stood there chatting for a while as if we were old friends. I felt the cocoon of love, pride and concern that was surrounding this brave girl. I flashed back to the emotion of dropping my own son off at college not long ago.

“I’d like you to have this. For good luck.” I tucked the bill into the woman’s hand. She looked at it and then at me. “Are you sure? Are you sure??” I smiled and said I was. The woman reached out and pulled me into a big hug. She pressed her soft cheek against mine in a tender and surprisingly intimate gesture. Then she whispered into my ear, “Thank you. I’ll give it to my granddaughter.” She left a damp spot on my cheek when she finally pulled away.

“What is it, Grandma?” asked the girl. “It’s some money, sweetie.” The woman thanked me, her eyes glistening. I said goodbye and turned to go. I’ll never be sure what she meant but as I pushed off toward the checkout stand I heard the girl say, “Grandma? I told you I could see with my heart.”

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27 Responses to The Brave Granddaughter

  1. amy says:

    OMG Dr.Jill so now im crying. wonderful blog

  2. Ok, Jill, you’re at it again!:) That last line was a clincher, heart-wringer…..As I look out my huge picture windows to enjoy my view, I’ll give thanks for sight I take for granted … and think of the girl who sees with her heart.

    • I am not very good at noticing little details like flowers and other pretty things as I go through my day. I am always looking for things I have misplaced. The part of my brain that “sees” needs some work, as well as my heart! Thanks for stopping by, Trishia!

  3. deb bernstein says:

    Another cryer over here. What a beautiful concept, to see with your heart. You do it, Jill. We must all practice!

  4. Jill Neuwelt says:

    are $100 better than 2×50?

  5. Ronda Koester says:

    ok, i am crying too Jill!! It is a beautiful Sunday afternoon and the colorful leaves are everywhere…seeing them thru teary eyes…I love what you are doing…tears all over the world….!

  6. Sandra says:

    Told you it was addictive, that you could not quit. 🙂

    The greatest gifts in the world giving with the heart which you do so well.

    You are leading.

    Thank you for being you.

  7. Miranda says:

    Dear Dr. Jill,
    This beautiful posting brought tears to my eyes, also.

    Your project made me recall a time when I was fragile and vulnerable.

    I was underemployed, my daughter was young and dependent on me, and my then-husband was abusive and irresponsible with money. I was with my child at the ATM inside a grocery store. The debit card was declined and the machine kept the card. We had no money for food. I stood there weeping. My daughter clung to my legs saying, “What’s wrong, Mommy?” I replied that the machine was broken.

    An elderly man quietly approached, handed me a handful of bills. “Here,” he said gently. “I believe these are yours.” I replied that he must have misunderstood, the money wasn’t mine. He smiled, pressed the money into my hand and looked me in the eyes and said, “Take it for the little one.” As he left, my daughter asked, “Who that, Mommy?” I told her it was an angel.

    That exceptional act of kindness came during a very dark time in my life. It gave me hope. Subsequently I found an excellent paying job. I divorced my husband. Raised a daughter who is now an accomplished, beautiful person. But that evening at the ATM, so many years ago, is as vivid to me as if it happened yesterday.

    I sent you a $100 donation recently so you could continue your good work, remembering that gentleman who helped a young mother get through a tough week.

    You never know how far the ripples in the pond of kindness will reach. My heart is bursting with gratitude and love for your kindness to the people you’ve encountered and for the kindness of a random stranger who once cared enough to reach out to me.

    • Miranda- Thank you so much for writing and sharing your story. It’s true we never know how our actions will affect others, for good or otherwise. I’m glad you have found an easier time in your life and so appreciate your contribution! This is truly what makes the world go round. All the best- Jill

    • Janette says:

      You are awesome .. and thanks for sharing. As a single mom I know how tough it can be, and for you it was hardern than most. You are a courageous woman who moved forward and onward to better things. You made it all happen. Hugs …

  8. Janet Jacobson says:

    Wow, tears warming my eyes too. A cleansing…thank you…

  9. Ginny says:

    As I read it I cried too. what a wonderful story. Bless you for your wonderful heart!

  10. Steph says:

    Thank you. For so many things, but most of all for sharing your experience with the rest of the world. The sun is shining in Oregon!

  11. Pru McDonald says:

    My heart is breaking tonight for personal reasons… My MS son and his Sammamish family will be losing their home soon, and it breaks my heart. A wonderful, caring wife, who is an OT, working full time now since he lost his great position at Microsoft in 2006 due to his MS.

    Emails flew back and forth tonight, and I am desolate, wanting to help and knowing I am helpless to do anything except to be fully supportive and loving. Your beautiful story tonight of the blind girl was what I needed to balance the sorrow I feel, and gives me hope for the future. There ARE angels in this world, and you are definitely one of them, Jill. Many thanks! Pru

  12. Pru McDonald says:

    THank you for your comforting words, Jill! At 79, all I can give is my love and support… My heart breaks, though for my two bright and
    beautiful grandchildren, Claire, 12, and Ethan 8, whose lives will be
    turned upside down by this… but they a strong and amazing, and I can only hope for the best , that the handle it with grace and love.

  13. Angie says:

    This blog post has been in my in box for a couple of days and I haven’t had time to read it until now. I needed this today. Thank you so much for the gift of this blog. I did have to wait several minutes for my tears to dry though before I could write this comment. I love the lessons we are all learning from your journey, Jill. Many thanks to you for sharing.

  14. Janette says:

    The grand daughter saw you. I am sure she shared it with her grandmother before you even came over. By your act, and her daughter’s knowing it helped her grandmotehr feel confident that her grand daugther will be alright on her own at school How awesome! If we could all see from our hearts, this world would be so much better for it.

  15. Kay Dennison says:

    You are an angel!!!!

  16. Beautiful story as were the previous two. I have missed stopping in and visiting your blog but am determined to catch up. You continue to find people who are genuine and have much to give by just being who they are. Thank you, Jill. Happy Chanukah!

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