This afternoon I headed out to do a bit of shopping in preparation for Thanksgiving. I only had a couple of things to pick up so decided to bundle up and walk the mile or so to the store.

I was at Safeway down on Broadway near the Dollar Tree with a C-note in my pocket. After I paid, I saw a man standing in front of the lottery ticket dispenser. He was rifling through his wallet. “You ever have any luck?” I asked. “Yeah, every once in a while,” he said. “One time I hit one for forty eight thousand! Forty eight thousand five hundred and twenty.” “Wow! What’d you do with the money?” I asked him. “Oh, I have five children and 100 grandchildren,” he said, rather bitterly. “That’s where most of that went.” I wished him luck and headed out.

It had started to rain by the time I left the store. I thought of Frank from Day 27 and listened for his harmonica as I crossed the walkway. I would have loved to see him but hoped he was at home, warm and dry, rather than outside selling his newspapers. I was dressed for the weather but still felt the sting of the windblown drizzle on my cheeks. The sky was white as chalk.

I stopped for a minute under the Dollar Tree awning. No Frank. I was trying to decide whether I would wait for the bus or set off walking home. I had a scarf around my head and was all bundled up in an old coat. Just another gray-haired lady trying to stay warm. A handsome young store employee was standing inside. He gestured for me to come in, then opened the door and held it wide. “Come on in!” he encouraged. “It’s awful chilly outside!”

Tyrone

I didn’t need anything from the Dollar Store, but couldn’t resist the warm invitation. His name tag said “Tyrone”. I stepped inside the store and teased him a little. “I didn’t really want to come in. but I couldn’t resist you!” He laughed and said that Dollar Tree was paying him to be a greeter. “Can you believe it?! A greeter! At Dollar Tree!” He said he loved to surprise people with friendliness and respect. Especially if they have problems, and if they just need to talk.

We settled into a comfortable exchange and he told me had been in Portland for 18 months. He had been running with the wrong crowd in Pasadena and one day realized he had to turn things around. He left his old life behind and arrived in downtown Portland on the Greyhound, penniless. Everywhere he turned, people reached out to help him. He got a shelter bed, then a job, then another job, then an apartment.

A steady stream of customers came through the door. One woman had a couple of plastic bags in her hands. “Excuse me, ma’am. You have to put your bags into the locker while you shop.” “Does it cost money?” she asked. Tyrone responded in his easy-going manner. “You put a quarter in to lock it, and you’ll get your quarter back when you return the key. And, if you don’t have a quarter, I’m here. I’ll keep an eye on it.”

One man came in and shook Tyrone’s hand like an old friend. He stopped a few more people carrying bags and politely asked them to use the lockers. He told me he is so grateful for his present life that he sometimes breaks down and cries while he is preparing his lunch for work. “I can’t help it! My life is just so good now.”

He said someone told him once that you can make any situation better by putting love into it and he is starting to think that’s true. “I wish I’d learned these lessons earlier. You just gotta do the next right thing. Simple. That’s all.”

I asked Tyrone if he would get in trouble if I gave him something. “Yeah, maybe. I don’t know. I think they worry more about money, like they don’t want us to be taking no tips. Really? Tips? Ha!” His good-humored laugh took any sting out of the words. I told him I wanted to give him something, but it wasn’t a tip, it was just a gift for the holidays.

“It’s legit,” I said. “But I don’t want to get you in trouble.” I gave him the C-note and he slipped it into his pocket. “Oh, thank you so much.” He turned away, fighting back emotion. “Look,” I said.”If anyone asks about it, they can check it out. I’ll write down my name.”

I showed him some pictures on my iPod and he asked if I could email him a photo of the two of us. He called a woman over and put his arm around me as she held the camera up to her eye.

He wrote down his email address and I said I would send him the picture. I patted at my hair, laughing about a chunk that I could see sticking up in the photo. “It’s down now,” he said, smiling. We shook hands.

I stepped back outside into the drizzle. Somehow, it didn’t feel cold at all. The guy I had seen at the lottery ticket machine was at the bus stop. “Any luck?” I asked. “Nope, not today,” he said. “Maybe next time,” I offered. “Yeah. Maybe next time.”

That's Tyrone and me

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24 Responses to The Next Right Thing

  1. Jill says:

    So cool. I have become more assertive but I do it with 20s.

  2. DJan says:

    Tyrone sounds like a kindred spirit, filled with love and respect for others, and ready for kindness to take him by the hand. Lovely story, Jill. I loved it, as usual.

  3. Jill,

    It seems you are now drawn to just the right people! If you were unsure during your Month of Hundreds, you’ve now developed an amazing ability to connect with the people who not only love what you’re doing, but make you feel fabulous about gifting them with the C-note.

    As we move into the season of holidays, it is especially good to read your posts. I love the unique perspective you have put on them for me.

    If you were here, I’d give you a big hug!

  4. Ginny says:

    You did again and that makes me so happy to see the people you find to give to. Too bad there isn’t more like him around.
    You good great in your picture with him,so happy.

  5. Renee says:

    I love reading what you write. Yeah, I love hearing the stories and learning about the connections you make on this amazing journey. But really, most of all, I just like to “hear” you. I love your written voice. Thank you for inviting us to share the voice and the stories.

  6. Penny Gruver says:

    smiling at you!

  7. Pru McDonald says:

    Another WONDERFUL winner, another GREAT choice of recipient! And yes, you write it all so well! I have spent a good part of the day writing and calling friends who have suffered from illness or bad news, to cheer them up, to do my good deeds for the day, to tell them I hold them in my heart and in my thoughts. It almost depressed me, because there were so many who needed cheering.
    Now me, I could use a little cheer, and guess what! It just came
    with your lovely post! Man, many thanks, Jill! You have no idea all the good you are doing, and how far-reaching it is! Blessings to Tyrone too! Pru

  8. Linda Bray says:

    Oh how I love your stories. Each one is worth a million dollars.
    Jill, you are changing a lot of people, me, included.

  9. Emily says:

    Thank you so much for what you are doing…your generosity not only speaks volumes about who you are, it tells the stories of others. I will be thinking of Tyrone and the amazing outlook on his life that he shared with you. I believe that the most important quality a person can have is a grateful heart and Tyrone embodies that belief. Thank you for sharing this with all of us…

  10. Tyrone is a great young man, a natural born greeter. You found another gem, Jill.

  11. Pru McDonald says:

    Jill, your generosity goes around and around, bringing blessings not only to those who receive the C-note, but to all of us who read your lovely words, so beautifully expressed, and are inspired to go out and do good for others by your example. I read it in all the great comments here, how you have touched so many hearts, and this has become a never-ending blessing to all who read your words, who take them to heart, especially in this Season of Love and Wonder.
    Wishing you and EVERYONE a blessed and Happy Holiday Season, and you too, Tyrone!!! Pru

  12. suzanne teune says:

    tyrone is one of my heros! he’s always that great of a guy! meeting him also had a huge impact on my life!
    suzanne.

  13. I am so glad I met Tyrone! I always think of him now, and one of these I’m going to go say hi to him at work. He has a great future ahead. Thanks for writing!

  14. Tim Hynde says:

    I happen to know this man, where he is coming from and what he has now done. Your generosity could not have been received by a more worthy candidate.

  15. Tim- How wonderful to hear that from you. Thanks so much for writing.

  16. Neal Foster says:

    Hello,

    I am one of Tyrone’s friends, with both walk the same road of recovery. He truly is an amazing individual. you have put so much warmth not only into Tyrone’s life, but into the lives of everyone he touches with his amazing presence. from the bottom of my heart I wish you a Merry Christmas and a Happy new year.

    Neal F.
    Co-Chair PORCYPAA
    2/11/2006

  17. Neal- The energy that pulled me into the Dollar Store that day was magical and I am so thankful to have met Tyrone. I can get a glimpse of the impact he has had on others by the comments here. Thank you so much for reading. Please tell Tyrone I send love. Jill

  18. Meredith says:

    It’s a small world Jill! Tyrone is a friend of mine!

  19. Louise says:

    What a wonderful story. I’m Tyrone’s MOM and he shared this meeting with me and you helped to kept his path forward attainable with your kindness. Thank You. and for You Tyrone a MOM couldn’t be PROUDER. I love you very much.

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