A gift of a fresh loaf of homemade bread got today off to a perfect start. The morning’s blue sky gradually surrendered to the usual gray. It was cold and windy but not raining, so I decided to walk to the library. I’m reading a terrific book right now, called Keep the Change by Steve Dublanica. It’s all about tipping, generosity and human connection. I know what my #1 New Year’s resolution will be. Maybe you can guess.

I had a couple of books to pick up and also a C-note to give away. I’d been carrying it around all week. On the way to the library, I passed my favorite bakery and looked longingly inside. No time for self-indulgence. I was on a mission.

Sam’s (Good Food and Drink) is on the next corner, and I glanced inside. I’ve only been inside once; it’s a real old fashioned bar and grill. It was about lunchtime, and the place was pretty busy. There was a woman sitting at a table by the window, reading a book. She had a cup of black coffee in front of her. I wondered what it would be like to slide into a chair across from her, but I kept going.

Billiards too

I took a peek in the laundromat before heading to the library. That could be a sad place to spend a Sunday and I liked the idea of brightening someone’s day. A woman and her daughter were talking quietly. I heard the girl say, “Maybe we’ll just do less drying time.” My ears perked up. Could it be they didn’t have enough money to finish their wash? How horrible would that be to have to lug home half-dry clothes?

The mother went out to smoke a cigarette and I sidled up to the girl. “Laundry day, hunh?” “Yeah, our washer is broken,” she said. “And the dryer here takes forever.” Through the window I could see her mom out front, keeping an eye on the situation while she finished her smoke. I kept a polite distance from the girl, who looked about 10. She was pointedly avoiding my gaze. “You’re right to be careful about talking to strangers.” She looked down at her shoes and started muttering, “Stranger danger, stranger danger.” It was really creepy.

I went outside and talked with the girl’s mom for a minute so she would know I wasn’t up to trouble. Part of me wanted to show them that strangers can be wonderful, but I worried that my actions would be misinterpreted. The enthusiasm drained away and I took off.

On the way home I passed by Sam’s again and the woman with the book was still there. I decided to go in. The door weighs a ton and, arms full of books, I had to struggle to get it open. I stepped into the dark entryway. The dimly lit bar to my left was empty. On the other side, light was flooding in through the windows and the occupied tables were abuzz with animated conversation. The woman was sitting by herself, her book open in front of her and her coffee cup almost empty.

The door to Sam's. Not exactly welcoming. But warm inside.

I walked over to her table and asked the woman if I could talk with her for a minute. “Sure,” she said. I noticed that the book was in large print. I sat down across from her as a waitress came over and put down a knife and fork in front of me. “Can I get you something to drink?” she asked. “Oh, no thanks. I’m just going to sit for a minute,” I explained. The woman was watching me, unfazed.

I introduced myself and said a few dumb things about the weather. Then I told her that I had a gift for her for the holidays, that I figured she could use it. I slid the folded up bill across the table. “Oh, no,” she said. Her eyes filled with tears. “Why would you do that?” I explained that I was honoring my mother and trying to rid myself of some wrong-headed ideas about money. And hoping to help some people at the same time.  I asked her name.

She said her name was Sharon. I could see she was struggling to keep her emotions in check and wasn’t going to share any more. The bill was still on the table, her hand on top of it. As I got up she said, “Just know it makes a really big difference. Merry Christmas. And God bless you.”

When I got outside I tried to catch Sharon’s eye, but the waitress came along just then and put a plate of food down on the table. I saw Sharon smile at her, then she tucked the bill into her purse.

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9 Responses to Why Would You Do That?

  1. DJan says:

    I was reminded of the old saying that we should give to others so that the right hand doesn’t know what the left hand is doing. This seems to follow that logic, you just won’t ever know what your largess has accomplished. 🙂

    • I know there are people who have no idea of the deep impression they made on me. One of the sweet mysteries of life! I was glad to see your comment, DJan! I wish you the best for the coming holidays. Jill

  2. […] This post was mentioned on Twitter by Marie Wise, APR. Marie Wise, APR said: RT @drjillginsberg: Giving away $100? Why Would You Do That? http://wp.me/p14V2E-nR […]

  3. Pru McDonald says:

    Struggling with self-pity today, I wondered as I used a machine at the gym (which was crowded with unfamiliar faces!) if everyone there was happy and fulfilled, or more like me, feeling my losses weighing heavily on me this cold and gloomy, drizzly day, trying to get through this last week before Christmas in a positive mood. I wondered how many others were fighting their inner demons, and I think that a lot of them were probably like me. We always assume that everyone else is doing great, when the very opposite is probably true. Like your woman with a book, at Sam’s.
    Barely keeping her head above water, I’ll bet, fighting so hard to keep herself going… then YOU come along..! POW! I really wish we all knew the outcome of that one!

    I’m sure you could write a book, Jill, about all these amazing and VERY spiritual experiences you have been a part of since October 1, 2010. Shalom, my friend! You have once again helped me to focus on all those less fortunate than I. Pru

  4. Janette says:

    I love reading your posts. They warm my heart to know that there is someone like you out there creating a ripple in the ocean of life.

  5. pretty amazing….I do wonder what that woman’s “story” was….but she will never forget you or your random act of kindness!

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