I was so excited to see that it was still broad daylight when I left the office at 5:00. I mean, BROAD daylight. Broad as a barn. Even little bits of sun peeking through the clouds. I had parked a dozen blocks away so I could get a little walk in. Actually, that’s a lie. You know why I did it – so I wouldn’t have to pay for parking in the Lloyd Center district.

Anyway, I got outside and it was surprisingly cold. Windy. I tucked my head down, stuffed my free hand deep into my coat pocket and marched along as fast as I could. I was hungry, and even McDonald’s smelled good to me. As I walked by, I caught a glimpse of an old van pulling away from the drive-through window.

I stopped at the curb to cross the street just as the van pulled up. I saw a man driving, holding a long french fry. He was laughing and talking, waving the french fry around. He waved me on and I hurried across. A few blocks later I was waiting to cross Broadway and the van pulled up alongside me. I got a look inside and saw a young woman in the passenger seat. The man looked at me and smiled broadly. I gave the C-note in my pocket a little squeeze.

“Pull over!” I yelled, gesturing for him to roll the window down. “Pull over up there!” The light changed and we both crossed the street. He pulled the van to the curb and leaned across the seat to look out the window. He looked puzzled but was still wearing that big grin. “Hey, how you doing?” I asked. “I’m fine! What do you want, a ride?” He thought this was pretty funny and was laughing hard. I saw that his passenger was a teenage girl. His daughter. She had a tray of about five giant drinks on her lap. “You going to drink that all by yourself?” I asked. I kill myself.

“Get out of the car for a sec, okay?” I asked the guy. He asked why and I said I wanted to give him something. “Oh, you’re scaring me!” he chuckled. “Please? Just for a minute! I promise, it’s legit.” He got out of the car and came over to the sidewalk. “What? Free advice?” he asked, with a grin. “No, here. It’s this. I want you to have it.” I held out the bill and he just stared. “Is this for real?”

I said it was and he reached out and gave me a big hug. “You did a beautiful thing,” he said. “But why?” I told him my mom had died last year and left me a gift. “I’ve been giving it away, handing out hundred dollar bills.”

“Thank you, that’s just beautiful,” he said. He cocked his head and looked at me. “One more,” he said. And he pulled me into another hug. His daughter was watching, smiling shyly from the front seat. I asked if I could take their picture and she put the tray down and got out. She said her name was Isis and she was 14.

Ray and Isis

Her dad said his name was Ray and he was going to put the money in the bank. “That’s going for bills,” he said with a nod. He stuck his hand out and I squeezed it hard with both of mine. “It was really nice to meet you. Thanks for stopping. A lot of people wouldn’t have done that.” He agreed. “Yeah, they would’ve thought you were PSYCHO!” He laughed again and we said goodbye.  They got in the van and I watched them drive off. They were watching me, waving and smiling.

When I got home I went to Wikipedia to read about the Egyptian goddess Isis. She had lots of other titles. My favorite one: She Who Knows How To Make Right Use of the Heart.

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11 Responses to Right Use of the Heart

  1. DJan says:

    You know, I do wonder sometimes what other people might think when you do something like that (“pull over!”). I think you must have a guardian angel who is busy pulling your strings, because it always turns out all right, or even better than all right. I’m smiling, again.

    • Jill Ginsberg says:

      Yes, it is pretty amazing! I saw some people driving by, craning their necks to check out the strange and magical scene playing out on the sidewalk.

  2. Pru McDonald says:

    Like DJan, I too am amazed at how Jill manages to pick the perfect recipients, and how it all happens so magically, as though directed by angels! Truly,
    something miraculous is happening here! Pru

    • Jill Ginsberg says:

      Pru- I have come to believe that this magic is all around us and there for the taking. Thanks for being part of this! Jill

  3. Steph says:

    This reminds me of the “olden days”. Safer times. I am touched equally by your generosity and the trust of the fine people you have chosen to be the recipients of your mother’s gift.

    I always read this in the morning–it’s a great way to start the day.

  4. Jill Ginsberg says:

    Steph- Thank you so much for reading and for letting these stories brighten your day. I hadn’t really thought about this as a throwback to the “olden days” but I know exactly what you mean. How sad that it is “old-fashioned” to connect with people we don’t know. Like everyone, I learned a lot of lessons as a child. One thing my dad taught me was that starting a conversation with a stranger was always time well spent. I find people to be remarkably receptive, even if initially a bit wary. I am very grateful to all who have accepted my gift. Thanks again for your comment! Jill

  5. andrea gehrke says:

    While I can understand those who prefer not having their picture taken, I just think the people you have managed to capture are beautiful. A smile can light so many hearts. I try to smile at people in the store especially if our carts almost bump. So many people seem too serious. We need to lighten up a little and not be so guarded. Ah, if only they read your stories!

  6. Ann von Segen says:

    Hi ol’ Tillamook St. neighbor! I am so honored to have know you, Lousie and the boys. I would have never imagined you to have difficulty giving as I remember you as a great, sharing neighbor. I remember celebrating harvest in the fall with our nighborhood potluck inyour front yard. Would be fun to get back in touch if you have the time.
    Hugs, Ann and Bill

  7. Rebecca says:

    Hey, I bet they bought more junk food with that money! Just kidding. Your photos are getting better and better. Another career as portrait artist specializing in overcast street settings?

    Thanks for sharing!

  8. Stephanie says:

    Wow. I’m an afterschool teacher at a very high poverty school out toward Gresham. I was doing research to teach my kids about kindness for Random Acts of Kindness week. This is just so inspiring. This one is the only story I’ve read so far but you can bet when I get home tonight I will be reading the rest. I’m already looking forward to it. Just reading about a real person (in my city!) doing something so selfless fills my heart up with so much joy and happiness. Thanks for giving us all such a lesson.
    And you’re right, what you said in the Oregonian article– that people should go give themselves instead of giving you money to give. They are scared but you know, little by little you are going to show them how to not be so scared of the unknown.

    Robert Frost would be proud to know you I think. Way to find the road less traveled.

    All my best and please keep writing.


    • Jill Ginsberg says:

      Stephanie- Thank you so much for what you are doing with your students; I think that is wonderful. And thank you for writing and taking my journey to heart. I hope you enjoy the stories! Jill

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