I added a new link to the website (under “Inspiration” at the bottom right) today after reading this story in the Huffington Post. It’s about a (still) homeless woman, Carey Fuller, who lived for years in a Minnie Winnebago with her two kids. She writes a blog about her experiences feeling alone and invisible, and her struggles for a better life. She hopes to help raise awareness around homelessness in America. It’s humbling, inspiring and depressing. If you go there, prepare to have your heart broken.

And here I am, writing my blog about giving away hundred dollar bills. How can life be so unfair? How can some people have so much and others, never enough? Many of the commenters on the Huffington Post story blame Carey for her situation; she shouldn’t have had kids if she couldn’t afford it, blah blah blah. I’ve definitely proven myself capable of judging people harshly, but I don’t accept that we all have equal access to success if we just make the right choices along the way. I know – or have heard about – too many people who lost their job and their home through no fault of their own. Or who couldn’t get a good job in the first place because of poor education or poor health.

All of this was weighing heavy on my mind today. As I did some grocery shopping, I looked at the people in the store. Which one was living in their car? Or just barely scraping together enough for rent? There’s no way to tell, that much I have learned.

As I was checking out, I glanced over at the aisle next to me. A large man with a striking mustache gave me a dazzling smile, sweetness just dripping off him. I noticed his cart was piled high and it struck me that he had a lot of mouths to feed.

I decided to stand near the door and wait. It was taking forever for the man to get checked out. I watched as bag after bag got added to his cart. At one point, he mopped his brow with a kerchief. There was a huge display of Kettle Chips near the entrance and a video showing how the chips are made. I love stuff like that and was keeping one eye on the video. Mounds of potato slices were cascading into hot oil, then out onto sheets where they were sprinkled with seasoning from a hopper. The factory worker reached in and pulled out a handful onto a tray. He popped one into his mouth and nodded, satisfied. My mouth watered.

Five minutes passed, then ten. From where I was standing I could see the man’s cart and it was filled to the brim. He had pushed it clear of the checkout area and I realized he was now waiting for the person behind him to get checked out. Finally (finally!) he started slowly pushing his cart toward the door. There was a woman with a second cart not far behind.

As they passed by me, the guy looked at me and smiled again. “Hello,” he said. I said hello and nonchalantly fell into step behind them. Their car was parked way in the back of the lot and I think they noticed I was following them. I watched the man pull his cart to a stop and open the trunk of the car. The woman was close behind.

Lucius and his mom, Marie

“Excuse me,” I said to the man. He looked at me, a bit of concern and wariness behind his eyes. I got right to business. “This might sound kind of strange, but it seems like you’re feeding a lot of people and I’d like to give this to you.” I handed him the hundred dollar bill. He looked at it and said, in a surprisingly high voice, “Oh! Thank you! Thank you!” Then he said, “What’s this for?” and the woman behind him said, “Pass it on.” That kind of caught me off guard and I said, “Yeah, you can pay it forward or use it however you like. It’s a gift. No strings attached.”

“You just gave me a hundred dollars! This is like a dream! No one will believe this!” he said. “I’ll vouch for you telling the truth! I saw it with my own eyes,” said the woman. The man reached out and gave me a big hug and thanked me again. He introduced his mother and told me his name was Lucius.

Lucius

We chatted a bit and it turns out they regularly feed a mess of extended family members. I said that Lucius’s smile had really drawn me in and his mom nodded. “He’s like that,” she said. She hugged me too and then we said goodbye. “It’s nice to know there are still good people in the world,” she said, rather bitterly. “Oh, there are so many good people in the world,” I found myself saying. “So many! Don’t ever forget it.”

She looked at me, then quietly said, “Those are wise words. Wise words. I won’t forget.”

Maybe spring really is just around the corner. Look what I saw on my way home.

Signs of spring!

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9 Responses to Two Shopping Carts

  1. I am sure his whole family are saying prayers of thanks to you as I type this…and it is so good you reminded them to keep faith in all people!

  2. Joseph says:

    Very nice. What grocery store was this?

  3. Joseph says:

    By the way, has your bank ever been concerned with the frequent $100 bill withdrawals? Haha!

  4. DJan says:

    I always love to read your posts, Jill, knowing that I will be reminded to be grateful for the good people in the world, and all the things that are RIGHT, rather than focusing my attention on the dark side of things. Thank you, again.

  5. Jill Ginsberg says:

    Thank you, DJan. You are a truly lovely person.

  6. Berta Kramlich says:

    With smiles like those, they are RICH. Smiles like that are very rare.

  7. Roey Thorpe says:

    Jill, I loved reading this one. I agree, there’s something really special about Lucius–he looks like such a teddy bear and has such a kind face. I also love it that he and his mom are feeding so many people, and that this gift will help them continue doing that. Inspiring.

  8. andrea gehrke says:

    I love waiting a few weeks now, so that I may savor your stories like a delicious book. You affirm what I am teaching myself about living more purposefully and being tuned in. A simple smile can go such a long way. I loved that your action showed Lucius’ mother that there are good people in this world. And yet, she has no further to look than at her son and herself who are feeding extended family members. Great story, Jill, and I thank you for enriching my life.

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