After so many cool and rainy days in Portland we’re like underground creatures staggering out and blinking into the sun. Today was damn near perfect. Come lunchtime,  I was downtown and had a few minutes for a walk. The streets were packed and every possible perch was occupied by people soaking up some Vitamin D.

From a few blocks away, I could see the kids splashing around in the Salmon St. Fountain and I had to get up close.On the way, I passed the sweetest little oasis of green. How had I never seen this before?

Across from the World Trade Center

There was a woman sitting on a bench reading. I walked slowly past and said, “What a beautiful spot!” She glanced up. “Yes, it is.” Then she was back to her book.

A block from the fountain, I could see Mt. Hood in the distance and hear the kids laughing and shouting. I’ve been trying to part ways with a C-note for a few days now but the opportunity keeps slipping away. Maybe, I thought, the right person will be just across the street.

Playing in Salmon Street fountain

I got up close and could feel the spray. There was a long line at the refreshment stand. Suddenly it seemed a very silly idea to hand a hundred dollar bill to someone playing in the water. I snapped some more photos and headed back the way I had come.

On the way back, I could see the woman still sitting on the bench in front of the garden. I knew what I had to do. “Hi,” I said. “I would like to give you something.” She looked up with a patient, yet somewhat wary, expression. “What?”

I handed her the hundred. “This, it’s for you.”

She gasped. “This can’t be real!” she said. She looked at the bill more closely. “Why?” she asked. “You don’t even know me!”

I told her briefly about my mother and what I had inherited from her: some money as well as a mentality of scarcity. The woman was watching me intently. I asked her name. “It’s Debbie,” she said. She told me that she works for a law firm in one of the tall office buildings nearby.

“I don’t think I should accept this,” she said, but she had already tucked the bill into her book. “You can do whatever you want with it,” I reminded. She chuckled. “My husband is out of work, and so is my son. He has a 6 month old baby. I’m the only one working in my family.”

Debbie had a bunch of questions for me, and said that her eyes had been opened by our connection. “You’re one in a million,” she proclaimed. I had to laugh. “Well, I guess we all are, right?  How about you? You’re one in a million.” She smiled and shook my hand.

One in a million. Yup, that’s us.

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10 Responses to One in a Million

  1. Amy says:

    Whenever im sad all I have to do is read your blog… Thanks Dr. Jill

  2. DJan says:

    You just keep on being one in a million, Jill. You know what? I’m one in a million, too! 🙂

  3. Emily says:

    Jill- I have been reading about your experiences on my lunch break in Salt Lake City, Utah for several months. I work in law enforcement and too often see/hear/deal with the darker part of humanity. I forget to stop and look people in the eye, smile, say hello, and too often judge quickly. Everytime I come over to hundreds of hundreds I am reminded of the good people in this world. Not just you, but all the people, like Debbie, who except your gift with an open heart. Thank you for sharing your stories and your life so open and honestly.

  4. Vicki says:

    Debbie has been a friend to me for about45 years. This couldn’t have happened to a truer person than she.

    • Jill Ginsberg says:

      How lovely to hear from a friend of Debbie’s. It was such a treat to meet her. Thanks for reading! Jill

  5. Vickie says:

    Debbie is my cousin. We were born 1 mo apart many years ago. In fact, we share the same middle name. Both named after our sweet Grandmother.

  6. Charlene Sherer says:

    I work at the same law firm as Debbie and you did a wonderful thing. I’ve seen Debbie work through a pregnancy, take on whatever duties she was asked to perform and has never revealed much about the hardships in her family. She always has a smile and is always available to help the rest of us understand our computers. I’m sure your gift made Debbie feel touched and hopeful for a better future. Bet she pays it forward too.

    I gave a homeless woman $20 once because we started talking while sitting next to each other at the Salmon St. Springs — I very rarely initiate a conversation but she was different. She was about 50, but it was hard to tell because she had been homeless for quite a while. She told me she was estranged from her family for many years and missed them alot. But she had no money to get home and was also afraid they wouldn’t want to see her. I gave her the money to take a leap of faith and call them. She seemed just about ready to do it; I hope she did. I think that encounter was meant to be because I also never have cash in my wallet. I think I was following instructions — and the best part, becoming aware.

    • Jill Ginsberg says:

      Charlene- Thank you so much for writing and for filling in some of the edges of Debbie’s story. I so understand your story about giving money to the woman you met at the fountain. Sometimes these things just seem to take on a life of their own and unfold in a magical way; that has really been true for me. I loved hearing from you. Thanks again! Jill

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