A year ago today I wrote a post called “Living in My Dream World.” I hadn’t yet given away my first hundred. The post was all about what I wanted my money to do in the world and what I thought a better world might look like. It’s remarkable to think that a whole year has gone by.
I was thinking a lot today about how this all started and what those first days were like. The tang of fall is in the air and it reminded me of the applesauce I made last October 2. I still have a couple of jars in the basement. Just last week it seemed like summer would never end, and now it’s applesauce time.
I got out of work on the later side this evening and found myself in quite a traffic jam on NE Weidler. As we crawled along, I saw people milling around in front of the Dollar Store. I had a hundred in my wallet that I had been hoping to give away over the weekend, but it hadn’t happened. On an impulse, I pulled the car over to the curb and just sat there for a minute.
An old car pulled up right behind me and a guy got out. I jumped out , stealing a better look at his car. I saw the ripped upholstery on the front seat. Then I walked around back and saw two bumper stickers, one for Barack Obama 2012 and the other for the Human Rights Project. The man was heading for the Dollar Store. I was teetering on the brink of a decision.
“Excuse me!” I heard myself say. The man turned with a questioning look on his face. “Yes, you!” I shouted, smiling and jogging up to him. He was wary. I tried to break the ice. “I like your bumper stickers,” I said. “Both of them?” he asked. “Yeah, definitely!” I said. “Well, that’s good to hear,” he said, walking away.
“You parked in a lucky parking space!” I announced. (Seriously, I don’t know where I come up with some of this stuff.) “I did?” he asked. “Yes! You did!”
“And why is that?” he wanted to know, a flicker of annoyance tugging at the corner of his mouth. I told him I had something to give away and that I was giving it to the person who parked in that space.
“Really.” He had stopped walking and was standing in front of the store. I told him I was giving this thing away to honor my mother and I handed him the hundred.
“Is it a real bill?” he asked, turning it over a couple of times. I said it was. “Why?” he wanted to know. I started to explain and he pulled out his phone. He was scrolling around, fiddling with the phone as I talked.
“That’s an amazing coincidence,” he said finally. He turned the phone around to show me something. “I’m an artist. This is one of my pieces. It’s all about money.” I could see that there were folded bills hanging on a tree of some kind.
His face had relaxed and his smile was open. He said his name was Richard and he was just coming from Spanish class. He listened intently as I talked about what I was doing with the hundreds and how much had happened this past year. “It’s amazing,” he said. “I learned this saying not too long ago: ‘He’s so poor, all he has is money’.”
Richard told me he’s expecting his first grandchild; he has two grown sons and is really proud of them both. He does his art, takes the Spanish class, and cleans houses for work. Times are tough right now. He was heading into the Dollar Store to get some paper for his Spanish homework.
I told him about being a recovering cheapskate and he understood. We talked about the goodness that often finds us when we least expect it. He thanked me and shook my hand.
My dream world? It’s filled with people like Richard. And you.
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