My son Elijah suggested that I double up on my giving today, it being Christmas Eve and all. I liked the idea and put two hundreds in my pocket when Louise and I set off for a walk this morning. I figured there would be lots of people around and no shortage of opportunities.

We walked down Broadway and soaked in the sunshine and the festive spirit. It seemed that people everywhere were carrying packages and shopping bags. Louise had an errand to do and we parted ways after about a half mile.

I wanted to duck into Safeway for a minute. Sitting outside was a sweet-faced young guy I had never seen before. He had a cardboard sign and a cup in front of him. The sign said he needed $5 for a room in a shelter and a meal. I asked him how come he didn’t have a place to stay and he told me he had been working in Albany on a farm. When the farm went under he moved up here to look for work but hadn’t found anything. It was pretty heartbreaking (if true; I couldn’t tell but found myself doubting).

I gave him the $5 I had stuffed in my pocket in case I decided to stop for coffee. He was very appreciative. I snapped this photo of him from inside the store. He was already packing up. By the time I got outside he was gone.

Five dollars richer

I was just a couple of blocks away and couldn’t resist the pull of the Dollar Tree. The place was packed, the busiest I’d ever seen it! I wandered around, looking down every aisle and feeling somewhat conspicuous. On my second circuit round the store I saw a young man and woman cheerfully filling a shopping cart with candy and popcorn. They were laughing and joking.

“Hi, how you doing?” I said to the woman. “I’m fine, how are you?” she answered as she maneuvered her cart around me. “It looks like you’re having a party!” I said. The man explained that they were brother and sister and were buying a present for their parents. “They really like to watch movies at home so we decided to get them, like, a movie pack. Popcorn, candy, stuff like that!”

They were pretty pleased with themselves and pretty adorable. I said I had something for them that I hoped would make their holiday a little brighter. “What’s that?” asked the woman.

I took out the hundred and put it in her hand. “Are you serious?” she asked. “This is amazing! Thank you so much!” They both gave me a big hug. They said they are staying with their parents right now, along with four foster kids ages 9 and up. “Yeah, our house is just full of people!” the guy said, somewhat proudly. I bet it is a pretty jolly place.

Qwanish and Kayla

I said I hoped they weren’t going to fight over the money and Qwanish said, “No, we’ll probably split it.” Then his eyes got big. “Or, maybe, we’ll buy stuff for people with it!” Kayla jumped in. “Yeah! Let’s do that!”

Pretty close to home I walked by Jiffy Lube. A woman was just getting into her car and preparing to pull out. Her car had clearly seen a lot of wear and she looked a little tired herself. I stepped in front of the car so she wouldn’t drive off. She looked at me, puzzled, as I went around to the driver’s window. She rolled the window down. “Hi!” I said. “Happy Holidays!” Her quizzical look bordered on annoyance. “Thank you,” she said cooly. I was undeterred. “This is for you. Merry Christmas.” I handed her the hundred. “Oh, my God!” she exclaimed. “Thank you! Are you one of those angels?” This made me laugh. I wonder now what she really meant.

The woman was struggling to get her seat belt off. “I never thought something like this would happen to me!” she said as she pulled herself up and out of the car. “I have to give you a hug!” She gave me a big long hug and thanked me. I glanced into the back seat and saw piles of packages: napkins, paper plates, cups. “I’m just finishing up getting stuff and this will really help me out.”

Her name was Billie. She got back into the car and started to pull away. “I feel so blessed,” she shouted out the window. “I feel blessed!”

Me too.




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