I’ve been thinking – about what’s next and how to really make a difference. I even made a New Year’s resolution.

My resolution is to keep trying to figure this out. Last year (and My Month of Hundreds) was focused on honoring my mother and examining my relationship with money. I accomplished what I hoped for and am less of a cheapskate than I once was. Every time I gave away a hundred dollar bill, the hold that money had on me loosened a little bit.

I don’t want to forget what I’ve learned this past year and a half and am ready to turn the page to a new chapter. It’s not about my mother anymore, although her legacy is with me every day.

I’ve realized how easy it is for me to go about my business without seeing those around me. I had a suspicion that “need” doesn’t wear a uniform but was shocked to learn how many people who look just like me are barely scraping by. I’ve been surprised by how hungry people are for recognition and a kind word, which can be a greater gift than a hundred dollar bill. And I’ve learned that connecting with strangers really can make the world smaller, safer and more wonderful.

I like how making these gifts keeps this conversation going in my head and with others. I plan to give a weekly gift this year and to keep writing about it.

I would love to hear from YOU. How do you make your world better?

All of this was swirling in my head today. I was at Fred Meyer loading my groceries into my car when an old van passed by. There was a couple inside. I watched as they pulled into a spot just a few cars from where I was parked.

The man got out first, then disappeared around to the passenger side. After a minute the two of them came walking past me. They were younger than I had thought at first, and seemed a bit reluctant to chat when I said hello.

I told them I had something for them as part of a New Year’s resolution and gave them the hundred that was folded up in my pocket.

“Oh, my god!” said the woman. “Why is that part of your resolution?”

I explained as best I could that I had resolved to give a hundred dollars every week to someone who seemed like they needed it.

“Well, we sure could use it! Thank you!” said the woman. They told me their names: Ursula and Jose, and each gave me a hug. When I asked Ursula if she knew what they would do with the money she didn’t hesitate. “Buy groceries,” she said. Jose nodded. They are both working but still barely making ends meet.

We said goodbye and they headed toward the entrance. I heard Jose say, “Wow.”

 

Jose and Ursula

 

 

 

 

 

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4 Responses to Resolved

  1. Jose De Lara says:

    Hello,

    This is Jose, one of the individuals mentioned here. I’d like to thank Jill again for the gift, and applaud her for this great charitable community outreach project she has undertaken.

    I’d like to add that Ursula and I are by no means destitute. She is a social worker who helps developmentally disabled adults and I’m an IT contractor in the health care industry. We are able to live somehwat comfortably on our modest salaries because of our incredibly thrifty lifestyle. We rarely buy new clothing or shoes, our car is a used, cosmetically beat up, but functional vehicle, the van you see is a shared vehicle among a small group of friends, while our car is currently broken down and needs work, though one of us rides a bike everyday to work, and we only dine out a couple of times a week, preferring to cook at home instead.

    But make no mistake, we are by no means well off. I only recently have stood back on my feet finacially, after being underunemployed for two years. Sometimes I find myself struggling to pay my bills and to pay down the large amount of debt I’ve accrued from school, even though my job pays just below the median U.S. Salary, and far below the average salary for the position I have. Like countless Americans, I feel like I’m just a couple of paychecks away from being below the poverty line. I can’t speak for Ursula entirely, but I know she makes even less, and prefers to works for a non-profit organization.

    Needless to say, Jill’s contribution was incredibly welcome, and I have taken it upon myself to pay some of it forward to someone else who might be in need.

    Her work should be an inspiration to all Americans, especially in these tough economic times, to give just a little bit more, and to find a connection with the community.

    Thank you for letting me share.

    Jose

  2. Katherine says:

    Thanks, Jose, for sharing what is real for you and Ursula. I continue to be inspired by all the people you meet through your mission of connection, Jill, and I am in awe of your continued commitment to make a difference in the world. Thank you for helping to wake me up to the possibilities…. blessings, Katherine

  3. andrea gehrke says:

    Through your continued resolve, I feel as if I have been gifted with the joy of anticipation of reading about more of your great encounters. I enjoyed hearing from Jose and wish Ursula and him well. Happy New Year and thank you Jill.

  4. Ayo says:

    Hi Jill,

    I found your blog just a few weeks ago, have been reading past entries and am all caught up! What a knack for writing you have.

    You asked “How do YOU make your world better?” It’s a good question and I try to do so in a number of ways:

    …through being an uplifting and smile-inducing presence to those around me.

    …through morning walks that I occasionally take with the express purpose of greeting others, helping others and sometimes distributing freshly sliced fruit.

    …through free yoga and astronomy programs that my husband Yair and I offer a few times each month as we travel North America.

    …through small one-off gestures like donating clothes or blood.

    …and through volunteer opportunities like aiding people in their job search at a Goodwill prosperity center or offering time at Food for Lane County or consulting pro-bono for Compassion Over Killing’s 2012 Veg Week.

    I often feel like I should be doing more as I know one of my main purposes in life to be helping others and I am fortunate to have a lot of free time on my hands now. But if I’m bringing smiles to others and putting positive energy into the world at least a few days a week, I enter a state of happiness, bliss and completion.

    Parenthetically, I will be flying to Portland OR next weekend to speak at a local college and present my educational film program. You must be quite busy, but I think that it would be fun to meet up if that interests you. Let me know!

    Cheers,
    Ayo

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