I’ve been carrying a hundred dollar bill in my pocket every day for weeks. It’s been strange.
Yesterday I was in the vicinity of Voodoo Donuts and the flood of need nearly drowned me. On every corner there were people lying on the ground. The sidewalks were filled with rag-tag wanderers, and people were panhandling from anywhere they could perch. One relatively clear-eyed guy asked me for a dollar for the bus. “Can you help me out with a dollar? I want to see my girlfriend before she leaves for work.” I took out my wallet and he said, “I think it’s two dollars for the bus.” “Do you already have one dollar?” I asked. “No,” he admitted. I had a single and some change that I handed over. The hundred was burning a hole in my pocket.
At one corner, there was a young couple camped out on the sidewalk. The woman looked at me blearily and said, “Ma’am? Do you have anything you can give me? Anything?”
I didn’t find a home for my hundred. Too much need, too many people. I was overwhelmed.
Today, as I was setting out to meet a friend for breakfast, I tucked the bill into my pocket again. I forgot about it as we chatted away while we ate and then walked together a few blocks to where she had a meeting. She wasn’t wearing the best shoes for walking, and the blocks were long. As has happened before, she was a little late.
As I headed back to my car, I approached a bus stop and noticed a young woman waiting alone. Something about her caught my eye and I remembered my pocket full of happy just waiting to be set free. I stopped, then said hello and asked how she was doing. She said something about the weather and how it was such a nice day it was almost a pleasure to have to wait for the bus. Out of the corner of my eye, I saw a man crossing the street purposefully. In a few steps he was with us, pacing back and forth.
I asked the woman if I could talk to her for a minute, gesturing for her to follow me a few steps away from the man and another guy who had just arrived. She smiled and came willingly. “What’s up?” she asked.
I told her that I was giving away a gift and that I wanted her to have it. “Well, what is it?” she asked pleasantly. I pulled the hundred out of my pocket and handed it to her. “It’s a hundred dollars,” I said.
“Oh! Wow! I… can I…?” She reached out shyly and gave me a big hug. She said her name was Ren. I told her the gift was in honor of my mom and she had a lot of questions. Was my mom still alive? Had I done this before? How often? Why?
She soaked it all in, shaking her head. “This is so cool,” she said. “It really makes me want to do the whole ‘pay it forward’ thing. It’s really amazing!”
She said maybe she would treat some friends to lunch. She’s heard of things like this but never experienced it firsthand. I could see her mind working; trying to figure out how to honor the gift and my intention. She was lovely.
I could see the bus approaching and knew I wouldn’t get all my questions answered. She was heading downtown to work. “I love the key,” I said and she let me snap a quick photo as the bus pulled up. Then she was gone.
Keep your eye out for her. She’s the lovely one. With a giant key around her neck.
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