October 26. Day 26 of My Month of Hundreds.
Five years ago I had another amazing adventure and helped a local pastor start a free health clinic for uninsured adults in North Portland. Through the generous support of the community and our volunteers we’ve been able to provide services to thousands of neighborhood residents. A couple of times a year I go out with the paid staff for Happy Hour to celebrate their hard work. Today was the day.
There’s a place we like a few blocks away from the clinic and the five of us headed over there shortly after five. A bus stop and a gas station sit across the street, and I often see a fair collection of characters in the vicinity. I had my eyes peeled and the C-note in my pocket.
Just as we went in a woman hurried past. Everything about her look and posture said, “don’t bother me”. It was all the invitation I needed.
“I’ll be right back,” I said to the group. “Somebody order me a drink”. I got outside just in time to see the woman duck into a store about halfway up the block. As I closed in I could see that she had gone into the liquor store.
I had second thoughts and then remembered the cold beer that was waiting for me back at the restaurant. So… it was okay for me to look forward to a drink at the end of the day but not this lady? Because she looked poor? Seriously? The chatter in my head is insistent, even when I would swear I know better.
The woman was standing at the front of the small store viewing the wares, which were all behind bars. I walked up behind her. “Hi, how you doing?” I said. She turned and I got my first real look at her. I noticed her long eyelashes and sad countenance. “I’m blessed. You?” I thought for a second. “Yeah, I guess I could say the same.”
She went back to looking at the bottles. “Can I talk to you for a minute?” The woman turned to me again. “Yeah? What?” I took a different approach than my usual; not sure why. “I’m Jill. What’s your name?” Her eyes widened. “I’m not gonna tell you! You might be the poh-lice!” Then she laughed.
I launched into my story and told her my mom had died not too long ago. She fixed me with a steady silent gaze. I told her I had a gift to share and gave her the $100 bill. She gasped and her hands flew up, covering her eyes. She started to sob and grabbed me in a bear hug. “Oh, my God! I don’t have any food! Jesus!” Then she told me her name was Deanna.
She was crying hard by now and was talking fast about how she had been praying for help. “I’m gonna call my Mama! She won’t believe this!” She pulled out her phone.
“Mama! You know how I’ve been praying?? A white lady just gave me a hundred dollars! Jesus! I swear it!” She pushed the phone at me. “Talk to her! Tell her it’s true!”
I took her phone and heard a voice murmuring on the other end. I couldn’t make out the words. “Hello? It’s true what she said. Have a good night.”
I don’t really remember what happened next. Somehow we said goodbye and I carried on with my happy hour.