Dillon Beach, California. Day 23 of My Month of Hundreds.

The day is socked in with fog, and the sky and water come together at the horizon in a gray blur. My friend Neysa’s grandfather and uncles built this amazing house in the 1960’s and the family uses it for weekend and vacation getaways. She spent much of her childhood here, playing on the beach with her sister and cousins. I always craved more family time than I had, and it sounds idyllic.

We wanted to go for a walk, despite the gray sky. There were a lot of people on the beach and even in the water – folks with their dogs, kids in shorts, and surfers with their boards bobbing into view in the distance. When we got outside we realized it was raining hard. The wind was whipping the rain into our faces and our glasses were soon shedding drops onto our cheeks. Neysa decided to take hers off and made her way blindly along the sand. “Is that a dog?” she asked at one point.

We were quickly completely drenched. As my pants got wetter they got heavier and heavier, and I kept having to hitch them up out of the sand. We thought of turning back a couple of times but Neysa had a destination in mind. She’s twenty years my junior and I was determined to keep up.

By the time we got to the boat launch the beach was pretty deserted except for a few stoic individuals fishing from the landing. We ducked into the bait shop to warm up for a few minutes.  I had the C-note in my pocket and checked to make sure it hadn’t gotten soaked.


Fishing at Lawson's Landing

A couple walked by with their dog. They all looked a bit bedraggled, which is I’m sure how I looked as well. I got curious and decided to see where they were headed. Neysa grabbed the camera and I dashed outside, following them into the trailer park.

Hot on the trail

When I had almost caught up with them I called out, “Excuse me!” The wind was wailing and I had to yell louder. They turned, startled, and let me catch up. “Nice day, isn’t it?” I asked. “I love it!” said the woman. We drove out here just to be in the weather. I just love when it’s like this.” They had come from Sacramento, about 100 miles away, to walk on the beach in the rain.

We were standing in the road and I started to explain what I was doing. “I’m honoring my mom by passing along a gift each day this month in her memory.” They were quiet. “This is a gift for you.” I held out the $100 bill.

“Oh, no! I couldn’t take that!” the woman said. “It’s a gift”, I encouraged. “You can do whatever you like with it.” After a pause she started to cry, took the money and gave me a big long hug. “I’m going to donate it to the SPCA. That’s how we got this little guy.” The dog was watching her adoringly.

“Are you sure?” she asked. I said I was. She wanted to know why I had chosen them today and I couldn’t really spell it out. “Something about the three of you just drew me in”, I explained. I said that they looked “interesting”. The man laughed and spoke for the first time. “That’s a lot nicer than what people usually say about how I look!”

With Mike, Heidi and Rocket

The woman said their names were Heidi and Mike, and Rocket the dog. We all shook hands and she hugged me again. She thanked me and said that she sometimes forgets that there are nice people in the world, which can seem like “a bleak place”.  Then she told me a story.

A few weeks ago she was in a parking lot loading up her groceries when her shopping cart rolled off, smashing into another car and causing some minor damage. She felt terrible about it and started to write a note to leave on the windshield. Before she could finish, the owner of the car came out of the store. Heidi explained what had happened and was surprised when the woman told her not to worry about it. “She said that when she was in college the same thing happened to her. The person whose car she hit told her not to worry about it, just to make sure that she passed along the kindness someday.”

That’s the thing about passing along a kindness. You never know when or where it will land.


Day 4 of 31 October days. October, my Month of Hundreds.

I spent almost the whole day in either a building or my car, and I was starting to wonder how I was going to pull off my $100 give. This afternoon I drove down Stark Street into Gresham. That is one sad trek past pawn shops, trailer parks, boarded up motels, strip malls, strip joints and used car lots. There were people about, but I didn’t want to just whip over to the curb, screech to a halt and jump out with the dough. I was looking to make a connection.

I really didn’t need to go into Grocery Outlet but, when I got back to Portland, I drove right by it and found myself pulling around into the parking lot. It’s kind of a fascinating place, with a noteworthy mix of brand name products and oddball knockoffs. I wandered around for a while, looking at all the stuff on the shelves. I watched two cute Spanish-speaking kids with their parents, who were cheerfully making a selection from the ground meat area.

Then I saw a tall, lean, young man with a ponytail puff of curly hair. He was headed away from me down the aisle and I slipped into the next aisle thinking I might bump into him. I saw him turn the corner and head in my direction. The carefree yet earnest way he carried himself reminded me a little of my older son, Aaron. He was clearly stocking up on some necessities, and I watched him put a bunch of cans from a low shelf into his cart.

I waited until no one else was nearby and then walked over to him. I said hello and he gave me a broad smile. He kept smiling as I launched into my pitch: “This might sound a little strange…”. “OK”, he said, “I’m prepared.” “Are you sure?”, I asked. “I think so!”, he said, the faintest shadow of concern flickering across his face. I told him what I was doing and handed him the $100 bill.

“Wow!”, he said. “This is so weird. I mean, this is amazing! I can’t believe this! Wow!” He told me he had just moved into a new place, was looking for a job and was really short on cash. He said he felt like he had just entered a parallel universe. Then he stuck his hand out and said, “Hi. My name is Colin.” He wanted to know more about me and what I was doing and said I could take his picture and put it on the blog. I showed him the picture and we both laughed at the “FRESH MEAT” sign in the background. He asked if he could give me a hug. Then he said, “I wish you much good fortune and blessings”. That was very sweet and kind of funny, because it was just what I was hoping for for him.