Day 7. In giving away $100 each day this month I am stumbling upon some amazing people and some fascinating stories. I’ve been thinking today about one of my original objectives for this project, which is to pry out and examine some of my assumptions about need, worthiness and generosity. The questions have been rolling through my head. Am I following my heart or trying to sniff out a good story? If I stay focused on the stories, will I still be able to keep my eye on myself? What would it feel like to close my observing eye? How does it feel to keep it open?
Instead of relying on my instincts to pick the recipient for today’s giveaway I decided to shake it up a little. I had a plan; an errand was taking me to a part of town I don’t know too well. My plan was to stand on a well-traveled street corner and stop the 10th person who walked by. Seemed pretty foolproof.
First I had to stop at Free Geek to drop off two old printers and a defunct iMac. I was pleased with myself. as this has only been on my to-do list for a couple of years. Free Geek takes donations of old equipment and refurbishes it, teaching people how to build computers in the process. They also have a program where you can volunteer there to “earn” a computer. It’s very cool.
I pulled up and went inside to get a cart. The woman in charge introduced me to Patricia, one of the volunteers, and asked her to give me a hand. We went outside and unloaded the trunk as she told me a little of her story. She had gotten a laptop from Free Geek not too long ago and it recently was stolen from her apartment. Today was only her second day volunteering. She said she told her son that she was going to learn how to build her own computer and he said, “Don’t get electrocuted, Mom!” She thought that was pretty funny and told me that of course he was joking. “He has a very dry wit like that.”
She kept talking and I could feel my brilliant plan slipping away. Patricia’s husband is a disabled veteran and they get by on Social Security. “We know how much we have, and that’s what we spend. There’s some banks that could stand to learn that!” She encouraged me to come back sometime to take a tour of the building and learn more about Free Geek’s work. “I love it here!”, she said.
I thanked Patricia, put the cart away and made a small donation at the front desk. Then I went back and asked to talk with her for another minute. She was clearly puzzled but followed me and invited me to sit down on one of the chairs stacked up outside. She listened intently as I told her about honoring my mom with this project. Even after I said that I wanted to pass a gift along to her she asked a lot more questions and showed no curiosity about what the gift might be. When I put the bill in her hand she said, “Are you serious? Wow.”
Patricia asked my mom’s name and said she was an artist and would make a collage in Gina’s memory. She told me a little about her own mom, whose name was Anita Idaho and died when Patricia was 30. “I’m 68; four years older than she was when she died.” She told me more about her three kids and her husband of 41 years, who supports her with “unconditional love”. They hope to get a place with 5 acres someday so she can build big iron sculptures. She said I could take her picture and put it on the blog. I showed her the photo and she laughed. “That looks just like me!”
As we were getting ready to say goodbye, she looked me in the eye and said, “Thank you. I’m gonna put this aside and think about what I want to do with it.” She smiled, shaking her head. “You just never know what’s going to happen in this world.”