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August 11, 2009

A $20 Experiment

I'm trying out this new experiment at work. It began about a month ago. Not intentionally mind you. A woman came in whom I'd met maybe once or twice. There was something unusual about her but I couldn't put my finger on it.

One day she comes in and she looks at me and she says, I need to take a taxi because it's raining. Can you lend me $10? I looked at her. I looked right into her eyes. I thought about how I was going to answer that. My co-worker asked her why she couldn't take a bus. I hadn't thought of that but by then it was too late. I thought, if you're so desperate that you're going to ask a stranger who happens to work in an employment center for money, then you must really, really need it. So, I got out my wallet and all I had was $20 of course.

I just felt intuitively that she would give it back to me when she could. And, if not; if I was wrong, well, it was only $20 not that I can't use $20 because ya, like I'm independently wealthy. So, I gave it to her. I just felt inside that she would give it back to me when she could.

My co-worker said She's homeless I think. I don't think she's homeless I said. I think she just carries a lot of stuff around and when I said that I laughed out loud because I realized how stupid that sounded. Like duh, that's what homeless people do. They carry all sorts of shit around - which always seemed kind of weird to me. I mean, if you're homeless, you might as well travel light. But, I guess, those that are carrying around the 20 story tower in their shopping carts are just trying to hang on, literally, just hang on to the belief that it's only a matter of time and then they'll have a place and they won't have given up all their stuff. I don't know.

Anyway, she came in a few times after she borrowed the money and I thought, that money's gone. But, one day she came in, she pulled out a $20 bill and handed it over. I thanked her and said I really appreciated her giving it back to me because I didn't actually have a lot of money (but it's all relative now isn't it?)

Today, a guy came in. Desperate story. I've met him a few times. He's completely different than I thought when I just looked at him hitchhiking. At some point, I'm alone with him today and he is telling me a version of the story I'd heard before He's a nice guy. His life seems so hard. He then says to me, you wouldn't be able to loan me $20 would you. Do you know how insignificant $20 is in comparison to some of the stories I hear from these people?

So, I pulled out my wallet and I handed over a $20. I didn't say anything. He said he'd pay me back. So, now this is my experiment. My experiment has nothing to do with these people. It's a test of my own intuition and how well I can read people. And believe me, most people I would say no to but I believe very much that, like that woman, this guy will give me back the money when he can.

As long as I keep getting the $20 back because I'm accurately judging the person, then I will continue, if it feels right, to hand over $20 to very rare individuals who are so desperate that they feel compelled to ask.

As soon as I don't get it back, the experiment stops.


Anonymous said...

After reading this story, I feel honored to count you as one of my of my very best friends on this planet. This story evokes a multitude of emotions for me -- i believe in the theory that one act of kindness can have an invaluable effect on that person and the people they interact with. When you put trust in another person, you empower them and yourself. When the trust is revoked, power vanishes from all parties. I know you are a powerful person in many ways that might not seem obvious at first glance.


Ben Anderson said...

LDW, very well stated, and so true, in my view.

A wonderful experiment, Gayle. You rock !! :)

Anonymous said...

thnx kids...