Bob Schwenkler

An Open Letter to the Total Stranger I Gave a $100 Bill to Last Weekend

Written by on May 23, 2015

Posted in: Money

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Dear woman who I gave a $100 bill to last weekend,

It took me five minutes to get the nerve up to approach you. I felt so vulnerable in that moment, for some reason.

I told you that I’d been watching you from across the street, from the second floor of the hotel I was at for a 3 day event.

I’d been watching you run back and forth for 20 or 30 minutes straight between the two broken gates that would otherwise be trapping all the cars inside of the garage. I don’t imagine that anyone who works at a parking garage is getting paid more than about $12 an hour. But each time you arrived next to a new car you had a smile on you face, chatting with the drivers whom you were letting out. I even saw you throw a couple jokes to the valet at my hotel across the street.

I said I wanted to give you a hundred dollars.

“What for?” you said incredulously.

I held back a flood of tears and my voice wavered as I said “Because you inspired me to.”

And I walked away because I didn’t quite feel like dissolving into a puddle there, next to the ticketing machine at the exit of a parking garage, in front of the driver of the next car waiting to be let out.

I went back to the event I was at the hotel for. A 3 day workshop on our relationship to money. I’d brought the $100 bill as instructed, we were told it would be for a very powerful money exercise.

They were right. The exercise was powerful. But not as powerful as what I experienced with you.

After I’d left though, I realized I hadn’t said everything that I truly wanted to say to you. I even went back out at our next break to see if you were still there, it felt important to say, but you were nowhere to be seen. The gates were fixed and you were on lunch break or had gone home for the day.

I realized that I wanted to give you more than just money. I wanted to give you a gift that might last the rest of your life. I wanted to let you know what I saw in you. Now you’re gone, the chances that you’ll ever come across this article are miniscule, but what I’ve got to say needs to be said regardless:

I saw something really amazing in you, that’s why I gave you that money.

I saw a woman who’s willing to show up fully and serve. Not because you’re getting paid to do it. Not because those people in the cars are waiting for someone to let them out. Not because of any sense of obligation.

I saw a woman who’s doing it simply because it lights you up to do so. Because you enjoy those small moments of connecting with each driver, a smile on your face as you utter a few words of explanation and apology before running back to the other end of the garage to greet the next driver.

Thank you for being such a brilliant example of joy in simply serving. Thank you for smiling, laughing, and sharing yourself, even though these things, I’m sure, are not in your job description.

I don’t know who you are, what your name is, what your life has been like, if you have kids, how much money is in your bank account, or what your dreams are, but I saw something special in you.

When I’m honest with myself I realize that I wanted to give you more than just money.

I wanted to let you know that my deepest hope is for you to continue sharing yourself with the world like this in ever greater and greater ways. A part of me hoped that this would be the moment that would allow you truly to see yourself through someone else’s eyes. To see how loving, unique, and powerful you are when you are simply being you. To see that all you’ve got to do is be you, and that you can get paid very, very well for it.


And in the end, perhaps I’m just projecting. Maybe everything I saw in you was something I also see in me, but haven’t yet fully acknowledged.

Maybe everything I’m saying to you is something I also need to say to myself.

Maybe it’s my turn to acknowledge how amazing it is that I’m a man who does everything I do simply because it lights me up to do so. That I serve others simply because I must, and because my soul is fed when I do.

Maybe it’s my deepest hope for myself that I continue sharing these parts of myself with the world in ever greater and greater ways.

Maybe you and I are much more like each other than either of us will ever truly know.

When I gave that money to you I could barely speak, I was so close to tears. I don’t know exactly why. A lot was coming up for me that weekend.

Turns out I place a lot of self worth on how much money I’m making (or currently, not making). It’s one of the few places of my life I don’t want you to know about. I’m scared you’ll make it mean something about me, the power of my work, and my worth as a person.

Turns out I embody a lot of the money patterns both my parents hold. I’m simultaneously willing and able to spend a lot of money on high quality purchases AND be extremely frugal.

I sometimes go to sleep and wake up afraid that no more money is EVER going to come in, even though this has never once happened during my entire life as an entrepreneur. I’ve never gone broke. The next job has ALWAYS come in. And even if it didn’t I am NEVER going to die hungry on the streets, alone. I am SO well supported by family and community.

Turns out that underneath it all is anger, a rage like I’ve never felt anywhere else in my life. It’s surprised me to see and feel this rage bubbling up to the surface, it certainly wasn’t what I was modeled in my family, yet there it is, primal and red hot. The best I know how to do is be gentle with it, honor it, and allow it in the moments it feels safe to do so.

And throughout it all I keep moving forward on the path I know I’m called to follow. I continue to choose my heart over making money for making money’s sake. I keep serving from my heart because I know that at the deepest level, connection is what I’m seeking with myself, my community, my clients, and the world.

I keep putting one foot in front of the next, and each time do I have a bit more access to my joy and my fear and my anger and my passion and my peace. I have a bit more access to the life I dream of. More access to ease, intuition, and connection. To the feeling of truly being alive.

I keep sharing because I know from the hollows of my bones that I must. It’s what makes me human. It’s what makes me me. It’s what allows me to love as deeply as I do, knowing that there’s ALWAYS deeper to go.

That’s pretty amazing. There’s ALWYAS more love to give and to receive! If I spent my entire life practicing just this I would die a deeply fulfilled man.

Thank you, woman working at the parking garage for this lesson. It’s one of the very best hundred dollars I’ve ever spent. I’d spend it again in a heartbeat.

I hope you had a great evening that day. I hope you felt special, because you are. I hope you spent that $100 on something really nice for yourself, because you deserve it. I hope you find everything you ever wanted in life and so much more.

Thank you. You inspire me.

With love,

Bob

  • Perrin Randlette

    Great article Bob! Good job noticing the real hearts: She sounds like a lady who cant be bought- she is always in her own life, in her own mode-being true to herself. I love this passage: “my deepest hope is for you to continue sharing yourself with the world like this in ever greater and greater ways” Ditto!

    • Perrin, great to hear from you. Thank you so much for your comment, it warms my heart.

  • Joshua Barad

    Brilliant my dude. Thank you for sharing this with me today

  • Stephanie Lisa Kelly

    Reading this paused life for a few minutes. Just…yes. <3

    • Stephanie, thanks!

      I’d love to hear, what awarenesses or thoughts are you taking away from this piece?

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