“It is something to paint a particular picture, or to carve a statue, and so to make a few objects beautiful, but it is more glorious to carve and paint the very atmosphere and medium through which we look, which we morally can do. To affect the quality of the day, that is the highest of arts.” – Henry David Thoreau
“I think all of us should aspire to live a life that makes the world better. ” – Jill Ginsberg
The HundredsofHundreds Project
The greatest moments in life are often simple. But like a flash of lightening that lingers longer than usual, great moments can illuminate our world.
An Indian Hills graduate, and now a family physician in Portland, Oregon, is making it a regular practice to create great moments, to illuminate her world, our world. She shares these experiences on her website HundredsofHundreds.com.
Dr. Jill Ginsberg describes herself as a 50- something cheapskate who inherited some unexpected money when her mother passed away, and did something decidedly unexpected. She is giving away hundred dollar bills.
Before sending off an email, or planning your next vacation around Portland, Oregon, it should be noted that Dr. Ginsberg has established some rules for her HundredsOfHundreds project:
• The recipient is a stranger, and someone she is not likely to see again
• She must have a conversation with the recipient (i.e. can’t just leave a big tip)
• She can’t venture away from her routine in search of a recipient
• The gift is not in response to a request (in person, writing, etc)
The HundredsOfHundreds Project started in October 2010 as a unique way in which to honor her mother’s passing. The plan was to give away a hundred dollar bill once a day and record the experience in her blog. ….October 2010 came and went, but the giving continued as the project extended to one hundred hundreds throughout the year.
The term “paying it forward” is referenced in Jill Ginsberg’s blog, but it was a concept she – like Ben Franklin- re-discovered on her own.
“When I started my project, a lot of people asked me if I had seen the movie “Pay it Forward”. I was familiar with the concept but had never seen the film. I did watch it eventually and found it pretty depressing. I talk a lot about “paying it forward” when I give people money. They seem to get it, and it often satisfies the “WHY?” I get asked a lot. In general, I feel a responsibility to share my good fortune. “Paying it forward” implies that I hope others will do that too, but there is no obligation”
Creating the experience and sharing the experience online is definitely a do-more-with-less approach. The experience provides it’s own concrete benefits, and then sharing the experience online creates a ripple that reverberates, spreads, and propagates the desire to do something good.
While Ginsberg believes the process of writing her blog can sometimes be difficult, the stories she relates are an inspiration to many.
A class of 6th graders, inspired by HundredsOfHundreds took on the challenge with their own spin entitled 7 Actions, 7 Weeks, 7 Stories. The students would do something for others and blog about their experience – learning, sharing, and in turn inspiring others. It’s a ripple that means the most to Ginsberg.
“If I had to pick just one thing, I would say that the greatest joy comes in knowing that my story has inspired others to give more or differently, and even to look at “strangers” in a different way.”
With over a year of giving under her belt, HundredsOfHundreds.com has a cornucopia of stories. There are stories of people from all age groups, all races, creeds, colors, and guaranteed readers have their favorites, those stories that strike a chord, hold some familiarity, offer the opportunity to experience a satori.
There’s the story of Eli and his dad, ,the story of Byron with the crooked smile and broken phone, and the story of Like a Foxx that spans generations in one short story. Even the story of Charlie, the optimistic skeptic, is a rewarding tale. Readers can share Ginsberg’s insights, find their own, and re-discover the concept of paying it forward.
Q&A with former Oakland, NJ resident Jill Ginsberg
What did you like about living in Oakland ?
From a child’s perspective, Oakland was a wonderful place to grow up in the 60s. We lived on the edge of town and back then kids left the house in the morning and showed back up when they got hungry. I had a lot of freedom and roamed through the woods near the Ramapo River for hours every day when not in school.
I didn’t appreciate it until I lived in Port Angeles, WA, as an adult, but small town life can be very sweet. I am very thankful for the music education that was standard in those days. We all learned to read music and play an instrument in 4th grade. My first instrument was the clarinet, and I’ve also studied classical guitar, cello, and hammer dulcimer. For much of my childhood, my father worked in New York City. As I got older, I came to appreciate having the big city so close by and I started visiting regularly (sometimes without permission).
What did you not like about living in Oakland?
Living so close to the Ramapo River had its disadvantages, and several severe floods had a big impact on our family. One time the police paddled up to the door in a rowboat and told us we had to evacuate. My elderly grandmother was staying with us at the time, and she was not well enough to be moved. My brother and I were taken to stay with friends and my parents stayed in the house.
I remember feeling strange because, as Jews, we didn’t celebrate Christmas or the “usual” holidays. I was both proud and a little ashamed to be part of a minority. As I got older I started yearning for more options in terms of stuff to do. As soon as I could drive I started venturing farther and farther from home, usually in the direction of New York City! I moved to NY after high school to attend Barnard College and pretty much never looked back.
When was the last time you visited Oakland?
The last time I was in Oakland was in 2000, to help my mother pack up her things as she was preparing to move from the family home on Glen Gray Road.
Any specific fond memories?
I have many wonderful memories of my 18 years in Oakland. I loved my friends and recall many people being kind to me. One of my favorite things to do on the weekends was to walk with a friend three miles to the Dairy Queen on the other side of town. It felt like a huge adventure every time.
My very first job was as a waitress at the Chuck Hut. I loved the people I met but it was very hard work and I never wanted to work in food service again. One summer I worked on a local family farm, picking strawberries and generally helping out. They were wonderful to me. One day the farm owner cut a bough off a cherry tree and brought it to me, laden with ripe cherries. I sat in the field and ate to my heart’s content. To this day, cherries are my favorite fruit.
I was 17 in 1974 when my friend Claire brought me to a concert attended by a couple of dozen people at Fairleigh Dickinson University. I had never heard of the singer, Bruce Springsteen.
I had some wonderful teachers in Oakland that had a lasting effect on me.