Emma’s Dilemma: Free Money (Limit One)


Emma Garcia, Online Editor-in-Chief

I know there are many options for my post this week (I know many seniors will never forgive me for forgetting powder puff), but I have one topic that seems perfect for this Thanksgiving week. Let me set the scene:

My mom and I were in San Francisco to see If/Then with Idina Menzel. The show started at 8 but we got to the city at 3 to explore for a while on Powell Street and in Union Square. We stopped at Macy’s for a while and stayed almost an hour at their Holiday Lane before deciding to go to Tiffany’s, which was across the square.

In case you don’t know, Union Square has a giant Christmas tree and ice skating rink basically as soon as Halloween is over. Naturally, there’s a lot of people milling around and taking photos. But there was a crowd by one side of the tree that we decided to investigate.

The crowd was around a man who was holding a sign. The sign read “Free money (limit one)” and we saw that he was actually handing out free money. Dollar bills going to each person who approached him. Parents walking up their small children, teenagers approaching him in awkward clumps, everyone. He handed every dollar over with a smile, but few people actually said anything or even looked at him. They didn’t really know how to react, but that didn’t stop them from wanting the free money.

That was one of the most interesting things. People were nervous to approach him, they were scared to get too close, but they would circle around him anyway, staring at his sign. When he saw people struggling to approach them, he waved them over (which sometimes hurt more than it helped). He also knelt down to eye level of the little kids, and he even placed a dollar on the ground for one teenager who was skeptical that the guy wouldn’t yell “gotcha!” and shoot him or something. His sole purpose was just to make sure that everyone listened to the sign and in fact only took one dollar.

My mom was the one who noticed he was not alone. There was another man, about the first man’s age, standing by the steps about twenty feet away, taking pictures with what looked like a very nice camera. He was just sitting there, taking photos of all the first man’s encounters.

I asked him why they were there and what the point was. He said there was no real point, they just wanted to do something nice. They had started out with $100 and come to Union Square to give it out. Only about $10 of that original $100 remained. Some had given them money and others had taken their money and given it to one of the homeless people that were perched around the square.

After some poking and prodding, I approached the man with the sign with $3 in hand. He looked surprised and made sure I knew that he was just going to give the money out to other people. I said I knew.

We introduced ourselves and asked him what his name was and where he was from. His name was Alex, he’s twenty seven, and from Santa Barbara. He and his friend’s day in Union Square wasn’t the first project they had done. They had decided to do nice things for people every day all month long. His friend said they were documenting everything but hadn’t decided how they were going to show the world just yet.

More people were starting to swarm around so I wasn’t able to ask any more questions. Not only that, Alex was almost out of money and looked like he was ready to go home already. But I was glad to meet him and to hear his story. I just hope that he and his friend decide how they’re going to showcase their project so more people can hear about it too.