The Story of the Old Woman Who Gave Us $9

By Yeye Luisah Teish

Watch Yeye Luisah Teish’s remembrance:


I had a situation one day where I was sitting in my car in front of the 99¢ store on 41st and Telegraph in Oakland. And this man knocked on the window, and when I rolled the window down, I looked and I see a woman. I see a woman with a pregnant belly, I see a baby in a stroller, and this man is knocking on my window.

And he said to me, he said, "Mother, please help me. If you don't help me, I don't know what I'm going to do." He said, "I'm a man who takes care of his family," he said, "but I got called out here for a job, I packed everything up and brought my family out here, and when I got out here, they told me that they changed their mind, I no longer had the job." He said, "So, me and my wife, we been sleeping in the parking lot at the motel over here, and we don't have anything to eat. Can you please help me?"

And I went in my wallet, and all I had was $9, and I handed him the $9, and he handed it to his wife, and he said, "Baby, go in the store and get something that we can eat." And the 99¢ store, I know what she's going to get, a can of pork and beans, some chips. That's what you can get from the 99¢ store. And she went in there and he turned to me and he said, "Mother, this changes everything." I smiled at him, I drove around the corner, and when I got to the other side of the BART station, I stopped the car, and I cried for 20 minutes. I pulled it together and I went to my house and I started crying again.

And one of my sister priestesses called me and she said, "Girl, what is going on with you? I'm feeling you. What's going on with you?" And I said, "Girl, I can't stop crying. I can't stop crying." She called another priestess, the two of them came over with the intention of giving me a bath to bring me out of trauma.

And when I told them what had happened, they said, "Teish, stop. Think about this for a minute. You were sitting in front of the 99¢ store. You went into your wallet and you gave him $9. He said to you, 'This changes everything.' What you're missing, Teish, the number 9 belongs to Oya, the goddess of the winds of change. She who brings about change through catastrophe, she who is the mother of the marketplace. Please get it clear, please get it clear, that you giving him that $9 will change the energy around him, that will change his next move, that will change what happens after that. Understand that you were the catalyst for change. Right?"

And I had to go, "Wow, that's right.” The man said, “This changes everything.” He did not address me as Miss. He rapped on the window and said , “Mother." So there was some archetypal stuff going on there that I did not recognize until they pointed it out to me. I was the change agent for him that day, in that they were going to eat something, in that he was going to feel like somebody cared enough to give him $9. And when I got through crying, they said, "This is all right, just know that you're suffering from compassion fatigue. Rejuvenate yourself. Nine is the end of the cycle."

If you count 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, the next number, 10, is 1 and 0. Nine precedes a new beginning. I mean, it's really a way you have to learn how to think about things that occur so that you understand the greater message. One day, that man is going to tell his children the story of the old woman who gave them $9, you see what I'm saying, as a story never to give up hope.


Watch Luisah relate a profound experience in this 6-minute video:
The Story of the Old Woman Who Gave Us $9

Click below to watch Luisah’s interview in Catalyst:
Yeye Luisah Teish on Storytelling, the Global Impact of Black Panther, and Expressing Your Creative Gifts

Click below to read Luisah’s article in Catalyst:
Joy Beyond Reason

Click below to read Luisah’s Eco-myth in Catalyst:
Eartha's Children


Yeye Luisah Teish is the author of Jambalaya: The Natural Woman’s Book of Personal Charms and Practical Rituals. She co-authored On Holy Ground: Commitment and Devotion to Sacred Land with Kahuna Leilani Birely. Her latest work is Spirit Revealing, Color Healing: A Creative and Soulful Journey.

Luisah offers online classes in the Elements of Ritual and Casting Lots Divination. She is a co-teacher in the Afro-botany immersion class online, and the annual conference in Costa Rica. She also created the video series "At the Crossroads: Finding Your Life Purpose."

She is a storyteller-writer, an artist-activist, and spiritual guidance counselor. She is an initiated elder (Iyanifa) in the Ifa/Orisha tradition of the West African Diaspora and she offers healing services such as divinations to determine the source of disease or dysfunction, purifications to remove negative energies, and rituals of empowerment. She also uses mytho-synthesis and spiritual enactments to help people embody their guiding archetypes.

Luisah is internationally known as a conference weaver, workshop facilitator, performance artist, and ritual theater director. She designs spiritual self-health guidance programs for individuals, families, and groups. She conducts a weekend intensive "UnCommon Kinship: Cultivating Community Across Diverse Lines" for professionals whose clients are from a different culture. The workshop includes exercises and practices to prevent compassion fatigue. She serves as an advisor to the Restorative Justice for Oakland Youth group.

Luisah has contributed to 35 anthologies and has written numerous movie, play, and book reviews. She has submitted artworks to the Coreopsis Journal of Art and Ritual; published an article in Cascadia Subduction Zone (a literary quarterly of speculative fiction), and has interviews in magazines such as Essence, Ms., Shaman’s Drum, and Yoga Journal.

Click here to visit Luisah’s website. Click here to visit her Facebook page.

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This article appears in: 2019 Catalyst, Issue 3: Black History Month