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Archive for March, 2010

On Saturday I had an amazing day.  My cousin Doug was in town from Colorado for some meetings.  He decided to stay the weekend and had a great idea of heading down to the Richmond area to do a couple of things.  

First, we have some family in the greater Richmond area so we managed to make my cousin Dianne’s daughter’s birthday party.  Later we had dinner with our aunt Carol, her husband John, and Dianne.  That was really great. 

The other reason for our trip was to do some genealogy research.  We have a family cemetery in Goochland County, VA and also have a relative that is the only person to be buried in the Old Blandford Church in Petersburg, VA.  (more about this church tomorrow!)

Leake Cemetery, Goochland, VA (Photo: Reed)

Anyway, we left the birthday party to try to find the cemetery in Goochland.  It is in a wooded area and is not marked.  If you don’t know that it is there, you are not going to find it.  We pulled the car over on the side of the road and walked back into the woods to search for it.  We had both been there before and had a rough idea of where it was located.  Part of the reason we were there was to document its location.

Well, we traipsed around for about a half hour before we found the small cemetery.  There are about a dozen headstones there from the Leake side of my family surrounded by a waist-high cement wall.  After spending some time at the cemetery, we decided to see if we could find someone who lived nearby that might know who owns the land that it is on.  We would like to do some work on the cemetery to help preserve it, but thought we should check with the landowner first so that we do not cause any problems (or get shot!).

So we drove around to what we thought was the backside of the property.  We came to a small fork in the road.  The road to the left had several “No Trespassing” signs clearly displayed.  The other road was a drive way to a beautifully groomed property.  Can you guess which way we chose?

Matt's beautiful property (Photo: Reed)

At the end of the driveway we found a house and picturesque pond off to the right side of the house.  We knocked on the door, but nobody answered. You could see in the house from the door and saw that a light was on.  “I’ll walk around back and see if anyone is out back” I told my cousin.  He turned a little pale and said, “I don’t know…you might get yourself shot walking around somebody’s property like that.”  

The good news is that I did find somebody out back.  The even better news is that Matt was only armed with a big smile.  

Matt is 28 and grew up on this property which spans 300 acres.  He is a farmer and raises grass-fed cattle as well as some chickens and ducks.  He has about 70 cows.  Along side Matt was his dog, Chico.

Matt & Chico in front of 200 yr old outdoor kitchen (Photo: Reed)

I wish I could properly describe Matt’s demeanor.  He had this gentle, modest, humble demeanor and a warm loquacious speaking manner.  He was relaxed and friendly and his face broke into smile so naturally that you felt like you were among family.

Matt said that he was going to give the money to the James River Association.  The group’s mission is to protect the James River, which more than one-third of all Virginias rely on for water, commerce or recreation.  Yesterday I got an email from Matt that I would like to share with you all:

Reed,

It was a great surprise meeting you on Saturday.  I am glad you guys made it out to the farm.  Right after you left I was telling my girlfriend about what you are doing and her jaw dropped because she had just read about you in the [Washington] Post.  I have really enjoyed reading some of the stories on your site..  I admire your commitment to this project, and know that you are inspiring a great deal of kindness.  In the spirit of your generosity, I decided to sponsor 10 participants in the James River Runoff Rundown for $10 each.  The Rundown is a one day event in which paddlers join forces to cover the entire 340 miles of the James River in order to raise money for the James River Association.  Here’s the link.

 Thanks for again for what you are doing,

 Matt G.

This is amazing.  I can’t begin to tell you how happy I am when I learn that my $10 inspires further giving, especially when it parlays into a $100 donation.  

Matt you are a class act.  You made my day…and thanks for not shooting me and my cousin!

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You might have noticed that I have skipped over Day 101.  I am still doing a little research for the write up and hope to get that posted soon.

By the way, for those of you who want to vote to determine who will join me at Clyde’s Restaurant, make sure you go to Day 88 before Friday.  I will then tally the votes and contact those who have the most votes and schedule a time to go to Clyde’s!  It’s going to be fun.

Last Friday evening I was on my way to see my friend Michael in Man of La Mancha at the Greenbelt Arts Center.  Michael plays the lead role of Don Quixote, and he is awesome.  He sings the most beautiful version of The Impossible Dream that I have ever heard.  There are still performances for the next two weekends if you are in the DC area and would like to see it.

As I was waiting for my friend Jeff to pick me up, I found Gloria waiting at the bus stop.  A few buses came and went and I noticed she wasn’t getting on them, so I decided to say hello.  

Gloria, originally from El Salvador, has lived in Washington, DC for eight years.  We spoke in Spanish which gave me the opportunity to practice my language skills a little.  She told me that she was waiting for her ride to pick her up. 

I asked her what she liked about living here in DC and she said, “the snow!”  She commented on how beautiful she thought it was.  It makes sense.  It’s just something you are never going to see living in El Salvador.  “We couldn’t even leave our home for a couple of days because of the snow, but that didn’t bother us…it was beautiful!” she remarked.

I asked her what she was going to do with the $10 and she said she was going to use it to help pay her phone bill.

Right as we were speaking her ride pulled up and she hurried on her way.  I didn’t get her contact information so I am hoping that she reads this and reaches out to me.

Gloria, si Ud. lee esto, por favor éntrese en contacto conmigo.  Me gustaría seguir en contacto con Ud. y invitarla a la celebración que voy a hacer al final del año.  Adjunto hay un mensaje de vídeo para ti!

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Day 100.  I have given $1,000 to 100 different people so far.  $10 doesn’t sound like much, but trust me it adds up.  Although some people remind me of plenty of things I could have used the money for, I wouldn’t trade this experience for anything.  It has been amazing.

If you live near Grand Forks, ND, I will be on the air with Denny and Kerri of KYCK 97.1 FM Wednesday morning a little after 8am Central Time.  You can listen live on the Internet as well at http://97kyck.com/.

Bill playing the sax (Photo: Reed)

Last Wednesday I went out in search of a recipient for my $10.  I ran into several former recipients of my Year of Giving: Kenneth B. (Day 30), Bill C. (Day 36), Nikki G. (Day 66), and Manny H. (Day 85).  Now when I walk around my neighborhood I always run into someone that I have given to before.

I came across Bill Davis who was entertaining Metro riders entering and exiting the Dupont Circle station.  The 46-year-old Maryland resident has been playing music since he was in elementary school when he started playing the saxophone.  I too started playing the saxophone when I was in elementary school, however, I produced much different sounds.  I recall my brother Ryan comparing my playing to the sounds of a slow dying moose.

(Photo: Reed)

Bill has been around the music industry for a long time.  He shares one of his most proud accomplishments; producing Peaches & Herb’s Colors of Love album.  You might remember Peaches & Herb best from the late 70’s hit Reunited.

“Reunited and it feels so good

Reunited ‘cuz we understood…”

Bill said he was going to use my $10 to buy him some new reeds for his saxophone.  My name must have subliminally influenced his decision.

I asked him what he thought of my project and he said, “Giving is a beautiful thing.”  That it is.  Speaking of giving…I’ll give you a little peak at Bill’s musical talent.  Check out the following video.

 

UPDATE: Nov 15, 2011:

I ran into Bill this morning at Metro Center. As I climbed the escalators I was greeted by the crisp November air and the melodic tunes of Mr. Davis playing the saxophone. It makes the vibe of the whole area kind of cool. We chatted for a second. He said he was doing alright and might even stop by David’s farewell party next Monday night.

Here’s a photograph I took of Bill this morning…I took this with my point and shoot which is old and not that good…but it still captures his familiar poise.
IMG_3993.jpg

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Ben & Jerry's Dupont Circle (Photo: Reed)

I am still behind on posting my giving experiences.  Today’s post is from last Tuesday!  I’m going to try to start ‘posting two a day until I get caught up.

I was walking home from a meeting and noticed a large line outside of the Ben & Jerry’s scoop shop south of Dupont Circle on 19th Street. 

As it turns out it is Customer Appreciation Day where they give everyone a free scoop of ice cream.  Ben & Jerry’s doesn’t stop there though, they also partner with cause related organizations to give them an opportunity to fund-raise.  

Here’s how it works.  Ben & Jerry’s allows the charitable organization to be present and ask for donations on free scoop day.  In addition, if a patron donates $2 or more, Ben & Jerry’s gives the donor a 10% off card valid for all purchases for a year.  Great idea!

I had to stop.  The organization asking for donations was Cancer Prevention and Treatment Fund.  I donated $5 to the organization and then decided to try to give my $10 to person asking for donations.

Emily (Photo: Reed)

Originally from Arizona, Emily is a Research Assistant with the organization.  It was quite chilly that afternoon and Emily looked like it was taking a toll on her.  Her face was tight and body scrunched together as she tried to stay warm.  Her coat sleeves provided little relief for her exposed hands that held her sign.

Emily said that she was going to give the money to someone else.  “I am not exactly sure how, but it will go toward helping someone else out!” she cheerfully shared.  I asked if she gave regularly and her smile went awry and she said, “Well, my fiancée is better at that than I am.”

There were several interns helping Emily get donations.  They would tell the people in line that they were accepting donations for the Cancer Prevention and Treatment Fund as well as explain the added benefit that patrons would receive by donating more than $2.  At some point the interns had to leave and Emily was left by herself.  I noticed that the donations slowed down as people were just walking by Emily.  I had a few minutes to spare and offered  to walk up and down the line and tell those waiting about the opportunity to donate and receive the Ben & Jerry’s discount card.  I did this until 5:30 when a fresh set of volunteers were scheduled to arrive.  I had to get going and said goodbye to Emily. 

A few hours later I received the following email from Emily!

I was so excited to do something with my $10 but was not sure that “something” would be blatantly obvious. I was wrong. Not only did I have the opportunity to use my $10 for someone else’s well-being, but it happened a mere 2 hours after meeting you.

I was freezing cold after working outside trying to get donations for the organization I work for and just wanted to get home. Upon trying to enter the blue line platform [on the Metro], I discovered the blue line was having massive issues. It was going to be a very long wait to even board a train. I decided I would get a drink and wait it out. Perfectly logical, right? As soon as I stepped outside it began to pour rain. After running into the nearest bar and discovering there was not a single seat, I settled on a nearby Subway.

As I tried to rush in the doors from the rain I was approached by a seemingly homeless female. Now, my personal policy is to not give money to homeless individuals. This is not because I am heartless; rather, I prefer to make donations elsewhere to places I have a better idea of where my money will go. So when she started to ask me–I already had my mind made up–I said no. What I didn’t process until after I had said no, was that she didn’t ask for money–she asked for a sandwich. I promptly ordered 2 turkey meal deals. She was very thankful and is currently eating her sandwich across the room from me.

I wonder what her story is.

Thanks for the opportunity to make someone’s day. I’m still in subway typing this email out…I couldn’t wait to share my ten dollar story.

 Respectfully,

Emily (day 99!)

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On Friday I came home to my apartment to find a package full of items for Gregory of Day 71

Thanks again Darnell!

So Day 98 was an interesting day.  I actually met up with a local news reporter and cameraman and they followed me around while I gave away my $10.  I also ran into Phillip from Day 75.  He was doing great.  He always makes me smile.

It was raining so I took cover at the top of the escalators at the Tenleytown Metro. 

The first woman I approached said that she didn’t have time as she was on her way to exercise class.  I then approached a couple, but they were looking for a ZipCar location and were late to pick up their car.  Then saw a woman walking into the Best Buy and tried to speak with her but she refused.  

Chris - Day 98 (Photo: Reed)

It was my fourth attempt of the day when I approached Chris.  He kindly stopped and said that he would accept my $10.  It turns out Chris is on his way to work.  He lives in Maryland and takes the Metro down to Tenleytown and then hops on a bus that takes him down to his job in Upper Georgetown.

Chris works in the mortgage business.  

We talked a little bit about giving.  He thinks that giving is mostly spontaneous.  That the decision of whether he gives to someone on the street or not is triggered in the seconds before he gives or decides not to.  As it relates to giving to people on the street, I think this is the case for most individuals.  You might have a preconceived notion about giving in these situations, but that may change in the moment if for example the person says something to you that sparks your desire to help them.

When Chris isn’t putting in insane hours at the mortgage firm, he enjoys going out and “enjoying life.” He also likes to cook…me too!  I can’t remember if he said he had taken some classes or he wanted to.  I recently took two courses at the Sur La Table store at Pentagon City.  They were great.  Chris has actually got some practical experience from when he worked as a cook in college.

Chris thought a minute about what he would do with the $10 and decided to give it to a homeless person.  “There are a couple of guys right outside my office…I will give it to one of them.”

We parted ways and I saw his bus a few hundred feet away getting ready to pull away.  He hustled over and thankfully made his bus…I would have felt bad had he missed it because he took time to speak with me.

UPDATE: I met up with Chris again on Friday and he hadn’t given away the $10 yet as the guys who are usually outside his office had not been there all week.  He hopes that he sees them this week.

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I am still pouring through your emails and comments.  So many amazing stories of people who have been motivated to start their own giving projects.  I have heard from people in Saudi Arabia and Brazil who want to start giving $10 a day in their country.  I have received numerous offers to help recipients on the Lend a Hand page.  Others have told me how they are helping their churches, local schools, community centers, random strangers, neighbors, etc.  Numerous people have offered to help me directly.

I firmly believe that people are inherently good.  When we hear about someone else spreading kindness it triggers something that awakens passive thoughts of kindness that we carry inside us. 

I continue to answer your emails and comments one by one…please be patient if I have not responded to you yet.

My notebook (Photo: Reed)

Today my story is about Patrick, but before I get to him I want to share something that happened to me today.  I keep all my notes in a small black notebook which happened to fall out of my book-bag today as I took some photos in front of a Barns & Noble.  I went to dinner with my brother, his wife, and a cousin of mine and then walked home.  On the way home I stopped in to see Larry from Day 90 at Starbucks to tell him that so many people have voted for him to go to Clyde’s with me (see this post).  It was then I realized that I didn’t have my notebook. 

I took a cab back to the restaurant but they didn’t have it.  I started to walk home and decided to look around the Barnes & Noble.  There is so much foot traffic there though that I was sure it wouldn’t be there.  For some reason I decided to go in and ask if someone had turned a notebook in.

Would you believe that two women had turned it in!  YES!  THANK YOU!  They gave it to a Security Guard named George who gave it to Sultan who was working behind the check-out area.  I tried to give George $10 but he would not accept my money.  I have agreed to try to go back and find him one day and maybe buy him a coffee or something.  I did get the name of the company he works for and will write them a letter telling them of his good deed.  I will also write a letter to the Barnes & Noble to tell them about both George and Sultan. 

Phew….I thought I lost my book.  Ok, back to day 97.

On Sunday night I thought I would look around for someone to give my $10 to at the McDonald’s at the Woodley Park Metro station.  There was nobody in the fast food restaurant so I walked around to the Connecticut Ave. side and found Patrick kicking a soccer ball on the sidewalk into some plastic crates against the wall of a bank.  It was around 11pm so I figured this guy’s gotta have a story to be out here at almost midnight practicing soccer by himself.

Patrick A. (Photo: Reed)

I spent some time just watching him juggle the ball with his feet and knees as well as taking shots on “goal.”  Then I chatted with him some.

The 23-year-old DC native says that he comes out there and practices against the wall of the local bank several nights a week.  A lot of people know him as “crazy soccer guy.”  

Patrick is unique.  He has never owned a cell phone and swears that he will never get one.  He is writing his own Philosophy book.  He enjoys theatre.  He designs his own jeans…the list goes on.

Rather than me talk about him…check him out for yourself.  He’s a trip…I’m warning you.  He uses my $10 for something nobody else has done so far. 

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Day 96 – Robin C.

My dad leaving Cally's (Photo: Reed)

On Saturday my father and I drove from Richlands, VA to Washington, DC.  It’s about a 7 hour drive.  Along the way we stopped in Harrisonburg, VA.  It has a small picturesque downtown.  On the west side of the main square there is a restaurant called Cally’s.  We stopped in to eat.

I decided to give my $10 to Robin, she was our waitress there.

Robin is 21 and studies Cultural Communications at nearby James Madison University.  As she prepares to leave the security of the university setting in May she ponders where she will go.  I was interested in her perspective on the economy and the job landscape from the eyes of a graduating college senior.

Robin at Cally's (Photo: Reed)

“I am not really worried about landing the perfect job right now.  I hope to move to the beach…maybe Florida…and take a bit of a break for a while and get a job…not necessarily something in my field of study, but just something to pay the bills for a while.”  I asked her if she thought her feelings were representative of the perspective that her classmates had.  “Probably not, some of my friends are really worried.” 

Robin deserves a break after four years of studies while often working two part-time jobs to make ends meet.

Cally's beer sampler (Photo: Reed)

Cally’s as it turns out is a brew pub…so my father and I decided to get a sampler of their beers.  They give you six small tastes which my dad and I split.  Robin said she liked the Downtown Amber.  I really liked the pungent Smokin’ Scottish Ale while my dad preferred the smooth velvety Kolsch.  

The Fredericksburg, VA native said she would use my $10 to put toward her final months of rent.  

After four years at JMU, I asked Robin to reflect a little on her time there.  I asked her what the best part of being a JMU student was.  She shot us a smile and said, “Leaving!”

Good luck on your graduation Robin!

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