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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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Last Friday is the day that NPR and the Washington Post ran their stories on the Year of Giving.  I got flooded with emails and comments.  My website traffic went through the roof.  So many people told me how inspired they were after learning about the Year of Giving.  It was a tremendous bright spot in an otherwise melancholy day.

The response has been great.  The more media attention it receives, the more people write to me telling me how inspired they are.  99% of what I have received is extremely positive and I am trying to get caught up replying to all the emails.  Especially all the wonderful offers to help those on the Lend a Hand page!  Thank you so much!

After my cousin’s funeral on Friday, my father and I drove south about 3 hours to Richlands, VA.  My mother grew up and was buried there and we went to visit her grave. 

My mother's childhood house & shed. Hasn't changed too much except the side porch was added (Photo: Reed)

Richlands is a small coal mining town in Southwestern Virginia.  According to city-data.com  in 2008 the population was less than 4,000 and the median household income was $30,637 – half of the state average.  I don’t think I need to say more to give you the idea that this is a place that struggles economically. 

That evening my father and I decided to stop by the King Kone; a simple place where you have to walk up to the window and order and then take the food back and eat in your car.  My father told me that my mother used to love to treat herself to a chili dog there.  I thought it was only fitting to order a chili dog for myself.

While we were there, I asked the woman who was waiting on us if she would accept my $10.  She got very uncomfortable and said that the owner would never allow her to do that.  She nervously was looking over her shoulder and I asked if the owner was there.  She confirmed that she was and I asked if I could speak with her. 

King Kone - Richlands, VA (Photo: Reed)

I gave the owner my card and explained what I was doing to her.  She refused and said that they were just too busy to talk to me.  I explained that this was a very special place for my mother and made a final plea, but she shook her head “no” and excused herself.  As a side note, during the half hour we were there…I think they had 5 customers.

So I went back and approached a couple who were finishing up their dogs in their pick-up truck.  I imagine the couple was in their 50s.  I said hello and apologized if I was interrupting and explained what I was doing and asked if they would like to participate.  The woman, sitting near me in the passenger seat, never looked at me and never said a word.  The man remained silent until I finished and just shook his head no and grunted  “uh ah” and looked away.

WOW….this was not going to be easy.  Although I feel a strange closeness to the town since my mother’s family is from there, its clear that I don’t fit in.

I was now 0 for 3 (or 4 if you count the couple in the truck as two attempts).  I looked around and saw a Burger King on one side and a Family Dollar store, a hair salon, and the Richlands Pharmacy on the other.  I decided to walk over to the Family Dollar discount store.  On my way over I spotted Ashley sitting on a bench in front of the A Wild Hair Salon and Academy.  Her easy smile was a huge improvement over my earlier encounters. 

Ashley (Photo: Reed)

The 21-year-old said that she had worked there since she was 16.  With her husband laid off from tree cutting for the region’s natural gas wells, the $10 was warmly received.  It is tough to make ends meet for them and their 13-month-old boy. 

Ashley cuts Samantha's hair. I only noticed later that there is a picture that I assume is her son on her mirror that I captured in the background. (Photo: Reed)

Ashley started working on a regular customer named Samantha.  I told Ashley that my mother was from Richlands and we soon had something in common.  Both of our grandfathers worked in the mines.  “Those are the only jobs that pay well here,” she said.  The other woman cutting hair there spoke up and said, “I used to want to work in the mines…it’s good money.”  Then Samantha shared that her husband is working in the mines.  “Six days a week.  It’s terrible hours, he goes in at 1pm and gets out at midnight.”

The economy is worse here than what we saw in Roanoke the day before. 

In case you find yourself in Richlands and wonder what you might should try to see, Ashley said, “I don’t know, maybe go up to Overlook Park in Cedar Bluff and walk all the way to the top.”  It was late and we wouldn’t be able to do that…but on my list to do next time.

Ashley said she was going to use my $10 on dinner for her family.  I just hope she didn’t go to King Kone…the chili dog wasn’t that good actually…kind of raw and chewy.

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Unfortunately my cousin Ricky passed away on March 12th.  He had a heart attack on Wednesday and later died on Friday.  Although I had not seen Ricky in a long time, I did see his mother (my aunt) much more often.  You never prepare yourself fully to lose a child.  

Welcome to Kroger's!

I traveled to Roanoke, VA on Thursday to be with my family.  While I was there I found myself at the Tanglewood Kroger on the Southwest edge of the city. 

As I walked through the grocery store I found Rob deep in concentration as he studied the Bomb Pops.  I thought I would introduce myself. 

Like me, Rob is unemployed right now.  He was working as a financial specialist for the hospital in Roanoke up until being laid off last August.  Although he would like to find work, he has used his time off to focus on his passion for making music.  He is a one-man recording artist making experimental home-made music.  He goes by the name Sad Wilson and you can hear a sample of his music here.  I listened to a bunch of the songs.  Most of them have heavy tones of melancholy (hence Sad Wilson).  Rob integrates different media into the songs…for example recordings of conversations or telephone operator recordings on top of guitar melodies.  There was something Neil Youngish about Junk Stomp Brain and Pretty Corpse.  All in all not my preferred style, however, I think the experimental approach he has taken is cool and the fact that he does it all himself is amazing. 

Rob with his $10 and favorite Popsicles (Photo: Reed)

I got out my camera to take some pictures…I got a little worried that the Kroger people might come over and ask me to leave or put my camera away.  Jokingly I said to Rob, “They might get upset unless you know somebody that works here.”  He said, well, my grandfather used to be the CEO of Kroger.”  I was like, “really.”  He just looked at me and nodded “yup.”  So…I took some photos! 

Rob plans on using my ten-spot to buy some blank CDs to burn some of his music.  I have a feeling if there is anything left over it will get used for Bomb Pops.  Never met anyone with such an affinity for them! 

Around this time Rob’s friend came by.  I think this was his girlfriend or wife…and I believe her name was Ashley…but I could be wrong.  My note-taking is pretty poor.  Sorry!  They both told me how bad the economy was in Roanoke.  And let me tell you, it looks way more depressed there than in

Rob and Ashley (Photo: Reed)

DC.  Next door to the Kroger is the Tanglewood Mall.  Ashley said, “Yeah,it’s pretty bad…you can find that mall on deadmalls.com!” I checked…she was right.  I also went to the mall…and it aptly listed on the website.  “There’s just a lot of empty buildings around town” she added. 

Although it is sad to see this, it is important to see it.  I think Washington is a little recession proof because of all the government related jobs.  This town needs some life pumped into it.  

I asked the two what they would recommend for someone to see in Roanoke.  They looked at each other, shrugged, and said, “I don’t know….maybe the Star?”  They are referring to the Mill Mountain Star, built in 1949 at the top of Mill Mountain.  It is the world’s largest freestanding illuminated man-made star. (There is a bigger one in El Paso, TX, but it isn’t illuminated)  I had actually seen it before…my cousin Martha got married last Fourth of July at a winery in Roanoke that overlooked the Star.  It was a great view and the Star is pretty at night.   

“Other than that…maybe the Taubman Museum…but it’s weird.  It looks like a space ship” they told me.  The Taubman  apparently has permanent and temporary exhibits and focuses mostly on 19th/20th century American art, modern and contemporary art, new media, photography, and visionary art.  I didn’t have time to visit it this time. 

Give Rob’s music a listen.  It’s good to have artists who are pushing the envelope. 

Today’s blog is dedicated to the memory of my cousin Richard “Ricky” C. Huels, Jr.  (Nov. 27, 1959 – March 12, 2010)

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I have gotten way behind…all the wonderful emails, comments, media and speaking requests, etc…added to being out of town for a couple days has taken its toll.  Thankfully I got a good night’s sleep last night and am recharged and ready to get caught up!

On Wednesday I headed to Dupont Circle to meet with Katherine Frey and Susan Kinzie of the Washington Post.  Susan had tagged along with me the day before and today Katherine joined to photograph my Year of Giving.

We ran into Bill from Day 36…he was playing an original song he wrote called “Made as One” at the South end of the circle (click here for a pic of us talking).  We chatted briefly…he seems like he is doing well. He is still looking for some places to play.  He used to play at Potbelly’s some evenings, but they have stopped that.  If anyone would be interested in having Bill play at their establishment, let me know.

It was a little after 5pm and the sun’s shadows were growing longer.  I wanted to walk over to the area where the chess players hang out.  It was there I met Sean.

Sean waits his turn to play chess (Photo: Reed)

Sean is a telecommunications engineer with the US Army.  I asked him what he did more specifically and he responded, “I like to tell people that I used to be the guy that you would see in the movies carrying that bag…well, now I try to destroy the other guy’s network!”  When he is not serving our country, the father of three daughters likes spoken word poetry and playing chess.

Sean had made his way up to Dupont Circle after finishing work for the day.  He stands carrying a chess set that he says belongs to his daughter.  In fact he has taught all three daughters to play chess.  Although this is the first time he has been to the circle since winter and snow blanketed Washington, he tries to play as much as possible.

“This is like crack” he says, “although I have never tried it, it’s gotta be something like this.”  “I wake up in the morning thinking about it.  It’s sick!” he says with a grin. 

Today all the chess tables are taken.  Sean waits his turn.  “That’s ok though.  I like to watch.  There are some really good guys here and I always learn something.”

It was about this time that I learned something that I never knew before.  Sean tells me that he played chess for the Army for 4 or 5 years.  I figured he meant that he was in like a chess club at the different locations he was stationed at, but I was wrong.  In fact Sean’s job for the Army was to play chess.  He was on the Army chess team and that was his job.  I had no the military had chess players on the payroll! 

I had a lot of great video of Sean, but for some reason it was not saved on my camera.  I did have some other quick video clips that I had taken later that I have put together here.  Sean talks a little bit about playing chess for the Army, donating his time, and teaches me a little chess lingo.

As for the $10 he said that he was going to give it to his daughters.

Well, that’s it for today.  I am going to go start practicing my chess game.  Maybe the Army will hire me!

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Today has been incredible!

There were two beautiful stories on the Year of Giving today.  One by Rebecca Sheir of NPR and the other by Susan Kinzie of the Washington Post.  Please check out their respective links…they are amazing!  Their terrific reporting has driven more people to the Year of Giving website today than all the other days combined!  20,000+ hits

I have been inundated with emails, comments, requests to follow me on twitter and requests to be a fan of the Facebook Page.  People have written to me telling me that the Year of Giving project brought them to tears!  I am speechless and so appreciative of the support that I have received from so many of you!

I shot a little video of me tonight.  Keep in mind that in the last 48 hours I have driven over 500 miles, attended my cousin’s funeral, slept in two different Comfort Inns, and tried to respond to over 350 messages and comments that I have received.  If I seem a little out of it…it’s the lack of sleep ;) 

Earlier this week I met Carlos at the Eastern Market.  Carlos is the person I gave money to on one of the days that Susan Kinzie tagged along with me.  He has been working at the family run butcher shop for 18 years…since he was 10!  He used to cook samples for hungry patrons when he was a kid.  

Carlos at Canales Quality Meats, Eastern Market (Photo: Reed)

Carlos is very knowledgeable about the meats that they have…showing me the pork from Pennsylvania and Virginia and the beef from various parts of the US and Canada.  “You want to look for good marbling in the meat…like little ‘lightening bolts’” he tells me.  Filet mignon is his favorite!

Rather than me write more about Carlos…go read Susan’s wonderful article!  It’s apparently the most read article from Friday’s edition!  Amazing.

By the way…I got an email from Carlos today telling me that he gave his $10 to his wife, Gale.  “She just found out that she will most likely be laid off this July 3rd because of Montgomery County budget cut backs.  It made her feel nice. Thank you.”

Carlos with his father, Emilio (Photo: Reed)

Go say hello to Carlos and his father Emilio at Canales Quality Meats at Eastern Market!

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If you are in the Washington, DC area today (Friday) pick up a copy of the Washington Post.  There is terrific story about the Year of Giving by Susan Kinzie in the Metro section.  NPR’s Rebecca Sheir (WAMU 88.5FM) is also doing a story that will be aired on NPR’s Metro Connection at 1pm. 

My car got a flat last week because of a pot hole in the parking lot of Target in Seven Corners, VA.  The last thing I need right now is to pay for new tires.

I went over to Costco’s Tire Center to get two new tires placed on the car.  I got there a half hour before they opened so that I could be first in line and that way I could get out of there quickly as I had a ton of things to do that day. 

As it turns out, I was not the first one there.  Lysa was sitting in her SUV when I arrived.  Somebody else had the same idea. 

Since I had some time before they opened I decided to see if Lysa would take my $10.

She was sitting in her vehicle reading her Kindle, which she said she loves.  She was there to get her tires rotated and balanced. 

It turns out that she is a personal shopper for Nordstrom department store.  She loves her job.  She has been doing this since the 90s when she did advance work for Clinton and Gore.

There are no photos or video of Lysa.  She told me that there was no way that I was getting a picture of her in her “I’m just going to Costco” outfit. 

She told me that she was going to put the $10 toward a care package that she is putting together for the mother of one of her children’s friends who is serving in the US military in Afghanistan.  What a thoughtful use of the $10.

So…here is where my $10 gift turns into a net loss of $32.

At about this time there are numerous people waiting outside for the Tire Center to open.  I start to wonder if they will just try to pretend like they were her before Lysa and me.  There were no such issues and we go in only to find out that I have left my wallet at home (I keep the $10 in the inner pocket of a little notebook I carry around).  The Costco employee says that he can not start the work until I pay and present my membership card.  I was able to go over and get a temporary card at the Customer Service Center but I still had no way to pay for the tires up front.  I asked if he would make an exception and start the work and then I would take the Metro back to my house, get my wallet and come back and pay for it.  He agreed…but just one little problem.  I had no money on me whatsoever.  I had just given away all the money I had on me.  So I could not take the Metro and was forced to take a taxi back to DC to my condo where I ran in to get my wallet and paid the driver.  It cost me $20.  Then I had to Metro back over to Costco…another $2.

Oh well…I got a $22 reminder to always take my wallet with me!

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Did you vote for who I should invite to lunch/dinner at Clyde’s?  If not go here to vote! 

I stopped in a Starbucks while it was raining.  The Starbucks employee, Jackie, was so nice that I thought I would offer her my $10.  She immediately said that she thought her colleague could use the money more than her.  She introduces me to Larry. 

Larry proudly displays a fresh coffee (Photo: Reed)

Larry is at least 6’4”…maybe 6’6”.  Let’s put it this way.  When I took the video of him, I was standing on a stool to try to keep a level shot.  Hmmm…what does that say about me? 

Larry is a really nice guy.  He and Jackie both are so friendly that I want to make this Starbucks my Starbucks.  The father of two, Larry is working hard to provide for his family.  He says that he really enjoys his job.  His favorite drink there is the Raspberry Lemonade.  I asked him what was the hardest drink to make…he said the macchiato.  I asked him why and he said it was because people from different parts of the world like their macchiato slightly different…so often times people want it made differently.  He says he hates to disappoint his customers.  “It’s hard, because you don’t know how they like it.  I make it like we are trained here and if they want it differently, no problem, I make them another one just like they want it.  I don’t mind remaking it, I just want them to be happy.” 

Here’s a short video of Larry talking about a frustration of his…as well as telling what he is going to do with the $10! 

Thanks to both Jackie and Larry for being so friendly and making me feel at home at their Starbucks.  You both were great!

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Did you vote for who I should invite to lunch/dinner at Clyde’s?  If not go here to vote!

I went and saw Avatar with my dad…really good movie. I don’t know why I didn’t think I was going to like it.  Not the old 3-D that I remembered.

I headed home around 11pm and on my way home I caught the shuttle bus from Rosslyn over to Georgetown.  While I was waiting for the shuttle a young guy walked up with a huge bag and asked if the bus was still running.  I thought it was…well, I was waiting for it so I really hoped it was.  Sure enough, a few minutes later it pulled up.

The bus did come and we got on.  We were both stuck on the bus for a while so I decided to give Tim my $10. 

Tim aboard the Metro Shuttle (Photo: Reed)

We had a few things in common…we both grew up in Central Pennsylvania (about 25 minutes from each other), we both studied in Spain, we both spoke Spanish, we both studied political science…although I ended up changing my major.  Tim is studying International Political Economics.

Tim says that when he is not reading or traveling, he is playing on Georgetown’s Ultimate Frisbee team.  I have to be honest…I have never played…and probably would be no good at it.  I don’t ever recall being very good at Frisbee.

Tim said that he was going to use the money to buy something for his friends…maybe food or drinks…but definitely something for someone else he said.  Hopefully he will drop a note and let us know what the fate of my $10 bill was.

By the way, if you want to help a nice guy out…Tim needs something to do for the summer.  A summer job or internship.  “It would be nice to learn something new” he says.  I have his contact info if you have any ideas for him…just post them here.

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Today, March 15th, marks the three month mark in my year-long journey.  Many times the recipients are inspired to give the $10 to someone else or to a charity.  Other times someone watching what is going on or reading on my blog has been inspired to give $10 themselves.  I have been lucky in these first three months to witness so many inspiring moments.  Day 88 was one of those special days.

I traveled up to Gaithersburg, MD to see my friend Jeff perform in the Rockville Little Theatre’s production of Over the River and Through the Woods.    The show is very well performed and the Gaithersburg Arts Barn is a great intimate space to see theatre.  The show ends this Sunday and I hear that there are still tickets left for some of the shows…so if you live in the area check it out!

Photo courtesy of http://www.clydes.com

After the show, some friends joined Jeff for a late meal at Clyde’s Tower Oaks Lodge in Rockville.  Tower Oaks Lodge has been a favorite spot after many theatre performances in Rockville.  It’s a very unique locale…it’s almost as if you leave the Washington metro area and walk into the Adirondacks when you walk through the front door. 

I still hadn’t given away my $10…so I went searching throughout the many rooms looking for a recipient.  I settled on Hans…a man in his late 30s / early 40s who was standing by himself behind the host station.  I figured he must work there and who better to give it to than someone working at almost midnight on a Friday evening.

It turns out Hans is the General Manager of the restaurant!  He has been with the Clyde’s Restaurant Group (they also own the Old Ebbitt Grill, 1789, and  F. Scott’s to name a few) for 20 years and worked at four of their properties. 

Han's poses with his $10 (Photo: Reed)

We get interrupted by some young guys wandering in the door in search of a banana split.  Hans take care of them and we pick up where we left off.

Hans tells me that he is going to give his $10 to the American Coalition for Fathers and Children, an organization that believes that children thrive with the active involvement of both parents.  Furthermore they feel that barring “issues of abuse, neglect or abandonment, social and government policy must be structured in such a way as to promote and maximize the opportunity of all parents to contribute to the social, emotional, intellectual, physical, moral and spiritual development of their children.”

I had a feeling that there was a story behind this, so I asked.  It turns out that Hans is a divorced father who has not seen his children in more than two years.  I didn’t dig into the details too much as I could see that this was a sensitive issue for him. 

Hans said he was really impressed with my commitment and told me to come see him if I needed a job.  He then gave me his business card and a $100 voucher to eat at the restaurant!  Oh my gosh.  I didn’t know what to say but to thank him.  That was really nice of him.

I knew exactly what I wanted to do with the gift certificate to Clyde’s.  I am going to invite 2 of my previous $10 recipients to join me (and hopefully Hans) for lunch one day.  Now the hard part, who do I invite…this is where I NEED YOUR HELP.  Please vote here on who you think most deserves to go with me to eat at Clyde’s.  I have already invited Hans.  The list below is of the top 20 recipients based on feedback that I have received, page loads, etc.  I have removed several names of those who are not local or did not give any contact information.  [UPDATE 4/3/2010:  Voting is now over]

I thanked Hans again and headed back to my table.  I was gone so long that they had already settled up the check.  My friend Jeff paid for mine.  I insisted that I give him money for it but he wouldn’t accept it.  Thanks Jeff.

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Mark your calendars.  June 15th is the Worldwide Day of Giving.  I know what you are thinking.  You’ve never heard about this day.  Well, that is because I just made it up.  It’s going to be an amazing day though.  Let’s see how many people throughout the world we can get to give $10 (or the local currency equivalent) to a stranger on that day and then share their stories here on the Year of Giving.  More details to come…but start telling people now.  This is your chance to experience the exhilaration that I have been feeling every day for the last 3 months!

On Day 87 I met Rick.  He was sitting in front of a hair salon on Connecticut Avenue.  I remember seeing Rick about a month and a half ago when I was giving my $10 to Ron.  Ron asked if I knew Rick…he said, “Everybody out here knows Rick.” 

Rick says he has been homeless for 7 months…but that doesn’t seem to add up with the fact that everybody seems to know him.  Even Rick himself told me that everybody knows him.  Maybe he has been panhandling longer…but just lost his housing 7 months ago.

He says he doesn’t like to stay in shelters.  “They’re full of drug users in there” he says.  Most nights he sleeps on the streets.

He keeps one eye always on the foot traffic…especially the ladies.  He is quick to shoot a smile their way.  A couple people fill his cup with dollar bills as we talk and a few regulars say hello.

Rick is a little too smooth.  I wasn’t sure what to believe or not to believe. Sometimes he seemed to lose his train of thought…maybe it was the booze.  His breath was soaked in alcohol…although he wasn’t sloppy. 

Check him out for yourself and find out what he thinks of his family, where he sleeps, and what he says he is going to do with the $10!

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Today I ended up giving my $10 to two different people!

I was joined today by Rebecca Sheir from NPR.  We met at my apartment and talked for a little while and then set out to find a recipient.

On our walk we saw Anthony from Day 67.  He was his upbeat usual self.  The next time I see him I will let him know that Maureen is giving him some shoes!  He is going to be so excited.

Chatting with Nathan

Near the White House we found Nathan.  He looked deep in thought as he sat by himself on a bench.  Nathan is 52, lives in MD, and is unemployed.  He questions my intentions when I offer him the $10, but when he realizes that it is a genuine offer, he graciously accepts.

Nathan keeps a positive attitude despite being unemployed.  He says that he hasn’t bought hardly anything that he doesn’t truly need in over a year to help him save money.  In the video below he talks about having to move into a basement apartment to reduce his monthly expenditures even more.  He also shares what he is going to do with his $10.

You can find Rebecca Sheir’s report of this experience here.

We left Nathan and walked around the city some more.  Near Gallery Place we bumped into Ivory from Day 49.  It’s been over a month since I last saw him but he recognized me immediately.  He is still trying to get more books produced.  He recently got a shipment of 500 of them which he said he sold out of immediately.  Ironically as we chatted with him, the person who is helping him get his book published walked by.

We started walking back to Dupont Circle.  On our way we noticed a large tractor-trailer with expanded sides.  It was a mobile museum exhibit on the customs and traditions of the American funeral.  At first I thought this was a very odd exhibit to have, much less housed in the back of a trailer.  We were greeted by Harry who is the President of MRA Experiential Tours which operates the exhibit.

Harry in front of the American Funeral Museum (Photo: Reed)

He invites us inside and shares the history and culture of American funerals to us.  He proves to be very knowledgeable on the subject and we find out that he has first hand experience…he worked his way through college working at a funeral home.  The exhibit is very interesting and you can find out where it is going to be by checking their website.  Although, it might not be completely up to date as Washington, DC was not listed on their calendar.

Harry started in the shipping and freight forwarding business for events.  He later got the idea of having mobile exhibitions.  He now has about 20 trucks in the fleet.  He has done work for a variety of well-known companies such as Mattel, Boeing, Tabasco, AstraZeneca, Mazda, etc.

You might recall that on Day 82 Keith gave me $10.  I wanted to give that to someone but in addition to my regular amount that I give each day.  So since I already had given Nathan my $10, I used Keith’s $10 and gave it to Harry.  In turn Harry said that he would donate the money to the National Scholarship Program of the American Board of Funeral Service Education.  The scholarship program was established to provide financial awards to students enrolled in funeral service or mortuary science programs to assist them in obtaining their professional education. Established during the 1960’s the program has awarded scholarships to hundreds of students.

Thanks to both Keith and Harry for making that donation possible!

We took a different route back to Dupont Circle and guess who we ran into sitting in Franklin Square?  Nathan had met up with his brother and they were sitting talking to each other.  We were a few blocks from where we had originally met him.  Small world.

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Yesterday Rebecca Sheir of NPR did two great stories on the Year of Giving.   Check them out.  One of the stories is available online here …the other I can not get to load on here.

Also, check the Lend a Hand section….some people have stepped up and offered to help out some of the recipients with items they need.  Thanks Teri and Maureen!

Manny takes an order in the Sauca-mobile (Photo: Reed)

On nice days, I sometimes will walk all over the city looking for someone interesting to give my $10 to.  Tuesday was just such a day.  It was warm and sunny and I must have walked 3 or 4 miles.  I ended up giving my $10 to a guy in a lunch truck.

Manny was laid off from a Venture Capital firm right before the holidays…now he is helping out the Sauça lunch truck

According to their website, Sauca “combines food, travel, music, design, technology and fun into the most interesting new concept to hit the streets.”  The concept was inspired by “snack vendors in India, railroad station vendors in Europe and the mobile taquerias of South America.”  Manny knows a little something about international street food…he has travelled all over the world with the Armenian Folk Dance Group.  He likes the fish tacos…but says everything is good.  I can’t vouch for the food yet, as I had already eaten when I came across the truck.  I will seek them out on another day and try their food, however, I can tell you that a frequent customer stopped by and raved about the food and service.  She bought the Medi Vegi and said it is “amazing!”

The website is cool…they have a web came that shows what’s going on at the truck (this was not working when I checked the site out) and they have a great list of sauces you can get.  You can also check the website to find out where the truck is going to be.  Manny says they are planning add several more trucks this summer.  Seems like these lunch trucks are doing well…I should open up a little mobile taqueria!

Check out the video to find out what kind of job Manny is looking for, what he did with the $10 and also take a behind the scenes tour of the truck.

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I was trying out a new spot called Social.   It’s on 14th Street just north of the Columbia Heights Metro.   I just was having drinks, but the food looked fantastic.  They do several portion sizes as well so that you can share plates easily.  Very cool place…worth checking out.

It was there that I met Jim and Jacqie, a young New Jersey couple transplanted to Silver Spring.  Jim is a video editor.  Jacqie teaches art at a local school.  They are getting married this summer.  I mostly spoke with Jim.

He is a pretty interesting guy.  Frankly I think we are lucky to have Jim with us today.  He told me about some rough times in the past that he had with drug use.  Today he says that he is drug free.  I am sure the road was not easy.

Jim is a big fan of his home state of New Jersey and the opening scene of the movie Way of the Gun…a movie that I have never seen.  It was kind of funny…I think he looked at me twice and slowly said, “Way of the Gun.”  Speaking of guns…check out this video to see Jim’s tattoo.

This is not a tattoo that you later decide you want removed!

Jim handed the money over to his fiancée.  I asked him what he was going to do with it and he said that times were a little tough right now and that he would probably just put it toward rent.

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I was interviewed yesterday by NPR…so make sure to listen today during the morning and afternoon news for a short report on my Year of Giving by the talented journalist Rebecca Sheir.  Click here to listen online. 

On day 83 I found myself heading over to the Caribou Coffee shop on 14th Street near Logan Circle to meet my friend David who was in the play The Foreigner with me.  On the way I ran into Ron from Day 24.  He was talkative and we chatted for a few blocks as we walked the same direction.  We walked past Bob from Day 72…he was at his usual place shooting baskets.  I would have asked him what he ended up using his $10 for but I had several things to do and was running a little behind, so I decided to follow up with him another day.

Brad (Photo: Reed)

While I was at Caribou Coffee I met Brad.  The 27-year-old was working on his computer when I met him…turns out he has a blog called A Jersey Kid…definitely worth checking out. 

Brad was born in Connecticut but grew up in New Jersey.  He moved to DC to go to George Washington University where he did both his undergraduate studies as well as law degree.  I know what you are thinking…wow, you found a lawyer in DC…what a shocker.  Well, Brad is not a lawyer. 

After graduating from law school he realized he didn’t want to practice law…so he joined an IT firm doing project management.  He also writes regularly on his blog and hopes to make writing a more integral part of his life.  For now he says, “You either do what you love, or do what allows you to do what you love.”

We spoke about all kinds of things.  If you want a good person to just discuss the interesting facets of life, you should seek out Brad and have a chat with him.

On this day he was particularly bothered by some comments made recently by Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s niece, Alveda King.  She was quoted as saying, “Abortion is a racist, genocidal act.”  Brad disagreed with her using such inflammatory language.  Regardless of your views on abortion he says, a statement like this does not encourage educated debate on the subject.  I have to agree.  I wonder what the late Dr. King would have thought about his niece’s views.

I ended up getting a phone call and had to leave, so our discussion got cut short.  Brad says he will give the money to someone else.  I look forward to hearing his story about regiving the $10!

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I am still trying to get caught up writing my blog…I am several days behind now…It’s been tough to stay indoors writing my blog when it is so nice outside.

Cole is a member of the United States Marine Corps (a big thank you to Cole for his service to our country!).  He has made two tours to Iraq and is looking forward to an opportunity to go to Afghanistan in January of 2011.  I notice that his left hand is injured and he said that he injured it while driving a military vehicle in Iraq.

When I meet men and women who have been on active duty in Iraq or Afghanistan I like to ask them what their impressions of our efforts are.  So, I asked him about Iraq.  “We have done our job” Cole says.  “The government is in place.  The Iraqi army is good.  The police are in place.” 

I was surprised by two things that Cole told me.  One was that the Iraqi people don’t want us to leave.  I hope that is representative of us doing a good job there.  The other was that the Iraqi people go crazy for the military issued sun glasses they wear.  They wear Oakley brand if you are curious.

Cole says he will give the $10 to someone else.  He is not sure to who…but he agreed to let us know.

And then something happened that has never happened before.  A man came up to me and gave me $10.  Keith had been nearby and heard what I was doing.  I thanked him but said that it wasn’t necessary, that I had made this commitment and was prepared to part with the $3,650.  He insisted saying that he was really inspired by what I was doing.  I accepted it.  

Thank you Keith!  That was beautiful and sincere and greatly appreciated!  I hope the act of giving made you feel as good as I feel every day when I give away my $10! 

I have given Keith’s $10 away…stay tuned to Day 86 to find out what happened to it!

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I heard from Roger D. today from Day 54…he is doing well.  Still struggling but his positive attitude is inspiring.  I hope to meet up with him this week.  He is having some trouble figuring out how to get some medical/dental assistance.  He is also still looking for counseling and a used lap top…if you haven’t checked out the Lend a Hand section, please do, maybe you can help someone today.

James (Photo: Reed)

If you have driven by the corner of Calvert and Connecticut in Washington, DC in the last 8 months there is a chance that you have seen the man on the right.

This is James.  The 39-year-old works for Street Sense.  I try to find one of their salespeople each week because I just love the concept that the paper has and have really enjoyed meeting every single salesperson.

James, vendor #315, got a job after his friend Randy suggested he apply.  Randy used to work for Street Sense until he passed away in November of last year.  The opportunity to help others is what drives James to go out six days a week to sell the newspaper that helps DC’s poor and homeless.  Even on the coldest days, even in the rain, James is out there.  He doesn’t let a lot stand in his way, not even a serious life-threatening illness.

You see, James was born with spina bifida cystica (myelomeningocele).  This is the most complex and severe form of spina bifida.  In James’ case he was born with a hole in his back and part of his spinal cord and nerves were on the exterior of his body.  Doctors operated and put everything back where it belonged, but it left him with some life long challenges, mostly related to his legs.  He uses crutches to get around, but can walk small distances without them he says.

The youngest of eight children, James is very positive.  His warmth is contagious and radiates when you speak with him.  He was so happy I thought he might have been drinking, but after speaking with him for a while I realized that that is just part of the love he exudes.  He is a member of St. Luke’s Episcopal Church and enjoys drawing, seeing movies, spending time with friends, and just “enjoying life.”  As I talk with him I can’t help but think that spina bifida might very well shorten his life.  I later researched it and found that “most individuals live well into adulthood.”

James at corner of Calvert & Conn., DC (Photo: Reed)

I asked him what he planned on doing with my gift and he said, “I am definitely going to give it to someone else…someone who needs it more than I do.”  He followed this statement up with one that I truly believe as well, “When you help others you help yourself.”

Throw away your Prozac and come down to Calvert and Connecticut Avenue in DC and say hello to James.  Repeat daily for 6 days and you will be good to go!

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So today the Year of Giving blog will most likely pass 11,000 hits thanks to all of you following along! 

That is pretty amazing I think for a site that doesn’t sell anything or give you any secret to weight loss or living a longer healthier life.  Well, maybe that is not entirely true…I do believe that making giving a priority in your life will make you a happier person and if you pick up that from the blog…that’s great! 

So my friend Melanie is in a very unique group called Machines on Vacation.  They have a very cool, refreshing sound.  It’s what you get when you put together a guy with a guitar, a string quartet, and some high tech equipment.  They were playing a show in DC and I went to see them. 

(photo courtesy of hahatonkamusic.com)

As a bonus I got to see a band called Ha Ha Tonka.  I had never heard of them, but they put on a great show.  They have a unique sound…it’s like indie rock meets the Ozarks.  After the show, I decided to give these guys my $10 for the day.  I ended up meeting all four members: Brett, Lennon, Luke, and Brian.  I asked them what they were going to do with the money and they said they were going to buy themselves a round of beers.  I felt bad, because I was pretty sure that they wouldn’t be able to get four beers for $10…but that was before I knew they had Schlitz cans available….for exactly $2.50 a piece!  Cheers!

The guys are really nice.  They have been together for five years…toured all over, never wrecked their tour van, and travel with a one-eyed pooch named He-Man!  Despite this being the final night of their tour and having driven 475 miles earlier that day to get to DC from Rochester, NY where they performed the night before, they were still going strong! 

They are taking a little rest now and then will start up on tour again.  For those in the DC area, they are not planning on stoping here but they will be opening for a show in Baltimore on April 28th.  Some of their favorite cities to play for are: Chicago, Austin, and Emporia, KS.  (They love all the cities…but you know how it is.)

Here is a little sample of them from YouTube.

And here is poorly shot clip that I took from their show in DC…

You can check their website and listen to more of their music on MySpace and YouTube…but I recommend that you go see them live.

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Memorial surrounded by the Wall of Honor

I have done a poor job this week of updating the blog…but trust me, I have not wavered on my commitment to giving.  In fact, I have some very interesting people to tell you about as I get caught up.  Today is Hari’s story.

Being unemployed has some benefits.  One thing is that I try to go regularly to the different museums and cultural institutions that Washington has to offer.  There is an abundance of information and history here and I have time to soak it up.

I decided to check out the African American Civil War Museum.  It is located on the corner of 12th and U in DC.  A short walk away is the memorial and the Wall of Honor that remembers the 209,145 soldiers and officers who served in the United States Colored Troops.

Hari is the museum’s curator.  He was gracious to spend some time talking with me about the civil war.  Listening to Hari unfold the events that led to the civil war is exhilarating.  Usually when someone tells you about some event that took place deep in our history, it is hard to appreciate the actual event because you don’t have sufficient understanding of contributing events, cultural references, etc.  But Hari anticipated my questions and painted the full picture for me.

Hari at the African American Civil War Museum (Photo: Reed)

He first was drawn to history by his elders in his hometown of Pauls Valley, OK.  The elders took the time to explain to Hari historical events that they had lived through.  In the 8th and 11th grade, Hari discovered that the text books that he was using didn’t accurately portray the involvement of Americans of African descent  in the Civil War.  His teachers at the time, Ms. Bagley and Ms. Wallace respectively, understood that this history was suppressed and taught the true history. 

Hari went on to graduate from the University of Oklahoma.  It was there that he had a Kenyan American professor of African American History who was not only ignorant of the involvement of African Americans in the Civil War but refused to teach it saying that it was not on his syllabus. It was this encounter that fueled Hari’s desire to dedicate himself to researching the involvement of African Americans in the Civil War. 

He received a commission in the Marine Corps and later found himself as an instructor at the Naval Academy.  He realized that there was still a lack of understanding of our own history and felt that Americans need a foundation of common understanding about our own history before we are fully capable of dealing with conflict and struggles in foreign lands.  “If we can not understand what went on her in our own history and what cultural attributes were possessed by Americans” Hari explained, “then it will be impossible for us to do it anywhere else.  The only thing that we’ll be able to do is to kill people when we can not get them to understand our way of thinking.”

Hari left the Marine Corps to dedicate himself full-time to the topic.  I encourage you to stop by the Museum and meet Hari.  If he has time, I know he would be happy to share with you his extensive knowledge of our nation’s history.

Here is a clip of Hari discussing our views on race and how a paradigm shift has occurred in our society’s views about race as it pertains to sports and how this represents a much greater paradigm shift in our society’s way of thinking.

It’s no surprise that Hari decided to donate his $10 to the museum. 

For those of you who can not make it to the museum to meet Hari, he recommended two books to me that you might want to check out:

  • The Great Conspiracy by John Alexander Logan
  • A People’s History of the United States by Howard Zinn – A note about Mr. Zinn.  He died unexpectedly on January 27th of this year.  He was 87.  He was quoted as saying that he would like to be remembered “for introducing a different way of thinking about the world, about war, about human rights, about equality,” and “for getting more people to realize that the power which rests so far in the hands of people with wealth and guns…ultimately rests in people themselves and that they can use it.”

 

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Did you see the update from Samantha from Day 15!  Check out the comments section to find out what happened to the $10 I gave her.

Raymond at the corner of Lancaster and 3rd Ave in Oxford, PA (Photo: Reed)

After my trip to the brewery yesterday, I spent the night with some friends who lived nearby.  The next morning I headed back to Washington, DC.  As I drove through Oxford, PA I nearly wrecked my car when I saw a guy dressed up in a Statue of Liberty costume playing air guitar jumping up and down wildly.  Ok.  I gotta pull over.  This guy’s got $10 written all over him!

So Raymond tells me that he is working for Liberty Tax Service.  His job is to get the attention of the cars who drive by.  To quote a former president, “Mission accomplished.”  In this instance though the statement is accurate.

Raymond is 20 and absolutely loves this seasonal job.  I was cold after being out of my car for only 5 minutes talking to him.  Not Raymond.  He said he loves the cold.  He is very positive and loves the opportunity to interact with the public and “put smiles on their faces.”

Raymond said he was going to give the $10 to his parents.  They allow him to use one of their cars to get around.  It’s a token of his appreciation for letting him use the car and maybe it will help fill the gas tank.  That was thoughtful of him.

Check out the clip of Raymond.

Back to DC now.

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If you drive east from Mechanicsburg, PA on the turnpike for about an hour you will arrive in Adamstown, PA and be greeted by Stoudt’s Brewery, a high quality regional craft brewery.  How could I not stop in and sample some of their beers? 

Carol Stoudt (Photo: Reed)

 

While there I gave my $10 to Carol Stoudt, the founder and President of Stoudt’s Brewing Company.  Carol started the brewery in 1987.  They are not the biggest brewery or the most known, in fact their beer is available in less than a third of the states in the US.  Carol and her husband Ed run the brewery in a very simple way: make quality tasty beer. 

But I noticed, they do more than that.  You will see in the video that they have a restaurant and make several other products.   “We are fortunate to have a business centered around several things that we love: family, friends, beer, food, wine, bread, cheese…”  

In addition, they are very focused on sustainable practices; from reusing their water to converting brewing byproducts such as residue hops into fertilizer for farms to recycling clothes into company gear.  They don’t waste much. 

Check out some of my interview with Carol. 

 I asked Carol what she was going to do with the $10 and she said that she was going to tuck it away in her purse and use it when she got in a pinch and didn’t have cash on her.     

Thanks to Carol for her time and I hope she and her family keep up the good work!

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Day 76 – Mike D.

Welcome to Mechanicsburg, PA, a suburb of the state capital of Harrisburg and a stone’s throw away form the Three Mile Island – the nuclear facility that suffered a partial core meltdown in a pressurized water reactor almost 31 years ago to the day.

“]I was walking in the downtown area of Mechanicsburg when I walked by Mike sitting on his front porch using his computer.  It was chilly out but he was enjoying the crisp air.  Mike is 50 years old, father of two girls, and the Executive Director of the Pennsylvania Patient Safety Authority.   They are an independent state agency charged with taking steps to reduce and eliminate medical errors by identifying problems and recommending solutions that promote patient safety.

When I asked Mike what he was going to do with the money, he originally said he didn’t know but that it wouldn’t be used for anything for him.  He later got a great idea that no one has mentioned to me yet.  He said he was going to involve his two daughters in the decision and discuss with them what would be appropriate to do with the $10.  I love this idea.  This is an excellent opportunity for Mike to talk with his children about giving.  What do they think about what I am doing?  What do they think they should do with the $10?  Do they do things for others in their daily lives?

Mike agreed to get back to me after he had a chance to discuss this with his girls.  In the meantime, check out some footage of Mike that I shot while we spoke.

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