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Archive for April, 2010

Last Monday I was on my way to meet up with a friend for dinner when I came across Doug near the corner of 7th and E in Penn Quarter.  He was sitting on top of a hard suitcase, the small kind that you see flight crews carry all the time.  Next to him was a larger suitcase with a bag on top.  Tied to the handle of the large suitcase was a cardboard sign which read, “Travel funds needed.  Extreme Duress.  Borderline Crippled Due to illegal Activity on ME.”

Photo: Reed

I first walked by him and then stopped to check my watch.  I was supposed to meet up for dinner at 7:30, it was now 7:20.  What the heck, I went back and introduced myself and gave him my $10.

I can’t say that I know too much more about Doug after chatting with him for 15 minutes.  Although he talked a lot, he told me very little.  Most of my questions went unanswered and often he just spiraled into long-winded rants about injustices that he has suffered, the details of which he didn’t care to share.

“I am a semi-long term resident of greater Seattle,” he told me.

According to Doug, he came out here a little over a year ago with the intention on staying for just one month so that he could “get done what I came here to do.”  He kept referring to doing everything in his power to legally make things right.  I probed again about what he was trying to do and he shifted into a rant on how some people take advantage of others.

“I bet some people would intentionally trip the blind just to hurt them, you know?”  “If a blind person were to walk by here I bet some people would try to trip’em just to hurt’em, you know what I mean?”  Getting nowhere, I tried to go back and focus on more basic questions like his age.

“Well, how old do I look?”

I tried to dodge that question myself.  I finally answered that I thought he was in his 50s.  He said, “Well that’s not too bad, not after what I have been through.”  

I told him that I was interested in knowing more about that and he replied, “I don’t want to get into details.”

He did tell me that he planned to use the money to buy some food that night and some coffee and breakfast in the morning.  Who knows though, he clearly has some issues and I am not sure I got a single straight answer out of him.  

I knew that he wasn’t going to allow me to photograph or videotape him, but I figured I had nothing to lose right?  He said he didn’t want to be in any photos, but agreed to me taking a picture of his sign.

He continued to rant about things that made very little sense. 

I waited until he paused for a second and then told him I needed to head on my way and extended my hand toward him.  He said he couldn’t shake my hand as his was full of fractured bones.  We left it at that.

Maybe Ivory from Day 49 knows his story.  Ivory sells the Street Sense just a block or two away and he seems to know everyone around there.  I will stop by and check with Ivory one of these days.

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Filter, 1726 20th St., NW, DC

On Sunday I checked out a new coffee house in Dupont called Filter.  It’s well located, tucked behind Connecticut Avenue on the more laid back 20th Street.  I descended a few stairs and walked into the cozy, hip coffee joint an ordered an espresso.  The prices seemed slightly higher than Starbucks and Cosi, both of which are right around the corner.  Overall I liked the place, despite a guy who was working there complaining that a nearby restaurant manager sent about 10 or 15 of her staff over to get espresso so that they understood what a good espresso tasted like.  He didn’t like that they got it to go and one person reached for a cup before it was ready, etc.  Anyway, when you work in an open atmosphere you need to be cognizant that others can hear your conversation.  As a new location, I would have been thrilled to have 15 customers.

While I was there I met Mark, a graduating senior studying economics at the George Washington University here in DC.  He graduates on May 17th and is frantically wrapping up his final papers and studying for his last exams.  I remember my last week of college.  It was a great feeling to be “finished.”  Little did I know that I was only finished with another segment of life and that new challenges and tests were just over the horizon. 

Mark is from the DC area.  He grew up in Montgomery County and graduated from Magruder High School.  

He and I have something in common related to the $10.  Well, in a round about way.  So Mark has a plan to go to Prudhoe Bay, Alaska and embark on a bicycling journey all the way to Ushuaia, Argentina.  I asked him how far this was and he said, “I don’t know exactly…several thousand miles.”  Well, I did a little checking and I calculated that it will be at least 11,000 miles!  That is like going across the continental US from ocean to ocean 3.5 times!  Along the way he plans to give people $10 and a self-addressed stamped envelope.  He will ask that they send him photos, stories, poems, etc. to him as well as a note explaining how they used the money.  He sees it as a way to get to know the individuals as well as study the marginal propensity to save (or to consume) in different cultures.

Anyway, watch the video and you will learn a little more about Mark’s interest in cycling, his cycling trip around Spain and France as well as his plans for his upcoming trip from Alaska to Argentina.  I also included a small piece where he talks about volunteering to help an adult read better.  

As you might expect, Mark put the $10 toward his savings needed to make the trip.

I asked Mark if we could help him with anything on the Lend a Hand page.  He said he needs funds to help him make his journey to Argentina.  He applied for a grant from the University but was denied.  I think there is a way to make this happen with corporate and individual donations.  Furthermore, he needs to find a house/apartment in DC for the summer.  He is looking for a place in DC that he will share with three other friends with a monthly rent of less than $3,000/month.  Mark is also looking for a summer job, possibly in economic development but he is also open to other ideas.  He seems like a great guy and would be a good addition to any business.  

Reed and Mark

Before we said goodbye, Mark asked if I would consider being on the finish line in Argentina when he gets there.  I would love that!  We agreed to meet in a couple of weeks and do a bike ride after I get my bike out and get into shape a little.  I was so inspired after our conversation, that I went home, got my bike in working order and took it for a short ride that evening.  Thanks Mark!

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Ok, I am back.  I was out of commission for about 36 hours with a stomach flu.  I am not 100% yet, but feel much better.  I look forward to getting the blog up to date!

What would you sacrifice for others?  What would you put your body through physically to help someone else out…to help people that you don’t even know?  

On Saturday my friend Surjeet and I were walking through Dupont Circle and saw some guys doing what looked to be push-ups.  I remember saying something like, “They aren’t even doing the push-ups right…they are doing them like girls.”  What I saw were four people doing some type of modified push-up…then rising to their feet and doing something like a jumping-jack.  

Manni enjoys a light moment (photo: Reed)

Manni gives his arms and legs a break (photo: Reed)

We went over to investigate.  As it turns out they were doing a challenge to raise money for the Wounded Warrior Project, a nonprofit charged with honoring and empowering severely injured service men and women.  The four men had taken a challenge to do 3,000 “burpees.” 

They were at around 2,000 when I arrived.  Manni was in the lead.  He took time out of his painful commitment to speak with me.  The last part of the video I recorded about an hour after the first segment.  Manni’s condition in the latter segment has visibly deteriorated.  He was nonresponsive to questions from me and others at that point…just focused on finishing.  

Manni finished all 3,000 burpees in 8hrs 5min.  He later said to me in an email, “It was absolutely the hardest money I ever worked for, and I didn’t get to keep any of it!”

Thanks to all those who participated in the Wounded Warrior Project challenge and to those who generously donated.  Manni is the real deal…he is a guy that you want on your team.  Thanks Manni for your sacrifice on Saturday and for your service to our country.

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Technology is just not being my friend these days.  First last week the display on my point and shoot Canon camera died.  Then that little ball that you use like a mouse on the Blackberry decided it didn’t want to roll to the left.  The WiFi switch on my laptop is starting to fail.  It constantly says that it has been switched to off…causing me to lose my connection.  This is really annoying when you have a daily blog!  What’s next?  Maybe I need to go back to low tech.  I could write up my daily adventures by hand, make drawings of the people I meet, get a mimeograph (now that is old school!) and make copies of everything and then mail them out to you via the post office!

Anyway, last Friday I tried to give my $10 away near Dupont Cirlce to a Hispanic woman who was carrying some bags.  She just looked like she could use ten bucks, but she didn’t want to talk to me at all.  She just kept saying, “Sorry, sorry, sorry.”  I tried in Spanish, but she just kept on going.

Later I found Jona (pronounced Yona) pushing a scooter over to a place to lock it up by the Metro entrance.

The 27-year-old hails from Tirana, the capital and largest city in Albania, but has been living in the US since 2000.  She is a Finance Manager so she probably has some interesting opinions on my Year of Giving.

She says that she likes living in the US, but makes a point to visit Albania every year.  In fact she plans to return to live there some day.

We chatted for a while.  I asked her if there was anything we could help her with.  She said that she herself didn’t need anything but would like for everyone to start doing their part to help conserve our environment.  I asked her what specifically and she said, “Just the little things.  I mean just do it.  People know what the right thing to do is.”  She herself was participating in a very interesting conference that day called, Creating Climate Wealth.

The two-day conference convened respected entrepreneurs, intrapreneurs, and corporate leaders to provide their insights and expertise on the policies, market frameworks, and programs that will clear the barriers to deliver emission reductions and promote job creation.

She said that Virgin’s Richard Branson was there launching his new venture the Carbon War Room.   I found a statement from Branson on Tonic that said, “Almost 50 percent of emissions can be eliminated without adding any burdens to consumers through improved market structures and enhanced policies.  Climate change solutions represent the largest wealth creating opportunity for our generation. It is also the biggest win for governments with respect to economic development, job creation, increased property values, etc.”

Jona said former Costa Rican President José Maria Figueres was on the panel with Branson and had a great comment.  He was talking about how in business and our personal lives we make a plan b in case things don’t go the way we hope.  “There is no planet B!” he said.  Figueres was able to pass a carbon tax in Costa Rica in the 1990s!  He credits this to Costa Rica having a single term presidency and not being sidetracked by re-election efforts.  Commenting on the importance of carbon taxing, he went on to say, “As long as the price of a tree standing is less than the price of a tree cut for timber, we won’t save the forests.”

I wish I had known about this summit. I would have loved to have participated.

Jona didn't want her picture taken, but said I could take a picture of her scooter! (Photo: Reed)

At the end of our conversation, Jona gave me the money back.  She said, “I am going to give $10 of my own money to the guy who sits in front of the Johnny Rockets on Connecticut Avenue.”  She asked me to use that $10 to help someone else out.  I did not give it away that night.

On Sunday I saw the man she was talking about.  His name is Travis.  I used that extra $10 that I had to buy him dinner: Cheese Steak sandwich platter with everything on it and french fries.  I let him know that Jona would be by to see him one day too.

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Last Thursday my friend Rick got some cheap tickets to see the Nationals play the Colorado Rockies so I went to the game.  I figured it would be fun to give my $10 to whoever was sitting next to me at the game.  We had tickets in section 309, row C, seats 1-3.  So, I figured whoever had seat 4 is getting $10!

It turns out nobody was sitting in seat 4…but there was a woman who had 5.  So I offered her my $10 but she refused.  I gave it my all to try to convince her but I was unsuccessful…she wouldn’t even tell me her first name.  Oh well.  I then found Jimmy.

Jimmy, Nationals Ballpark (Photo: Reed)

Jimmy is a vendor who climbs the steps of the stands all game long hawking snacks and beverages.  This is not an easy job…you are constantly carrying around a backbreaking container of goods navigating your way up and down stadium steps.  And get this, there is no salary.  That’s right, Jimmy said he only gets commission and tips.

He works for a company that places him in a variety of different stadiums.  Hailing from Baltimore, he said he is not that much of a Nationals fan.  Actually he says he likes football more than baseball, especially the Baltimore Ravens. 

I couldn’t keep Jimmy too long.  After all, he was working and his wages are a direct correlation to how much he sells, so I didn’t want him to lose potential income.  The 28-year-old says a good day he brings in a couple of hundred dollars.  My $10 was going toward gas he said.

Check out this short video of Jimmy in action!

The Nats ended up losing the game 2-0.  On an upside though, it was Earth Day and the ballpark had a special offer that if you brought recyclable items to the stadium you could buy a future ticket for half price.  I did just that and will be going to see my favorite team, the New York Mets, play when they come to town in May!

Don’t forget to tip your servers and vendors for good service!

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I had two sightings of previous recipients this weekend.  Yesterday I saw Carlos from Day 118 about a block from my house and he let me know that he would donate the $10, along with additional funds, at the end of the year because then his employer will double the contribution. 

Today I saw Ron from Day 24.  He was sitting in the same spot where I originally met him in January.  I was going to get some lunch at Chipotle and asked if he wanted anything.  He took me up on the offer and I got him a garden burrito. 

Last Wednesday night I went to the Velvet Lounge to check out Machines on Vacation, a local DC band that mixes a string quartet, guitar, and vocals with electronic beats and sounds.  It’s hard to describe their genre…it’s unique and totally worth checking out.

The opening band was Deb Felz with a percussionist whose name I believe was Dan.  Dan plays the cajón, an Afro-Peruvian box drum that you sit on and slap to produce a wide range of rhythmic beats.  Deb plays guitar and sings.  They were quite good together…you can check their music out here.

Ethan and Machines on Vacation at the Velvet Lounge (Photo: Reed)

The main event, Machines on Vacation, took the stage around 10pm.  My friend Melanie plays violin for the group.  The other members are Ethan (vocals, guitar, and electronics), Amanda (cello), Kellie (viola), and Theresa (violin/viola).  I love that they have such a unique sound.  It’s really refreshing to hear somebody out there exploring new territory in music.  I particularly like Paralyzed Paradise, Oh No, and Light on My Doorstep.  You can find some of their music on their Facebook page.

While watching the group I decided to give my $10 to one of the band members that I didn’t know.  I approached Ethan after the show and introduced myself and asked if he would accept my $10.  He didn’t hesitate.

I asked Ethan how he would describe Machines on Vacation’s distinctive sound.  “I have no idea,” he said, getting a laugh from me.  Seriously he said that its hard to describe but he offered a couple suggestions: “A melody-focused band that thrives on either embracing or rejecting the tenets of minimalism, sometimes in the same moment of a song”, “The music of the 22nd century – which is oddly just a mix of music from the 18th, 19th, 20th, and 21st”, and “Pop music for nerds but not geeks.”  Check out this video for some of Ethan’s comments on musical influences and his obsession with asymptotes. 

Leading a group seems to come natural to Ethan.  When he is not being the front-man for Machines on Vacation, he is the CFO/COO for Elysian Energy, a DC/Baltimore energy efficiency firm that helps homeowners and businesses lower their energy bills and carbon footprint.  The company sounds like it provides a valuable service today as individuals and businesses grapple with energy efficiency strategies, sustainability, renewable technologies, and carbon impact reduction.

Ethan is a fellow Washington Capitals fan (Let’s go Caps!) – they play Montreal Monday night in what is hopefully the final game of that series.  He had already checked his phone I think Wednesday right after he finished playing to see if they had won, which they did that night. 

I asked him what he thought he would do with the $10.  “I feel like I should do something ‘good’ with it, instead of just using it to buy lunch tomorrow.” He and his wife have actually been discussing starting to give in a more organized manner.  He said he would think about it and get back to me, but that it would most likely get used to help a person or organization. 

Here is some video that I shot of the band playing Oh No at the Velvet Lounge.

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On Tuesday I met with my group of unemployed colleagues that meet weekly to help each other in their career search.  This was the day the AOL news report hit…my blackberry went berserk with a barrage emails and comments coming in just as I entered the meeting.  After the session, I was anxious to get back to my apartment to start responding to the comments, but I needed to find a recipient for the day.

"Emanuele" in front of a statue of David G. Farragut, a Union admiral in the American Civil War famous for rallying his fleet with the cry, "Damn the torpedoes, full speed ahead!" (Photo: Reed)

I walked over to Farragut Square to see who was in the park.  It was there that I spotted an African-American man with short white hair sitting on his knees, barefoot, hunched over a park bench.   I sat down a short distance away and took a few pictures of him.  After watching him for a few minutes, I decided to approach him.

As I got close to the man I noticed that he had what looked like a scrap book or a book that you sign in on at a wedding reception.  He was entering some notes into the book.  Next to him was a small composition book, a bible, two bags, and a pair of old flip flops.  

I introduced myself and he accepted my $10.  I asked if I could ask him some questions and he became nervous and asked me to walk a few steps away from the bench to talk with him.  He spoke with an accent that made me believe that he had moved here from Africa in the last 10 or 15 years.  

We walked about 10 feet away and he explained that he couldn’t talk there because there were too many people watching and listening.  He mentioned that the park was full of CIA and others.  He suggested that I come back on another day and if he was on the west side of 17th Street, then he would be free to talk.  If he was in the park, then it would be too risky.

We walked back over to the bench.  I asked him his name and he gave me a look like, “Hey I just told you I can’t talk here” but told me that I could call him “Emanuele.”  He let me look at his book.  There were three paragraphs on the left side of the page.  I couldn’t really understand what he had written, however,  I saw a social security number and he said that that person had now been arrested based on intelligence that he had passed along.   

"Emanuele" (Photo: Reed)

We only spoke for about 10 minutes and then I left.  I didn’t get to ask him any of my normal questions that I ask, but he did offer some information.  He showed me a construction area on the northwest corner of K Street and Connecticut Avenue where he explained that three buildings used to exist.  They have been torn down and construction is started on a new building complex there.  He spoke about several conflicts that the previous owners have with the city about how this was handled, however I only understood about half of what he said.  

I agreed to come back and see him when he was not being monitored in the park.

As for the $10, he said he was going to go to McDonald’s and get him a couple of cheeseburgers.

I headed back to my apartment to find almost 1,000 emails/comments from you guys!

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I am kind of bummed today.  I have been using a large SLR camera to take pictures for my Website.  Sometimes though it is not convenient to carry such a large item around and my back has been having some issues with carrying around all of this gear everywhere I go.  How do parents do it?!  

Anyway, I own a small digital camera, a Canon PowerShot SD400, however, I haven’t been using it because the battery wasn’t staying charged for more than a minute or two.  So, I broke down and bought the $40 battery (a good one so it wouldn’t die in a few months).  It arrived yesterday and I took it with me last evening to try it out.  It worked fine.  Today I took the camera out to use it and the display is all messed up.  It’s as if I dropped it or got water in it, but I didn’t.  It’s really weird.  If anyone knows what might be wrong with it, I would love to hear from you.  I shouldn’t let it get to me, I don’t really need it anyway. 

I think today’s recipient would probably agree with that statement.  He goes by the name Start Loving. 

Those of you who have been to Washington, DC  have probably visited this place right? 

White House

But how many of you have visited this place? 

Start Loving at the Anti-Nuclear Peace Vigil (Photo: Reed)

Well it’s right in front of the White House.  The Anti Nuclear Peace Vigil was started in 1981 by Concepción and Thomas.  Sadly Thomas passed away last year and now Start has taken his place.  It’s hard for me to fully comprehend that when Concepción and Thomas started the vigil I was only seven!  

As I approached Start he greeted me, “Hello friend!”  He was seated in a low chair with a laptop literally on his lap with a WiFi card plugged in giving him Internet access.  I plopped down on the sidewalk next to him and we talked for about an hour.  I asked him why he was doing this and he cleverly responded, “Because I’m too greedy to do anything else.”  I told Start that I did not get too involved with political issues.  Start shared an analogy for why I should be more active that went something like this.  “Imagine you come home to find your house engulfed in flames and your loved ones and your worldly possessions trapped inside.  Wouldn’t you do everything in your power to save your loved ones and put that fire out?  Well our planet is on fire!”  

Check out this video of me talking to Start.  I think you will be shocked to learn about the life Start left behind to follow his heart. 

You might disagree with some of his views, but what is unquestionable is his conviction and passion.  

Start Loving (Photo: Reed)

In case you are wondering, yes the tattoos on his face are real.  Did you try to stop the video and enlarge it to read what they said?  Well, I will save you the work.  From left to right on his forehea are: “STOP STARVING” ‘START LOVING” “STOP KILLING.”  Below that it reads “WAGE LOVE OR DIE.” 

You can visit Start’s Facebook Page and the Anti-Nuclear Peace Vigil website to find out some of the specific items that he feels are in desperate need of immediate action. 

Here is something that I took from his page: 

MY RELIGION (same as Jesus, King, Gandhi, Teresa, Romero, Eleanor, Obamas…): Universal Love. 

PEACE:  is the presence of Universal Love. 

WAR: HOSTILITY is the presence of Conditional Love. 

MY FAMILY (same as Jesus, King, Gandhi, Teresa, Romero, Eleanor…): All people born and unborn. 

QUOTE: “The greatest madness of all is to see things as they are, and not as they should be.” Cervantes, Man of La Mancha. 

It was such a pleasure to have the opportunity to speak with him.  “Millions of people visit the White House every year, but only a few come over here to visit,” Start tells me.  I encourage everyone to stop by and talk to Start.  If you are near the White House between 6am-10:30am and most evenings from 7pm-10pm (sometimes he is not there in the evening when he delivers bread to local shelters) stop by and talk with Start.  Concepción, who I didn’t meet, is usually at the vigil other times.  Sometimes when neither can be there a friend will man the vigil. 

Start is going to give the $10 to a hero of humanity.  Maybe someone doing a hunger strike.  I asked him if I could help him with anything on the Lend a Hand page.  He said he couldn’t think of anything, not even a new pair of shoes to replace his sandals that are held together with tape.  He later did think of something.  He said that Concepción needs a working laptop to use for email and Internet browsing.  If someone has a computer please reach out to me or Start. 

I asked Start if he would do this for the rest of his life.  “I will, unless I find something that benefits humanity more than this.”  He gave me a big hug and we shook hands and I walked home.

UPDATE: May 17, 2010

Start shared his experience giving my $10 away on his blog today!

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Happy Earth Day!  It’s a shame that many people only think about caring for our planet once a year, but I guess that is better than nothing.  I will be posting Day 126 later today about a man who has dedicated his life to saving our country and planet.  His story tonight.

Many people ask how they can help me.  This week I received a check from a friend of mine and four gift certificates from a follower named Tawanna.  A few weeks ago a man from California sent me a donation via PayPal to sponsor ten days of giving.  Although all of these efforts are greatly appreciated, I would encourage you to think about how you can help those on the Lend a Hand page or individuals and organizations in your local community.  I promise to put the donations that I receive to good use, although, I can not accept money for my $10 daily commitment.  I made the $3,650 commitment myself and I don’t feel that it is fair to accept donations for my own personal commitment.  I am in the process of studying the possibility of creating a nonprofit that would help manage and distribute funds that I receive in a responsible manner.  I hope you don’t take this the wrong way.  Call me stubborn!  Larry and Kelly from California told me yesterday that, “to be a great giver, you also have to be a good receiver.”  What do you think?

Gravett playing the EWI4000s (Photo: Reed)

On Day 125 I was walking by Starbucks at Dupont Circle and saw a man playing a clarinet-like instrument inside the coffee shop.  I had seen him playing there before, but didn’t have time to stop.  I went inside and saw that the instrument is connected to a small electronic device that connects to earphones.  He was deep in concentration.  I nervously walked around pretending to be interested in anything but him.  Finally I just bit the bullet and walked up to him and asked if I could talk to him for a minute.

AKAI EWI4000s

That minute turned into two hours.  Gravett is a musician who is practicing on a EWI4000s.  It’s an electronic saxophone.  I used to play saxophone.  My band instructor, Mr. Snyder, I am sure would agree that the saxophone was not my calling in life.

The real benefit of the EWI4000s is that it has an internal sound module that stores the sounds/tones that the instrument produces rather than relying on an external modulator.  This allows Gravett to not have to carry around bulky equipment to hear the sound he is producing.  Pretty cool.

I asked him how he makes a living and he said he played the saxophone and worked as a pedicab driver in DC.  Pedicabs are bicycle powered cabs.  Very timely that I should write about him and his pedicab on Earth Day.  Gravett has returned to Washington DC last year after spending time living in Mexico City, the Czech Republic, and Jamaica.  I told him that I had given $10 to another saxophone player on Day 100 (Bill).  He nodded his head and said he knew him.  “Bill is really talented” he said.

Benjamin Banneker (1731-1806)

I asked Gravett what he thought he would use the $10 for and he said he was going to save it for his next stint overseas.  “I have been thinking about going back to Mexico City.  I really like it there … or maybe Guatemala.”  Although Gravett said he likes Washington quite a bit, he prefers to live outside of the United States.  He feels that he doesn’t necessarily know or share in the history of the city and prefers to be somewhere that this is not expected of him.  In his work operating the pedicab he gets asked questions about the city quite a bit.  He impressed me though when he told me the story of Benjamin Banneker.  Banneker worked closely with Andrew Ellicott on finalizing the city plans for the District of Columbia.  I always thought it was the Frenchman Pierre Le’Enfant who was responsible for the entire plans, but George Washington supposedly dismissed Le’Enfant and left

Ellicott and Banneker to salvage the plans.

By the way, for those of you in Maryland, Ellicott and his two brothers established Ellicott Mills, later renamed Ellicott City.

Gravett is someone who lives in the present.  He believes that communication is only real when it is live and spoken.  Sounds are only real when they are produced live from their original source.  We spoke philosophically about these and many items.  Some things we agreed upon.  Others we did not.  But that is ok.  In the spirit of the legendary newscaster Ron Burgundy, we agreed to disagree.  I enjoyed chatting with him so much that soon we were being asked to leave as the coffee shop was closing.  

We gathered our things and headed to the West entrance that boarders Connecticut Avenue.  We said our goodbyes as he put a helmet on and got on his scooter (his legs are probably tired from all the pedaling!)  As I started to leave he said something that I have found myself telling others.  “Thanks for sharing.”

Because that is what we were really doing.  We were both sharing; sharing our time, our ideas, our questions, etc.  Had I not been doing this project, I don’t think I would have ever stopped to talk to Gravett.  I probably would have lived the rest of my life never knowing about Benjamin Banneker.  

Gravett did tell me something that you could help him with.  He would like information on living in Guatemala.  In particular, he is interested in extremely low-cost housing information as well as general safety issues.  He hopes to move there this summer.  If you have information or know where he can research this better, please leave a comment.

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I am still working on responding to so many of your truly inspiring emails and comments.  Thanks so much.  So many of you are planning to participate in June 15th’s Worldwide Day of Giving.  I can’t wait.  The more people you tell the more amazing this could be.  Imagine if this goes completely viral and people all over the world are doing this.  I will tape a short video explaining the Worldwide Day of Giving and post it on YouTube.  Several of you have asked for tips on how to approach someone successfully; I will post some tips and other helpful information on www.yearofgiving.org and on my Facebook page.

Last Saturday I took a walk around the city and spent some time in front of the White House.  I often take it for granted, but it is pretty amazing to be able to walk 10 blocks and sit and relax in front of our President’s home (ok, so sometimes it’s not all that relaxing with thousands of people taking photos).  I found a man sitting on a bench and I approached him to participate in the Year of Giving.  He was with a few other people and said he had to go.  I was disappointed, because he was from Canada and I don’t have any Canadian recipients yet!  (That’s ok, the Caps beat his team in hockey that night!)

Javier and Lindsay with their $10 in front of the White House (Photo: Reed)

Then I found Lindsay and Javier.  If they didn’t know better they would have thought I was stalking them because we later found out that I almost ate lunch at the same place they did, instead I ate across the street.  Anyway, the couple is from Portland and Javier was here attending a geography conference and brought his wife along and made a mini-vacation out of it while grandma and grandpa helped them out by watching their two children.  They went to the National’s baseball game (I was also there…seriously I was not stalking them), toured the US Capitol, took a river cruise on the Potomac (I was also on the river boat…ok, not really, I just made that up), visited several museums, and then ended up sitting on a bench in front of the Obama’s pad at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue.

This couple made me appreciate the city I live in so much.  They were so impressed with how nice people were to them here.  They talk about their impressions of the people of our nation’s capital on this video…which could almost be a commercial for Destination DC!

As for the $10, they plan to give it to one of the nice people that have helped them during their stay.  I walked with them to look for a woman they told me about, “C. Thomas”, who works for DC’s Safety and Maintenance organization.  She was no longer there, but they told me how she helped them earlier in the day and even gave them a hug when they left!  I am going to write to that organization and tell them what an impression Ms. Thomas made on Lindsay and Javier! 

We then walked over to the Metro station where we said goodbye and they headed back to their hotel in upper Northwest, DC.  What a nice couple.  I wish they lived here so they could be my friends.

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Today was a very busy day for the Year of Giving blog due to Elizabeth Barr’s story that ran on AOL.   I received over 100,000 hits and approximately 50,000 unique visitors to the site.  In the last 10 hours I have received nearly 800 emails and comments, many of them incredibly inspiring.  So many of you have shared how the Year of Giving and the people I have met have touched your lives.  Thank you.  Almost a hundred people today have pledged to give $10 to a stranger on the Worldwide Day of Giving (June 15th) and share their stories with us here.  About a dozen people have vowed to start their own Year of Giving.  Others have offered to help those on the Lend a Hand page, thank you!  One gentleman even offered to help a woman who posted that she needed a computer by sending her a good used computer!  This is what it is all about; watching the Year of Giving take on a life of its own. 

All of that is terrific!  There has been something that happened today that bothered me though.  I am completely supportive of good intellectual debate and discussion, however some of the comments about Katy (Day 111)  ripping up the $10 went too far in my opinion.  After more than 20,000 views today, there were several slanderous comments against Katy that I feel are not in the spirit of the Year of Giving.  One comment that I thought represented my feelings after reading the comments was by a poster that goes by the name Saw.  

He who is without sin….cast the first stone. How is poor Katy going to feel when she reads all the unkind reviews of her action? Does she deserve such harsh judgment? How are the people leaving cruel comments any better than Katy? Aren’t they much more interested in that $10, than the pain they might cause her? 

I agree with this statement completely.  As a result of this I have temporarily closed the comments section for Day 111.  There are more than 325 comments already on the subject and I think her decision has been thoroughly debated.  I am not sure we can come up with an angle that hasn’t already been covered.    

Back to Day 123.  Last Friday I found Jen sitting in the grass in Dupont Circle.  She was killing some time before she had to start her shift at a local restaurant.  She said she was in a bit of a bad mood and thought that she would hang out in the park for a while and get herself in a better state of mind before clocking in.  

Jen relaxing in Dupont Circle (Photo: Reed)

 

Originally from Pennsylvania, she was familiar with my hometown of Mechanicsburg.  The twenty-something is a graduate of the George Washington University where she studied anthropology and dance.  Wow…what a combo.  What direction would I go if that was what my undergradudate degree was in?  Well, she might have found herself in the same predicament as she has decided to go to grad school to study Latin American and Caribbean studies.  I might be going out on a limb here, but that might be influenced by the fact that her fiancée is Brazilian! 

Given Jen’s current financial situation, she has given more of her time than money to others.  She has volunteered as an English as a Second Language (ESL) instructor.  She planned on volunteering two years with the Peace Corps but it looks like she won’t pursue that now that she is engaged. 

I asked her what she was going to do with the $10.  She said she would give it to someone else.  “Maybe I will leave it as an extra tip for a waiter.”  She agreed to comment here after she has given it away and share with us the fate of the $10. 

Jen told me she was planning a trip to the west coast where she was going to drive the coastal highway from LA up to San Francisco.  She hoped that someone reading my blog would have some good tips or links to good Websites to help her plan the route and things to do.  So if you have any tips/suggestions for her, leave a comment here!   

Want to know a weird coincidence…Jen knows several of my other recipients!  My world is becoming smaller!!! 

UPDATE [April 22, 2010] 

I received the following email from Jen today and wanted to share with you: 

I’ve been meaning to write you, just to give a little more feedback on what I thought/think about your project. 

Honestly, it took a couple days for it to sink in.  After I spoke with you, I went straight to work, worked a 7-hour shift, left, went home, slept a bit, then went back the next morning for a 15-hour double, so I honestly didn’t have time to think about it until Sunday.  I was supposed to meet a friend for brunch, but she overslept, and I kinda needed some alone time, so I grabbed a book and took myself to brunch at Tonic.  As I predicted, I ended up leaving the server an extra $10 on top of a normal tip. 

It was funny – I felt like I had to get rid of the $10 as soon as possible.  It wasn’t mine, and I had to get rid of it as soon as possible before I was tempted to keep it.  Plus, being in the restaurant industry myself, I know how nice it is to feel like your time and work is appreciated when someone tips you a little extra.  There were a lot of other ways I could have given away the $10 – donated it to a local charity or cause I believe in, used it to buy lunch for a homeless person, or something along those lines.  I’m not really sure why I decided to give it away on the fashion I did – I guess it was just quick and easy, and I could (temporarily) brighten up someone else’s day. 

Anyway, you’re trying to build community through inspiration.  Stepping back, doesn’t it kinda suck that you have to give $10 a day in order to do that?  Like, is that the only way to build community and inspire people?  I mean, this whole thing isn’t about the money – it’s just the common thread with everyone you talk to. 

All the same, if you had approached me in Dupont and just wanted to talk, I would have been more than happy to share…but probably would’ve just brushed off our interaction afterwards and never thought about it any further.  You’re reaching out and giving back when you reached a juncture in your life where you should have been doing the opposite, and I think that’s a very powerful message. 

Anyway, kudos on your work.  I hope your project continues to grow, bring further insights to others as well as yourself, and, hopefully within the year, reach a grand final culmination.  Please stop by my restaurant anytime you want to chat :) 

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Last Wednesday was absolutely beautiful here in DC.  I found Nicole relaxing in her military uniform on a park bench.

Nicole is an active duty officer in the United States Army.  A product of the Reserve Officers’ Training Corps (R.O.T.C.) program, Nicole is an Army nurse stationed at a nearby medical center.  The soon to be First Lieutenant said that she chose a career in the military to “travel and see the world.”  I chuckled a little bit when she said that because I swear I recall a commercial for the army that said exactly that.

Photo: Reed

Nicole was waiting to meet up with someone that she found on Craigslist who was selling some tickets to the Nationals vs. Brewers baseball game on Saturday.  The Wisconsin native not only used the free online marketplace to find baseball tickets, but also found her apartment on Craigslist.  

Nicole’s phone rang and the man selling her the tickets, Don, informed her that he had arrived with the tickets.  She walked over to meet him and I followed her over hoping to still ask her a few more questions (I’m persistent).  Don, who had also served in the military, was unable to go to Saturday’s baseball game because he had tickets to game 2 of the Capitals playoff series with the Montreal Canadiens. 

Nicole paid Don and he handed over the tickets and then gave her $20 and said, “The first beers are on me.  Enjoy the game!”  I thought that was a really nice gesture.  I told Don about my kindness project and gave him my card.

He left and Nicole and I spoke for a few more minutes.  I was interested in her own giving habits and how those ideas were formed.  Like me, she suspected that her values on giving were probably shaped by her parents.  Given her current financial situation, she is limited in how much she can donate to organizations, however, sometimes she gives money to people she encounters on the streets of DC.  “It’s more of a spontaneous decision,” she tells me as she explains why she gives.  Coincidentally while we were talking a woman walked by asking for money and we both refused to give to her.

Nicole plans to use the $10 to buy some food at the ball game.  I asked her if there was anything that she needed help with that I could post on the Lend a Hand page.  She thought for a minute and said that she needed someone to buy her fish tank.  “It’s a 10 gallon fish tank in good shape.  I just want to get a bigger one.  It comes with the stand, pump, heater, some rocks, and plants.”  If you are in the DC Metro Area and are interested in a fish tank, drop me a note and I’ll connect you with Nicole.

We walked toward the metro where we said goodbye to one another and she thanked me.  I nodded and thanked her for her military service.

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John at the corner of 34th and Massachusetts Ave. (Photo: Reed)If you have ever driven by the Vice President’s official residence here in Washington, DC you might have seen this man. 

His name is John and every day for the last 12 years he has been holding signs on the northeast corner of the intersection of Massachusetts Avenue and 34th Street in Northwest DC. I myself have seen him many times during the afternoon rush-hour, but last Wednesday I decided to stop and meet him. 

John is a simple man; his entire outfit purchased from thrift stores.   He stands about 5’7” and holds his sign for hours on end. For the next two hours I listened intently to John share his life story with me. 

Born during wartime in Warsaw, Poland in 1943, his family moved to Milan, Italy in 1947 where he spent most of his childhood and attended Jesuit school. When he was 15, he says he was sexually molested by a Catholic Priest.  He shares with me intimate details of the account. This event changed John’s life. 

Before the molestation, John says that he was a happy 15-year-old. Even in pictures, he says there was a marked difference before and after the incident. He later moved to Canada and eventually ended up in Washington, DC in 1965. 

Through all of this time, he says he had turned inward and shut out others. He shied away from girls and led an unhappy life. In 1968 he went back to Poland where he said he “married the first girl he met.”  He is now separated from his wife, but keeps in regular contact and says that they are good friends.  His children are grown and although it sounds like he doesn’t have a close relationship with them, he talks very proudly about them.  He says that he was not always the best husband and father due to the emotional stress he suffered over the years. 

According to John, the molestation stifled his entire life.  He didn’t really even make the connection that his social and personal struggles were a result of the molestation. It wasn’t until he learned in 1997 of a Catholic Church pedophile scandal in Texas that he started to recover the memory of his tragic past. “After becoming aware of the damage, 39 years of misery, I wrote to the Vatican Embassy. I was ignored. I made a sign of a big question mark and stood outside the nunciature.” 

And so he started in 1998 to protest in front of the Vatican’s nunciature to the US, which is an ecclesiastical office of the Roman Catholic Church. Basically it’s a diplomatic post of the Holy See, whose representative is called the Apostolic Nuncio to the United States and has a similar rank as ambassador. I always thought he protested there because it was across the street from the Vice President’s house, however, come to find out that he is actually standing directly in front of the nunciature. 

Over the years, John has had many signs. Some of the signs he has had over the year say…
          “MY LIFE WAS RUINED BY A CATHOLIC PEDOPHILE PRIEST”.
          “VATICAN HIDES PEDOPHILES”
          “VATICON PATHOLOGY”
          “VATICAN’S STUPIDITY – CRIME AGAINST HUMANITY”
          “SOCIOPATHS HIDE PEDOPHILES” 

Copy of the 1997 letter to the Archbishop

John shared with me so many different facets of his time in front of the nunciature. He gave me a copy of a letter he sent to the Archbishop of Washington, DC. He showed me a paper that he keeps with him that details every interaction he has had with the apostolic nuncios (currently Pietro Sambi) over the years. Next to each interaction, he has written the time, date, and what happened. It was sad to see that many of the interactions ended in the nuncio calling John stupid or an imbecile. 

So I asked John what it was that he wanted? I was surprised to hear that all he wanted was financial retribution. I feel that he probably is a voice for others who have been sexually abused by members of the church. I asked him, “If the Catholic Church gave you appropriate financial compensation, would you still come out here tomorrow with your signs?” The answer was “no.” He said that was all that he wanted. 

This got me thinking. Maybe he needs to take a new approach. Since it wasn’t clear to me what he wanted, maybe the Catholic Church isn’t aware either. I suggested he change his signs to reflect what he wants. I don’t feel that the signs that he currently has foster an environment where he and the Church could openly talk. Maybe you say that the Catholic Church would never offer a financial settlement, I don’t know. He claims that a priest came out of the nunciature once and told him that he had no case because of the statue of limitations. 

John holds his banner during the afternoon rush-hour (Photo: Reed)

I don’t know what you think about this whole thing. Please share your comments. Do you think he is going about his crusade in the right manner? What would be the most effective way for him to get the financial reparation that he feels he deserves? If he continues with the signs, what would be the most effective message? 

You might think John is crazy. You might think he is wasting his time. After spending two hours with him, I can tell you that he is extremely passionate about this. Many times he struggled to tell me things. Sometimes it was because he didn’t know the right English word for things (his first language is Polish), however, many times language wasn’t the issue. His emotions were so strong that he simply couldn’t express his true feelings. I feared that he was taunted by many of the people who walk or drive by. The truth is that I didn’t see any of that. In fact, many cars would honk and give him the thumbs up and shout praises to him. I know that must motivate him to travel an hour each way every day, taking two buses, and then withstand the elements. 

John has received numerous death threats, but that hasn’t stopped him. He asked me, “Do you think I should give up?” I said, “You are so passionate about this, you need to follow your heart.” His mouth tightened a little and he looked toward the ground and nodded his head. He didn’t need to say anything…we both knew that he would never give up. 

John will use the $10 to make copies of some of the materials he hands out to people who stop and speak with him. 

You can read more about John on his website or visit him in person every day from around 4:30pm until dark at the corner of 34th and Massachusetts in Northwest DC. 

UPDATE: April 23, 2010 

I met with John on Wednesday and he asked me to post this quote from Winston Churchill.  (I have also seen this quote attributed to John F. Kennedy, not sure who originally said it) “A man does what he must – in spite of personal consequences, in spite of obstacles and dangers and pressures – and that is the basis of all human morality.”

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Ilana at work at the bookstore (Photo: Reed)

Last Tuesday I was at the bookstore perusing the book shelves…something I do a lot.  I was keeping my eye out for someone to give my $10 to and found Ilana, a clerk at the shop.  

Ilana got a job at the bookstore partly because she enjoys reading and partly because she had a friend that used to work there.  I was interested in what authors she liked and she said that she really enjoyed the works of the late Douglas Adams.  Adams was the English author who was probably most famous for The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy.  I didn’t realize it until now that Adams died in 2001 due to a sudden heart attack at the young age of 49.

I sometimes find myself reading a book that I just lose interest in and can’t finish.  I asked her if she ever finds herself reading books that she simply doesn’t like.  She said she felt that way about Sophie’s World.  Despite selling more than 30 million copies worldwide, Ilana just didn’t care for Norweigan author Jostein Gaarder’s philosophical novel.

Ilana’s real passion though is dance.  She has been performing modern dance professionally for some time and is currently involved in coordinating several Flash Mobs around town.  If you have no idea what Flash Mobs are don’t worry.  Wikipedia defines it as:

A large group of people who assemble suddenly in a public place, perform an unusual and pointless act for a brief time, then quickly disperse. The term flash mob is generally applied only to gatherings organized via telecommunications, social media, or viral emails.  The term is generally not applied to events organized by public relations firms, protests, and publicity stunts.

I have a feeling that Ilana would take issue with Wikipedia’s use of the word “pointless”, but I think you get the idea.  Basically she serves as a catalyst to get large groups of people together at a predetermined time and place and perform a dance in public.  Ilana took a minute to share some information about a current project.

I asked Ilana if there was anything I could post on the Lend a Hand section for her.  She said that she didn’t really know of anything that she needed but that she would really like to see some of the followers from the Year of Giving show up at some of the Flash Mobs.  So check out the website and take a moment to learn and perform some of the dances.  It costs nothing to participate.  This is a perfect opportunity for Rob from Day 117 to get back into dance!  But don’t wait; this year’s Dance is the Answer Flash Mobs end May 2nd!

Oh, I almost forgot.  She said she was going to use her $10 to help buy some food and drinks for a little get-together at her place.

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Last Monday was absolutely beautiful.  I met up with a journalist who wanted to follow me around while I gave out my $10.

We met at Union Station and walked over to the Capitol.  I answered questions on camera while we walked around the Capitol grounds.  As we were walking I saw a woman about 50 yards off the path who had an easel set up and was drawing the dome of the Capitol Rotunda.  I made my way across the grass and introduced myself to Janet.

Janet sketching the Capitol (Photo: Reed)

David, the journalist, stayed about 30 yards away and filmed the interaction.  

Janet welcomed me with her calm voice.  I explained what I was doing and she agreed to participate.  She is extremely talented and passionate about her work.

Janet started her artistic career doing pottery.  She took up drawing and painting about nine years ago while living in Israel due to the minimal equipment needed to draw and paint compared to sculpting.  Janet and her husband lived in Israel for about five years and in Italy for a year. 

She said she would love to go back to live in Jerusalem.  It tops her list of cities to live in.  New York and Rome make up second and third respectively.  Originally from Houston, Janet clearly enjoys traveling and visiting new places and cultures.

She and her husband are no strangers to giving.  From helping refugees in Gaza to donating items for women imprisoned in Juarez, Mexico, they have made a clear choice to help others.  Janet also went into areas of Sri Lanka where media were not even given access and provided art supplies to orphans of their civil war.

Photo: Reed

The sun’s position in the sky was changing.  Janet was studying how the light and shadows fall upon the marble and white slathered limestone of the Capitol walls.  She was gracious and polite; however, I tried to wrap up things quickly.

I took some pictures and came back to the question of what she was going to do with the $10.  She told me that she had recently found $20 on the street and her husband decided to put it in an olive oil jar.  So she said that she would add the $10 to the jar.  I asked her what she intended to use the money for in the end and she said that she didn’t know yet.  “My husband says he will break it open some day though.”  Well, maybe she will remember me when that day comes and drop me a note about what they do with it.

David and I walked to a near-by bench and sat down and talked some more.  It wasn’t five minutes after we had sat down before another person walked up the grassy knoll and started up a conversation with Janet.  Despite all the interruptions she is certain to have, she manages to create beautiful work

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I have been receiving lots of emails inquiring about my job process.  I wish I had something to update you on.  I am actively looking for work and am participating in several hiring processes right now.  I will certainly post an update when I know something for sure.  Thanks so much for all of your thoughtful messages.

Last Sunday evening I was taking a walk around my neighborhood and looking for a recipient for my $10.  I approached a woman near the Dupont Hotel.  She was kind and said she liked the concept but didn’t feel like she was worthy of receiving the money.  I explained that she could do anything she wanted to with it, including giving it to someone else.  I used all of my negotiation training but I was not successful.  As I was finishing talking with her, a very elegantly dressed couple walked by holding hands.  I thought that they would be interesting to talk to so I chased after them.  It turns out that they had recently got engaged and they were going to get their picture taken.  They didn’t stop so I had to deliver my 30 second elevator pitch as I walked at a good clip next to them.  They seemed completely uninterested in the Year of Giving and said I could talk to them until we reached the next corner.  I thought at first that they would accept the $10 and I would have the shortest time to date to get information from a recipient, but that wasn’t the case.  As we got to the corner they simply blew me off.

Slightly dejected I scanned the street to find someone else and my eyes found Carlos.  Originally from Madrid, Spain, Carlos has lived in Washington, DC for the last 18 months working for an international organization.  I shared with Carlos that I used to live in his country in the city of Valladolid. 

Carlos near Dupont Circle (Photo: Reed)

Carlos was quite tired and jet-lagged having just flown in a few hours earlier from a trip back to Madrid.  I didn’t want to take too much of his time and quickly asked him what he would do with the $10.  He contemplated the choice some and finally settled on donating it to a Clinic in the Adam’s Morgan neighborhood that helps immigrants receive medical treatment.  It sounds like a great organization and I asked him to drop me a message when he donates it and get’s the exact name of the clinic.

I got my camera out to take a photo of Carlos.  While I was doing that I asked how he thought the people of Madrid would react to the Year of Giving.  He thought they would react positively to it and try to do something meaningful with the money.

Giving is not foreign to Carlos, in fact his employer offers an opportunity at the end of the year to donate a portion of each employee’s salary to a variety of nonprofits.  He said he usually participates in this program.

We shook hands and I said “goodbye” to Carlos.  He was probably very tired.  If he was still on Madrid time, it was well after midnight.

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Day 117 – Rob C.

Rob has to fold 40 napkins before leaving (Photo: Reed)On Saturday night I was eating at a downtown restaurant here in DC with some friends.  Our waiter was a 29-year-old guy named Rob.

I asked him if he had a few minutes that he could break away from his other tables.  He said he would come back in a little while and sure enough he did.  Rob took a seat at the table and I asked him what he does when he is not waiting tables and the answer I got shocked me quite a bit.

“I’m mostly just concentrating on being sober.”

I wasn’t quite sure how to take this.  Was it a joke, or was Rob serious.  I quickly deduced that he was indeed serious.  He shares with us that he got hooked on crystal meth for about nine months until one day he realized he hadn’t slept in days and was an absolute wreck.  “I wasn’t selling myself.  I wasn’t stealing, but I also knew that that was next…I was about to cross that line.” 

He went on to share something that he recently heard in rehabilitation, “The thing about addiction is that people continue these behaviors in spite of catastrophic consequences.”

Rob’s addiction perplexed him.  Neither of his parents were abusers of any kind of drug or alcohol, but he had a grandparent on each side with addiction issues.  Perhaps he has a genetic predisposition to it.

Rob agreed to talk to me on camera.  He talks about giving, the $10, about his struggle with substance abuse, and the future.

Rob later told me that he has not been sober for five months; rather he has been in treatment for five months and been sober for two months.  I told him that those details were less important in my mind as this is something he needs to work at day by day.  

I sometimes watch Intervention on A&E.  The one interventionist, Jeff VanVonderen, who has been sober for 25 year recently relapsed with his alcohol addiction.  So, it is a lifelong process and commitment.

I received the following note from Rob this week:

I have contemplated the fate of my $10.  Theoretically it will go towards debt, in particular the taxes I will file tomorrow.  But I’ve already spent $60 since I received it.  Did I use for cigarettes?  Paper towels and cookies from CVS? The Chinese food I ordered from O’Tasty? And every time I use my debit card, $1 is automatically transferred into my savings account.  Did any of those dollars come from the ten I got from you?  Then of course there’s June 15.  If I give away $10, might that be the very same $10 I got on day 117 of the Year of Giving?

I asked Rob if he needed anything that I cold list on the Lend a Hand section.  He explained that he really wanted to get back into modern dance and would really like to take some classes.  Financially that will be a challenge so if anyone would like to help Rob, he would love to receive a gift card for a dance studio that is Metro accessible, like Joy of Motion, Dance Place, Liz Lerman Dance Exchange, or even Maryland Youth Ballet.  Maybe one of these dance studios would consider donating some classes for Rob as well.

Rob’s manager came over and gave him that look like, “you need to get back to work.”  I hope I didn’t get him in trouble.  We left, but I have thought about our conversation a lot since then and am really pulling for Rob to beat this addiction.

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John pushing one of this two carts (Photo: Reed)

Taxes are due today.  Ugh… I have waited to the last minute.  Shame on me.  Maybe the IRS will give me $10!

On Day 115 I was walking home and walked by a man pushing two shopping carts full of stuff south down Connecticut Avenue.  He had a system where he would push one of the carts about a block, leave it there, then go back and push the second cart up to where he had left the first one.  He repeats this for hours sometimes.  I stopped and offered to help push his carts for a while so he didn’t have to keep making double trips.  He wouldn’t accept my help.  

His name was John.  Two Johns in a row! 

Even from a few feet away I clearly smelled a very foul vinegar-like odor coming from John.  He definitely needs some new clothes and a good shower.  I wanted to help him and offered him my $10.  He accepted it.

Photo: Reed

His shopping carts are full of grocery store boxes and empty bottles and all kinds of other things.  I asked where he leaves the items during the day, because I imagine he can’t stay with the items all day long.  He said he usually just leaves them down near the McDonald’s on 20th and M Street.   The 64-year-old is obviously uncomfortable talking to me…but I push on.    

John has been homeless for five years he says as he looks around a bit erratically.  The tattered hat he wears cast a slight shadow on the upper part of his face making it difficult to see his eyes as I speak with him.  He says that he ended up homeless here in DC after moving down from Albany.  “I couldn’t find housing when I got here,” he said.  He has been pushing the carts for years. 

My guess is that he suffers from some form of mental illness. He says that he will use my $10 for food.  I asked him if there was anything that the YoG followers could help him with, but he said “no.”  I really wanted to get his clothes washed for him or get him some new ones but he said he had no contact information, although I might be able to find him near that McDonald’s he mentioned.  Incidentally that is the same McDonald’s where Gregory from Day 71 used to hang out.  I haven’t seen him for a couple of weeks now.

I managed to get a short video of John, but then he got a little antsy and went on his way.

  

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Last week I met with about a dozen former colleagues of mine from the Alliance for a Healthier Generation for dinner at Lauriol Plaza.  I like this place, but I don’t understand the mania around it.  If the weather is nice, everyone goes there and it is not unusual to be told that there will be a two hour wait.  We were lucky that we didn’t have to wait two hours.  After dinner a few of us went over to Kramerbooks for dessert.

After we finished I asked our waiter if he would participate in the Year of Giving, but he said he was slammed and didn’t have time.  So I wandered inside and through a small door that leads to a cozy café / bar where I found John sitting by himself fidgeting with his phone.

John at Kramerbooks in DC (Photo: Reed)A patent litigation lawyer from Irvine, CA, John is in town for a law conference.  He started his own practice with some partners in 2006.  He handles all kinds of cases, although the examples he mentions are mostly in the area of technology and biotech.

When he is not practicing law, the 35-year-old says he enjoys sports, movies, and photography.  In fact he had a nice Nikon camera placed in front of him at the bar.

John and his wife also are involved in giving.  They help the Teen Leadership Foundation.  Specifically he tells me about one set of kids that are with a foster family where the mother has cancer.  In fact he says that he is going to give the $10 to her.

I asked John if there was anything you could help him with for the Lend a Hand section.  He said no, but then thought for a minute and said, “Actually I really could use a responsible, hard-working personal assistant that I can trust to handle confidential materials.”  So if that sounds like you or someone you know and you are in Irvine area, let me know and I will connect you with John.

We shook hands and thanked one another and I started walking home.  About half way home I realized that I never gave John the $10!  Oh no!  I hustled back to the café hoping to find him still there.  Sure enough he was there and was totally cool about it.

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Aftermath of the 1998 Nairobi embassy bombingOn the morning of August 7, 1998, Sammy woke up, did his chores, and went about his day like any other day.  Unfortunately, August 7th was not just another day.  Not if you lived in Nairobi, Kenya or Dar es Saleem, Tanzania.  

Between 10:30 am and 10:40 am local time, suicide bombers in trucks laden with explosives parked outside the US embassies in both cities and almost simultaneously detonated their payloads.  In Nairobi, more than 200 people were killed, and an estimated 4,000 wounded; in Dar es Salaam, there were 11 killed and almost 100 wounded.  Despite being targeted at Americans, the victims were largely local citizens.  Only 12 Americans were killed.  Osama bin Laden is said to be responsible for the attacks.

Sammy working at 18th and M in DC (Photo: Reed)

Unfortunately Sammy was in the wrong place at the wrong time.  He ended up under the rubble in Nairobi for three days.  He survived with only two broken legs and some other minor injuries.  Sadly he lost three business associates that morning.

In 2001 Sammy came to the US to testify in the trials against the alleged perpetrators of the horrible massacre.  He then came back in 2007 to attend a conference but ended up staying due to the violence that erupted in his home country after incumbent President Mwai Kibaki was declared the winner of the presidential election held on December 27, 2007.

Now homeless, he has been here since then selling the Street Sense paper.  You can usually find him around the intersection where Connecticut, M, and 18th Streets come together.  His goal is to return to Kenya by the end of the year and start a street paper similar to Street Sense.  “There are almost no homeless in Kenya” he told me.  People may stay with family or in what might be considered substandard housing from a US perspective, but they don’t have hardly anyone he said that you would find sleeping on the streets of Nairobi. 

Sammy let me ask him a few questions on camera.

As you saw, Sammy plans to save my $10 and put it toward his street paper venture in Kenya when he returns next year.  If you have any interest in helping Sammy start his paper, he is actively looking to work with partners and individuals.  Drop me a note and I can connect you with him.

Despite the terrible events of August 1998, Sammy manages to keep an optimistic spirit and maintains hope for a better tomorrow.

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Katy’s decision to destroy the $10 seem’s to have sparked some interesting discussion.  That’s good.

So last week I went to the opening day game of the Washington Nationals.  I have went to the opening day game every year since I moved back to DC.  I thought it would be fun to find someone at the game to give my $10 to.  Well, I had a little trouble getting in the game at first…I thought that I would just pick up a ticket at the stadium, however, with Obama throwing out the first pitch and the Phillies in town, there were no tickets at the box office.

I finally got a ticket after the 2nd inning.

I was standing next to a couple in the outfield section.  That’s right, I only got a standing room only ticket…couldn’t afford much better, but all I really cared about was being there and being part of it.  Well, it’s also nice to win too!

I was waiting until the innings changed to ask the couple if they would be a part of the Year of Giving.  I didn’t want to disturb them while the game was being played.  Well, the inning was going on forever.  The Nationals were getting clobbered.  They pulled pitcher John Lannan in the fourth inning, better than last year when he was pulled on opening day in the third inning.  Clear sign of improvement.

Juan and his girlfriend on opening day (Photo: Reed)

Anyway, by the time I got to asking the couple, the guy had went to get some hot dogs or something.  So I asked the young lady who gave me a look like, “look buddy, don’t hit on me” and assured me that her boyfriend would be right back.  Ok, so I waited, and waited, and waited, and finally Juan arrived with beverages in hand.

I told him what I was doing and he said he was up for it.  Juan is in the landscaping business and was taking the afternoon off.  Juan’s father started the business shortly after the family moved to VA from El Salvador.  He has since handed over the reigns of the company to his son Juan.

Juan originally said he would use the money to buy some beers.  However, a little later he said that he wanted to give me the $10 back if I would give it someone else still today.  Well… I can certainly do that…in fact, I am pretty good at it.  So, back to square one.  I think in the future I might not accept the money back with any conditions.  After all, I don’t put any conditions on those who I give to.  There is some discussion on this from Day 8 when Kevin gave me the money back.

Juan’s nice gesture to give the money back turned into the good fortune for a young guy from Havertown, PA.  Yes, a Phillies fan.  No surprise really, pretty much everyone at the game was a Phillies fan.  Alex was down in DC visiting his friend Brynn who is a pre-med student at Catholic University.  

The 22-year-old fan said he skipped his job as a Project Administrator for a commercial pool company in order to come down and watch his team beat up on the Nationals.  

Philly fans Alex and Brynn (Photo: Reed)

I didn’t want to bother Alex too much more since the game was in progress so I just asked him two final questions.  I asked if he needed anything that I could help him with via the Lend a Hand section and he couldn’t think of anything right then.  As for the destiny of the $10, Alex said it would go toward gas to get him back up to Pennsylvania.

I noticed that people were flooding out of the stadium.  While I was talking to Alex, the score somehow got to 11-1.  And I thought last year was bad when we lost 12-6!

NOTE: I did also try to give to Andrew who was working at the stadium, however he was unable to accept the money due to company policy.  Also, first post I think that I am in both photos that I have posted (if you look close in both pictures, I am in the reflection of the sunglasses!)

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DC has been buzzing with tourists.  The Smithsonian and Zoo Metro stations are overflowing.  I decided to camp outside the Woodley Park/National Zoo Metro station.  It wasn’t long before I saw a woman studying the neighborhood map posted outside the station.  I walked up to her and asked if she needed any help finding something.  In a clear British accent she politely declined my help.  I thought it would be nice to include another British recipient in the Year of Giving.  You might recall that Joe from Day 62 was also from England.  

Barbara, who hails from London, appeared quite confused by what I was doing.  She struggled on whether or not to accept the $10.  In the end she said that she really didn’t need the added stress of deciding what to do with the money.  I thought the response was kind of odd, but I try not to judge.

So there I was…waiting to find someone else.  A woman on her cell phone wearing a colorful scarf and orange heels caught my eye.  I waited for her to finish her call and approached her.  I wish I had my video rolling to capture her disbelief of what I was doing, but you will have to take my word for it.  We moved out of the main flow of traffic and I tried to explain to Katy what I was doing.  In the end, she agreed to accept the $10.

Katy at the Woodley Park/Zoo Metro entrance (Photo: Reed)

Katy was one of the most interesting people with whom I have come in contact.  She said that she was fascinated by what I was doing.  She immediately asked if she could buy me a drink with the money.  I explained that I could not receive anything in exchange for my gift of $10, but agreed to sit down and have a drink with her.  We crossed the street and sat outside at a small quaint café.

I ordered a glass of Chardonnay.  This was Easter Sunday and she said that she had been with friends drinking wine and feasting on lamb earlier in the day and perhaps a cup of coffee would be best.  Our drinks came and the coffee turned out to be lousy.  She didn’t complain to the staff or anything, she just pushed it aside and continued with our conversation.  I probably would have sent it back.

Katy is a documentary filmmaker who lives in New York City.  She is in DC visiting friends.  She tells me of a friend who lives in Silver Spring and another that just had a baby boy, Gavin, who she got to meet for the first time.

She said that my project reminded her of an NPR show called Uncommon Economic Indicators hosted by Brian Lehrer.  I had not heard of this show which is hosted in NYC on NPR’s WNYC station.  (I since found it online and have listened to it)  Lehrer asks his listeners to call in and share their views on micro-elements of their lives that might give insight into the greater economic situation.  For example, does “traffic jams” at the microwave in the office at lunch time indicate that more people are making their meals at home and bringing them to work to avoid the higher cost of eating at local lunch eateries.  I couldn’t find a link to this specific program, but if you go to WNYC and search on Uncommon Indicators you will get several broadcasts that have been done on the subject.  

In the middle of our conversation, Katy abruptly changed the subject and said, “I know exactly what I am going to do with the $10.”  Nobody has done what she did with the money.  You will not believe it!  Check it out.

What do you think about her decision?  I often say that it is not about the $10…that it in and of itself is almost always meaningless.  If I really believe that then her decision only supports that.  Although that’s true, I couldn’t help but think that somebody someplace might have benefited from that money.  That’s not really fair of me to think though since I give the money randomly every day.  Often times I give the money to individuals who do not need it and who use it on a capricious cup of coffee.  I expect that several people will comment on how they are not happy with Katy’s decision and her reasoning, however, perhaps the only real criticism that could be made is that the $10 left the economy and now has no ability to morph into other things to keep the cogwheels of our economy turning.  I would love to hear the philosophic and economic views that you have on this.

Katy was a very thoughtful and interesting person. I insisted on paying for the coffee and glass of wine and we went our separate ways.  She was actually late to meet a friend, but took time to sit down and speak with me.  That meant a lot.  As she left, she said I had an open invitation for a drink in NYC anytime!

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The Year of Giving received so much attention yesterday due to Liane Hansen’s report on NPR Weekend Edition.  I got about 3,500 hits and 75 messages yesterday alone.  So many touching stories from you about how you somehow relate to one of the recipients or have been moved by my own commitment.  I hope that you know that your letters and stories mean a lot to me.  I am slowly responding to your emails.  Please keep sharing…together our collective stories and efforts make a difference. 

Many of you asked how my job interview went on Friday.  Thank you.   I think it went well…but I won’t know anything for probably a week or so.

Did you read the article that was linked at the end of Alex’s email yesterday; interesting research on the contagiousness of kindness.  I don’t have a controlled study like they had to conduct their research, but my unscientific data shows the same results.  It’s powerful.  Have you found yourself catching the bug?  If so, please drop a note here and share what you are doing to spread kindness.

When I ended up at a small gathering at my friend and former work colleague Daniel’s house I was introduced to Ed.  One of the nicest guys I have met.  His easy demeanor and sense of humor strike me immediately.  I asked if he would accept my ten dollars.  He said sure. 

Originally from Colorado, Ed is a “self employed contractor, carpenter, tile setter” specializing in renovating kitchens and bathrooms.  Although he does all kinds of work, he has a special interest and talent in working with full round log timber frames.  He got started after he completely remodeled his own log house in Colorado 16 years ago. 

Well there was more interesting things about Ed.  He is a motorcycle aficionado, lists skiing and glass blowing among his hobbies, and was an exchange student at the University of Tampere in Finland.  I was an exchange student in both Mexico and Spain and have also been to Finland almost 30 times.  It’s funny the similarities that you can discover when you take time to speak to a stranger.

I shot some video of Ed.  He talks a little about his work and interest in building homes as well as what he thinks of DC.  He was extremely open about himself and spoke to me about coming out that he was gay.  Now 45, Ed only came out 8 years ago when he moved to DC.  When I asked him if there was anything that he could use help with that I could post on my Lend a Hand section, he laughed and said “you can help me find a partner!”  So new territory for the Year of Giving to serve as a “match-maker” of sort.  Ed shares what he looks for in a partner.  If anyone wants to meet Ed, please shoot me a message with some information about yourself and I will forward your message on to Ed.  Who knows…maybe he will contact you!

As for the $10.  Ed was heading to see a band at the Black Cat and said it would end up getting spent there most likely.

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So this morning I heard the NPR story by Liane Hansen…it was great!  If you missed it, check it out here.

So I was walking around my neighborhood one night looking for someone to give my $10 to.  People often ask me how I choose the recipients.  There really isn’t any scientific method, but more of an instinctive gut reaction that I have.  Something about the person makes them interesting to me.  Maybe they are dressed in an interesting way, maybe a pan-handler says something clever, or perhaps it’s just a nice bus driver.  

Alex is sitting in a small park on a bench reading a book at about 9:00pm.  The dim light from a nearby street lamp is just enough for him to read his book: Negotiating Across Culture by Raymond Cohen. 

Alex is dressed in a suit sans tie.  He looks comfortable and at ease with me approaching and sitting down next to him.  He is reading the textbook for his post-grad coursework at Georgetown.  In addition to his schoolwork, Alex also has a part-time job at a DC think tank.  As I explain to him my year-long commitment I learn that his birthday is December 15th (the day I started the Year of Giving).  Somehow I feel that I was meant to meet Alex.

When Alex isn’t studying, working at the think tank or taking in a night at local art galleries (that’s what he was doing this night) he gives his time.  He helps out at shelters and kitchens around DC.  He has volunteered several times at Loaves and Fishes, a ministry of St. Stephen and the Incarnation Episcopal Church that has been serving lunch to the hungry and homeless on Saturdays, Sundays and federal holidays since 1968.

Alex hopes to work in international development and policy in Africa.  This is no surprise given his vast international experience.  For a 24-year-old he has seen a lot of the world.  Check out the video where we talk a little about his experiences overseas.

The following is a letter that I received from Alex explaining how he used the $10.  Also, take note of the link to the study on kindness at the end…definitely worth a read.

 Hey Reed,

I was really unexpected and nice meeting you the other night. I wanted to drop you a note to say that I really think your project is fantastic. I think it’s great that you have embraced the curiosity, generosity, and faith in other people that a lot of us aspire to. I too believe that there’s so many incredible and interesting people we encounter in our daily lives that we seldom take the time to stop and appreciate. I myself wish I did it more.

So, I told you I’d write you to tell you how I’d spend my money.  Basically, 10 bucks isn’t going to change what I can afford, or what some deserving NGO in the area could do if I gave the money to them.  But, what the gesture of yours can do is change something I do, particularly stopping to appreciate the people we see in our daily lives but maybe don’t stop to acknowledge or appreciate. So, what I decided to do was spend that money on some cookie supplies, bake some cookies and give them to people we don’t too often acknowledge – the guys who hand out the WaPo Express, the people who work at the Metro stations and the cleaning people and receptionist in my building on K Street.

Oh and I also thought you’d be interested in this article I came across on the kindness multiplier. Reminds you that an act of kindness has consequences you don’t see!

Cheers and best of luck,

 Alex (109)

Thanks Alex.  What a thoughtful and creative use of the $10.  I would love to know how the people reacted!  If you haven’t already done it yet and can record it, it would be great to post here!  It was great to meet you…thanks for making this giving experience so special.

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I know what you might be thinking…Day 116?!  What happened to Days 109-115?  Did Reed take a break?  Did he forget to tell us all that he is entitled to 2 weeks of “paid” vacation…i.e. not paying others! :)  Nope, that’s not the case.  I am simply behind on the administrative side of my year-long experience.  But don’t worry.  To steal and modify a great Teddy Kennedy quote, the giving goes on, the cause endures, the hope still lives and the dreams shall never die.The reason that I am posting Day 116 today is that I had the honor of sharing my giving experience today with Liane Hansen and Jack Zahora of NPR.  Many of you probably already know Liane as the host of NPR’s Weekend Edition Sunday.  Jack is a NPR producer for the show.  They are putting a story together for this Sunday’s program, which airs from 8am to 10am on WAMU here in DC.  The show is broadcasted on more than 600 stations around the country…so check your local NPR station to see when it will be on.  Later that day the story will be posted on http://www.npr.org.

It is strange to meet someone that you have heard for years but don’t really know.  Liane didn’t disappoint…she was great.  I’m guessing she has pretty much worked every weekend for the last 20 years…would you be willing to do that? 

Anyway, so they were following me around.  I was in the Chinatown neighborhood looking for a recipient and found Molly. 

Molly (Photo: Reed)

Molly was walking her bike down 7th Street when I pulled her over to talk to me.  She seemed like she was in a bit of a hurry at first, but probably was just more skeptical of what I was doing than anything else.  It turns out that at the age of 31 Molly has returned to school to make a career change.  She is studying nutrition at the University of Maryland after having a career in marketing and communications.   

I asked her what she was doing today and she said that she had been studying and now was rewarding herself with a little shopping trip.  “Although I should probably be studying now” she said. 

She said that she was going to use the $10 to buy a couple of grande skim lattes at Starbucks.  Although she decided to use the money for herself, she sounds like a pretty dedicated giver.  She has volunteered her time teaching exercise classes to women in shelters, tutored children in coursework, helped out at So Others Might Eat (S.O.M.E.), helped an organization that offered tax assistance to low income individuals, etc.  Pretty impressive.  She also has an internship with DC Hunger http://www.dchunger.org/ whose mission it is to eliminate hunger in the District.

Liane Hansen interviewing Molly while Jack captures sound (Photo: Reed)

Molly was a terrific sport.  I hope that you have the opportunity to hear our interaction on the NPR segment this Sunday!

Oh, and if anybody wants to help this aspiring nutritionist, she is in dire need of a good biochemistry tutor!  Somebody help!

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Tidal Basin (Photo: Reed)

Last Thursday was April Fool’s Day.  I decided to do the tourist thing here in DC and check out the cherry blossom mania down by the Tidal Basin.  I took my camera down there and pretended to know what I was doing.  I got a couple of shots…but I am still learning a lot about how to fully use my camera to take better photographs.

Photo courtesy of Donna and John

Anyway, as I was walking around I was asked to take a photo of a young couple, Donna and John.  I obliged and then asked them to accept my $10.  John’s reaction was amazing.  He was the first person who I have approached about receiving my $10 who actually knew about the Year of Giving.  He said he read about it I think on Yahoo! News.  Looking back on it I might have taken advantage of the April Fool’s date and said, “Hah!  I’m not that guy giving $10!  April Fools!”  But I wasn’t that quick-witted to deliver such a line.

Me with Donna and John (Photo: Kimon Kanelakis)

I’m glad I didn’t do that because then I wouldn’t have learned what a great couple they are.  John works for the government and Donna is studying hearing and speech science.  She wants to eventually work in audiology and do newborn hearing screenings.  In fact if anyone knows anyone else who is in this field in the DC area and might perhaps be a good contact for Donna, she would really appreciate your help.  She hopes to get an internship or job this summer doing newborn screening.

Check out this video of the cherry blossoms and a brief interview with Donna and John.  They have a great story about finding love amidst struggling economic times after the subprime mortgage crisis.  They are not sure what they will do with the $10 yet, but as you will see in the clip, they agreed to update us once they have decided.

On a separate note, I updated the Statistics page…sorry that was pretty outdated.  Average age has stayed pretty consistent and so did the number one answer for where the money will go: “Food & Beverage”.  “Gave the Money to Someone Else” has become the second most common response, replacing “Transportation.”

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I met up with a journalism student from Howard University who was tasked with doing a short video report.  Brittney chose to do it on the Year of Giving and asked to meet up with me and follow me around as I gave out my $10 for the day.

We met at 9am at the Starbucks on Howard’s campus.  We spoke for a little while and then headed South down Georgia Avenue in search of a $10 recipient.  We hung out near the Shaw Metro entrance but then decided to walk up to U Street.  We came across the African American Civil War Memorial.  You might recall that on day 79 I went to the memorial and then walked over to the museum and met with Hari, the curator of the African American Civil War Museum, and gave him my $10 for the day.

Memorial surrounded by the Wall of Honor

It was still early and the sun was shining bright on the 209,145 engraved names of the soldiers and officers who served in the United States Colored Troops.

There was a woman pushing a stroller slowly around the memorial.  I approached her and asked if she would accept my $10.  The woman, who I believe was a nanny from French-speaking Africa, declined to participate in the Year of Giving.  She got nervous I think with the possibility of being on camera.  I don’t know if she was here illegally or something, but she was pretty clear that she wanted to avoid any and all cameras.

I then spotted a man in a trench coat studying the monument.  I walked up to Greg and asked him if he could help me with a project that I was doing.  He heard me out and said he was ok with it.

Greg is 41 and lives in Virginia.  Born and raised in Massachusetts, he has been in the greater Washington area for 10 years.  Greg has been in the hotel and hospitality industry for many years.  In fact, he transferred from Massachusetts to DC for a new job with the same hotel conglomerate that he works for now.  

Greg at the African Civil War Memorial in DC (Photo: Reed)

Greg was actually working when I ran into him.  Well, it wasn’t obvious he was working.  How many jobs pay you to check out monuments?  Note to self: apply for Greg’s job!

Ok, he wasn’t getting paid to do that, but he was waiting for his hotel’s liquor license renewal paperwork to be issued around the corner.  Greg explained that the district renews the licenses once a year on the same date for all establishments.  It seems insane to process all of these licenses at the same time.  It would seem to me that the office would be pretty slow for 11 months and then go crazy for one month.  

Greg was getting ready for a week of vacation up in Massachusetts.  He is a history buff and was excited that he was going to witness the reenactment the battles of Lexington and Concord.  This year marks the 235th anniversary of the battles.  

I asked Greg what he would do with the $10.  He asked if I knew if there was an association or foundation supporting the memorial.  I told him about my encounter with Hari and explained that the museum has a place for donations.  He promised to walk over to the museum and make a donation.  I told him to make sure that he said hello to Hari…who coincidentally I passed earlier that day as I walked over to Howard University and he walked to work.

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Last Wednesday I met a friend for lunch out near the Ballston Metro stop in Virginia.  After lunch I saw Ivory sitting on a bench in front of a large office complex.  His story is one that really touched me. 

The 26-year-old Dallas, TX native now lives in Virginia and is an Iraq veteran.  Ivory’s story is all too common unfortunately.  A man or woman goes into the military and comes out a different person.  Ivory joined the Army in April of 2004.  After returning from serving in Iraq from 2005-2006 his life took a dark turn.  He was discharged from the military in 2008, however he was no longer the role model sergeant with letters of recommendation that he once was.     

Ivory sat down with me and opened up and shared how he has coped with Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD).  It’s hard to watch this video and not feel compassionate for Ivory and the thousands of other soldiers in similar situations.

Ivory currently is working temp jobs and helping a friend launch Capital Custom, a custom apparel shop.

He seems like a really good guy who has got his act together again.  Ivory openly admits that he is still taking it one day at a time and trying to get his life back on track.  If there is anyone out there that has went through a similar situation and has some advice for him, I can put you in touch with Ivory or you can leave a comment here.  

Stay strong Ivory.  Please know that I, and millions of other Americans, have the greatest amount of respect for you and the other men and women serving in our armed forces.  Thank you for your service.

UPDATE (April 7, 2010)

I received the following email from Ivory today.

To give you an update on the $10. I decided to give $5 to a church I went to on Easter and am waiting to give the other $5 to someone I’m led to that might really need it.

Also, an update on the job situation. They decided to bring me back for this week. I also got a call from another job opportunity, in which I have an interview next Monday.

How are your ventures going? I’m pretty sure you’ve met some more interested people. Hope to hear from you soon.

Ivory

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For those in the DC area, check out the 11pm news on NBC 4 Tuesday night.  There is supposed to be a report on the Year of Giving

So the voting for the Clyde’s dinner is done.  The two top finishers were Larry from Day 90 (34 votes) and Roger from Day 57 (11 votes).  Congratulations guys.  I am going to contact them and set up a time with Hans from Clyde’s.  I’ll make sure to get a picture and post it.

Other day I was walking down Connecticut Avenue when I saw a man with two guitars (one with 10-15 feet of rope tied around it) strung around his neck, a baby’s pacifier threaded into his hair, one shoe, and one sandal.  I didn’t really have time at the moment to stop and talk to him, but when else do you find a guy like this, right?!

Gary (Photo: Reed)

So I stop and talk to Gary.  He is 57 and has been in DC since 1967.  He says that he is married, but has an open relationship and doesn’t live with his wife currently.  He has five children.

Gary clearly has some challenges.  He openly admits to a substance abuse problem and some criminal misdemeanors.  I asked if he had been drinking or done any drugs that day and he said no.  When you see the video, you can make up your own mind on that issue.  He told me that he goes to AA meetings regularly at the Reeves Center.

Gary's guitar (Photo: Reed)

I won’t say much more about the man who calls himself “Johnny Wa Wa” except that as I was leaving, a woman stopped and said hello to him.  He asked if she would marry him.  She laughed and said “no.”  He asked for her address and she denied him again.  After I left I saw the woman and asked her about Gary.  She said that he is a smart and very friendly man with a substance abuse problem.  She vouched that he does go to AA meetings.  She herself is a recovering substance abuser and knows Gary through AA meetings.  She shared with me that she recently celebrated five years of sobriety.  It was nice to see her reaching out to be a friend of someone who needs positive influences around them.

Who knows where my $10 will end up…but Gary says he is going to most likely use it to get two strings for his guitar – which only had four strings on it.

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Day 101 was last Thursday.  I was on my way to meet up with my brother, his wife, and my cousin for dinner in Georgetown.  I got down there early and had some extra time.  I spotted Brad sitting on a bench in front of Barnes & Noble.  There was something so calm and relaxed about him that I decided to see if I could give him my $10.

Brad in Georgetown (Photo: Reed)

He was waiting for a bus but said we could talk until the bus came.  Originally from New Jersey, Brad is somewhat new to the DC area where he works as an internet strategy consultant. 

Knowing that I had potentially very little time until his bus came, I got his email and asked if I could take a picture of him.  He said sure.  While I was taking pictures, I asked him what he was going to do with the $10.  He said, “I’d like to say that I am going to donate it, but it’s probably going to get used for dinner tonight.”

Right then his bus came and we parted ways.

Barnes & Noble Georgetown (Photo: Reed)

Later that night I ended up losing my small notebook that I take notes in, but luckily got it back when I retraced my steps and discovered that it had fallen out of my backpack outside of the Barnes & Noble and somebody had turned it in to the security guard at the bookstore.  

I got home that night and thought that I would just leave the blog entry for that day as it was…I didn’t get a lot of information about Brad, but such is life right.  However, I thought that maybe I would just Google Brad and see what I found.  I am so glad I did.  Had I not, I wouldn’t have discovered a much more beautiful story underneath the surface.

Before I go any further, I should let you know that when I found out what I am about to share with you I contacted Brad and asked permission to share this with the readers of my blog.

Brad’s mother, Joan Dancy, was diagnosed in 2002 with Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis (ALS) or Lou Gehrig’s Disease.  This is a disease that I have heard of all my life but I didn’t know much about it.  Here are some facts:

  • ALS can happen to anyone
  • ALS has no known cause
  • ALS is diagnosed in 14 people everyday
  • ALS affects 30,000 people in the US at any given time
  • ALS is always fatal 

 (source: http://www.joandancyandpals.com/facts.php)

Brad’s mother battled the fatal disease until 2006 when she passed away.  Later that year her fiancé, Terry Magovern (former personal assistant to Bruce Springsteen), founded The Joan Dancy & PALS Foundation.  The PALS stands for People with ALS.  Joan and her family and loved ones discovered that despite their urban location and proximity to numerous medical centers, there was a tremendous need for resources at the local level to help people afflicted with ALS.  Before she passed away she decided that somebody needed to change this.  Terry continued the work and in 2006 her dream became a reality when he launched the foundation which is committed to improving quality of life for ALS patients and their loved ones in the ways that matter most.  Sadly, Terry passed away unexpectedly in July of 2007 and the organization is now lead by Terry’s son Sean.  As an Advisory Board member, Brad is active in the organization and heads up some of the fundraising events that they do.

I spoke to Brad about what it was like dealing with this disease.  “It’s really tough because the disease moves very fast.  The body degenerates but the person’s mind knows exactly what’s going on.”  This was the case with his mother.  I can only imagine how difficult that must have been on Brad and his family..

Because there is no cure and because this disease is so hard on the individual and their family, groups like the Joan Dancy and PALS Foundation are extremely important.  According to Brad, the foundation holds support meetings once a month, about 40 people who meet to help one another improve the quality of life of those living with ALS.  

I was so touched by this story.  Maybe because I also lost my mother to a terrible disease…maybe because of the courage I felt from Brad in how he and others have managed to honor his mother so beautifully with the foundation.  I urge all of you to visit the website of this very special organization.  They survive through donations and proceeds from special events that they hold…hopefully I can make it to one of them this year so that I can personally experience the love that this group has for those living with ALS.

By the way, when I spoke to Brad this past Wednesday he said the $10 was still in his wallet!  I hope he will comment here and share with all of us how he uses the $10!

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