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Archive for May, 2010

Last night was a late night trying to get the bike video put together and uploaded.  Today I found an internet cafe downtown that seems to be working a little better for me.    

Yesterday they had elections here in Colombia.  No candidate got more than 50% of the votes, so there will be a run-off on June 20th between the top two candidates: Juan Manual Santos and Antanas Mockus.  Most the people that I have met here support Mockus, the son of Lithuanian immigrants.  A philosopher and academic, his opponents say that while he seems intelligent that he doesn’t have clear ideas, has flip-flopped on ideas, and isn’t capable of being a strong leader.  On the other hand, those who support Mockus say that Santos is too much of a military-style leader.  Serving as President Uribe’s Secretary of Defense, he has been very aggressive toward neighboring Ecuador and Venezuela.  I think Santos will end up being elected as it will seem like the safer vote for many Colombians.  Just like in the US, people were glued to their TVs and radios following the results.

 Anyway, back to last Monday where I had a busy day getting ready for my trip to come here to Manizales.  On top of everything I had to do, I was foolish enough to get locked out of my apartment and lost several hours waiting for the locksmith company that said they would be there in 30 minutes.  I should have hung up with this company after the following conversation:

Woman: Hello? 

Me: Hi, is this the locksmith company on New Hampshire Avenue?

Woman:  Hello?

Me: Yes, hi, is this the number to the locksmith?

Woman:  What do you want?

Me: I’m sorry, is this the locksmith on New Hampshire Avenue?

Woman:  Why are you calling?

Me:  I’m looking for a locksmith.  Have I called the right number?

Woman:  What do you need?

Me:  (now a little frustrated) I need a locksmith…am I calling the right place? 

Woman:  I am not a locksmith, but I can have a locksmith call you back….

Well this went on for a while, anyway I finally figured out that I did have the right number and she was going to send a locksmith.  It would cost $29 to come out to the house and then an hourly labor fee for the work.  I asked how much the hourly rate was and the woman said that the only the locksmith would be able to tell me that. 

So the locksmith arrives and assesses my “simple lock” at $199 plus the $29.  I asked how long it was going to take and he said he didn’t know.  He also wouldn’t tell me what the hourly rate was, but $199 seemed insane.  In the end, I negotiated it down to $29 plus $71 to get the door opened.  He had it open in less than five minutes. 

Ok, enough venting…but hopefully you learn from my experience.  If you haven’t already make sure one or two people have a spare key to your home and if you have to call a locksmith remember that you can probably negotiate with them.

Later that night I was walking through Dupont Circle and saw a couple that seemed to just be enjoying the beautiful night sitting near the fountain.  I stopped to talk to them.  It turns out that Julia and Ken became my first recipients from Canada!  It was not easy at first convincing them that there was not catch to the ten dollars.  Ken was particularly suspicious.  “At the end of all this you’re not going to try to get me to join some church are you?”  Afterall, we were sitting a couple hundred yards away from the founding Church of Scientology.  I assured them that there were no conditions related to my gift and that I just wanted to take some time to get to know them.  Ken cautiously agreed to proceeded.  

Julia & Ken (Photo: Reed)

Hailing from Winnipeg, Manitoba, they had been in DC for 5 days and were leaving on Tuesday.  They came to DC for a small wedding but managed to extend the trip a few extra days and make a mini-vacation out of it.  They were staying a stone’s throw away at the newly renovated Dupont Hotel.  After a full day of visiting the Air and Space Museum, Museum of Natural History, Museum of American History, and the National Art Gallery, their tired legs and feet were enjoying a peaceful moment in this urban respite.  They really enjoyed the wedding.  There was a musical group made up of several Ukrainians who were excellent.  “They were only supposed to play three songs but they played all night,” they told me.  While they were at the wedding the met a man who was from Winnipeg as well.  After talking some time they realized that he used to live in the same neighborhood where Julia and Ken also used to live.  After a few more questions they realized that the man actually used to live in the exact same house that they did.  Bizarre right.  What are the chances to run into someone who used to live in your exact house, especially in a different country! Well this couple is no stranger to coincidences.  As we sat on the bench, another Winnipeg couple from the wedding strolled by and said hello.  They weren’t staying at the same hotel even, but they happened to be walking through Dupont Circle after getting turned around after dinner. The $10 they assured me would go to someone else or some organization.  “I promise you it wont be spent on anything for us,” Ken assured me. 

Kelekis, Winnipeg, Manitoba

If I ever get to Winnipeg, they gave me a few pointers on what to see and do there.  Grand Beach, a very shallow sandy beach, is a very nice place to visit in the summer they told me.  Ken added that this beach was once rated on of the top ten beaches by Playboy Magazine (Ken only read the magazine for the articles apparently.)  “You should also go to Kelekis and get a hot dog, they are the best,” according to Julia.  They also have wonderful theaters, symphonies, operas and even the Royal Ballet.  I particularly enjoyed a story that Julia shared with me about leaving Kelekis one time and seeing an old man walking back and forth looking confused.  She approached him and learned that he was looking for the bus stop.  Well, Julia recognized him as Leo Mol, a Ukrainian (they seem to like Ukrainians!) born artist that achieved worldwide notoriety as a sculptor and offered to give him a lift and he accepted.  He was already in his 90s and still working regularly.  There is a sculpture garden in Winnipeg she told me that has several pieces of his work.

I asked if there was anything that we could help them with, but they couldn’t think of much.  “Perhaps some tips for our son who is going to travel through South America for six months,” Julia mentioned.  If anyone has some tips on making the best out of a six-month backpack style adventure in South America, leave a comment for Julia and Ken.

  We said goodnight.  I made a quick joke that I wanted Ken and Julia to join my church and went on my way.

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Ok, so now I am really behind….I am a week behind on posting my blogs.

I have really struggled here with technical issues.  My internet connection is extremely slow and video, etc just does not upload and usually crashes my system.  I will continue to try to get a better work-around in place.

Anyway, last Sunday morning I woke up early and participated in Bike DC 2010. It was a fantastic event where they close down several of the major roads in the DC area and only allow bicycles.  It’s rare that you get to see some of these areas by bicycle. Even the areas that are accessible by bikes are not as enjoyable when you are constantly concerned about sharing the space with cars.

I got down to the starting area at around 8:00am, picked up my registration materials, and got on my way. I shot lots of video along the way.   Although I don’t believe that Oprah’s initiative to eliminate cell phone use while driving specifically addresses photographing while on a biking, it’s safe to assume that she would not be happy with this.  Sorry!

One of the monuments that the ride took us by was the Air Force Memorial in Arlington.  I have driven by it many times but I have never stopped.  Established in 2006 it serves as a memorial to  honor the service of the personnel of the United States Air Force and its predecessors.   While I was there I took the opportunity to stretch my legs and find a recipient for my $10.

I found Joseph, a 17-year-old student currently living in Maryland.  He is not so much of a cyclist, but some of his buddies told him about the event and he decided to give the 20 mile course a try. Despite being tired from climbing some of the hills, he said he was holding his own.  Click on the photo below for a video showing several parts of the ride (including lots of famous landmarks and monuments) and a few moments with Joseph.  (When I get back in the US I will add some music to it.  I discovered that downloading MP3s outside of the US from Amazon and other places is not allowed)

Joseph during Bike DC (Photo: Reed)

Joseph is very active in theatre at his high school and hopes to major in theatre in his home-state of Texas.  In addition to his passion for theatre and music, Joseph is a black belt in Tang Soo Do.  He and his friends rode off.  I took an extra minute to take in the view of DC from the Virginia side of the Potomac River.  Then it was back on my bike for another mile or two to arrive at the finish line.

I highly recommend you to take part in the next Bike DC event. For more information on this event and other biking related events and news in the DC area, check out the Washington Area Bicycle Association.

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Two quick updates.  I finally got video up for Anthony’s post yesterday and Victor from Day 139 posted an update from him on his page.  

Colombian 16 string guitar in need of some strings (Photo: Reed)

Manizales continues to be a wonderful and inspiring place for me to be.  I am trying to catch up on my blog writing so that I can start to share the stories of Manizales with you.  But for now, we have to transport ourselves back to the Georgetown neighborhood of  Washington, DC.  

I had just finished seeing my friend Annie in a production of Rhinoceros…she was amazing and the show itself was really good too.  On my way home I stopped at the Social Safeway to get a few items.  I still hadn’t given my $10 to anyone.  I am not sure how much I really needed items from the grocery store or I just figured that a 24-hour grocery store would certainly have a few candidates for my $10.  Would you believe the first two people I approached refused.  The first woman, Mary Pat, was studying the pet food options when I approached her.  She spoke with me for a while but I couldn’t convince her to participate.  The second person, who was buying paper towels, refused and didn’t tell me their name.  

Angela getting items for the Lost viewing party. (photo: Reed)

The third person I approached was over by the bakery and the rotisserie chickens.  Her name was Angela. 

The 39-year-old is a resident of DC and works as a news writer for a media company in DC.  I didn’t ask which one and she didn’t offer the information.  She said she was on her way home from visiting a friend and since she wasn’t tired thought that she would pick up some groceries.  The next day, Sunday, she was attending a party for the final episode of Lost.  I don’t watch Lost and have never really been interested in the show, but I thought a celebration about the show finally coming to an end was a good idea…although I don’t think most people who were excited about the finale were excited for the same reasons that I was.  For years friends have been telling me that they hoped that the next episode would explain things…but it never does…it hasn’t for something like five years.  “I really hope the finale explains some things,” Angela says to me.  If the past is any indicator of the future, she is going to be disappointed with what the show reveals. 

I on the other hand was not disappointed because first of all, I didn’t watch the show, and second of all, I was busy watching the grand finale of Celebrity Apprentice.  I know it’s a cheesy show, but I enjoy it.  And there is not a constant mega cliffhanger incorporated into the plot like Lost.  Each show is pretty straight forward.  Somebody gets fired at the end.  Despite being a fan, Mr. Trump could make this a one hour show…heck a 30 minute show.  He of all people should know time is valuable.  (actually he does know that and that is why it is two hours.  Time is money and he gets lots of money for the commercials that are run during the superfluous two-hour time slot. 

Anyway, sorry, I got off on a tangent.  When I am typing nobody brings me back on track. 

So Angela told me that her life and job was pretty “regular” and that there was nothing particularly interesting to share.  Just after saying that though, she mentioned that through her job she did get to join an interview session with the legendary Ray Charles.  

 “Everything that I had ever hoped about meeting someone of his stature came true.  He was the smartest guy in the room.  He was very nice, but he was clearly in control of everything that was going on.” 

photo: Reed

Working in news, she said other stories have often stuck out in her mind for long periods after the story is over.  She mentioned a story from Frederick, MD about a student basketball player who rarely got to play and was put in a game finally and finally made a basket.  The crowd went nuts.  It reminded me of this story!  I love it.  I even made team members at my last job watch this! 

Angela had a caring nature about her.  It really showed when she shared that she was going to donate the $10 to the Homeward Trails Animal Rescue, a non-profit organization that provides pet adoption in Virginia, Washington, DC and Maryland.  They find homes for dogs and cats rescued from high-kill animal shelters or whose owners could no longer care for them. 

It was getting late and I had to get up early the following morning to ride in Bike DC.  We parted ways and I went to check out in possibly the slowest checkout lane in the world.

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Manizales has been great…despite the almost constant drizzle and heavy fog.  This morning I visited one of the schools that the group I am consulting for is working with.  The kids were amazing.  It was sad, when I left they all gave me a massive group hug.  I am actually going to see them tomorrow too…but they don’t know that!  Check out this video of us working with some of the children who are in a bilingual choir in one of Manizales public schools.

I am still writing up blog entries from last week! 

Photo: Reed

So I told you in the previous blog posting about my trips to see the Mets vs. Nationals games last week.  After the game I was sifting through the crowds a the subway station platform trying to position myself so that I would make the next train.  I walked by Anthony who was leaning against a short wall that overlooked the lower level of the station where another train line runs.  As I walked by he leaned his head back as if to rest it against the wall, but there was not wall behind his head so his head went back further than he expected and his sunglasses fell from their resting position on top of his baseball hat and fell 20 feet onto the tracks below. 

“Did you just lose something,” I asked him as I saw him quickly look over the side of the wall.  Shaking his head back and forth he smiled and said, “Yeah…my sunglasses.”  We both peered over the wall to see if we could see them but they were gone.

“They were cheap.  I paid like $7 for them.”  He shrugged it off and I continued my way toward the other end of the station.

I wasn’t ten feet away when I realized he should be my $10 recipient for the day!  I rushed back to see if he was still there.  He was.

Anthony is a 40-year-old Caddie Master at a prestigious local country club.  He was born and raised in Maryland.  After a few minutes I realized that he was a Met’s fan as well!  Let’s go Mets!  We reminisced a little bit about the days of the 1986 Mets.  “People even used to say that I looked like Dr. K when I was younger,” he said referring to Dwight Gooden, the former star pitcher for New York.

It turns out that Anthony he himself is a former professional baseball player with the Texas Rangers’ farm team.  He spent two years with them from 1992-1994.  He also played on the USA national team and won a bronze medal in 1996.

Below there is a clip of us talking about Anthony’s attitude toward life and his experience with the Texas Rangers.  You might catch a glimpse of his father directly behind Anthony if you look close.  They had went to the game together.  I still like to go to games with my dad.  In fact, he and I went to see a game the last year that Shea Stadium was being used and then the first year of their new stadium, Citi Field.

Anthony is a really nice guy.  I love that I met him and it is sad to think that if I had not been doing this project, I might not have stopped and spoken with him.  With every person I meet through the Year of Giving, my life becomes much richer.  An interesting irony given the negative cash flow of my current situation.

Oh, I almost forgot.  You guessed it.  Anthony is going to buy some new sun glasses with the $10 I gave him.

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View nearby where I am staying in Manizales, Colombia (Photo: Reed)

I have arrived safely here in Manizales, Colombia.  I am a little behind with my posting but that is somewhat acceptable if you consider what my internet set-up might be in such a beautiful location like this.

By the way, I have been thinking that it would be a good idea to document the giving experiences from Colombia in both Spanish and English.  For one reason, if a recipient doesn’t read English very well they won’t be able to read their own blog posting which just seems wrong.  Given my schedule, it would be great to have a native speaker “guest translate” for each of the days that I am here.  If you are interested, let me know.

Last week the New York Mets baseball team was in town to take on the Washington Nationals.  I grew up a huge Mets fan.  Living in Central PA you would think that I would be a Philadelphia Phillies or Pittsburgh Pirates fan.  The only explanation that I can give is that I started to follow them because we got WWOR Channel 9 from Secaucus, NJ which carried almost all of the Mets games at the time.  It certainly wasn’t because of the team’s record back then.  I started following them in the early 1980s when they were not a pretty sight.  They got better though and went on to win the 1986 World Series.  My father took me to game 5 of the National League play-offs that year against the Houston Astros.  It’s one of my fondest childhood memories.

Anyway, I made it to two Mets games last week.  My friend Chris and I were leaving the game and getting on the Metro when I saw a young guy playing the violin.  I offered him the $10 but he declined when he learned that I would write about the encounter on the blog.

I scanned the scene for another recipient.  It was almost as if a river current was carrying everyone to the Metro.  In the middle of this swift moving mob was a woman holding her own against the current while she handed out the Express newspaper; a free paper published by the Washington Post that is mostly distributed to commuters.  I have given several times to the vendors of Street Sense, but I have never given to anyone from the Express organization.  So I did.

Sharon hands a Metro rider the Express (Photo: Reed)

Sharon was busy trying to capture the attention of the mostly disinterested passersby.  She has handed out the Express for three years she tells me.  “On a good day I hand out about 1,500 papers.”  I remember responding to her with something like, “Wow, you sell a lot of papers!”  I knew the paper was free but I just misspoke.  She quipped back, “Honey, if I was selling these things I’d be a millionaire by now!”

She went on to tell me that “the people are the best part of the job!”  Although that evening was almost perfect, Sharon says that she dreads the hottest and coldest days of the year.  “That’s the worst part about this job: the weather.”

Originally from West Virginia, the 49-year-old now calls Washington, DC her home.  She certainly makes a lot of us feel at home here when she give’s us our paper and wishes us a nice day.  She told me that she was going to use the $10 to help pay for her transportation to and from work.  I didn’t want to keep her from her job much more so I thanked her (and she thanked me right back) and said “goodnight.”

I am looking forward to writing more about Manizales this week.  It’s a beautiful tranquil space.  This should be a very busy and exciting 10 days!

Check out this short clip of Sharon in action!

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As I pack my bags to leave for Colombia tomorrow, I started to think that I should publish the blogs in Spanish while I am there. That way if the person I give to doesn’t read English they can at least read their own blog entry! Any volunteers to translate the blogs for those days

I am interested to find out how my project is received there; a mixture of nervousness and excitement is brewing. Tell all of your friends in Colombia to keep a look out for me!

Photo: Reed

So last week I was walking through Dupont Circle when I saw a bunch of people hula hooping. There was just no way to walk by this and not stop! So I did and asked a woman there if she would accept my $10. She said yes on one condition: I had to do some hula hooping first!

Let me just tell you that the last time I did any hooping (they prefer hooping over hula hooping) I was probably in Mr. Montgomery’s gym class in the 7th grade! Anyway, if you check out the video you will see me attempting to hoop.

Eileen has been hooping for about two years now and recently received her Hoopnotica certification and has started teaching hooping classes. She recommends that if anyone would like more information about hooping in the DC area that they check out www.hoopdancedc.com or www.hoopnotica.com. Or you can just go down to Dupont Circle any Wednesday night at 7:30 pm and hoop away! Eileen also mentioned that there is free yoga at Dupont Circle starting at 6:30…so you can come for hours of relaxation and entertainment FOR FREE

Now, hooping does not come without risk. Eileen told me she has busted up her lip and sprained an ankle in her hooping pursuits. So if you are not up for the risks, this is not a sport for you. Thankfully there is no waiver that you need to sign to hoop with Eileen and her friends though. Unlike my past experiences with skydiving where you sign your life away pretty much.

Photo: Reed

When Eileen is not hooping, she is making a tremendous contribution to society by teaching. She is a special education teacher in a local school. Other than that she claims that she lives a boring life. “I have a cat and I belong to a book club…that’s about it.” She fails to mention that she is also a fire eater…fire breather…or fire spitter…I don’t know what you call it but someone who puts something flammable in their mouth and then releases it into flames. How do you forget to mention this! I mean this is really interesting! Hey, want to spruce up your next office party? Get Eileen and her friends to do a hoop dance and spit fire! Ok, speaking of fire, you might get fired…but trust me it will be a hell of a good time!

Anyway…I am not going to bore you any more with my feeble attempt to convey the friendliness and talent of these hoopers…check them out for yourselves in this video! Better yet, go and join them Wednesday nights at 7:30 at Dupont Circle! You will also see Eileen giving her $10 away!

For more information on hooping:

www.hoopdancedc.com

www.Hoopnotica.com

Hoop Mama’s blog

Hoopalicious Baxter

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Good morning!  There is nothing I like more than waking up early on a Monday morning and getting a head start on things I need to get done!  A lot of people complain about Monday’s… I love’em!

So I’m considering putting together somewhat of an advisory board for my Year of Giving.  I believe that there are some interesting ways that the project can develop and hope to get some critical perspectives on it.  If anyone knows someone wickedly smart or creative who they think would be an asset to this thought process, please shoot me an email.

Last week I was meeting with Abby Strunk, the executive director at Street Sense.  As you know, I have enjoyed getting to know their vendors.  As it turns out, she was following the Year of Giving journey and reached out to me a few weeks back.  So we decided to meet up for coffee.  She has been with the paper for six months and seems to be driving the organization in the right direction.  I really believe in this organization and offered to help them out if there was anything I could do.  Coincidentally, as we were chatting, she pointed out a Street Sense vendor who was selling the paper just on the other side of the frosted glass of the Caribou Coffee shop we were at.  After our meeting, I walked over and gave my $10 to Tommy.

Photo: Reed

He is vendor # 003.  That’s right…he is the third vendor hired.  Tommy’s been selling Street Sense for about six years.  He credit’s his friend Jose for encouraging him to sell the paper.  At first Tommy didn’t think he would be good at it, but he proved himself wrong.  Having a job turned out to be one of the key elements in Tommy’s sobriety.  After years of drug and alcohol abuse, the 54-year-old father turned his life around seven years ago by getting sober.  He is currently homeless, but stays in a local shelter and is an active voice in housing issues for the homeless.

I found a link on Street Sense’s website that had a small write-up on Tommy.  I have copied a Q&A section that was part of the write-up that I thought you might find interesting.

What is your favorite kind of music?

Jazz, Korean and Jamaican music

What is your favorite food?

Steak with mashed potatoes and gravy

What is your favorite movie?

I like Batman and Spiderman but also like horror movies.

How did you become homeless?

I got myself into trouble doing stuff I wasn’t supposed to.

Were you ever homeless before?

Yes, about 20 years ago.

Where do you see yourself in 5 years?

Tommy sees himself getting his drug counselors license and giving back to the community that helped him. He would also like to find a permanent residence.

Tommy never graduated from high school so now he is working on getting his GED.  He hopes that once he gets his degree that he can go on to be certified as a drug counselor for recovering addicts.  I think this would be a fantastic role for him.

He plans to use the $10 to pay bills.  Selling the Street Sense is a big part of Tommy’s life, but he still lacks the funds to secure private housing.  As he said in the interview excerpt above, he would really like to have his own place.  I asked Tommy how we could help him and he gave me a list of several things that he needed.

Here’s a short video from my chat with him.  You’re gonna like him!

Tommy can be found weekdays at either 11th/G, 13/G, or 14th/G and on Thursdays, Saturday, and Sunday at 29th/M.
 

Update July 7, 2010: Here is a little video from my first delivery of items for Tommy.  Thanks to all who continue to help Tommy out.  Be sure to check the Lend a Hand section for updated items that he needs.

Update June 26, 2011: Congratulations to Tommy who celebrated 8 years sober on May 27th!

Update December 4, 2012: I learned today hat Tommy died on November 18th. He was 56. He was battling some health issues, but I didn’t realize it had gotten that dire. He was a good man that I admired. I will miss him. I hopefully will get some more details tomorrow.

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Remember Mike from Day 146?  You may recall that he works as a Physical Therapist at a Rockville, MD PT clinic.  He shared my story with his boss Bill.  They graciously offered for me to come in to their clinic at no cost for some PT sessions on my neck and back to see if I can improve the pain that I have.  Isnt’that incredibly nice of them!  It means a lot to me.  Thank you guys!  I look forward to the day when I no longer have pain and numbness in my neck, arm, and hand.

After my first session, I was feeling good.  I went out that day with a little more pep in my step and my posture a little better.  

Photo: Reed

Some days I find myself walking around the city…seeing potential recipients but never thinking that they are the right person for that day.  I passed all kinds of people who I debated giving my $10 to, but for some reason I kept on walking.  I walked all over the city, 67 blocks in total.  The light rain was just enough to keep my umbrella up the entire time, but I didn’t mind.  I started to get hungry though and decided to make my way over to John’s burrito stand.  On my way over my cousin Cheryl called and we talked until I came face to face with a large protest that had taken over the intersection of 15th and K Street.  The mix of angry cries for justice and police bullhorns trying to control the situation was making it difficult to talk on the phone, so we hung up and I went to find out what was going on.  This is when I ran into Joan.

Joan, a retired small business owner living in DC, was holding one end of a banner that read, “WE WANT OUR $$$ BACK!”  Although I hadn’t taken her money, in fact, I didn’t even know Joan, I hoped that my offer to give her $10 back might help her and her colleagues out.  Thankfully Joan wasn’t mad at me.  She was fed up with big businesses and lobbyists owning our government.  She feels that they have taken all the power away from the people.

Photo: Reed

As a CODEPINK activist , Joan actively participates in protests that the grassroots peace and social justice organization puts on.  The organization emerged out of a desperate desire by a group of American women to stop the Bush administration from invading Iraq.  On November 17, 2002 CODEPINK was launched when a group of women set up for a 4-month all-day vigil in front of the White House during the cold of winter. I wonder if they went over and spoke with Connie and Thomas at the Peace Vigil.  Anyway, they inspired people (mostly women) from all walks of life, and from all over the country, to stand for peace.  Now the organization has grown international.

Photo: Reed

On this specific day she was a little disappointed because CODEPINK received information about the protest very late which limits their ability to mobilize and produce a large turnout.  She cites messaging and timing as areas that need improvement in these types of protests.  Despite falling short of her expectations, the protest still managed to attract an estimated 1,000-1,500 people.  Plus it shut down a major corridor of transportation.  Their location at 15th and K was no coincidence given that K Street has long been home to a sea of lobbyist offices. 

As Joan and I started to talk, the mass of people began to march South on 15th Street.  I tagged along and pulled my video camera out and started to record.

Photo: CBS News

The march came to a halt near the White House and I parted ways.  Later they went on to Capitol Hill to voice their disapproval of BP at the Homeland Security Committee Senate hearing where BP America President Lamar McKay testified.  CBS News later reported that “only three Senators – Joseph Lieberman, Susan Collins, and Mark Pryor – of the 17-member Homeland Security Committee showed up to ask any questions at all.” In fact, Lieberman and Collins reportedly praised McKay for his cooperation and dismissed him in less than 45 minutes.

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I had to run over to Home Depot to get some things and as I was driving home I saw Alfonso pushing his ice-cream cart up the slight incline of Patrick Henry Drive to where it intersects with Arlington Blvd.

Alfonso and his ice-cream cart (Photo: Reed)

I past him and then double backed, parked the car, and waited for him to reach my car.  The sound of the tires rolling over loose gravel was mostly muffled by the cheerful bells that rang with every movement of the cart.  

Alfonso has a kind face and smiles naturally, although his mustache covers up most of it.  He said that the company he works offered people the opportunity to come to Arlington, VA for the summer months to sell Mexican style ice-cream.  So Alfonso came here from Dallas, TX.  He didn’t know a soul in the area.  Now he interacts with hundreds of people every day.

Photo: Reed

He pushes his cart filled with a large block of ice and about 200 hundred ice-creams up Patrick Henry Drive from Route 7 to past Arlington Blvd into the neighborhoods behind the shopping center where the Target is.  Back and forth he travels under the burning sun.  He usually sells about 100-150 ice creams.  On a good day he might sell 200; coconut is the best seller.  I asked if I could take a peak inside the cooler.    

Having lived most of his life in Palm Springs, CA, six years ago Alfonso moved to Dallas searching for his 28-year-old son that he didn’t know.  He knew he was living somewhere in the state, but that doesn’t help much when you are searching in the second largest state in the country that boasts more than 268,000 square miles.  Luckily for Alfonso, his son was also trying to find him.  He found him in Austin, TX.

“We are friends now.  I will never be his father to him.”  He is hopeful that they can have a relationship, but it is hard after so many years and so much pain.  “You see, I was living in California and was lost on drugs and alcohol.  Then 15 years ago I received Jesus Christ as my savior.”

Photo: Reed

He is also not in touch with his ex-wife any more.  The last he knew she lived in Monterrey, Mexico.  Maybe I could try to find her like I am trying to find Victor’s mother from Day 139. 

He seems happy to be here.  “Arlington is nicer than Dallas,” he says.  “There is less crime here.” 

Despite a nice relaxing conversation, I could feel that he needed to get on his way.  He needed to earn his daily wages and the ice-cream would not stay cold forever.  I asked him what he would do with the $10 and he softly replied that he would save it. 

We exchanged telephone numbers and I got back in my car.  Alfonso returned to his position behind the cart and started to push it the remaining 30 yards to the intersection.  The bells began to sing again.

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Before telling you about the amazing woman I met last Saturday, I wanted to remind you to tell your friends and family about the Worldwide Day of Giving on June 15th! If they are on Facebook, they can sign up for the event here, you can also use this link: http://tiny.cc/WWDoG.

We have about 500 people officially signed up on Facebook right now, but I am still hopeful that together we can reach 10,000 people worldwide! Details about how to participate can also be found on the Facebook Page.

There has been some confusion about the event. This is a virtual event that you can do anywhere in the world!  In addition, I am planning an in-person event here in DC.  It would be fun to meet in person, share your stories and meet some of the previous recipients of the Year of Giving $10 who will be there! I would like to get an idea of how many people would attend an event in the Dupont Circle area at around 7pm on the 15th. You can sign up for the in-person event on Facebook or here.

For those of you in other parts of the world who want to organize an event in your region, I encourage you to do so. If you need help or ideas on how to organize this, send me an email.

Photo: Reed

Last Saturday I was at the Goodwill on Glebe Road off of Route 50. I found Trish, a 37-year-old registered nurse.  After 12 years in the profession, she decided to go back to school to pursue a career in nurse anesthesia.  It sounds like life is not so easy right now juggling the demands of school while trying to make ends meet and pay her tuition at Georgetown University.

“I used to do a lot of stuff outdoors like biking, skiing, snowboarding, but lately I haven’t done much. I am pretty much studying all the time.”  She went on to say, “I would even play golf at this point, I’m pretty desperate.”
Trish said that she really liked the Year of Giving concept.  “I think I might have heard about this,” she told me.  “Even though money is tight right now, I think I might give the $10 to my sister. She just lost her job.”  Trish said she would update us all when she decides for sure what she is going to do with the money.

Photo: Reed

Trish told me that there was nothing very interesting about her and then she remembered a small “boring” detail, “I climbed to the summit of Mt. Kilimanjaro a few years ago and watched the sun rise over Tanzania.”  I was like, oh my God! Wow.  That is amazing! Trish had a friend who got let go from their job (I know the feeling) and was given six months severance (I don’t know that feeling…I only got one month!) and decided to travel the world.  She had some time off and decided to meet up with her friend some place along his journey.   They agreed to meet in Tanzania and climb the world’s fourth tallest peak.  Crazy!
Fast forward and Trish is in Tanzania with two friends and 19 Sherpas scaling the tallest mountain in Africa.  They made it up the stratovolcano in three days.  “We could have never done it without the local guys who helped carry so much of our equipment and had meals ready when we arrived at camp.” We laughed over a story she shared about losing one of her jackets at base camp only to see it again a few days later on their way down the mountain being worn by a guy twice her size.  “I just let him keep it…the sleeves came to his elbows!”

Trish hopes to graduate in December and would like to move to Colorado and find work as a CRNA.  If anyone has some contacts, please let me know and I will pass them along to Trish!

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Last week I found out that Woman’s World Magazine is doing a story on the Year of Giving.  The article will be in the July 19th issue which hits newsstands the week of July 8th.  I will post something here when we get closer to the date.  The reason I mention this is because last Friday they sent a photographer to take some photos of me giving away my $10. 

It was a pretty day and I suggested to Pete, the photographer, that we walk up to Dupont Circle.  After arriving, I took some time surveying the potential recipients and found a woman sitting on the grass playing with her daughter.  Perfect!

I walked over to Cecilia and explained what I was doing and asked if she would participate.  She agreed but mentioned that she might have some difficulties answering some of the questions because as Spanish was her first language.  I offered to do the interview in Spanish and she said that that would be more comfortable.  Her daughter Emilia was full of energy and a bit awestruck by the attention, especially the camera!

Pete deftly maneuvered around us as we spoke, capturing the scene unfold on his Nikon D300. 

Cecilia and Emilia (Photo: Reed)

Cecilia and her family moved here for her husband’s job18 months ago.  A teacher back in her native Chile, Cecilia has had to adjust to a lot of new things here in the US.  As she is not working while they are here, she has had the opportunity to dedicate the majority of her time to five-year-old Emilia and her nine-year-old brother Santiago.  Additionally she has been taking English classes and learning to cook. 

Cecilia spoke to me on camera about some of the challenges that living abroad has presented.  Besides learning a new language, culture, and city, Cecilia shared that being far away from their family has not been easy.  Family serves as our support network in multiple ways.  Luckily technology helps minimize that void.  I noticed how technology impacted communication from the time I lived in Mexico as an exchange student in 1990 to when I lived in Brazil four years ago.  In 1990 I would only call and speak to my family once or twice per month because of how expensive it was.  Going back just a few years though, it was not unusual for me to talk to my family several times a week while living in Sao Paulo.  Tools like email, Skype, more economically priced long distance service, etc. helped reduce the miles between us.

This video clip of some of my conversation with Cecilia is in Spanish…hopefully this will be an interesting new element to the blog for Spanish-speakers who are following the Year of Giving.  And for those who don’t speak Spanish, you might enjoy watching it just to see how playful and happy little Emilia is.  

As for the $10, Cecilia shares on the video that “the $10 will travel with me to Chile.”  She plans to go next month and will donate the money to the relief efforts for the recent earthquakes there.  Thankfully her family and friends are all ok and only suffered minor inconveniences.

On a different note, I want to take this opportunity to share with you some exciting news about me and the Year of Giving.  As you know I have been searching for work.  I have some good news on this front.  No, I didn’t find a job…but I did secure a small consulting project in Manizales, Colombia.  Next week I will travel there and spend ten days in the heart of Colombia’s coffee-belt working with a nonprofit foundation with their role in helping the region meet the Ministry of Education’s goal of being a truly bilingual country by 2019!

This is a very exciting opportunity for me and I feel that it will enrich the Year of Giving in many ways as well as change the landscape some and see first-hand how people from another part of the world react to my commitment.  I will of course continue my daily giving and blogging.  More news on this in the coming days!

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Have you ever wondered how your life would have turned out if you had dropped out of school your freshman year of high school?  Well today’s recipient Kylie knows the answer to that question first-hand.  She did it.

Kylie in front of the fountain at Dupont Circle (Photo: Reed)

Kylie, who turned 21 on Friday, decided half way through her freshman year of high school that she didn’t want to go any more.  Probably we have all thought about dropping out, but she actually did it.  Then she visited three or four other schools to see if she liked them any more, but didn’t find what she was looking for.  She tried home schooling for a while, but that didn’t work out either.  So what did she do?  She says she ended up hanging out with some friends that were freshmen at a Delaware college.  They too were not going to class much either.  She “experimented with lots of things” she said and wound up finding herself.  She discovered that she really liked to write.

Today, she is taking classes at American University and hopes to open creative writing centers in youth correctional facilities.  She has already started the process but has a way to go to launch her first center.

I asked Kylie to describe herself and she said, “I am empathetic to a fault.  I’m maybe a little lost…but definitely passionate.” I felt her passion when we spoke about our mothers.  “I love her more than anything,” she said about her mother.  She asked about my mother and I shared with her what a wonderful person my mother was.  She started to cry.  “I don’t know what I would do if I lost my mom” she said fighting away a tear.

Photo: Reed

I was interested in Kylie’s tattoos.  She has seven “professional” tattoos and one “prison” tattoo.  I call it a “prison” tattoo because it was one that a friend did with a BIC pen.  Ouch!  That one didn’t look so good either.  On her right arm she has a large tattoo that says “Love Killer.”  It hurts me just to look at it as I imagine the tattoo needle hammering into the veins that ran along her forearm.  She got this tattoo because of an ex-boyfriend she had.  She shared with me the details of a couple of past relationships.  “Who was the Love Killer,” I asked.  “Maybe I was” she answered.  

Something she said about two former boyfriends stayed with me.  “The one guy I loved, but I never told him that I loved him.  The other one I never loved, but I told him that I did.”  Ironic isn’t it.  “I sometimes regret not telling him that I loved him.”  I asked her if she thought that things would have ended up different if she had told him that she loved him and she shook her head to tell me “no.”  “In that case” I said, “it doesn’t really matter, does it?”

Kylie told me that she was going to give the $10 to somebody else.  As for ways that you can help Kylie, she said she would give that some thought and see if she came up with something.

Photo: Reed

We were heading in the same direction, so we walked through Dupont Circle and headed toward the Metro entrance.  On the way over we passed a woman sitting on a crate panhandling.  Kylie pulled the $10 out of her pocket and dropped it in the woman’s bucket and kept on walking.  “I had to get rid of it!  I didn’t want to be tempted to spend it.”  I sneaked a peak back at the woman…her face was pleasantly shocked.

Happy 21st birthday Kylie!

By the way, check out what Start from Day 126 did with the $10 I gave him…he posted his experience today on his website!

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A man gives Jeffery some change (Photo: Reed)

If you have ever went into the CVS at Dupont Circle, there is a good chance that Jeffery held the door open for you.  I have gone to this CVS several times and most times there was someone holding the door.  I am not sure if it has always been Jeffery, because I sadly have not paid enough attention.

Jeffery is 47 and was born and raised here in our nation’s capital.  He was wearing an oversized sweatshirt, jeans, and a dark ball cap.  A latex glove covered his right hand which holds an ice tea canister that holds the money that he receives from those who stop and help him out.  

Jeffery’s soft polite voice greets the customers:

“Good evening”

“Hello ma’am, how are you today?”

“Have a nice evening.”

You might assume that he is homeless, but he is not.  He brings in about $100 a day panhandling.  He also has another job that he does during the summer months where he works with high-profile clientele in the DC area.  He preferred that I not share the name of his other place of employment.

Jeffery is charismatic.  He talks about how panhandling has taught him how to interact with others and how to deal with diversity.  “You gotta be able to deal with people out here.”  He explains that many people don’t carry much cash and prefer to use debit and credit cards, but that doesn’t deter him.  “I know that it is just a matter of time before they help me out.  I just try to be nice to everyone.” 

CVS however has asked him not to stand right by the entrance.  They would prefer that he stand a few yards away.  “But the people don’t give as much when I stand over there,” he says pointing to a spot closer to the street curb.  Being next to the door recently turned out to benefit the store.  Jeffery told me that a person ran out with some stolen goods and he was able to run after the person and recover the stolen merchandise.  

Jeffery (Photo: Reed)

While I was taking some photos of Jeffery, a woman yelled at me and told him to have more respect for himself and not allow me to take photographs of him.  He told me that he didn’t mind.

He wasn’t sure what he was going to do with the money.  That’s OK.  I know where to find him.  I told him I would be back this week to see what he had decided.  As I walked home I couldn’t help but wonder why a smart, charismatic man like him was panhandling.

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Dupont Circle (Photo: Reed)

This past week we had some late “April showers.”  I actually like to walk the city when it is raining.  There are less people out and you can focus on the city.  You see things that you normally don’t see due to having fewer distractions from those around you.  I walked over to Dupont Circle.  This is one of my favorite places to go to people watch and interestingly enough it is also a great place to go when it is raining and nobody is out.  You really get to take in the greenery, the sound of the water cascading over the fountain, and the overall peacefulness of this urban respite.  

Dupont Circle Fountain

In the center stands a fountain.  Built in 1921, it replaced the statue of Samuel Francis Du Pont which was moved to Rockford Park in Wilmington, DE.  The fountain was designed by the same folks who designed the Lincoln Memorial.  They created three figures that represent the sea, the stars and the wind.

It makes a nice backdrop for photos. 

As I made my way around the circle I found David sitting on top of the backrest of the benches that corral the fountain.  To his right rested a bicycle still beaded with the previous hour’s raindrops. 

David in an empty Dupont Circle (Photo: Reed)

David had just finished his job waiting tables at a local Italian restaurant.  He is also an English student at the University of the District of Colombia who expects to graduate in December of 2011.  I’m pleasantly surprised to discover that David belongs to an elite subset of my recipients who live in the DC area and were also born here.  It’s a very transient city so this is not as common as one might think.

At 27 David has decided to go back to school to get his college degree after years of working odd jobs: bike messenger, construction, life guarding, etc.  He also enjoys painting and drawing in his spare time.

I really enjoyed meeting David.  He mentioned that the Year of Giving

(Photo: Reed)

reminded him of Time Banks.  This concept was vaguely familiar to me, but I went online and checked them out and absolutely love the concept.  Basically you give of your time to others.  For every hour of time you give, you earn an hour of credit that you can “cash” in to receive someone else’s time.  Brilliant idea.  There are a couple of DC Time Bank groups that I will explore.  If anyone has experience working with Time Banks I would love to hear from you.

He also shared with me a quote from Martin Luther King’s “Beyond Vietnam: A Time to Break Silence” speech given at Riverside Church in New York City on April 4, 1967.

I am convinced that if we are to get on the right side of the world revolution, we as a nation must undergo a radical revolution of values. We must rapidly begin the shift from a “thing-oriented” society to a “person-oriented” society. When machines and computers, profit motives and property rights are considered more important than people, the giant triplets of racism, materialism, and militarism are incapable of being conquered. – Martin Luther King

I love this quote.  David and I share King’s belief in a people oriented society.  All too often today our brains get cluttered with unnecessary garbage that clouds our vision.  We lose sight of the basic principles that once guided my grandparents’ daily lives.  But I realize that this only happens if we allow it.  I am more committed than ever before to focus firmly on what really matters: our brothers and sisters in our community and the world.

As I left, I circled back to my leading question.  David said that his impulse was to give the $10 away to a homeless person.  I hope he shares with us the details of his experience.

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Last Monday I spent the morning doing some phone calls and interviews.  I got outside a little to walk Ruben, the dog that I have been taking care of, but other than that I was pretty much inside.

That evening I had plans to have dinner with some former colleagues of mine from my last job.  We decided to meet up at my friend Patricia’s house in Arlington.  I took Ruben out for another walk before leaving, stopped by a wine shop and a new gelato shop to get some wine and gelato for the evening.  By the way, I got the gelato from Dolcezza in Dupont.  I sampled a bunch of the flavors, but settled on dulce de leche granizado and lime cilantro.  The lime cilantro was such a unique flavor, I had to get it.  The citrus flavors combined with zest of the cilantro created a deliciously refreshing dessert!

The evening was great.  I got to spend time with some old colleagues.  Laura and her husband brought their four-month-old boy Griffin too!  He is amazing!

Bar at the Afterwords Cafe (Photo: Reed)

Anyway, the night winded down and I dropped Kate off at her hotel in Chinatown.  It was 11:45 and I still had to give away my $10.  As I drove I kept my eyes open for somebody on the streets.  I passed a couple of large groups of people, but didn’t think that stopping them and explaining what I was doing would go very well at midnight, so I pulled over at Kramerbooks near my house.  Inside I found a young couple sitting at a table and offered the guy my $10.  He politely declined and I looked toward his friend.  She somewhat reluctantly agreed.

It turns out that she is the bartender there at Kramerbooks.  I didn’t realize that though because she was sitting at a table at the otherwise empty bar.  Get this, I realized I didn’t have a ten dollar bill.  For that matter, I didn’t even have $10!  I think I had $8.  Then I remembered that I had a bag of quarters in my backpack and grabbed them and counted out the rest of the money for her.  It was a little embarrassing, but Cynthia rolled with it and didn’t make me feel awkward at all.

Cynthia said she likes to travel.  Two of her favorite destinations are Dubrovnik, Croatia and Budapest, Hungary.  Camping and snowboarding are also high on her list of things to do.

About this time several people made their way into the bar and I let Cynthia go wait on them.  She returned shortly with a glass of water for me and asked if I had any other questions.  I could see that she was busy and I didn’t want to take up more of her time…so while she was preparing things I asked her what her favorite drink and food items were on the menu at Kramerbooks’ Afterwords Café.  Her favorite drink was a tie between the Brewmaster Reserve by Brooklyn Brewery and the Old Brown Dog by Smuttynose Brewery.  Her favorite dish is the Bison Burger.  Honestly, you almost can go wrong there, everything is good.

I wrapped things up and let Cynthia get back to work. 

Her $10 is going toward the purchase of a new dictionary for a homeless man who she knows.  Someone stole his bag which contained his dictionary.  I asked if there was anything that I could include in the Lend a Hand project and she mentioned that her car needs some work so she would love to get some help with that.  Heck, maybe a show like Overhaulin would come and help her out!

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Last Sunday I went to a party for my friend Dan who was celebrating surviving three years of law school.  There was some really good food there too.  Somebody made some shawarma that was fantastic. 

I met a guy there named Mike and decided to give him my $10 for the day.  

Mike E. (Photo: Reed)

 

Mike is married and lives in Burtonsville, MD with his family.  He got a degree in Engineering but decided that a career in engineering wasn’t what he wanted and went back to school at the University of Maryland at College Park to study kinesiology.  

Kinesiology, from the Greek words kinesis (movement) and kinein (to move) and ology (branch of study), is the branch of physiology that studies the mechanics and anatomy in relation to human movement. 

Mike has been working at a physical therapy clinic in Rockville, MD for three years.  “I love the gym and I love sports,” he said.  “This was just a natural fit for me.”  Mike’s work is truly rewarding.  He shared with me a story about a woman who slipped and fell and pulled her hamstring as a result.  She didn’t take care of it and the problem got worse.  It got so bad that she couldn’t sit for a year.  Mike then got the opportunity to work with her and she started to improve and was finally able to sit again.  Mike added, “When you are able to help someone feel better, you feel good too!”  It’s not so different than my experience of daily giving. 

You know how when you meet a lawyer, you feel compelled to ask some legal questions.  If you meet an accountant, you’re certain to think of some obscure tax question that you have wanted to get resolved…well, I am no different I guess.  So I have been suffering from neck and back pain which results in numbness down my right arm and in my hand.  I shared this with Mike and he asked me some questions about the pain. 

This is where my back pain seems to stem from. And no, this is not me!

 

Before I knew it, I was lying down on the floor and Mike was working on my neck.  He got it a lot looser and improved my range of motion.  I still had pain and numbness, but there seemed to be some improvements just after 20 or 30 minutes.  Mike gave me some exercises to do at home to try to reduce my pain.  It was so incredibly nice of Mike to take time to try to help me feel better.  Thanks Mike! 

I also have an appointment with a physician later this month, but I am looking into trying to do some physical therapy as well.  Anyone who has ever had similar pain knows how much it starts to affect your life.  I can’t wait until I am pain-free. 

Mike decided to donate his $10 to Freeset, a fair trade business that offers meaningful employment to women trapped in Kolkata’s sex trade. According to the group, there are more than 10,000 sex workers in Kolkata, formally called Calcutta.  These women were forced into prostitution by trafficking or poverty.  Freeset offers them a real choice.  When they choose to work at Freeset, they can start new lives, regain dignity in their communities, and begin a journey towards healing and wholeness.

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For those of you who have not seen the CNN report, check it out.  Reporter David Banks put together a really nice piece.

Last Saturday I met up with a journalism student from the University of Maryland who was doing a story on the Year of Giving.  Ruben and I met her near the Dupont Circle Metro stop and walked over to the circle.  It was pretty busy and Ruben was excited to see all the people and fellow dogs out enjoying the day.  I ran into Danny Harris from Day 64 in the center of the circle.  

Shortly thereafter I spotted Peter under a shaded tree reading a biography of the master of suspense Alfred Hitchcock.  Peter is an Actor living in the East Village of NYC.  Originally from Louisville, KY, he studied at Carnegie Mellon University in Pittsburgh, PA and then moved to The Big Apple.

Originally drawn to the stage by Shakespearean plays, now Peter is focusing most of his energy on some short films.  He shared with me a the link to a rough cut of one that he recently finished…he’s very good in it, check it out!

So you may be wondering why the heck Peter is 250 miles away from his home sitting under a tree reading about Hitchcock.  As it turns out his sister lives in DC and was performing one of the lead roles in The Marriage of Figaro at the Kennedy Center this week and he came down to watch her.  She was working during the day, so he was just relaxing seeing a bit of the city.  

Peter contemplated the $10.  He said that it would probably get spent on some bourbon, beers, or maybe some food.  Later he told me, “Maybe I’ll do something else with it…all these other people have done something amazing with it, so who knows.”

He had more time to kill and I probably didn’t help the chances of my money being passed forward as I showed him where the Brickskeller Pub was.  We said our goodbyes and thanked one another.

Here is some footage of him being interviewed by the University of Maryland journalist as well as a few of my own questions.  The wind is really bad…sorry.  It actually blew over my Flip camera at one point!

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Meghan with Chief (Photo: Reed)

Last Friday I went for a walk around DC with Ruben, the dog that I have been taking care of while my friends Chris and Karrin are traveling.  I thought I would let Ruben help me pick the recipient of the day.  We walked around for a while and made our way over to Dupont Circle.  He spotted another dog and started to lunge forward toward Chief, his new canine buddy.

Chief’s owner Meghan accepted the $10 on their behalf.  Meghan is from Philadelphia and splits her time between the City of Brotherly Love and the Nation’s Capital where she is working toward her masters’ degree at Johns Hopkins School of International Studies (SAIS) where she is focusing on International Public Health.  Coincidentally through the Year of Giving I have met four or five people who are studying or recent graduates in this field.

Meghan was taking a much needed break from writing her remaining three papers and studying for her last exam.  Despite being in the eye of the storm, she seemed rather relaxed.  Perhaps that is because she is graduating in two weeks and will be done with all of her studies.  As we get close to those momentous occasions our brains seem to somehow remind ourselves that we only have to suffer a little bit more before things improve.

With no job lined up after graduation, Meghan’s life after school is up in the air right now.  She has decided what area she wants to work in though.  Meghan is passionate about maternal health, particularly the areas of child survival and vaccinations.

As the 27-year-old finishes her school and internship at UNICEF, she would love to find a job in Philadelphia or possibly Baltimore.  If you know of any positions in Public Health in or around Philadelphia, please leave a comment here or send me a note and I will forward that to Meghan.

So where did this $10 go?  Well, Meghan said the actual bill would probably get spent on lunch that day, but she would most likely think of some way to “pay it forward or donate it” and let us know where it ends up.  I heard from Meghan today and she said:

I ended up giving the $10 to someone who is usually asking for money near my house and always hangs out with and pets Chief when we walk by.  I hope this helps.  Thanks again for making my day of studying a little more enjoyable and social!

Watch this video to meet Meghan, Chief, and Ruben for yourself.  Let’s just say that trying to conduct and film an interview with two dogs was a new experience.  

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Thanks to all of those who have become Facebook Fans and especially those who have signed up to give on June 15th, the Worldwide Day of Giving.  So far there are only a little over 300 people who have committed to giving in their own community on June 15th…so pass the word along.  My goal is to get 10,000 people around the world to do this and then have them share their experiences, pictures, etc. here with the rest of the world.  It should be amazing, but I need your help to make it happen!

Will and Matthew (Photo: Reed)

Last Thursday I found Will with his skateboard at the north end of Dupont Circle.  Will is an 18-year-old who lives in the Fort Totten area.  He was reluctant to accept my $10 because he felt there were others who were more deserving of the money, but then he decided to accept it and pass the money on.

He describes himself as a “furry artist, tattoo apprentice, capoeira student, skateboarder, traceur (person who performs parkour), film editor, and musician.”  I have to say that I felt like a huge under-achiever after learning all about his interests.  I had never even heard of parkour for example.  It is a non-competitive, physical discipline of French origin in which participants run along a route, attempting to negotiate obstacles in the most efficient way possible.  

Will said that he was going to give $5 to his mom who “could really use the money right now.”  He is going to break the other $5 into singles and give out a $1 to 5 random people.  I asked him if there was anything that people reading the blog could do to help him.  He shook his head “no” and said, “I feel that I can give more than I can receive.”  I definitely understand his thinking.

About this time, Will’s friend Matthew came along.  Matthew and Will met at the same capoeira training center.  They both share a lot of the same interests.  Matthew also trains in Japanese sword play and Japanese staff fighting.

Here is a small portion of our conversation.

If you would like to check out some of Will’s artwork, click here.

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This blog entry was supposed to be posted yesterday.  It was Mother’s Day and I was just not motivated to do much.  Sorry.  Happy belated Mother’s Day to all the moms out there!

I have been dog-sitting for a few days, so I got up yesterday around 7am and took my new best friend Ruben for a walk.   Meandering around Washington early in the morning was so peaceful.  There was very little traffic and I had some time to reflect on my Mom.  I wish that I could put into words how much I miss her.  I know that she would have loved  the Year of Giving.

After a long walk, I grabbed a copy of El Tiempo Latino newspaper and made our way over to Dupont Circle.  I played with Ruben in the shaded grass for a while and then we found a sunny bench to relax on.  I read through the paper and Ruben slipped in and out of a slumber.

Photo: Reed

Last Wednesday I had an opportunity to participate in the Gala Celebration of the re-opening of the Safeway grocery store located at 1855 Wisconsin Avenue.  My friend Patricia works for Dufour and Company, one of the nation’s most respected event management firms that was hired to make the Gala a spectacular experience.  She invited me to help with the reopening.  It was incredible.  I have never seen a grocery store turn into such an elegant locale.  Props to the Dufour team!

Photo: Reed

This Safeway is amazing too!  The produce section was flawless, every pepper and bean was in it’s place.  I could go into detail about how phenomenal this grocery store is, but check out Bonnie Benwick’s write-up in the Washington Post.

While I was there, I met Angie who was also there helping out with the event.  She is a 26-year-old District of Columbia resident who, like me, is currently unemployed.  She has a background in nonprofits and marketing.  I really liked Angie’s answer when I asked her what she wanted to do professionaly.  “I recently did my 10 year plan.  During the next 10 years I want to start my own marketing firm that focuses on the needs of nonprofits, schools, and small businesses.”

Angie (Photo: Reed)

I asked Angie to tell me a little about herself and she said, “I love traveling, laughing, and great ideas.  And I love cheese…Gouda and other soft cheeses!”  We talked about some of her favorite places she has visited.  “I really like San Juan, Puerto Rico.  The people are so welcoming.”  She went on to say, “I love that you can get a delicious meal, a drink, and dessert for $12 there!”

She came to Washington five years ago and enjoys every minute of living here.  “There is so much to do in DC.  There isn’t a monotonous culture here like some places.”

In response to my question about what she would do about with the $10, Angie said, “Well, I’m a pedestrian.  There are a lot of times that I haven’t had enough money to go from point A to point B.  So, I am going to keep the money until I find someone who needs help getting someplace.”

Angie allowed me to take speak with her on camera for a few minutes.  She talks about the most influential person in her life; her mother.  As I said earlier, this was supposed to be posted yesterday.  It would have been a perfect tribute to Mother’s Day.  Angie also talks about Rwanda, where she was born, and how the genocide there has affected her life.

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I got another package for Anthony (Day 67) last week.  This time it was from Jamie in Alabama!  Take a look!

Later that day I came across Robert. 

Robert shared with me that he had a serious drug and alcohol addiction in the past; PCP, crack, heroin, you name it.  But after getting high one time and breaking into a school in PG County, he was arrested and served 12 months of an 18 month sentence.  That he said cleaned him up. “I did my time and I appreciate what it did for me, but I don’t ever want to do it again” he told me.

Now Robert lives with his mother and makes a living selling personalized greeting cards at the corner of 17th and H in DC.  Although never married, he has five sons. 

You can see some of Robert’s work here.

Robert is going to put the $10 toward his Metro card so that he can get to and from the corner where he sells his cards.  He says he is there Monday through Friday from 7am to 7pm.

If anyone knows of jobs related to drawing, Robert welcomes your help.

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On Monday morning I was enjoying a chat with my friend David on the sun-drenched patio of Kramerbooks.  David was in town from New York City, where people are apparently accustomed to seeing famous people all the time. 

We hadn’t been seated for more than a few minutes and David said, “The guy who plays McNulty on The Wire just walked in.”  I don’t watch The Wire, so I wouldn’t have recognized actor Dominic West even if I had seen him.  About two weeks ago I walked out of the Asian restaurant RICE here in DC and didn’t notice actor Kal Penn holding the door for me.  I am simply lousy at recognizing actors – I once got frustrated with Sir Anthony Hopkins and elbowed him.  I had no idea it was the famed English actor.  I guess I just don’t watch enough television and movies, or perhaps I just don’t pay enough attention.  Who knows?

Anyway, I suggested to David that I give my $10 to the hit HBO series actor.  David got up and did a quick sweep of the store and said that he had already left out another door.

We went back to talking.

About 30 minutes later David says to me, “You are not going to believe this, but Peter Ustinov is sitting behind you.”  Ok, what is the chance of David seeing two famous actors in the span of about 30 minutes…4 blocks from my home in Washington, DC no less!  I found myself repeating his name in an effort to draw a connection to who Peter Ustinov was.  Spartacus is the only thing that came to mind…but I couldn’t recall the details of his appearance.  Both of us showing our geek side quickly Googled the actor’s name on our phones and sure enough, the man behind me looked a lot like him.  The man sitting behind me looked a little younger than the image on my phone, but was pretty similar.

I decided to offer him my $10 and see if we were right.  David reminded me, “If he has a British accent, then it’s definitely him.”

I approached the man and explained my giving project.  In an English accent, he politely replied, “I would love to but actually I have to be leaving to take a flight.” 

I asked for his name just to track in my records which is my common practice. 

He replied, “Peter.”

This is him!  Wow, this is kind of exciting.  I had to ask him if he was the famed English actor of Spartacus, many Agatha Christie movies, Lorenzo’s Oil, etc.  “No,” he said shaking his head side to side.  “I get that a lot, but I am much younger and not nearly as fat as him!” he said with a grin. 

My first thought was that he was politely denying being the real Peter Ustinov…I mean what are the chances that they look similar, have British accents, and are both named Peter!

Peter Ustinov

Pieter Ariaans (Photo: Reed)

As it turns out, I was speaking with Pieter Adriaans, an accomplished Dutch professor, scientist, and painter.  He was sitting by himself reading Programming the Universe by MIT professor Seth Lloyd.  “It’s interesting, however, I disagree with some fundamental points that he makes in the book.”

Pieter probably can make a good case for his arguments too!  He studied philosophy and mathematics in Leiden, The Netherlands and has been active in research in the areas of artificial intelligence and relational database systems since the mid 1980s.  He later cofounded a company called Syllogic that he sold to little company out of Plano, TX called Perot Systems.  Since then, he has focused mostly his research, sailing, and painting.

Pieter was part of a very interesting sailing project to make a state-of-the-art sailing vessel that had superior auto-piloting.  You can find out more here at the Robosail Sailing Lab’s website.

I don’t know when he has time to do his painting, but apparently he does.  He has hundreds of impressive works.  You can browse through his paintings on his website which has paintings that date back to the 1960s.

Pieter was such an interesting person that every answer triggered a new question, but I was ever mindful of his time, so I thanked him for sharing a few minutes with me and said goodbye. 

David says he will leave the $10 as an extra tip for someone working in the service industry while he is here in the US.

As we were leaving, David said he saw Harrison Ford walking into the bookstore.  Ok, I just made that up!

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On Sunday I visited my good friends Tom and Tressa and their almost five-month-old daughter Tegan. We went to Fountainhead Regional Park and did some hiking around the Occoquan River Reservoir, which serves as a border between Fairfax and Prince William counties.

We stumbled across a group of people fishing. A young guy who had ventured out on a log a few feet captured my attention. He was wearing a dark shirt, extra long shorts, socks, and sandals. He deftly balanced his weight has he almost effortlessly cast his line in and out. As I approached him I thought he was reeling in a fish, but it turned out to be some branches that his hook got caught up in.

Victor reels in what turns out to be some branches (Photo: Reed)

Victor is a 20-year-old landscaping entrepreneur. For the last three years he has been growing VMR Landscaping in the Northern Virginia region; mostly in Falls Church, Manassas, and Manassas Park. I asked him how business was doing and he quickly replied that the business was doing very well. “Especially power-washing. Right now that is a big part of my business.”

Victor loves to fish. He had caught about four fish that day, but only one was a keeper, a fish with some black coloring on its underside measuring in a little over a foot. His record was a catfish which measured up to his thigh. On Sunday he was mostly catching Crappies, a fish I had never even heard of, but the name alone makes me think that they are a disappointing fish.

All of a sudden he got a bite and started reeling in a fish, but it got away. Took his bait too. I asked him what kind of bait he used and he said that he usually used night crawlers, shrimp, liver or sardines. He is going to use my $10 to rent a boat the next time he comes out to fish…they run about $11 for the day.

Victor shared with me that he does not know his biological mother. Born in El Salvador, he moved here with his father when he was just a few years old. He says that he would like to know her. Her name is Maria Maldalena Arana, although I found very few cases of Maldalena. More common are Magdalena and Madalena…so perhaps I wrote down the incorrect spelling. The last he knew of her was that she was living in Arlington, VA around 1996. Victor thinks that he has a younger sister too. As much as I can understand his desire to meet his mother, I imagine that he must have mixed feelings about it. He must have so many questions. So many emotions.

If anyone has information about Victor’s mother, please comment here or send me an email and I will pass it along to Victor. I would also like to ask that if you live in the Falls Church/Manassas/Manassas Park area and are looking for landscaping services that you consider giving Victor a try. Drop me a note and I can connect you.

Victor caught a small fish that he threw back (Photo: Reed)

As I said goodbye Victor got another bite…this time he reeled the fish in. Unfortunately it was just a little guy. I grabbed a photo of him and the fish before he tossed it back.

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Last Friday night we wrapped up our planning session for the DC 48 Hour Film Project pretty late and I got back to my home in DC around midnight.  While I searched my house for clothes and props that I would need the next day, one of our team members, Matt, spent all night writing the screenplay.

Once I got all my stuff ready, I dissolved into my bed and fell asleep, only to wake up at 5:30am to be ready to start filming in Springfield, VA at 7:00am. 

We spent all day filming.  My character was Marco Gabbowitz, a washed out ballroom dance champion who now works as a dog walker.  Marco, and his former partner Kiki Patron, decide to make a run for the championship one last time.  Well, if you want to see the film before we win Oscars and become famous, check it out this Thursday night at 7pm at the AFI Silver Theater in Silver Spring, MD.  Tickets are $10 for about a dozen short films starting at 7pm.

Georgia Mae (Photo: Reed)

So Saturday I was filming all day.  One of the people that was going to be in the movie with us was 13-year-old Georgia Mae.  As it turns out, she is quite the movie star having already been in a major motion picture, Familiar Strangers.  In addition to being a movie star in her own right, she is also the youngest person to receive my $10!  

Georgia Mae is in middle school where she loves to play the standup double bass and piano.  She recently taught herself how to play the electric bass.  I learned that when she first started playing the standup bass that often times teachers and others would have to help her carry it because it was so much bigger than her.  Now she even plays in the jazz band at school.  She used to play the violin and cello.  “I didn’t really like the sound I made with either of them,” she told me.  Sounds awfully similar to my saxophone days.

Georgia Mae is a very sweet girl.  When I asked her what she would like to do with the $10, she replied, “I am going to buy ice cream for my two little brothers.”  That is in fact just what she did.  She even treated her parents too!  Her mother later wrote me and said that Georgia Mae bought the ice cream and they ate it “on some homemade strawberry rhubarb crisp.”  Sounds good!

Photo: Reed

If you come see the film, I know that you will enjoy one of the scenes that Georgia Mae and I are in together.  In the scene I am out walking Sarah’s dog Laredo and come across Georgia Mae.  I say hello to her but she is so embarrassed to be seen with me that she shoots me a look and then crosses the street to avoid being seen with me.  The expression on her face was priceless!

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A few weeks ago I got an email from my friend Betsy saying that some friends of hers were entering in the DC 48 Hour Film Project.  She recommended that I go and be a part of a team called SwimFast, LiveSlow.  The 48 Hour Film Project describes itself as “a wild and sleepless weekend in which you and a team make a movie—write, shoot, edit and score it—in just 48 hours.”

On Friday evening each team receives a character, a prop, a line of dialogue and a genre that all must be included in a 4-7 minute film.  Then you work feverishly throughout the weekend to make the film and turn it in 48 hours later on Sunday evening.  The elements that we had to incorporate into our film were:

Genre:  Buddy Film
Character:  Marco or Muffin Gabbowitz, a person who works with animals
Prop:  a horn 
Line of Dialogue:  “Do you think you can do that again?” 

So last Friday evening I drove over to Springfield, VA to meet with the team.  I only knew Betsy and another friend Jeff from a play we did together last year.  It was there that I met Sarah.

Sarah is 32 and lives in Northern Virginia with her husband Van and their 14-month-old boy Will.

When Sarah is not watching little Will or participating in zany weekend film challenges, she is teaching 4th grade students at a nearby elementary school.  She says she likes 4th graders because, “they are old enough to understand occasional sarcasm but young enough to not be too cool.”  Her school is very different to the one that she attended when she was a young girl growing up in Lynchburg, VA.

I went to an all-white public school, the school where I teach is very diverse.  English is a second language to many of the students.  You can clearly see students who are living in poverty – some have to wear the same clothes almost every day to school. – Sarah H.

Sarah and her dog Laredo, both starred in our film (Photo: Reed)

When I explained the Lend a Hand program to Sarah, she said that she would love to find someone who is talented in needlework and sewing to volunteer about once a week for 3-4 hours until the end of the school year.  The school is located in the Falls Church, VA area.  If you, or someone you know, are interested in this opportunity, leave a comment here and I will contact you.

I learned a little trivia about Sarah too!  She has submitted a video application to be a contestant on the Survivor not once, but twice!  I asked her to share some of the video here, but I haven’t received anything yet…keep your fingers crossed.  And if anyone out there reading this knows how to get Sarah on the show – maybe there is still a chance for her!

Sarah’s $10 will go toward the cost of getting a baby-sitter for this coming weekend.

As for the film, we got it done and submitted it on time.  They are showing our film on Thursday night at 7pm at the AFI Silver Theater, 8633 Colesville Road, Silver Spring, MD 20910.  I am going to go see it.  I have not seen any of it yet, so I have no idea how I did or how the film turned out after being chopped up, edited, and put back together.  I am a little scared to watch myself bomb on the big screen.

Tickets are $10 for about a dozen short films starting at 7pm.

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Last Thursday I was still pretty sick from the stomach virus I came down with on Wednesday.  I finally got myself out of bed around 8pm and walked up to Dupont Circle and found Warren, a two-year veteran of the Street Sense sales force, resting on a chained fence hawking newspapers.

Warren holding the new issue of Street Sense (Photo: Reed)

I have never met Warren before, but I have heard his untiring refrain, “Street Sense, Street Sense, Street Sense, Street Sense.”

Born and raised in Washington, DC, Warren has spent most of his time in the nation’s capital, however, he did spend about 5 years in Japan as a youth.  He now spends his afternoons most days selling the Street Sense, usually in and around Dupont Circle.  It helps support him, but he confides that he would love to have a job that paid a little more.  He used to work in the office printing business as well as drive a delivery van and hopes to be able to return to similar more stable work.  When the weather is bad now, he barely scrapes by due to low paper sales.  If you know of any potential jobs for Warren, please let me know.

Warren was kind enough to let me videotape him briefly.  Take a look.

Warren said he was going to use my $10 to help buy him some groceries.

If you have not already signed up for the Worldwide Day of Giving on Facebook, please do so now!  June 15th is less than 45 days away!

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Last Wednesday I met up with Danny Harris, the creative mind behind The People’s District blog who I met on Day 64.  If you haven’t checked out Danny’s website, please do.  I love it. 

Duke Ellington School of the Arts (Photo: Reed)

Anyway, we just met up to have a coffee and share some conversation.  At some point, Danny looked at me and asked, “What are you doing this afternoon?” In the spirit of unemployment, I responded that I was pretty busy but that I might be able to squeeze something in.  I asked him what he had in mind and he shared that he was teaching a Media and Communications course at the Duke Ellington School of the Arts in the afternoons and asked if I would be a special guest in one of the classes.  I happily accepted the invitation. 

Danny picked me up on his scooter around 1:30.  Yep, I was strapped on the back of his scooter heading through Upper Georgetown.  Thank goodness nobody caught a picture of me looking ridiculous trying to figure out where to put my hands and feet.

The school is very different than the school that I attended.  Students seemed to be treated much more like adults.  The far wall was covered in books.  The chairs were set up in the shape of a circle.  The room itself was rather different.  Picture a room that has an opening to another room on one side and along the other side a wall that didn’t go all the way to the ceiling allowing discussion in the adjacent room to be heard. 

(Photo: Reed)

The ninth graders started trickling in and several came in and politely introduced themselves to me.  

Danny started his class and later introduced me.  I took a ten dollar bill out of my Moleskine notebook and showed it to the class and asked, “What would you do if I gave you $10.”  Ideas started spewing forth, but most of the ideas were focused on what they would buy for themselves.  Then I asked, “What about doing something for someone else?”  Most students then started brainstorming ideas that involved others, many of the ideas focused on how to help a teacher at the school who recently suffered a miscarriage.  It was amazing to see these young minds at work.  Sure there were the occasional moments of pure chaos, but mostly it was controlled chaos.

Danny and I posed several questions like:

“Does it matter what the person does with the money?”

“Does the giver’s intentions matter?”

“How would you feel if you gave money to someone who said they needed it and you later found out they had lied about their situation and didn’t really need the money as much as they said they did?”

“When you give, do you make any conditions on your kindness or do you do it unconditionally?”

The debate was fantastic. 

9th Grade Media & Communications Class (Photo: Reed)

The time seemed to fly by and we were getting very close to the end of the class and the sound of the bell signaling the change of class.  I told the students that I was going to give my $10 to them as a group and they had to agree on what to do with it.  There was no shortage of ideas.  Many of them involved helping the aforementioned teacher, others involved raising money for various causes.  They settled on the idea of using my $10 as the foundation of a fund that they would themselves contribute to in order to host an open mic night to raise money for their class.  

This was an amazing opportunity to interact with the students.  I hope that they consider doing something on June 15th as part of the Worldwide Day of Giving and share their experiences here with all of us.

I walked home, it’s about a mile or two.  On the way home I started getting really sick.  It was the beginning of a 36 hour stomach flu that wiped me out last week.  I have since fully recovered!

Tonight I am doing an interview with a Korean radio station…should be interesting!  I will let you know how it goes.

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Last Tuesday was an exciting and busy day for the Year of Giving project.  As I went out on my journey looking for someone to give my $10 to, I was accompanied by a local TV news crew that is doing a story on the project.  I will let everyone know when the segment will air.

Another exciting element of Tuesday was that I was able to deliver some much needed clothes and shoes to Anthony from Day 67.  Maureen and Josh from PA sent him some shoes and socks.  Darnell from MD had sent me some items for Gregory from Day 71, but Gregory has disappeared.  I have not seen him for over a month and the local businesses near where he used to panhandle everyday say that they have not seen him either.  One of the items that Darnell sent was a brand new Tommy Hilfiger waterproof jacket.  I thought that it might fit Anthony and it did!  A big thank-you to Maureen, Josh, and Darnell!  Check out this short clip of Anthony receiving the items.

Then it was off to find the recipient of the day.  I headed over to the neighborhood of Georgetown and found Mariana.  She said she didn’t have time to participate and that she really needed more like $1,000 not $10, so I kept on looking.

Davenport, IA

Just a few seconds later I spotted a young woman waiting to cross Wisconsin Avenue.  Her name was Katelyn.  The 21-year-old from Davenport, IA, is a junior at Olivet Nazarene University in Bourbonnais, IL, just 50 minutes south of Chicago’s Loop.  She has been in DC this semester as part of the university’s Study Abroad Program.  While here in DC, she has also had the opportunity to intern with Senator Chuck Grassley of Iowa, Katelyn’s home state.

I asked Katelyn where she was headed and she answered that she was walking over to a boutique to pick up her dress for the Naval Academy’s Ring Dance, where her boyfriend attends school.  Let me stop and tell you that Katelyn has a beautiful smile.  When she started talking about her boyfriend and attending the Ring Dance, she was beaming. 

Katelyn (Photo: Reed)

I tried to take copious notes, but I may have gotten this wrong.  The Ring Dance is a special ceremony where the second class midshipmen, third year students, receive their class rings.  Their date wears the ring around their neck and then during the ceremony they dip the ring into water from all seven seas.  This is a pretty big deal for the midshipmen.  There is even a website that has a countdown clock letting you know exactly how long until the Ring Dance 2010 as well as the 2011 event!  If you were wondering, at the time of this post, it was 20 days, 6 hours, and 40 minutes.

Although Katelyn said she felt like she should do something greater with the $10, she said the money would most likely be used for lunch.  Her decision could have been influenced by the fact that it was 2:00 and she hadn’t had lunch and said that she was really hungry.

 I asked her what her thoughts on giving were.  She flashed her beautiful smile again and said, “I think it’s very important.” In fact, she was on her way back from volunteering that morning at Martha’s Table.  She also has volunteered her time at the Capitol Hill Pregnancy Center, and other organizations.  

After spending this term in Washington, DC, Katelyn said, “I have learned a lot about myself.  I used to think I wanted to go to law school, now I think I might want to teach English.”

As far as those who want to help Katelyn, she thought of two things that people could help her with.  The first one is that she hopes to go to Japan sometime soon as her boyfriend’s sister is currently living there.  Katelyn would like some tips on how to get good deals for traveling to Japan.  Also, with her recent thoughts on her career, she would love to find an English professor who would serve as a mentor to her so that she can better plan her future in order to realize her goal of becoming an English professor herself.  Please leave a comment here or drop me a note if you have any advice for Katelyn or know of a potential mentor for her.

As I left, I spotted John from Day 40.  He said he was not doing well and had just been diagnosed with Cancer.  Every time I have met John, either someone in his family has died or he has been diagnosed with a new life-threatening issue.  You want to believe people, but this sounds like too much.  For his sake, I hope the stories aren’t true.

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