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Archive for October, 2010

Sea of rally-goers between me and the Capitol. (photo: Reed)

Good morning!  DC is full of visitors this weekend for the Rally to Restore Sanity.  Led by Jon Stewart of the Daily Show, the event was supposed to be a rally to bring people together.  Unfortunately I think it ended up being attended almost exclusively by democrats.  It would have been nice to have a more inclusive audience.  

My dad came down from Pennsylvania and we went down to the rally.  I can not tell you too much about what happened there because there were way more people there than what they expected.  As a result, there were not enough speakers/jumbo screens for most of us to hear or see what was happening.  It’s too bad too, because I really like Stewart.  I think he is wickedly smart not to mention one of the funniest guys on television.  I would have given him my $10 – but that didn’t happen.  I did give it to a 16-year-old student from NC who attended the rally with his father.  His story in a couple of weeks.

Located at Connecticut and DeSales, The Mayflower Hotel was home to President Harry S. Truman for three months while the White House was being renovated. (photo: Reed)

As for today, I want to introduce you to Luis.  I met him a few weeks ago outside the Mayflower Hotel here in DC when the IMF sessions were taking place in Washington.  Originally from El Salvador, Luis works in the private transportation industry.  On this day, he was chauffeuring executives to and from their meetings.  He’s been in this business for the past ten years he tells me.  Some times he has been hired to make long trips too.  “Last week I went to New York City twice,” Luis said. 

In front of us was a herd of black Town Cars, Escalades, Suburbans – all with tinted windows.  Some had signs in the window to indicate who they were reserved for.  “BNP Paribas” read one sign referring to the French banking powerhouse.  Another had a sign for the London-based HSBC. 

A flight crew from Lufthansa exited and crowded the side entrance to the hotel, about 10 feet from where we were standing.  They all lit cigarettes and a cloud of tobacco smoke settled over us.  Luis, neatly dressed in a black suite with a blue tie, shook his head in disgust and took a few more steps away from the airline personnel.  

His cell phone rang and he excused himself and took the call speaking in Spanish.  He returned a few minutes later apologizing for the interruption.  He explained that his clients were just about ready to leave so I let him get back to work.  

IMF/World Bank Meetings (IMF Photo/Stephen Jaffe)

Before shaking his hand and wishing him good luck, I asked him if he had thought about what he would do with the ten dollars.  He said he would probably use it to buy some breakfast that week. 

He asked not to be photographed and also preferred to not provide any contact information.  Hopefully he will be in touch later so that I can make sure he gets information about the year-end celebration.

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Giving is the theme of this post!

Click on the link below and help Maggie reach her goal! (photo: Reed)

I found myself swallowed up in a sea of pink on Connecticut Avenue.  I ended up walking south forced by the inertia of the mass of walkers in the Susan G. Komen 3-Day for the Cure, a 60 mile trek that begins in Maryland and finishes with a spectacular view of the monuments of our nation’s capital.

I found myself next to Maggie, a 46-year-old mother of two who hails from Clarksville, TN.  “I’ve come up here the past three years to join my sister in the 3-Day,” Maggie tells me as she nears the 60 mile marker and the end of her journey.  “My grandmother and a couple of aunts battled breast cancer, but this year I am walking for my friend and coworker who had a double-mastectomy last week.”  She said that her friend was recovering well.

She didn’t hesitate a second and told me, “I’m going to donate the ten dollars to the Komen 3-Day.”  She could use the help too.  She is about $900 shy of the minimum pledge amount that walkers agree to which is $2,300.  She has a few more days to get donations…why don’t you donate $10 today toward Maggie’s goal!  Click here to donate.  I just donated another $10 online to her and it only took a couple of seconds.  And you’ll love her team name too: One TaTa at a Time.

Back home she works with the Wounded Warrior program at Fort Campbell. 

Maggie (right) poses for a photo with her sister who lives in the DC area. (photo: Reed)

She shared with me that she was deployed to Saudi Arabia in 1991.  She and two other women worked along side 300 Sri Lankan men washing all the clothes for the soldiers stationed there.  “It was a scary experience,” she said.  “There was not a night that I didn’t cry myself to sleep,” as a result of the Scud attacks.  

We arrived at the rest station and she got some water and a little rest before making the final steps to the finish line.  We hugged and I congratulated her for her walk and commitment to help find a cure for breast cancer.  She is a giver.  She’s a mother, she serves our country and even finds time to pursue worthy causes like the Komen 3-Day.  Let Maggie serve as a role model for all of us.  

Can you say hero? (photo: Reed)

As I left I saw a man doing the walk with the help of a prosthetic leg.  Tell me that’s not inspiring!  Way to go!

On my way home I saw Tommy from Day 230.  He seemed to be doing ok but was suffering from depression.  He is on medication and is hopeful that he will improve.

By the way, this was 10-10-10 Give a Stranger 10 Bucks Day.  I totally forgot to tell Maggie about this. I was so wrapped up in the mobs of marchers that it totally slipped my mind!  I do do this every day, so sometimes I kind of shift over to auto-pilot.  However, my I met my friend Tricia for lunch and afterwards she gave $10 to my neighbor Howard who walked by!

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Ben, me and Ian. I look ridiculous I know! (photo: Reed)

One thing I did not do enough of this summer is ride my bike.  I meant to meet up with Mark E. from Day 132 and go for a ride.  He is an avid rider and offered several times to meet up.  I did manage to get out a few weeks ago though and took my $10, notebook and camera with me.

Somewhere about a mile or so north of Georgetown is a place called Fletcher’s Boat House.  It was there I spotted Ian and Ben.

You can rent boats to go out on the Potomac River at Fletcher's. (photo: Reed)

“I’m officially a police officer,” Ian tells me.  “But I consider myself an EMT.”  It turns out he is quite the busy guy.  He is juggling classes at George Washington with his work as a police officer and EMT.  “I hope to go to med school,” he says in a steady confident tone.  Somewhere in all of that he finds time to get away and enjoy the beautiful crescent trail.  And let me tell you, it is stunning this time of year.

A senior at GW, Ben is figuring out what he wants to do.  “I’m leaning toward the music industry,” he says shrugging his shoulders a little bit.  He’s double majoring in philosophy and psychology, you’d think that this would help to give you the critical thinking skills necessary to figure out what direction to go in, but who knows, maybe it just complicates the entire equation. 

Ian's got his eyes set on going to medical school. (photo: Reed)

My notes say that Ben was going to use his $5 to buy some bottled water.  Next to that I wrote, “or deep fried H20” it looks like.  I have no idea what that means, I certainly don’t remember him saying that.  Let’s see if he checks in on the site and tells us.  As for Ian, he was going to put it toward his Metro fare card to get to his EMT station.  

I got a kick out of something Ben told me.  “Ian is time-locked in the 80s.”  That’s kind of funny, because if I do the math right he was born in 1989.  I guess that first year really influenced him!  “Music, TV-wise, movies….he loves Scarface,” Ben goes on. 

Ben needs our help to get an internship at a performing arts center. (photo: Reed)

Hey performing arts centers…Ben needs an internship.  Ideally he would like to get a programming or production internship at the Kennedy Center.  Shoot me a message or leave a comment if you can help Ben out.  Oh, and by the way, if there is dancing at the year-end celebration, I hope Ben comes.  Ian told me, “Ben can dance to absolutely any kind of music.”  Wow…the bar has been set pretty high.  Maybe instead of his internship he ought to try out for the show So You Think You Can Dance?

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The Old Post Office Pavilion (photo: Reed)

How the Old Post Office Pavilion looked in 1911. Free tours of the 315 ft. tower are available daily.

I was strolling along Pennsylvania Avenue taking photographs when I was struck by the beautiful flowing flags in front of the majestic Old Post Office Pavilion.  Built in 1899, it houses a little known gem: the view from the clock tower.  Take a free tour of the tower and get an unparalleled 360 degree view. 

After snapping a few photographs, I continued on Pennsylvania Avenue where I found Dave enjoying an afternoon cigar break from his job in IT at the EPA.  He’s a ten-year veteran of the agency and walks the talk of technology.  “That’s an Archos,” he told me pointing at a handheld device he was browsing.  I hadn’t heard about them, but here is a picture of one of the models.

I offered Dave the ten bucks and he refused and suggested that I give it to someone more deserving.  “I’ve actually read about you I think in the Washington Post,” Dave said.  “Or somebody doing the same thing here in DC.”  I am pretty sure it’s just me doing it every day in DC.  If there is someone else out there…drop me a note!  We should meet up and exchange $10!

Dave enjoying a cigar on a beautiful autumn day. (photo: Reed)

I sat down next to Dave and let my back have a break from the weight I was carrying around in my backpack.  It was a gorgeous day and I was thrilled to take a minute and just soak in the serenity from Dave’s shaded vantage point along Pennsylvania Avenue.  

I talked to him a little more and convinced him to take the $10.  I’m getting better at this!  He said that he wouldn’t keep the money though; he preferred to give it someone else.

This is the handheld device Dave was using.

I found out that he’s married and a father to two boys.  One is in high school and the other is away at college.  “He claims it is going fine,” he says about the college freshman.

About this time a beggar walked up and asked for some money.  We were both silent and I was wondering if Dave would give him the $10.  Would I reach into my pocket and give him a few dollars.  But we both somewhat automatically shook our heads no and said that we were unable to help and he walked away.  Actually we were both able to help, but we didn’t.  This has happened before and I think it is interesting from a psychological point of view.  It’s a challenge to analyze this issue fairly in a city like Washington where you get asked probably two or three times a day minimum for money.

Dave could give George A. from Day 201 a run for the money in a Santa Claus beard competition. (photo: Reed)

After he left Dave explained that he was going to give his $10 to a homeless man that was usually at the corner of Constitution and 12

th.  “He always has a friendly hello,” Dave said.  “Every time I walk by him for almost two years; and he only ever asked for money once.  He just says hello.” 

I knew Dave needed to get back to work so I headed on my way.  Later that evening I went for a run and visited with John, the man who holds the signs in front of the Vatican’s embassy here in Washington.  He was doing well.  He has a new banner that he is holding and somebody hacked his website too he told me.  It was good to see him.  All in all, a great day.

UPDATE: 10/28/2010

Check out the comment below from Dave sharing what happened to the $10.  I got a very nice email from him as well today where he said something that I want to share: “I’ve said it to many people on many occasions but I don’t think I’ve ever meant it quite as much: keep up the good work.”  That means a lot to me.  Thanks Dave!

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Kyle (aka Kevin) on the left with his friend Chris. (photo: Reed)

I met two guys that totally cracked me up!  I was at the Social Safeway in Georgetown when I ran into these guys talking football.  They were hanging out at the Starbucks Café that is inside the Safeway.

After some short discussion on who was going to accept my $10 they decided on Kevin.  Kevin told me that he was 21 and lived in Maryland.  Wearing a tie, he told me that he had come from work at a DC museum.  A few days later he emailed me and confessed that his name was not really Kevin and he didn’t work at the museum he told me about.   “Frankly I don’t tend to trust strangers so I made it up,” he wrote in the email.  Now, I kind of had a feeling that Kevin wasn’t his real name because he had referred to himself in a story as Kyle, his friend Chris called him Kyle, and his email had the name Kyle in it!  Hmmm.  He’s a good guy and just not able to lie very well.  That’s a good thing!

Well, I am sure I have received plenty of false names from my recipients.  I mean be honest, would you trust a guy who walked up to you and offered you $10.  You would think that there was some sort of catch, right?

So Kyle is originally from Philadelphia and is an Eagles fan.  “I liked McNabb and I didn’t like that they traded him,” he told me referring to Donovan McNabb being traded to the Redskins.  Although an Eagles fan, he owns a Michael Westbrook jersey.  Westbrook used to be a wide receiver for the Redskins.  I found out about the jersey because apparently when the Redskins played the Eagles back on October 3rd, my man Kyle bet his buddy Chris, who was with him at the Safeway, that if the Eagles lost he would drink as many shots of Grey Goose as the Eagles lost by AND, here is the kicker, eat a portion of his Michael Westbrook jersey!  Yes!  Well, Chris says that he chickened out on the shots and eating the jersey.  Instead he wore a McNabb jersey for a day. 

So this whole thing about betting and money lead to a discussion about what Kyle was going to do with the $10 he now had in his hands.  You guessed it, he put up a $10 bet with Chris on the following Monday night gave between the Vikings and the Jets.  His buddy Chris claims to be a die-hard Jets fan but Kyle says that Chris is just jumping on the band wagon.  They are doing well…in fact they are tied for first place with a 5-1 record.  Anyway, check out this video to see these two go at it about their bet.  I love these guys!  Chris’ comment about “guys wearing a suit” is hilarious the way he delivers it.

Oh yeah and Kyle said that if they won, he was going to frame the $10.  On the day of the game he sent me an email and said, “I’ve kept the $10 stored in my house hidden from the rest of my family and Chris is going to come over today to see the game. Hopefully I get to keep this money!”  As it turns out, the Jets won 29-20 and Kyle lost the $10 and did some shots of Grey Goose.

I wonder what their bet will be for the upcoming Redskins – Eagles rematch here in Washington on November 15th!  Maybe Kyle or Chris will give us an update on here.

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After 21 years with US Steel, drugs and alcohol have left Michael homeless. (photo: Reed)

In the early hours of October 5th I had just given my money to Alexander and Phaze.  I was talking to Alexander and getting my things together to leave because it was about 1:00am and I had to be at work in a few hours. Right then a guy pulled up on a Trek bicycle.  My initial thought was that the bike might have been stolen since it was missing the seat.  In a soft voice he approached me and said, “You want the real story?” He claimed that Alexander’s story was not representative of those facing real hardships on the streets.  “I don’t choose to be out here,” he said.  Although he was critical of Alexander’s choice to sell

StreetWise magazines, I support it.  I have seen how Street Sense here in DC has changed the lives of many individuals here in DC.  Michael was telling me that he was deserving of the $10 because of the hardships of his life.

So to give you an idea how this went down, I was filming Alexander and just let the camera running when Michael rolled up and started talking to me. Here is the raw unedited (with the exception of one part where we were interrupted) video from that conversation.

Michael said he goes daily to the labor lines in search of day work. “I get work probably once a week,” he told me.

Michael showed me the scars from where he was shot in Seattle. (photo: Reed)

He also told me that he survived a shooting in Seattle. Michael explained that it resulted from an incident where some other man pulled up the skirt of the woman he was with. He stood up for her and ended up getting shot six times. Michael pulled up his shirt to show me the wounds.

Michael's seatless bicycle (photo: Reed)

Before leaving Michael offered to give me the money back. I don’t really know why and I told him to keep it and he did. He said he was going to use it to buy food that week.
Right as I was packing up my stuff, another guy named Tim came by and also asked for money.  What is going on here?  Did someone tweet that a crazy guy was handing out money at Michigan and Randolph? Anyway, I politely told Tim no and headed home.

On my way home a filmed the following video debrief.

Tomorrow, it’s back to DC.

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So you may have noticed that I have been slow posting blogs lately.  Well, I have been swamped.  But now something has complicated my blogging even more!  I have a FLIP Mino HD camera that I use to shoot my video.  It’s pretty awesome for the price range (about $200).  HOWEVER, there is one thing that drives me crazy and has now twice brought my blogging to a crawl.  Their current software versions only output the files in MP4 format.  Previous versions of the software made an automatic conversion to Windows Media Video (WMV).  The issue here is that the movie editor that comes with Windows and YouTube both don’t work with MP4 files, but do work with WMV.  So now I can not edit or upload my videos. 

I have spoken to their support team and they even rolled my software version back, but it has now automatically updated itself again.  Aghhh!!!  This cost me several hours last time it happened and will require several hours again.  Maybe I should get a new camera…any suggestions? 

So the bottom line is that I am skipping Days 295 and 296 for now.  Sorry…have had to jump to 297 since this entry has no video.

On Day 297 I tried to give my $10 to an older gentleman in front of the Verizon Center.  He refused and I walked a few blocks away to the corner of 9th and G Streets where I found Boyo.  That’s actually not his real name but he was not comfortable with me using that.  In fact he didn’t really want to share any details about himself.  He didn’t want pictures taken either. 

Boyo was selling the Street Sense newspaper in front of the Gallery Place Metro entrance.  Born in London, he moved to his parent’s birth country of Nigeria at the age of five.  At some point I guess he moved here, but he wouldn’t go into details about that.  Boyo, who I managed to learn was 45, talked about putting his life story together in the form of a book and said that once he did that we could read it and learn all that we wanted to about him.  But until then, he preferred to stay anonymous and advised me to speak with him through his “editor” which coincidentally is a person that I know.  Small world.

Anyway, I did get Boyo to tell me what he would use the money for.  He said he would get something to eat.

I gave him an extra dollar and bought one of his newspapers and caught the 42 bus home.

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I gave my $10 away on Michigan Ave between Randolph and Lake (photo: Reed)

So today I broke a 293 day streak.  It was Monday, October 4th, 2010 and I failed to give away my $10.  Well, sort of.  I gave it away a few minutes after midnight.

As you might remember I got to Chicago on Day 293.  On Day 294 I was in meetings all day and then went to a work related dinner.  By the time dinner was over and I said goodbye to my colleague, it was almost midnight.  I had just a few minutes to find someone.  I headed east on Washington Street toward Millenium Park.  I was about five blocks away so I hustled down there.  On the way I saw a woman walking by herself. I tried to give my $10 her but she refused.  It’s particularly difficult to give to women by themselves during the middle of the night.  

I got to Michigan Avenue and decided to walk north.  The cold wind off the lake made it feel like it was in the 30s.  I later saw that the low that night was 45, so I probably wasn’t far off.  I was glad I had brought a light jacket along on my trip.  I checked my watch and saw that it was now about 12:15am.  Dammit, I failed to give it away before midnight.  I slowed down now and took my time.  The streets were a far contrast to the bustling foot and car traffic that filled them during the work day.  Taxi cab headlights lit up the shadowy office complexes that surrounded me. 

Alexander captures one of Phaze's pieces (photo: Reed)

Between Randolph and Lake I saw two guys sitting on empty milk crates playing chess.  I slowly approached them.  They ignored me…talking trash trying to distract the other’s next move.

Alexander finally noticed me and I said hello.  I wasn’t sure what to think.  All of a sudden I started realizing that it was probably not a good idea to just be venturing out in a city that I am not familiar with after midnight.  Although I go to plenty of unsafe areas of DC, I usually know where I am, have someone with me, and know exactly what I am going to do if I get into trouble.  Here I found myself not really knowing where I was and not knowing what to expect with these two guys.

Behind them were several cans of 16 ounce Steel Reserve 211 beer, some plastic grocery bags and a bicycle with a hooded sweatshirt draped over it.

Alexander told me that he was released from prison on August 18th.  “I’ve been in and out of prisons and correctional facilities since I was 13,” the 55-year-old told me.  Although he seemed harmless, there was something a little unnerving about reaching into my pocket and taking out my wallet in front of a life long criminal…but I did it anyway.  I gave each guy $5.00.

I started to take some notes and they both got very suspicious.  I mentioned I wanted to take some photographs too and they became even more skeptical.  “You are a cop, man.” Phaze told me.  He was convinced that I was with the police.  I showed them my DC driver’s license, but that didn’t help, now they thought I was with a federal agency.  You’ll love this though.  Alexander chimed in, “No, no, no.  He ain’t no cop.  You know what he looks like.  He’s a sorry ass public defender, that’s what he is.  And I should know, I’ve known a few of them.”  I loved that.

They stopped talking with me and redirected their attention to the match at hand.  

Alexander showing me his picture and poetry in StreetWise. (photo: Reed)

“You ought to buy one of his magazines,” Phaze, the 29-year-old chess challenger said to me breaking the silence.  Alexander reached over into one of the plastic bags and pulled out a copy of StreetWise, a street magazine similar to the Street Sense newspaper we have in DC.  These papers/magazines are designed to give employment opportunities to the homeless and poverty-stricken as well as provide valuable insight into the challenges they and others in their situation face today.  I am a big fan of Street Sense so when I saw that he was a vendor for StreetWise, I had to buy a magazine.  “They’re two dollars,” Alexander said. 

While I was searching for a few bucks Phaze shouted over for me to look at the last page.  “Check out whose picture is in there next to their poetry,” he told me.  It turned out to be a photograph of Alexander next to three poems that he had written.  When I get caught up with my blog posts you will meet a Street Sense vendor named David on Day 304 who is a former convicted felon who also took up writing and poetry while in prison.

Phaze before he started to spit. (photo: Reed)

In my wallet I had two $5 bills and a ten.  I gave him five knowing that there would be no change.  He tucked the money away and went back to the game.  Phaze knew his moves were numbered.  “He is really good,” Phaze said about Alexander’s chess ability.  “He usually beats me.” 

I am not really sure what Phaze does.  His passion is spitting or spoken word poetry.  It’s a cocktail of poetry, hip-hop and rap all mixed together.  After being defeated at chess, he asks me to buy one of his CDs.  He keeps trying to get me to buy the CD for $5.  In an effort to convince me to buy it, he gives me a sample of it.  On this video you can see Phaze, whose full name according to him is Phaze Da King, spitting.  At the end he gets a little bothered by my videotaping and hits the camera out of my hand.  It’s all on video.  Check it out!

I was ok and so was my camera.  After getting him to settle down some, I gave him $5 for his CD.  It doesn’t play in my CD player so I need to take it to a computer that has a CD tray so that I can listen to it.  

Spitting was not Phaze's only means of expression. (photo: Reed)

So what do you think these two guys told me that they were going to do with their respective five dollars?  Well, Alexander told me that he was probably going to use it to buy some more magazines to sell.  “Or I might use it to buy me some food before that…or a toupee!” he said letting out a deep laugh.  I looked over at Phaze and asked the same question.  “I’m gonna hold on to it and give it to my son who is supposed to be born on January 1, 2011,” he said.

It was now about 1:00am.  I was tired and had to get up early in the morning for more meetings.  But my night was not nearly over.  As I was leaving I met another guy named Michael who met Alexander while they were in prison.  As it was now after midnight, I decided to make him the recipient of Day 295 and will share his incredible story with you tomorrow!

Here is a short video of Alexander.

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Nora's holds the distinction of being the first certified organic restaurant in the US.

Sorry for the delay in posting this week.  I appreciate all of your emails checking to see if I was ok!  I have been swamped at work, so I got behind.

Day 306 was was my father’s 70th birthday.  We took him to a restaurant near my house called Nora’s which has the distinction of being the first certified organic restaurant in the United States.

After our delicious dinner my father went with me to search the neighborhood for a $10 recipient.  Just a few blocks away along Connecticut Avenue we spotted a man inching his way down the street.  We would later find out that his slow gait was due to broken ankles and broken knees.

I stopped him and asked if he would accept the $10.  From beneath his black hooded rain poncho he spoke softly saying that he would accept my gift.  I proceeded to ask him a few questions but he said he was not comfortable answering any personal questions and did not want any photographs taken of him.  He offered to give them money back and I explained that the money was his to keep.

He was an African-American man who I suspected was in his 60s.  despite his slow walk he appeared in good health.  He had a stark white beard that seemed to block the words from getting out.  “I also have a dislocated organ,” he told us pointing to the left side of his abdomen.  Neither of us asked him to explain further.

He clenched the $10 in his worn hands.  I could see the dirt that had settled underneath his long fingernails. 

My dad and me at Nora's celebrating his 70th birthday! (photo: Ryan Sandridge)

“You can call me John I guess,” he told me in a way that I knew that wasn’t his real name.  John said I looked familiar and I thought for a moment that I might have already given my $10 to him earlier in the year, but after I spoke with him for a few minutes I was sure that I had not met him before. 

I told him that it was Dad’s 70th birthday.  “He’s got good skin,” he said in response.  He also said something about my father’s eyes.  I think he said that they were still well aligned, but Dad thinks he said that they were “alive.”  In either case, he made some nice comments about my dad. 

John says that he tries to write every day.  “Well, when it’s warm I come right here and write on these benches but when it gets cold I find a place indoors.”  I asked what he liked to write about and he explained that he had a book about verbs and he practiced making sentences where he put the verbs together with various statements.

He was carrying two plastic bags that contained some personal items.  He showed us bottles of multi-vitamins and Ensure.  “I take 3 multi-vitamins a day; I usually try to take them six hours apart however yesterday I took all three at the same time.”  He went on to say that every other day he drank a small bottle of Ensure.  “When I have a little extra money I usually spend it on vitamins or maybe a book.”

Since the conversation had circled back to money I decided to ask him what he planned on using the $10 for.  “To survive,” he said.  “I’m just going to use it to survive.”

The 42 bus rolled up and he said he was getting on.  He gave us both a fist bump and started inching his way toward the bus.  It took him a few minutes, but sure enough he got on and the bus pulled away disappearing into the traffic at Dupont Circle.

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U.S. Cellular Field

I recently had to travel to Chicago for some work related meetings.  I got some emails this morning from readers who read my post that today’s blog post was from Chicago and they thought Oprah had me on her show.  Nope, not the case.  I was there for some work related meetings.  My original plan was to arrive Sunday evening and return home Tuesday late afternoon.  You know how ticket prices can be and it turned out to be a lot cheaper to fly in Sunday morning.  Since I had all day to spend there I decided to find something to do.  As you might be able to tell from some of my posts I am a bit of a baseball fan and love seeing a game at the ball park.  I checked to see if either the Cubs or the White Sox where in town and sure enough the White Sox were playing their last game of the season.   

The White Sox would go on to beat Cleveland 6-3. (photo: Reed)

I got into O’Hare, took the subway downtown, dropped my luggage off at the hotel and headed over to U.S. Cellular Field.  I got there and followed the crowd over to the stadium.  A scalper approached me with some tickets for $40.  I told him that I only wanted to spend like $10 on tickets and he explained that the tickets he was selling were lower level good seats between third base and left field and he couldn’t sell them for that.  In the end he sold me the ticket for $15.  I spent another $5 on a White Sox cap (I buy a hat at every stadium I visit, I have 10 different ones now) and headed inside. 

The ball park is beautiful.  It was built in 1991 to replace the legendary Comiskey Park which dated back to 1910.  Comiskey was the oldest baseball park in use up until 1991; a title now owned by the Red Sox’s Fenway Park which I have also visited. 

Dan has been a White Sox fan for as long as he can remember. (photo: Reed)

I grabbed a bratwurst and a beer and went to find my seat.  Although decent, I was more impressed with the seat location and the stadium than the brat.  As I sat down the guy next to me asked if I had bought my ticket from a scalper outside.  I told him I had and we had fun comparing notes from our negotiating experience.  I think Dan paid $20 or $25, I can’t remember.  Two other guys showed up later who had paid $40 for the last two remaining tickets the guy was selling.

Dan and I posed for a photo on top of the White Sox dugout after the game.

Dan was very sociable at the park.  He’s the kind of guy that by the end of the game knows the people in front of him, in back of him and on both sides…and maybe even a vendor or an usher.  He shared a lot of information with me about the White Sox and the stadium.  It was nice to have my own personal guide!

I offered Dan my $10 and he accepted it.  This was the farthest west in the US that I have given away my $10 so far.  Dan works on the trading floor at the Chicago Exchange.  He is a big White Sox fan and comes to about 25-30 games a year.  He says he hasn’t been to a Cubs game since the Reagan administration.  “This here is for real baseball fans,” he says gazing around the stadium, “and the 2005 season was amazing!”  I noticed he was wearing a 2005 White Sox World Champion hat.  He missed most of the series though due to a trip down to the Caribbean island of Saba.  He also recalls the tie-breaker game in 2008 (also called the “Black Out” game on September 30th between the White Sox and the Minnesota Twins.)  “I was sitting high up over there behind home plate,” he says cocking his neck around and pointing to the top of the upper deck.  “This place went crazy when Jim Thome hit a homer in the 9th inning to win the game!”  It was Thome’s 541st home run and if you want to get an idea of how crazy things were at the ball park that evening, check out this link.  You can see how crowded it was and they show the home run and crowd reaction.  Simply beautiful.

Final scoreboard message (Photo: Reed)

I went to grab another beer and offered to get Dan one.  He told me that he didn’t drink.  “I stopped drinking on December 24, 1998 – It’ll be 12 years this December.”  I congratulated him on his sobriety and told him a little bit about some of the other people I had met through my year-long journey who are now sober (Bob and Michelle).  Dan continues to go to AA meetings and said that he was going to donate his $10 to his meeting group so that they can buy coffee, etc. for the meetings.

I asked him about family.  He is single now although he does have children he doesn’t have a relationship with them.  “That’s all part of why I went to AA,” he said.  Although he didn’t think there was a chance to rebuild that relationship I hope that some day he is able to be involved in their lives in some capacity.  

Photo: Reed

After the game Dan and I went down near the dugout to see if any players were coming out.  I took some more photos down there and then we decided to leave.  We walked back all the way to the subway together.  We were both going the same direction, however I was getting off before him.  He was a really nice guy and I hope to stay in touch with him.  We traded emails and said our goodbyes.  He told me to go to Al’s Beef on Taylor Street for the best sandwich in town or if I wanted pizza to check out Malnati’s.  I unfortunately didn’t make it to either one.  Next time.

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Thanks for all the warm wishes about what would have been my mother’s 67th birthday yesterday.  Your emails and comments here and on Facebook meant a lot to me.  Thanks!

Donville loves his job at Starbucks! (photo: Reed)

The Starbucks to people ratio in DC is off the charts.  I got to walk nearly eight blocks to get to a grocery store, and not even a very good one, but coffee, no problem, they’re everywhere!  Too bad I don’t drink much coffee because there are six Starbucks within a five block radius of my house.  Donville works at one of them.

I ran into him while he was on his break.  Originally from Long Island, New York, Donville has recently started there as a barista.  “I love it,” he told me.  “The best thing is connecting with people and building a relationship with the community.”

His father is Dominican so Donville grew up speaking some Spanish.  “It’s helpful when you can speak to someone who is not comfortable speaking in English,” he said. 

Donville came to DC to study at Howard University, but after a year and a half he decided to put things on hold for a while.  Although he doesn’t have any family here he seems to like DC quite a bit.  Speaking of family, he told me that he was going to put my $10 toward a trip home to New York to see his family during the holidays.  “I’d actually like to go home for both Thanksgiving and Christmas,” he said.  Hopefully my $10 will help.  The bus ticket can be pretty cheap – just ask Davie from Day 5 who after receiving my $10 went straight to catch a $24 bus to NYC.

Donville would like your help in locating his brother who was put up for adoption at the age of four. (photo: Reed)

One of eight brothers and sisters, Donville shared something very personal about his family with me.  Unfortunately his parents were not financially able to support the entire family and were forced to give one of his siblings up for adoption when he was young.  His little brother who was named Elyshawaun should be 14 years old now.  He and his family do not have contact with him any more.  Donville would like your help to locate either his brother or his biological father, William Gafney (or Gaffney), who also should know the whereabouts of his brother.  He didn’t know what Elyshawaun’s last name was, but they were both last known to be in Brooklyn.  If you remember Victor from day 139 you might recall that he shared with me that he had never met his mother.  I was pleasantly amazed when a blog follower, Linnie, used her genealogy skills and tracked his mother down!  Wow…that was amazing!  Hopefully we can find young Elyshawaun!

My ten dollar gift to Donville went toward a $7 pack of Newports.  I am always a little disappointed when the money gets spent on cigarettes.  But it is his choice.  I told him that my mother died of heart disease and was a long time smoker.  He said that he had only been smoking for about a year and planned on quitting some time.  “But just not now,’ he said.  He didn’t know where the other $3 would get spent…who knows, maybe he will read this and give us an update!  Maybe he has quit smoking by now.  You can do it Donville!

Check back tomorrow for my first blog post from my recent trip to Chicago!

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Lenora "Ann" Reed Sandridge 10/17/43-12/15/06

67 years ago today my mother was born in the small coal mining town of Richlands, Virginia.  She died 3 years and 307 days ago.  An extremely generous woman herself, she was a tremendous inspiration for the Year of Giving.  This entire journey is dedicated to her, but I want to take a special moment today to remember her and the joy that she added to so many peoples’ lives.  I love you Mom!

A shot of Jacy and friends through the window. (photo: Reed)

Two weeks ago I went to see Neil Simon’s California Suite at the Rockville Little Theatre.  I knew several people involved with the production so it was a lot of fun and they did a great job.  After the show my friend Pat who directed the first act invited me to join him and some other friends and cast members at Clyde’s Tower Oaks Lodge.  It was there that I gave my $10 to Jacy, a good friend of Pat and his wife Melanie.

Jacy donated his $10 to Silver Spring Stage. (photo: Reed)

Jacy, a married 34-year-old nonprofit attorney also has a passion for the arts.  He’s been involved with community theatre for the past seven years he tells me.  He mostly writes and directs shows but also can be seen on stage from time to time.  “I just finished my first gig as a producer,” he says.  “Not sure I’ll do that again though…it’s a lot of work and I didn’t enjoy it that much.”

He’s on the board at Silver Spring Stage and said that he planned on donating the $10 to the theatre company. 

Jacy is a huge Terps fan.  He graduated from the University of Maryland and admits that he is a die-hard fan.  When I told him about the Lend a Hand section he laughed and said, “Can you find someone who can fix the college games so that Maryland wins?”  He was joking but if I knew the right person I get the feeling he would be ok if I could make that happen!  Well, I don’t, so no luck Jacy.  I am going to see them play in a few weeks and although not as good as fixing the game I promise to cheer loudly…and it’s an away game so I will be taking some personal risk in doing so.

Jacy also follows pro football.  “I’m getting killed though in fantasy football!”  He looks down and shakes his head as he regrettably says “I drafted Larry Fitzgerald…he’s just not producing.”

This photo is a little out of focus but it's a good shot of Jacy. (photo: Reed)

Later he did come up with something for the Lend a Hand section.  He would like every single person reading the Year of Giving to go see a live theatre production this year.  I second that!

Oh, by the way, for those who have read all the blogs you might remember the Tower Oaks Lodge from Day 88 when I met Hans.  I asked for him but they said he had transferred to the Reston location.  I sent him an email earlier this week but haven’t heard back yet.  He was a good guy.

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Some of you might recall that two of my recipients are celebrating a very special day today.  October 16th is the anniversary of Bob (Day 251) and Michelle’s (Day 277) sobriety.  Bob has been sober 24 years and Michelle eight.  I am so proud of them both and am thankful to have met them through my Year of Giving!

A VW Beatle sits almost completely underwater as flood victims make their way through town by boat. (Photo: Alfredo Estrella, AFP)

Today I am going to tell you about a fascinating young woman.  But first let me give you a little background on the circumstances that I met Ximena.  In September parts of Mexico were devastated when torrential downpours caused disastrous flooding in the states of Oaxaca and Veracruz.  As you might know, I used to live in Mexico and have many friends there today.  Fortunately everyone I know is safe, however, hundreds of thousands of Mexicans were affected by the relentless waters.  In September a group here in DC put together a fundraiser to collect money to send to needy families in Mexico.  My neighbor Paulina, who is Mexican, told me about the event and I stopped by to donate some money.

The fundraiser was held at Lupe Cantina, 1214 18th Street, NW (photo: Reed)

In addition to my donation to the fundraiser, I made another “donation” of $10 to Ximena.  She is a performing artist who was preparing to sing that evening at the event.  I found a moment when she was not busy and approached her and explained the Year of Giving concept

Ximena talking to a friend. (photo: Reed)

Ximena is 34 years old and hails from the Mexico City.  This talented young singer caught my attention when she shared with me part of her life where she spent four years living on a bus.  That’s right.  At the time she was living in Austin, Texas when she met up with a guy from DC who had driven a bus down to Texas.  The bus, called “Destino 2000”, would later turn into the home for several individuals.  The core group was about four people.  They loaded up and started driving south into Mexico.  But they didn’t stop there; they kept on going to Belize, Guatemala, Honduras, Nicaragua, Costa Rica, etc.  “We worked everywhere,” she explained in Spanish, “to get enough money to get us to the next place.”

Ximena, originally from Mexico City, lived on a bus for four years. (photo: Reed)

Her experience on the bus taught her many things.  “When you live here you take many things for granted,” she told me.  Sometimes the most basic necessities presented challenges.  “Without drinking water you can not survive,” she added. 

There was one common thread that sustained the nomadic group during their journey: music.  “The music was always the vehicle that opened doors for us and sustained us,” Ximena said.

Last May she received her degree in music education.  She smiled and said, “It took me 14 years to do it, but I made it!”  Although she currently does not have a job she says that she is fortunate enough to pick up small projects here and there.  When I invited her to the year-end celebration in December, she said she would not be able to attend because she would be in Texas in the area that is made up of Juarez on the Mexican side and El Paso on the US side.  “I am organizing some Fandangos in response to the violence that that area has suffered.”  I thought that I met Ximena before the alleged murder of David Hartley by Mexican pirates, but after checking it was in fact the same day that I met Ximena.  As a side note, something seems strange about that case…I’m not sure we are getting the full story.

“When you live here you take many things for granted.” - Ximena (photo: Reed)

Anyway, being out of work you would think that Ximena would use the money to help pay for her rent or get some groceries but that was not the case.  “I’m going to send the money to my ‘papa’” she told me.  “He doesn’t work any more and I haven’t had very much to send him lately.”  I thought that was very touching.  Our parents do so much for us as children that it is nice to be able to help them when they are in need.

I unfortunately had another event that evening and had to leave before Ximena performed.  Hopefully I will get another chance.

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On the last day of the Nationals season, I decided to buy some cheap tickets and catch the final nine innings before the team hibernated for the winter.  Although the Nats lost 7-1 to the Phillies, there was something magical about the game.  Watching dads hold the tiny hands of their children as they took one last look at the field until next spring.  Teary-eyed fans hugging stadium staff as they left.  It reminded me of a quote by legendary baseball slugger Rogers Hornsby who once said, “People ask me what I do in winter when there’s no baseball. I’ll tell you what I do. I stare out the window and wait for spring.”

Martha has been an usher for the Nats for three seasons. (photo: Reed)

Martha, a lower level usher, was no exception.  Fan after fan said goodbye and wished her well until they met again the following season.  I decided she should be my $10 recipient of the day!

This is Martha’s third year ushering for the Nats.  In fact it is a family affair.  Her husband and son also work at the stadium.  In an email that she sent me later Martha told me, “My son is a special education graduate, and loves his job there.  The Nationals are by far the best employer he has ever had.”  Wow, that says a lot about the Nationals organization.  Bravo to them!

It was a bit of a challenge to speak with Martha because there were so many fans who wanted to say goodbye.  On top of that, Martha was coordinating a picnic for stadium staff and she was supposed to make some final plans with other colleagues…but that didn’t happen she later told me in her email.  My $10 came in handy though as she put it toward the food that she was preparing for the picnic.  “You’re providing the ingredients to make a multitude of my famous brownies,” she wrote.

I honestly think I was the last person in the stadium. They'd turned all the lights off and there was not a soul in sight. I thought about doing a lap around the bases, but I just found an open exit and got out before I got locked in there!

Before she had to run, she did mention that her family was going through some uncertain times.  Her husband is transitioning between a steady paycheck as a teacher to a commission based arrangement providing financial services and planning for special needs families.  Special needs families have unique financial challenges that if not thought out properly can create tremendous financial burdens and stress on the family.  I applaud his courage to make this transition and help other families plan for the future.

Martha had to run…but as I mentioned earlier, she did send me a very kind email.  She mentioned that in addition to her husband and son, there was a woman who carpooled with them to and from the stadium.  She shared this at the end of her email.  “Our cohort in the carpool immediately said she had heard of you, read an article about your “Year of Giving”, now it’s my turn.”

I hope to see Martha and her family at my year-end celebration and then again at the Nats home opener on March 31st against the Braves!  Let’s go Nats!

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Last night I stayed up to watch the first few miners get rescued from the Chilean mine where they have been trapped 629 meters below ground for almost 70 days!

That is such a long time!  I try to keep that in mind when I remember that there are only about 70 days, less actually, to go until the end of my year-long journey.  Time has gone by so fast!  I am still interviewing potential venue locations for the year-end celebration.  It is exciting…there are so many creative possibilities for the culmination of this amazing year.  I will keep you posted!

Team Rockstar Lifestyle trying to get out of a tough inning. That's Johnny from WAKA in the bottom left hand corner of the photo. (photo: Reed)

It was beautiful the other night and I decided to go for a long walk and find someone to give my $10 to.  I came across a sports field called Marie Reed Park.  Good name!  There were people gathering and I knew something was going to happen.  It seemed that I was the only one not wearing a uniform of some sort.  I grabbed a little real estate on the bleachers and waited to see what unfolded.

It turns out I was at a kickball game.  I was literally the only one who was not playing…except for two guys with some red jerseys who were talking with a woman in a white blouse.  More about those guys later.

"Your not going to believe this, but I was just thinking about you two days ago!" Eric told me when I introduced myself. (photo: Reed)

I finally got the courage to go over to a guy who was sitting an inning out.  I didn’t want to bother someone while they were trying to win a game, but I forced myself to go meet someone.  His name was Eric.  As soon as I explained what I was doing he told me that he had heard about the Year of Giving!  “You’re not going to believe this but I was just thinking about you two days ago!” he told me.   That’s pretty cool….the word is spreading thanks to all of you!

This is Eric’s second season playing kickball in Washington’s chapter of the World Adult Kickball League (WAKA).  In fact, he plays on two teams.  The night I met him he was playing for a team called the Rockstar Lifestyle who was playing against the Ball Busters.  The cool thing about kickball is that just about everyone can play.  Having said that, it was clear that many of the players meant business.

Eric used his $10 to buy a pitcher of beer for him and his team to celebrate their victory. (photo: Reed)

Eric tells me that although he likes kickball, his true passion is in running marathons.  The 28-year-old has run nine marathons already!  He’s preparing for his next one right now which will be the New York City Marathon in just 25 days.  He says that he has seen some crazy things while running.  “One time I was running a marathon with my sister in LA and we saw people selling drugs along the side of the road.”

Eric took care of things in left field to help his team win. (photo: Reed)

The game was close and the coach tapped Eric to hit the field.  Before heading out to left field, Eric told me that if I wanted to know more about the entire WAKA league that one of the founders of the organization was standing to my right wearing a red jersey.  While Eric tried to help the Rockstars edge out the Ballbusters I went over to introduce myself to Johnny LeHane.  He helped found the kickball league back in 1998 in hopes to create a social activity that everyone could participate in.  “We wanted something that would have an almost fraternity feel,” Johnny told me.  I actually think I met Johnny back in 1998 at Kelly’s Irish Times, an Irish pub that was the first sponsor of WAKA.  I say that because Johnny worked at AOL and so did my brother and a bunch of friends back then and I recall that I went to a kickball happy hour in 1998 or 1999.  I keep forgetting to ask my brother who he knew from WAKA back then, maybe he remembers.  Anyway, in case you are shrugging your shoulders at the idea of organized kickball, be advised that they currently over 3,000 teams in over 300 leagues nation wide and employ a staff of 30.  It was cool to meet Johnny, who was in town from NYC where he lives and continues to work as part of the management team for WAKA.

Rockstar Lifestyle won 5-4! (photo: Reed)

Eric trotted back in to join his team as they had one last opportunity to win the game.  It was close, but he and his team managed to pull out a 5-4 win over the Ball Busters!  I was great to watch him and his team celebrate the victory.  He said they were going to a bar called Town where he would buy a pitcher of beer for the team with the $10.  Cheers!

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I love going out and giving my $10 away.  However, I have to admit there have been a very small handful of days when I am just not motivated.  This is one of those days.  I was not feeling well and just wanted to go to bed, but I forced myself into some presentable clothes and headed out in the drizzling darkness.

KULTURAs at 1728 Conn. Ave. (photo: Reed)

I saw a man sitting in a folding chair on the sidewalk of Connecticut Avenue.  He was wearing a long sleeve shirt opened up with a white t-shirt underneath, jeans and flip flops.  His calm, easy demeanor unaffected by the light rain that fell on his shoulders.  Andrew is the owner of KULTURAs Bookstore at 1728 Connecticut Avenue which is nestled on the west side of Connecticut just north of Dupont Circle.  It’s a wonderful shop featuring second-hand and rare books as well as small but unique collection of consignment clothing.  They even sell some handmade ponchos commonly found in parts of Latin America.  I had been in the bookstore during the snowpocalypse we had last winter.  “We opened during the snow storm, so you must have stopped in during the first week,” Andrew told me.  This was KULTURAs second stint in the Dupont area.  Andrew explained that he and his wife had had a store in the area for a long time but in 2006 they packed the family up and moved 3,000 miles to Santa Monica, CA where they continued with KULTURAs. 

Andrew peering out the store front. (photo: Reed)

The rain started to pick up and we walked inside where he sunk into a chair behind a wooden desk.  “The timing wasn’t ideal given the economy,” Andrew said referring to the fact that after three years they decided to move back to DC last fall.  “It was fun though…we had a blast!”  He told me about their house that overlooked the Santa Monica Bay.  “I’d go surfing with my kids before school,” he reminisced as he propped his right leg up on the edge of the desk.

His upbringing consisted of periods of time living in DC, Detroit and Texas although he said he felt most comfortable in the Los Angeles area where he has family.  After graduating from the George Washington University with a degree in Latin American studies, he spent a year studying at the Universidad de los Andes in Colombia.  “I even took a weaving class there!” he told me.  I mentioned that I had spent a few weeks in Manizales, Colombia this year and he knew the area.

He married his wife in the late 80s and now has two children; one in high school and the other in college.

KULTURAs also sells consignment clothes and handmade ponchos. (photo: Reed)

Andrew is easy to talk to.  The conversation naturally drifted to the topic of owning a bookstore.  “I like interacting with people,” he says.  “Someone will come in and ask for a particular book and then you discover there is an entire story behind why they are looking for that book.”  I could relate to this.  It’s similar to what I have said about the Year of Giving – everyone has a story.  KULTURAs gives store credit for books that they buy.  Andrew says that can be exciting as well.  “Sometimes you find a real treasure!”

I was interested to hear his opinion about the long-term outlook for books.  It seems that technology is murdering the traditional print media.  The timeliness of news makes it a perfect subject to be transmitted via computers and handheld devices.  Magazines and books have also been threatened by Kindles and Nooks.  “I think physical books will diminish significantly,” the 52-year-old says pointing out that younger generations prefer to get their information online.  I do think books will begin to be read more on electronic tablets and devices we haven’t even dreamed of yet, but perhaps there will still be a strong attachment for some people to have a physical book in their hands.  Maybe it’s the sound of cracking open a new book or the musty smell of an old book or perhaps it’s just the idea of turning pages that attract some of us. 

An outside shot of Andrew ringing up a customer. (photo: Reed)

Speaking of books, I wandered around KULTURAs.  I saw lots of interesting books about art, architecture, cooking, philosophy, etc.  They even have a good number of books in foreign languages.  But it was Donald Miller’s first book Through Painted Deserts that caught my eye and ended up going home with me.  A friend of mine was recently talking about Miller and a conference of his that she was attending in Portland, Oregon.  She is a fan and I thought I would pick up his book and give it a chance.

As for the $10, Andrew said that he was going to use that to buy some groceries. 

When I left I realized I felt much better.  Maybe it was just getting out of the house?  Maybe the Year of Giving helped in some way.  For a half hour I forgot all about how I felt, the work that went unfinished that day, or the emails I still had to write. 

For more information on KULTURAs, check out their website or stop in and visit them at:
Dupont Circle: 1728 Connecticut Avenue, NW
Tenleytown: 4918 Wisconsin Avenue,  NW

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Giant at the corner of Wisconsin and Newark. (photo: Reed)

I was in Cleveland Park here in DC at the Giant grocery store on Wisconsin Avenue.  I hadn’t given away my money yet and it was getting late.  I had had some wine earlier that day on a picnic and was honestly not looking forward to giving my $10 away.

At the entrance of the grocery store I found Ryan and Samantha.  Ryan is a 25-year-old graduate of the University of Virginia.  Samantha, 22, is also a graduate of UVA.  They were browsing the movie titles at the automatic video rental machine.

Ryan and Samantha are both runners. (photo: Reed)

Both of them ran track and field at UVA.  They ran a variety of distances: 3,000, 5,000 and 10,000 meters.  I think it was Samantha who said she also ran steeple chase races which consist of five barriers, one of which is a water barrier.  

“Ryan is a really good runner,” Samantha said.  “He just ran a race yesterday…8,000 meters.”  For those of you who are metric challenged, that’s just shy of five miles.  “So how did you do?” I asked.  Ryan was quite humble in telling me that he actually won the race.  I guess Samantha was right, he’s pretty good.

The couple decided to donate their $10 to the UVA Athletics Foundation.  Coincidentally I am planning to visit UVA in the coming weeks with my cousin and his daughter…who I guess is my second cousin or cousin once removed or something like that.  Anyway, she is a high school senior in Denver and is visiting potential colleges.  When they come out to visit UVA I am going to join them and we have tickets to the football game that weekend, so indirectly that $10 might end up benefiting me while I am there.  Work with me folks…use your imagination.

Ryan and Samantha donated their $10 to the UVA Athletics Foundation. (photo: Reed)

Anyway, some friends of Samantha and Ryan were waiting for them so I wrapped things up.  I almost forgot to take a photo and ran out into the parking lot and snapped a quick photo of them.

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This is Maggie who received my $10 on 10-10-10...her story coming soon on Day 300! (photo: Reed)

Hopefully you participated in the 10-10-10 Give a Stranger 10 Bucks Day yesterday…if not, why not go ahead and do it today.  It is a three-day weekend after all for many folks, so I’ll let it slide!

Today’s recipient ranks up there with one of the more memorable people that I have met. 

You might remember back on Day 245 I came across a rather odd individual walking around making extremely loud cat meowing noises.  On that day he was walking around with a crazed look in his eyes as he meowed.  Really loud!  Occasionally he would turn 180 degrees from his slow sloth-like walk and bark something like, “Can’t you find the mice?”

So exactly 40 days later I am walking around town when I hear this loud banging noise.  I couldn’t quite place it but it sounded like someone was banging a wrench or something against a bunch of steel pipes.  Not seeing where the noise was coming from, I went along my business and went into a café to pick up some dinner for that evening.  When I left I walked across the street and found “Crazy Cat Man” sitting on the sidewalk with a series of bottles in front of him. 

Illi sits playing tunes on a variety of bottles in front of a DC Starbucks. (photo: Reed)

Although he definitely made me uncomfortable the first time I encountered him, I felt a little better this time since he was in front of Starbucks and there were several people who were nearby “enjoying” his free concert. 

I asked him what his name was and he replied something that sounded like “Illi Lixsis.”  I asked him to spell it and he said that there was “not a proper spelling in our language.”  So he grabbed my pen and notebook and began to write his name.  To me it resembles something closer to a hieroglyphic than a name.  He even included a short written narrative of the composition of the name.  In the photograph below you can see the symbol he drew and the explanation he included around it.  I’m going to call him Illi.

Illi said he enjoyed playing beautiful music on the bottles.  He pointed to his “snare drum” which was an aluminum can.  He also had a rattle, made of an empty Nestle water bottle with coins inside, a Perrier bottle, and a variety of beer and wine bottles.  “This is the magical wand of Jehovah,” he explained pointing to metal rod. 

New England Statesman Daniel Webster (1782-1852)

Our conversation took a path of its own.  Illi’s thought process sometimes was erratic but I just went with the flow.  “What you are doing is kind of like Daniel Webster – only with words,” Illi suggests.  “But Webster was into bestiality.”  How does he know that I’m not into bestiality?  That was a joke!  Seriously, I didn’t know how to respond so I just stayed quiet.

 Illi changed the subject.  “I grew up in New Hampshire.  My 6th grade teacher, Mr. Courier, had been in the CIA during the Carter administration.  He was originally a nuclear physicist, but as an agent he was forced to learn all kinds of things.  He spoke several languages and …”  I am not sure what else he said about Mr. Courier but he related to me at some point how he, I mean Illi now, was into linguistics, computers, visual arts, electrical engineering, etc.

He had a particular interest in necromancy.  He described it as an ability that allowed the dead to pass on to the next servitude of life.  “Anything you do,” he said, “is then used by your ancestors as a means to get into the next life…but many people get captured.”  I probed a little more about what he was referring to but didn’t understand his response.  He did show me his birth certificate though during this exchange.  I didn’t catch his last name, but his birth given first name is Mark.

Photo of Illi's rendition of his name. He wrote this in my notebook. (photo: Reed)

Illi is well educated, he certainly knows a lot about certain subjects.  His way of communicating it is unique and proved challenging for me to follow.  He talked about palindromes, his intense fear of many things in the world and his dislike of Stephen King novels.  He also is a big fan of animation.  His favorite TV show, a 90s MTV show called Æon Flux, and favorite movie, Jim Henson’s 1982 Dark Crystal, are both animated. 

Another random factoid he shared was that his brother Dave sold his 26,000 issue comic book collection to pay for his college.  Interestingly enough, Illi said he memorized every title that his brother owned.  Sounds a little like Joey’s savantism.

As for the $10, the 35-year-old said he was going to “take a break.”  Take some time off from his government job.  Oh yeah, and he didn’t want me to take his photograph because of his government work.  “Photos are stupid anyway,” he said.  I had taken one photograph from a distance before I walked up to him that I have included here.  You can not see his face and the photo came out quite blurry due to low light and my sub-par photographic skills.

Like I said earlier Illi, or Mark as it may be, seems to be highly intelligent in some areas.  He’s socially awkward though and either is homeless or doesn’t maintain generally accepted hygiene.  He sat the entire time in a yoga-like stance with his bare feet folded up like a pretzel.  I’m glad I stopped, but I am not sure that I connected with him.  I would love to hear his perspective of our encounter.

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Today is 10-10-10!  Hopefully you will join me and Howard Wu in giving away $10 today.  Howard came up with this idea and created a Facebook page for people to share their stories.

The fact that today is a special date, 10-10-10, seems very appropriate for today’s recipient.  You will see why later, but Joey has some absolutely brilliant abilities when it comes to dates.

Joey (left) and his brother Rick before entering Nationals Park (photo: Reed)

I was headed to the National’s baseball game and got a ride over from my friend and former colleague Rick.  He was joined by his brother Joey, who was visiting Rick here in the DC area.

I soon learn that Joey is a remarkable man.  The 52-year-old from New Hampshire is autistic.  His parents were told to institutionalize Joey, but they never did.  He has lived with his parents, who are now in their 70s, all his life.

Despite Joey’s disability he lives a full life.  He is a tremendous help to his parents around the house.  Rick tells me that he keeps his room and himself meticulously clean, and makes his own breakfast and lunch.

Joey told me that I was born on a Tuesday, he was right too! (photo: Reed)

He is a very gentle man.  He keeps to himself and doesn’t say much.  In fact, he didn’t speak at all until he was about nine.  When he does it is usually to answer a question.  And he is very decisive in his answer.  I often find myself trying to recall things and taking a few seconds or minutes to determine whether I know the answer or not.  Not Joey.    He either knows the answer or he doesn’t, there isn’t much in between.  

For more than twenty years, the Easter Seals have provided a tremendous amount of care for Joey.  During the week they provide transportation for him to and from different locations where he works.  Usually he sets up tables at local restaurants and has also worked at the library alphabetizing periodicals.  When his day is done, he returns to the comfort of his parent’s loving home.

 Joey has some incredible abilities.  Like Dustin Hoffman’s character in Rain Man, he has savantism.  When I got in the car Joey quickly asked me my name.  I told him and he asked me to repeat my last name for him.  I got the feeling that this information was being stored away for future use.  He then asked, “When were you born?”  I told him that my birth date was January 22, 1974.  He took a few seconds and then said, “Tuesday.”  Rick told me that he knows the day of the week for every date. WOW!  I had no idea if he was right or not, but after checking this when I got home, I discovered he was right!  He also told me that my father, who turns 70 this Friday, was born on a Tuesday.  He was right again.  Rick tells me that if he ever meets me again he will surely remember my name and birth date.

Me at the game (photo: Kimon Kanelakis)

Joey wasn’t done yet.  Nope, not by a long shot.  He also has a knack for telling you the song name and artist for almost any song from the 50s, 60s, 70s and 80s.  Rick had on an oldies station and every song that came on Joey would tell us the name of the song and the artist.  “I Saw Linda Yesterday by Dickey Lee,” he says.  A few minutes later he enlightened us with, “Traces by the Classics IV.”  I’ve never heard of either of the artists much less would I have known who they were by listening to them.  And I would have never known if he was right or not either but Rick’s radio will display that information if you press some buttons.  We repeated this exercise about a half-dozen times on the way to the game and he was spot on.

Joey really likes to swim.  Rick told me that he had gone swimming almost every day while he was in DC.  Unfortunately, his time in DC was coming to an end.  After the game Rick and Joey were driving north to meet their parents half way between New Hampshire and DC.  Joey was going back home. 

I caught a photo of brothers Joey and Rick before the left to get Joey's gelato. (photo: Reed)

I wish each and every one of you could have met him.  Joey is pretty amazing.  I almost forgot to tell you what he did with his $10.  On their way out of the stadium he bought some gelato.  I believe it was chocolate…he apparently eats chocolate every day.  He still has the other $4 carefully tucked away in a box where he keeps his spending money.  I’ll let you know if I hear what happens to the other $4.

By the way, Joey was born 52 years to the day before I started the Year of Giving: December 15th, 1957 – it was a Sunday.

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Busboys & Poets at 14th and V Streets (photo: Reed)

 I decided to go over and grab dinner at Busboys and Poets and see if I could talk with someone about holding my year-end celebration there.  They gave me the name of a person to talk to and I followed up later via email.  Coincidentally today someone called me back from their organization.  They were not interested in hosting the event unless I was going to pay a five-figure amount which is simply not possible and completely outside of the spirit of the Year of Giving.  So, if you know of a good venue in Washington, DC that can hold 200+ people and would like a ton of in-kind national and local media, let me know. 

Chavon paid her $10 forward. (photo: Reed)

While I was eating I met the person sitting to my right: Chavon.  A foster care case worker by day, she was enjoying a respite with friends after a long stressful week.  She works with a total of seven kids right now; two of which are siblings.  She tells me about each one of them; their ages: 5, 6, 7, 13, 17, 18 and 19.  “It’s hard work,” she says exhaling.  “But you have to also let people go through their own journey.”

Busboys & Poets gets its name from American poet Langston Hughes. (photo: Reed)

She says she has always been a person naturally oriented to help others.  “It’s a passion,” she says with a smile.  “You know, every time someone gives you something – even a dollar – it means something.  

She says that she has given each one of her kids a notebook that they are to write down things that she tasks them with.  “I have to stay on top of them,” she tells me with a slightly more disciplinarian demeanor.  “I think that I will see how each one does on their assignments for next week and I’m going to give the $10 to the one who makes the most progress.”

Her two friends that were with her, Carla and Marques, spoke very highly of their friend.  “She is a good listener and she’s very honest, brutally honest,” Carla says.  Her friend Marques called her “hilarious” and said that she was also very sensitive.

As I left Chavon put a smile on my face when she said, “Reed, this has made my day!”

"Every time somebody gives you something - even a dollar - it means something." - Chavon (photo: Reed)

On Wednesday I got a note from Chavon saying that she had given the $10 to a new client of hers: a 13-year-old girl.  “She was very respectful and compliant with the things I tasked her with,” she wrote in her email.  “She was able to purchase her own breakfast without having to depend on anyone else.”  Getting her email made my day.  Thanks Chavon!

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This Sunday is the 10th of October.  Inspired by the Year of Giving, a guy named Howard Wu created an event, Give a Stranger 10 Bucks Day.  Howard thought that the perfect day to do this would be October 10th since it is 10/10/10.  Why not join me and Howard and give $10 away this Sunday.  Click here to go to Howard’s event page.  Like the Worldwide Day of Giving, I encourage you to leave comments here or on the Facebook page about your experience.  Good luck!

Ernest has been out of work for nearly five years. (photo: Reed)

On Day 280 I saw Ernest holding a sign on the side of a very busy intersection in Virginia.  Born in Alexandria, VA, this 51-year-old used to work for the Alexandria School Board, but he has been unemployed for the past five years.  He now lives in motels.

“I started panhandling about a month and a half ago,” Ernest tells me.  “I was working on and off for a moving truck company.”  Now he stands on the corner of Lee Highway and Fairfax Road holding a sign that says, “I am homeless.  Does it hurt to give to someone in need.  Please help me if you can?  God bless.”

He says that on a good day he brings in about $90.

Now divorced, Ernest has a 30 year-old-son, two grandkids and three stepchildren.  “I try not to be a burden to any of my kids.”  He says that some people he knows don’t know that he is homeless, but admits that “the truth will set you free.”

“I’m not learning too much out here,” he confesses as a pick-up truck whizzes by him pushing him up against the guard rail.  “You get all kinds of people out here.”  A lot of people show him compassion and offer him some help, but others taunt him.  “You know some guys say stuff like, ‘Hey man you look healthy…get a job!’  I’m like, at least give me a smile or a wave or something.”

He says that it is really hard for him right now.  “I would much rather have a job.”  He would like to find work as a handyman, custodian or maintenance man.   

Although he says he is not learning much, I did find one thing he has learned.  He figured out where the best corner to stand was.  “I used to stand across the street and a few other places, but this has the most traffic,” he explains.  I was shocked that he chose the spot he did because there was only about 18 inches between him and the passing cars.  I jumped over on the other side of the guard rail while I spoke with him because I didn’t feel safe standing where he was.  

Ernest put the $10 I gave him toward the cost of his room that night.

Ernest used the $10 to pay for a motel room that night. (photo: Reed)

Before leaving, we swapped telephone numbers in case someone reading this would like to contact Ernest about a job.  I learned that in Arlington County if you fall below a certain economic indicator the county supplies you with a cell phone and a basic minutes plan.  This gives homeless individuals like Ernest a way for family, friends and potential employers to locate them.  Awesome!

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“I could die tomorrow, so what am I doing today to help the world" - Jessica (photo courtesy of Jessica)

I sat down next to Jessica at a Starbucks in Cleveland Park.  Originally from Memphis, TN, she lives with her husband in Virginia and works in development for a DC arts organization.  She herself was a dancer for many years.  “I started when I was four,” she said.  “I stopped when I was 25.  It was an amazing experience.  The arts can change people’s lives – put them in touch with a part of themselves they never even knew existed.”

I discovered that she and I have something in common.  We both participated in Rotary international exchange programs.  I went as a student to Mexico for one year when I was 16 and she went as a professional to South Africa for one month.  “It was life-changing,” she tells me.  She stayed with Rotary families throughout the area and got to see the way different people lived.  “Sometimes their impressions of Americans were startling,” she mentioned referencing the fact that often times people’s impressions are shaped by what is seen on TV or in movies.

I asked her what some of the lasting impressions in her mind were.  She recalled a few.  “I remember little kids running behind our van as we entered into the small villages.  We also passed a graveyard for AIDS victims.  One day we visited this school that had just got water.  I remember seeing a kid that couldn’t have been more than eight smoking a cigarette at school.”

Jessica says that she will donate the $10 to the Polaris Project, a Washington, DC based organization whose mission it is to stop human trafficking and modern day slavery.

I asked her how we could lend her a hand.  She said that she would like the opportunity to talk with someone who has experience in “dance therapy.”  It’s an area that she is interested in exploring given her dance background.  So if you or someone you know has experience in this area, give me shout.

I had a “first” happen in this encounter.  Instead of me taking a photograph of Jessica, she asked if she could email me one.  I said sure. 

Don’t forget this Sunday is 10/10/10.  Check out Howard Wu’s “Give a Stranger 10 Bucks Day!”

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What are the chances that I choose a guy named Reed (or Read as today’s recipient spells his name) to receive my $10?  It appears to be 1/280!

Garrett making music at Conn. Ave and Q Street in NW DC. (photo: Reed)

It was a beautiful night and I took a walk over to Dupont Circle to see who I would find.  On the way over there I saw Garrett shaking his tambourine and singing gospels.  He seemed happy to see me and showed me his toothless smile.  I told him I had some more clothes for him that Meghan from Pennsylvania and Rachel from Florida had sent.  I asked if he was going to be there for a while, because if so, I would go back home and get the clothes and bring them to him.  Now you got to understand that Garrett’s track record for being where he says he is going to be is mediocre at best.  “Oh, I will definitely be here tonight until 10:00pm,” Garrett told me as I checked my watch.  This time he was good to his word and was still there when I got back around 8:00pm.

He seemed very happy to get all the items.  Combined Meghan and Rachedl sent him a pair of jeans, a hat, three shirts, two pants, a belt and a sweatshirt – everything was brand new!  Meghan and Rachel, you both rock!  I’m going to post a video of him receiving the items and singing a special song for Meghan and Rachel on the Year of Giving’s Facebook page later tonight.

Read was having a coffee and sending a message on his phone when I found him. (photo: Reed)

I left Garrett and walked over to Dupont Circle.  It was a beautiful evening and there were lots of people sitting around the picturesque fountain.  The soft sound of tumbling water blanketed the park.  I saw Read sitting on a bench thumbing away on his phone. 

When I asked if he would accept my $10, he replied, “Yeah, let me just finish sending this message and then we can talk.”  He finished and chatted for about 30 minutes or so.  “I don’t know what I will do with it,” Read said.  “I am lucky to be in a position to not have to worry too much about money.”

Read is no stranger to helping others out. (photo: Reed)

Read is a former AmeriCorps member who has been practicing giving for some time.  His AmeriCorps service took him to Jacksonville, FL where he worked on securing healthcare coverage for children who came from families who earned slightly above the cut-off to qualify for Medicare.   He also told me about some volunteer work he has done with half-way houses.

Originally from northeast Texas, Read completed his Master’s degree in Public Health at Boston University.  He has been here in DC for about 18 months.  “DC and Jacksonville have some things in common believe it or not,” Read related to me.  “Both have strong dichotomies when it comes to the rich and poor.”  Furthermore he astutely points out the transient nature of DC, “Nobody’s here long enough to pay attention to the local issues.”

Read is currently working with communities here in DC.  One project has to do with a local junior high school baseball team which is underfunded.  He plans to volunteer his time in order to help the team stay alive and hopefully grow.   “Maybe I’ll use this $10 toward helping them,” he said. 

Something Read pointed out about the $10 was interesting.  “I hardly ever use paper money,” he says explaining that he prefers to use credit and bank cards.  He posed an interesting question.  “I wonder how the responses of the people you meet would differ if you direct deposited  the money into their accounts instead of giving them cash.”  I have never thought about that but Read’s got a point.  People would probably use it differently.  He assured me that he would not put this $10 in his account, that it would get passed on.

Read's name is also a family name. It was his father's middle name and the maiden name of his great-great aunt. (photo: Reed)

Just a little side note about the pictures I took of Read.  While I was shooting the photos, a guy nearby overheard my disgust in not being able to get the correct lighting for the shot.  Sven, originally from Sweden, kindly came over and leant me a hand getting my aperture and shutter speed set better to accommodate the dwindling light.  Thanks Sven…that’s what it’s all about – helping one another!

By the way, I walked back by where Garrett was supposed to be until 10:00pm a good hour before that time and he was already gone.  :)

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Ryan hawks some beers on his first day at work at FedEx Field. (photo: Reed)

What does today’s recipient have in common with yesterday’s recipient?  They both carry things for a living.  Harold from yesterday carries the mail in DC while Ryan carries beer for thirsty sports fans at the Redskins games.

The 21-year-old, who wears a badge identifying him as Vendor #623, said that today was his first day on the job!  I asked him how it was going and he said, “The beer is heavy.  Really heavy.”  Just for that I bought one of his chilled Budweisers…you know, to help his tired arms and aching back out.  The container he is carrying around looks like it holds about a case and a half of 16 oz bottles.  Add some ice and water to that and you got a back-breaker of a load. 

He says that he has already gone back three times to pick up additional beer.  He kept moving and I followed him a little bit and talked to him between his sales. 

"The beer is heavy. Really heavy.” - Ryan (photo: Reed)

He told me that is a sophomore studying business at the University of Maryland.  I’m quite certain that in his first hours at work there at the stadium he has already learned some business skills.  I am guessing that he has learned a thing or two about the price inelasticity of demand when it comes to products like alcohol!  Maybe he can get college credit for his job.  It doesn’t matter that he is selling beers for ten times the cost that they would be sold at a supermarket, people will still buy it.  I bet they could charge $15 a beer and still have tremendous sales.  I hope owner Dan Snyder is not reading my blog and getting any ideas!

Well no surprise here what Ryan chose to do with the $10.  Yep, he’s going to buy some beer when he gets off of work.

Ryan finds some thirsty fans. (photo: Reed)

As for the game, the Redskins held a 17-point lead late in the 3rd quarter and then managed to blow it giving up 20 points to loose 27-30 to the Houston Texans.  The season is not looking good…

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Neither snow, nor rain, nor heat, nor gloom of night stays these courageous couriers from the swift completion of their appointed rounds." - unknown (photo: Reed)

How often do you sit down with pen and paper and write someone a letter these days?  My guess is that if you are reading this blog you are more likely to send an email.  I still try to send at least one hand written note each month, but often times I fall short of that goal.  It is so much easier to send an email, text message or update my Facebook status.  Have you ever wondered how this has affected people who depend on the mail for their livelihood? 

Meet Harold, a 22-year veteran of the US Postal Service.  I met him in front of my apartment and decided that he should be my person of the day.  I have tried to give my ten dollars to other postal workers and have succeeded once on Day 12 and failed on Day 254.   This time I succeeded.

photo: Reed

Harold is a letter carrier – and letter carrier is the proper title if you were wondering.  He took a few minutes out of his busy day to chat with me as he organized the mail from his van. 

“Things have changed a whole lot over the years,” Harold tells me.  “Mostly because of the internet; less volume.”  He says that advancements in technology have clearly benefited him in many ways in his personal life, however, professionally it has come with challenges.  “Job-wise it’s killing me,” he says explaining that his hours have been reduced due to the reduction in posted mail. 

We walked and talked briefly as he moved through the neighborhood.  He keeps moving pretty good too. 

He said he was going to give his $10 to his wife.  “That’s what I do with everything else,” he says smiling.

Harold has worked for the Post Office for 22 years. (photo: Reed)

He was busy and I didn’t want to be responsible for the wrong letter winding up at the wrong address so I let Harold go on his way.  Support your local letter carrier and send a hand written letter today.  You’ll be surprised how good it feels and the recipient will be ecstatic to receive something personal rather than bills and junk mail!

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Volunteers enabled SOME to prepare almost 400,000 thousand meals last year. (Photo: Thom Wolf)

Volunteering is an integral part of society.  It helps ensure that essential public services are provided, builds social capital and fosters cohesive communities all while benefiting the volunteer as well by giving them opportunities to acquire new skills, have sense of purpose and integrate them into their community.  I encourage everyone to find some volunteer activity to do at least once a month.  It doesn’t need to be formal either.  It could be as simple as raking your elderly neighbors leaves, helping someone learn to read, or offering to provide a professional service or trade that you are skilled in at no cost.  Former President Clinton said in his book Giving, “Almost everyone – regardless of income, available time, age, and skills – can do something useful for others and, in the process, strengthen the fabric of our shared humanity.” How true he was.

On Day 277 I was volunteering at So Others Might Eat (SOME), an organization that has impressed me tremendously.  For 40 years they have been feeding and clothing DC’s homeless and poor, treating the ill in their medical, dental and mental health programs, training individuals for jobs and housing those in need. 

It was a Friday morning and I was volunteering in their dining room.  They serve breakfast and lunch to a couple hundred people in a short span of time so things need to be done quickly and efficiently. 

Michelle will celebrate eight years of sobriety on October 16th! (photo: Reed)

This is where today’s recipient comes in.  In addition to being the Assistant Volunteer Coordinator, Michelle also is the Dining Room Manager.  In other words, while I am working in the dining room, she is my boss.  And let me tell you, she makes the place run.  She knows when not to take crap from someone but also knows when someone just needs a hug.  I even saw her take a minute to dance a little to the music that was playing and she’s got some moves!

Born in DC General Hospital, Michelle grew up in PG County.  She went to Largo High School and went on to study cosmetology.  But then things changed.  “I got into drugs and alcohol and let them override my education,” she explained.  “I was in and out of treatment, in and out of jail.  It was not a good situation.”  She became sober on October 16th, 2002 – same sobriety anniversary as Bob!  She worked a few jobs but really wanted to work at SOME.  “I applied and then was calling, calling, calling you know and I finally got the job!”

Michelle has three grown children and a grandchild.  She now lives on Capitol Hill, owns a vehicle and has a steady job that she enjoys.  “I am grateful for so many things.”

Michelle (right) with co-worker Brittany. (photo: Reed)

Michelle, who turns 48 in less than two weeks, says that it’s the little things that make her day.  “You know, sometimes people will come up to me and say ‘thank you, you helped me so much’ and that means a lot to me.”   She gets to know some of their guests very well.  “I’ve been to funeral services for some of them…in fact I’m going to one today.” 

She’s a people person.  “I think I’m funny,” she says with a smile.  She is and has a great smile, but she can be tough too.  “We don’t tolerate disrespect or disruptive behavior here.”  Just then a guest walks by and asks her a question.  She greeted them by saying, “Hello friend, what can I do for you?”  She calls everyone “friend.”  Michelle is one of those people that define the organization’s culture.  Weak organizations, especially service related organizations, lack people like Michelle.

SOME is located at 71 O Street in NW Washington DC. (photo: Reed)

The ten dollars I gave her would be spent on something small for herself.  “I’m going to be good to myself!”  She said she might get a sub from Subway.

If you are in the DC area and need a good place to volunteer, check out SOME.  Why not get a bunch of your friends or coworkers together and set up a day for you all to go and volunteer together.  More details on how you can help can be found here.

So Others Might Eat (SOME)
71 ‘O’ Street, NW
Washington, DC 20001
Phone: 202.797.8806
www.some.org

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On Day 276 I had some company with me as I searched for a recipient.  A news crew from Spain’s television network CUATRO were following me around for a story they were doing on my Year of Giving.  We met at Illy Café and chatted for a short while before heading to a nearby park where I tried to give my $10 to a man sitting in the park.  He refused.

We then started heading north on 21st Street I think.  It had been drizzling all day but the rain started to pick up a little bit and we sought shelter under an awning that extended over the sidewalk for a few minutes.  I then spotted a young guy walking two dogs across the street and I thought I would approach him.

I ran over to Jake with the news crew chasing after me.

Jake was helping his girlfriend out by walking her dogs. They were cute dogs. I remember the dog on the right is named Georgia. (photo: Reed)

Jake is a local to the Greater DC area.  He grew up in Alexandria, VA and graduated from T.C. Williams High School.  Now, 29, Jake is studying psychology at George Washington University.

On this specific day he was taking his girlfriend’s dogs for a walk.  He said that he would probably use the $10 to sponsor a day of dog walking for her some day.  “Her dog walker charges $10 for a walk, so this will help her out for at least one day,” he told me.

Jake is 29 so he is not your traditional undergraduate college student.  I asked what he had chosen to do after graduating high school and his answer surprised me.  “Well, I came to GW and studied for a couple years but then I was drafted by the San Francisco Giants to play baseball in the 2002 draft.”  Wow…I guess I should tell you that I used to dream of playing professional baseball for the New York Mets so I was pretty excited to meet a professional baseball player.  No, I didn’t grow up dreaming about being laid off my job and giving $10 away…that just sort of happened.

Jake making a double play look easy. (photo: Matt Thornton)

He played for nine years in the minor league organization of the Giants.  He spent most that time playing 2nd base and shortstop for their AA and AAA farm teams.  “It was a great experience,” he shared with me.  “You learn a lot.  You are consistently setting a goal to get better, always working to get to where it is you want to go.”  He went on to say that the fact that he was playing for half the year and then off for the other half made it really hard to stay focused on those goals. 

Jake talking to the Spanish news reporter. (photo: Reed)

“People would always tell me that my baseball career was going to help me so much in my professional life after baseball,” Jake said.  “I’m sure it will…using what I learned about setting goals, the drive that I have.”  I have no doubt.  Professional sports are highly competitive and only the best like Jake can survive for extended periods of time.  When I used to hire sales people I loved candidates who were runners or disciplined in some athletic area.  They understand commitment and know that you will have to go through considerable pain sometimes to achieve their goal.  They don’t quit.

I did some searching on Jake and found this interesting clip.  Apparently it is not live footage from a game rather a commercial that was taped for Gatorade.  The announcer lists the Fresno left fielder as Jake and although he didn’t play outfield much, I have a feeling it is him since he played for Fresno.  I tried to confirm this with him but I must have written his email down incorrectly.  If you know Jake, please put me in touch with him.  Anyway, have a look, it’s a cool clip.

By the way, you may remember that I happened to give $10 to another professional baseball player in May, Anthony on Day 158.  It’s either a small world or I got to too many baseball games.

We said goodbye and Jake continued on his way with the dogs. (photo: Reed)

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Moleskine: The official unofficial journal of the Year of Giving

I keep all my notes from the people I meet in a small Moleskine notebook.  I had filled up my third notebook and today I cracked open my fourth one.  By the way, Moleskine was very cool and sent me six notebooks when they heard about my project!  I use the small pocket-size ones and they sent me the exact size I use in a variety of styles.  Some have hard covers, others have soft covers.  I think I prefer the hard cover ones – they seem to hold up a little better as I schlep them around with me every day in the elements.  Anyways, thank you Moleskine!  You guys rock!

I used to live in Mexico when I was in high school and for a short while in college.  I have a very special place for the people of Mexico, especially those from my “home town” of Guasave, Sinaloa.  

1,000+ people attended the celebration (photo: Reed)

2010 is the year of the Bicentennial Celebrations in Mexico. This wonderful country is commemorating 200 years of independence from Spanish rule and 100 years of its revolution that began in 1910 and toppled dictator Porfirio Diaz.  Mexican Independence Day is September 16th but is often celebrated on the evening of the 15th.  Here in Washington there was a huge celebration put on in the outdoor courtyard at the Kennedy Center that was free to the public.  As I listened to live music and watched the jubilation unfold, I noticed a large Mexican flag in the center of the courtyard.  I decided to give my $10 to whoever was holding that flag!

Diego is originally from Chihuahua, Mexico. (photo: Reed)

Diego, whose real name is Dagoberto but nobody calls him that, stood in the center of the crowd holding the red, white and green flag.  Originally from the state of Chihuahua which is located in northern Mexico, the 21-year-old has lived in Maryland for two years now.  His father runs a security company that provides services to a branch of the federal government.  Diego, who is the middle of three kids in the family, works there with his dad and also takes English classes.  Although he likes being able to work with his father he hopes to get his degree and establish his own career.

“I want to succeed,” he says with pride.

There were fireworks after the famous Grito de Dolores. (photo: Reed)

“This is an important day for me and all Mexicans,” Diego told me in Spanish.  “It’s a day that we spend with our friends and families.  It’s a day that makes me particularly proud to be Mexican.  It makes me cry.”  He smiled and added, “I’m just kidding about the crying part, but really, it is very special.”  

There were about a dozen of Diego’s friends around us celebrating.  I let him go with one final question, “What will you do with the $10?”

“Well, I have been thinking about that.  At first I thought I would just buy me and my friends some beer tonight, maybe some Modelo Especial, but I think I have changed my mind,” he said pausing and looking far off into the crowd.  He looked back at me and said, “I would like to give the money to you.  You are doing lots of good with your project and I would like you to have my $10.”  I explained that I would be happier if he did something else with it, but it’s not about me, it’s about what he wants to do with it.  He said he was sure about his decision and placed the $10 back in my hand.

Diego decided to give me his $10. Thank you Diego! (photo: Reed)

I thanked him for the $10.  We took this photo together and exchanged some final words in Spanish before saying goodbye and wishing each other the best of luck.

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What is worse?  A trip to the dentist or the Department of Motor Vehicles?

After waiting for 30 minutes to get inside the DMV building, you get to wait in this room. The room is 3 times the size of what you see here. (photo: Reed)

I headed over to the DMV to get my car’s emissions levels re-inspected after a faulty oxygen sensor failed me the first time.  After passing the test, I went around the block to the DMV’s administration center to register my car in the District.

Primary elections in DC were being held next door to the center and parking was limited.  When I arrived I was greeted by a line of other DC residents snaking out the door.  And this line was just to get a number to get placed in another waiting area.  Typical!

I looked at my watch and saw that it was 9:18am.

In front of me was a guy who was passing the time thumbing away on his phone.  I realized that I was in for a long morning at the DMV and introduced myself to Chad and asked him to accept my $10.  Chad accepted and told me that he was there to renew his license and change his address.

Chad said he'd rather go to the dentist than visit the DMV! (photo: Reed)

“I went to get something notarized and they said that I needed a new license because one of the corners was broken because I sat on it,” he said before pausing.  “Man, I’d rather go to the dentist than come here!”

I’m with Chad on that one.

As we inch forward in line he tells me that this was his second trip to the DMV this week.

“So I went online on Monday and checked the cameras to see how long the lines were on Monday and there was no line at all.  So I came down here only to find out that the reason that there was no line was because THEY DON’T OPEN ON MONDAYS!!  The place was closed.” 

That’s funny.

Now holding number C325, Chad looked at the monitor that shows which number they are servicing.  He had 20 people in front of him.  I asked Chad how long he thought it would take to get through the system.  “I’ll hopefully leave here in 45 minutes so that I can get to work on time, if not, I’ll have to call my boss and say I will be late.”  That time came and went and Chad pulled out his phone and dialed his boss.  He got some extra time, but it proved to not be enough.  He finally left around 10:45.  It would take another 50 minutes before they called his number.  

My number was called a few minutes later.  As it turns out I waited almost two and a half hours to be called on.  It would take ten minutes to complete my transaction.  And here is the weird part.  They asked if I wanted to transfer my old tags to my new car or get new ones.  I had my old tags with me and said I would probably just keep my old ones.  Not only would it be cheaper but it would also be better for the environment.  But wait!  I was wrong.  It turns out it was more expensive to keep my old tags because they would have to renew them which had fees attached to it.  That’s insane.  So what did I do?  I surrendered my old license plates and got new one.

Chad filling out one of the many forms they give you. (photo: Reed)

The 29-year-old told me he was going to use the $10 to help pay for parking while he was at work.  “The hotel charges $35 a day, but I park nearby where it costs $13, so this will go toward today’s parking.”  

By the way, I learned that Chad was born and raised in DC.  He graduated from the LAB School and then went on to study business at Fairleigh Dickinson University in New Jersey.  I had never heard of this university when I met Chad, but then heard of it again recently when the controversies over Delaware candidate for Senate Christine O’Donnell looked into her educational background.  After school Chad managed a McCormick & Schmick’s restaurant but later opted to leave for a less stressful position.  Now he is a server at a steakhouse in a luxury hotel in downtown DC.  

I asked him if any of the readers of the Year of Giving could help him in any way and he said he would appreciate it if any Life Coach would be willing to donate some time to work with him.  Several Life Coaches have reached out to me so I have the feeling we will find someone for Chad.

FYI this entry filled up the last page of my third notebook that I have used so far this year.  Tomorrow I crack open a new one.

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