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Archive for December, 2010

Day 364…just one more day after today’s blog post to come full circle with my year-long commitment.  But this movement will continue on.  This weekend an important new chapter will begin for the Year of Giving. Our first Kindness Investor will start blogging about her giving experience.  I can’t wait for you to meet Melinda and the amazing people she meets each day when she gives away $10.

I found today’s recipient as I left the Starbucks at Dupont Circle.  Roman was getting ready to get on his bicycle when I approached him and asked him to accept my $10.

Roman, originally from Kiev, Ukraine, is a night club promoter here in DC.  He’s also a student at Strayer University where he studies business administration.

It was one of the coldest days of the year.  I kept our conversation brief as I could feel the blood flowing through my veins turning to ice.  Ok not really, but you get the idea.  Anyway, the 24-year-old said he was going to use the money to buy some coffee during the week.

Before saying goodbye, I invited him to the Year of Giving Anniversary Celebration the following evening.  He rode off on his bike and I hurried home.

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Today marks the first day of giving for our newest Kindness Investor from Seattle: Petra.   I spoke to another future Kindness Investor earlier this week.  His name is Michael B. from Connecticut and he will start his week of kindness investing on January 5th.  Slowly I am getting people to join this movement; a seven-day, seventy dollar investment that has the power to change an unemployed person’s perspective on life through kindness.  If you or someone you know are out of work and want an opportunity of a lifetime, drop me a line.

Today’s recipient is one whose story touched me tremendously.  I was in Manassas, VA visiting my good friends Thomas and Tressa.  It was their beautiful baby girl Tegan’s first birthday.  Well, I guess she already had a birthday last year…a real birth day…anyway she turned one!  While I was there I met a friend of theirs named Jen who teaches at the same school where Tressa teaches.  I decided to give her my $10.

Our conversation was quite typical at first.  We talked about her job as a high school biology teacher.  I learned about her experience volunteering in Ghana with an ophthalmologist.  “I did eye exams and distributed glasses to local communities,” she explained.  “It completely inspired me!”  It inspired her to pursue other dreams and that is why next year this 30-year-old Pittston, PA native will leave her lesson plans on photosynthesis and Mendel’s heredity research for a new career in medicine.

It’s not a surprise that Jen is going back to school when you learn that she is the faculty member that overseas homecoming, student council, prom, quiz team, etc.  Yep, she’s definitely an overachiever.  My friends tell me that she is a karaoke wiz too!  “I know the lyrics to just about any song from the late 80s and early 90s,” she says beaming.

Then I asked a question that completely changed our carefree conversation, “Are you married, do you have kids?” I asked.  There was a brief silence and she responded that she was a widow.  I offered my condolences and she explained that her husband, Army 1st Lt. Todd J. Bryant, was killed on October 31st of 2003 in Fallujah, Iraq when an improvised explosive device (IED) hit his Humvee.  The 23-year-old was assigned to Company C, 1st Battalion, 34th Armor Regiment, 1st Infantry Division at Fort Riley, Kansas.  A graduate of West Point Military Academy, Todd’s death came just 52 days after being deployed or as Jen put it to a journalist once, “55 letters later.”  “And we were married just ten days before he deployed,” she told me managing to keep her composure.

She shared with me the moment that she learned the news.  “I was teaching at my school,” she began to say, “when I was visited by an Army general and chaplain…”

I was speechless.  I just wanted to give her a big hug.  In a matter of minutes I felt like I knew Jen for years rather than the handful of minutes we had actually spent talking to each other.  And although I never met Todd, I can assure you that he was nothing less than extraordinary.

I have to be honest I couldn’t stop thinking about Todd when I got home later that evening.  I had so many questions and turned to the Internet to find out more.  He quickly becomes more than a casualty of war but a bright young man who liked In-n-Out burgers and making people laugh, who dreamed of raising a family with his soul mate and pursuing a career in government where he could effect real change in our country.  He was a husband, a son, a brother and a friend.  He would have been my friend.

There were also comments from those who never knew Todd but reached out to pay their respects to a family that understood the meaning of  service.  Todd’s parents were former military officers and his brother Tim is currently a Lt. Col in the U.S. Marine Corps serving in the Marine Expeditionary Unit  and sister Tiffany, a 2000 graduate of West Point herself, served as a Captain in the Army before becoming a teacher.

You’ll even find a hard to put down book entitled In the Time of War by Bill Murphy, Jr. that focuses on Todd and his fellow graduating class from West Point.  I got the book and have read several chapters already.   It has several heartfelt excerpts of letters that Jen wrote to her husband and Todd’s farewell letter to Jen.  I can’t remember the last time I cried from reading a book.

It was fitting I thought that she decided to use the ten dollars to buy items for a care package that the student council members at her school were preparing to send to troops stationed overseas for the holidays.

Todd J. Bryant 1/14/80 - 10/31/03

We live far away from places like Fallujah, Iraq and Helmand Province, Afghanistan and sometimes we take for granted the sacrifices our brothers and sisters in uniform make for us.  I dedicate this blog post to the memory of Todd Bryant and encourage you to take a moment of silence right now and pay your respects to Todd and all of those who have lost their lives serving their respective countries.

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Filter Coffee House, 1726 20th NW, Washington, DC

It was the Sunday before my Year of Giving Anniversary Celebration on December 14th and I was scrambling to get everything done that I needed to do.  I had taken a break from my planning to meet up with a friend of mine who was visiting from Sao Paulo, Brazil.  We went to Maggiano’s for lunch and on my way home I stopped by a small coffee shop near my apartment called Filter.  Those who have followed the Year of Giving for a long time and have superpower memory might recall that I met Mark from Day 132 there as well.

I was sitting there having an espresso scoping out the café.  I really didn’t need a coffee, but I did need to find a recipient and given that it was raining outside I figured that finding someone indoors where it was dry and warm was much more appealing than talking to someone while becoming a human sponge.

I grabbed a seat in the cozy café next to two young ladies who were sitting to my left.  There are maybe 10 tables so often times you end up sharing a table with someone else.  I didn’t know if they were together or just sharing a table, but figured I would ask the one sitting closest to me.  It turned out they weren’t together and Meg, after pulling the earphones from her ears, agreed to accept my money.  The other girl at some point seemed bothered by the conversation, or just bummed she didn’t get the ten bucks, and moved.

Meg and her husband JD with the ten dollars

Meg is a 23-year-old who lives in Takoma Park, MD and came into the city that afternoon to go to a “good coffee shop.”  She was reading Wilkie Collins’ 19th century classic epistolary The Moonstone and listening to some music while she waited for her husband JD to arrive.  Meg does some really amazing work.  She works for an organization that helps resettle refugees from conflict areas such as Somalia, Sudan, DRC, Iraq, Pakistan, etc.  “It’s very rewarding,” she said taking a sip of her latte.

Meg and her husband got married this summer and moved here after having met at Oklahoma State University.  Now a bunch of my relatives went to OU and I thought that this would be a good thing to mention.  Little did I know that you don’t want to tell an Oklahoma State alum that you are partial to OU.  We made quick treaty and she went on to tell me that she and her husband had spent time living abroad in Egypt and really enjoyed it.  Having lived in Mexico, Spain and Brazil myself, I think the opportunity to live in another country, especially one where they speak another language, is extremely rewarding.

JD arrived covered with beads of rain from the lingering afternoon drizzle.  As it turns out he left his wallet in the car and asked Meg if she could buy him a coffee.  Meg smiled and slid the ten dollars across the table to her husband.

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The Year of Giving made AOL’s Top 10 Good News Stories of 2010!  Wow!  I can’t believe it.  Check the link above to read all ten amazing stories!

I was over in Southwest picking up the autographed baseball that the Nats donated for the fundraising auction when I decided to find somebody in the neighborhood to give my $10 to.  I first approached a female crossing guard who was braving the cold to make sure the intersection at First and M Streets was safe for school children.  Although she said she really liked the idea of the Year of Giving, she politely declined saying that as a city employee she could not accept any money.

Charmaine suffers from various illnesses and alcohol dependency.

I drove south on First Street a few blocks and found Charmaine walking down an ally near First and O Streets.  Dressed in sweat suit, covered by a white robe and black leather trench coat, Charmaine was walking west down an empty alley holding a plastic supermarket bag.

The 55-year-old told me that she was originally from Baton Rouge, Louisiana.  She has a son and a daughter and five grandchildren.

I get Supplemental Security Income in the form of disability.  “I suffer from pancreatitis, hepatitis c, high blood pressure and a chronic breathing disorder,” she told me.  “I also am battling depression and suicidal tendencies; I have schizoaffective disorder.”

It was about 3pm and I enquired about where she was going since she was still dressed in her robe.  “I just ran up to the corner store (I later found out that she went to the Friendly Food Market that didn’t look so friendly) to get me some more beer; you can probably smell it on my breath,” she said admitting that she probably shouldn’t be drinking because of the pancreatitis, but she struggles with alcohol dependency.  “I get two Keystones for $1.25,” she told me pointing to the white plastic sack she was clutching in her right hand.  I had a feeling she was going to tell me that she was going to use the ten dollars for beer too, but she had another answer.  “I’m gonna get me some food, soap and toilet paper; I don’t got no toilet paper to wipe my ass with,” she said showing me her toothless smile.

We were interrupted by a guy who was getting belligerent with us.  He had seen my SLR camera and took an unwanted interest in us.  I quickly tucked the camera back in my bag and barked back at him to leave us alone.  He kept on taunting us for a few minutes and then walked away.  “You gotta be careful,” Charmaine admonished, “a young boy was shot and killed just one street over earlier this week.”  I got the message loud and clear.  I gave Charmaine a quick hug, said goodbye and bee-lined it back to my car and got out of there.

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Tomas does a little dance in the middle of Massachusetts Avenue.

I couldn’t dream up some of the people that I come across.  Today, I ran across Thomas Jefferson, one of the four Washington Nationals’ mascots!  It was ironic, because the day before I had reached out to the National’s organization to ask for a donation item for the year-end celebration raffle.  By the way, they came through on that and generously donated an autographed baseball by outfield slugger Josh Willingham.  

Jefferson, whose jersey bears the name “Tomas”, wears the number three which corresponds to him being the third president of the United States.  I am not sure why he doesn’t have an “h” in the spelling of his name.  Anyway, he was in front of the Chipotle in Dupont handing out some flyers about the Nationals’ holiday promotion where you buy three games for about the price of two games, including tickets to opening day, and get a free Nationals ornament – pretty decent package.  I got to about ten games this past season and even gave my $10 away at about six or seven of them.  I already have 2011 opening day on my calendar; I haven’t missed it in the past four years.

Communication was limited to head nods and hand gestures as Tomas was unable to speak.  He was pretty good at it too.  If you need a charades partner, he’s your man.  I asked him what he was going to do with the money and he rubbed his belly.  “Food,” I asked and he rocked his enormous head back and forth.  Then he made a gesture like he was freezing cold.  Or maybe he was going to use it to buy some clothes.  Well, to be fair he was probably freezing cold.  He was wearing shorts and it was about 30 degrees.  Note to Nationals administration: Please get this guy some warmer clothes.

For those of you who have been to a game know that the four presidents whose images appear on Mount Rushmore (Washington, Jefferson, Lincoln and Roosevelt) have a race every home game from center field to the

Me and Tomas near Dupont Circle.

Nationals dugout.  Tomas is in second place overall since the inception of the race with 97 wins.  Despite having the second best record, he has never finished any single season in first place.  But then again, he’s doing better than poor Teddy who has never won a race.  Let Teddy Win!

We said goodbye and Tomas gave me a high-five.  I hoped that he would come to my year-end celebration, but to my knowledge he was not there.  Then again, without his costume I probably wouldn’t have recognized him!

Let’s go Nats!

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I asked if I could take Pierre's photograph and he said, "Why not, I am a handsome man!"

After attending a luncheon fundraiser for Room to Read that featured journalists Cokie and Steve Roberts, I hailed a cab and headed over to my office at 24th and M Streets.  I asked the cab driver how his day was and he responded, “Wonderful.  Every day is beautiful!”  I peered up at the name listed on the taxi permit fastened to the underside of the sun visor and saw that his name was Pierre.

I leaned over, grabbed my book bag and pulled my small notebook out to take some notes about this jovial character as we traveled the 30 blocks across town.

Originally from Port-au-Prince, Haiti, Pierre moved here in 1972.  “I remember it well, it was the year that Mr. Nixon had some trouble,” the 66-year-old said still smiling broadly.  “And the Dolphins won the Superbowl!”  He would know that too because he moved to Miami before moving to DC later in 1975.  He hasn’t been back to Haiti in a while though.  In fact, he isn’t aware of any family still living there.  “If I have some, I don’t know them.” 

“I’ve been driving a cab since 1984 or 85.”  He’s been lucky, he said, that he has never experienced any dangerous situations while driving his cab like Freddy, the recipient from Day 331 who was shot while driving his taxi back in the late eighties. 

I shared with Pierre that part of my motivation for this project was my mother, who passed away four years ago this month.  He told me that he lost his wife two years and eight months ago.  “We had ten children and 20 grandkids.  The oldest is now 46; I had her my last year of high school,” he said turning onto M Street.  “All but one of them are here in DC.  And the 20th grandchild was just born the day before.  “I was coming from the hospital when I picked you up,” Pierre said.  

I love this guy.  He had such an energy and esprit de vivre!  His ten dollars went to buying his lunch for the day.

“I really like what you are doing,” he said as I got out of his cab.  “Probably many people have thought something similar, but the difference is that you took the initiative and did it!” he said with his intoxicating voice.  

I hopped out and snapped this photo of him as he pulled away.

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There was a lot of talk earlier this week of a white Christmas here in Pennsylvania, but so far no snow.  I had a wonderful holiday with my father, brother and sister-in-law.  I got some great presents and had fun making cookies and playing bridge.  I am stuffed though.  No more food for me until Spring.

It's hard to see here but this is a photograph that I took of James sleeping. He leans slightly against the wall and his upper body slowly bends toward the earth.

Today’s recipient is going to touch your heart.  He’s 58-year-old James who has been homeless in DC for “six or seven years.”  I found him at the Chinatown Metro stop late at night while he slept standing up.  I observed him for about five minutes and then he began to fall over and woke up again.  I walked over to see if he was ok.

“Oh I’m fine, thank you,” James said forcing the words through the frozen air.  “I sleep standing up ‘cause I get cramps lying down.”  He later added, “The last time I slept in a bed was 1995.”  I can’t imagine that.  I was still in college at that time.

Through speaking with James it appears that he has some chronic health problems, but he refuses to go to the hospital.  “I don’t trust them,” he says softly.  

Everything that James owns sat in front of him in a cold metallic shopping cart which he keeps chained to him to ensure that nobody steals it while he sleeps.  “I have my clothes, soap, cleaning stuff, shoes, underwear, socks, a step-ladder,” he says continuing on to name some other items.  I notice that tucked on top of the cart was a Webster’s Dictionary that was probably 25 years old.  “Oh, that’s my dictionary,” he said rallying a bit of energy, “I like to read the dictionary.” 

James says that he doesn’t have any living relatives that he knows of.  His mother died in 1968 and his grandmother looked after him until she later passed away.  

James eyes rarely opened wider than this.

He seemed interested in US presidents.  He enthusiastically spoke about President Obama.  He seemed fond of Bill Clinton and Jimmy Carter too.  “Clinton was alright, he came out to a trailer park one time to meet the folks,” he started to say, “and Jimmy Carter was a good man too, he had nigger lips, did ya ever notice that?”  His comment paralyzed me slightly and I couldn’t even really come up with a response.  I’ve never liked that word and don’t use it myself.  It so often comes loaded with so much hate when it is uttered, but James said it with endearing admiration for the 86-year-old former president.

James tries to stay warm next to his belongings.

“I’m probably gonna get me a burger and a $0.65 senior coffee at McDonald’s,” he said motioning toward the ten dollars that was folded between his fingers.  Sometimes he hangs out there to stay warm, watch some television and treat himself to the occasional ice cream.

The air was so cold my face was hurting.  I said goodbye and shook his bare hand.  It was cold and stiff and I asked if he had gloves.  If he didn’t, I was going to leave mine with him.  “I’ve got some, they’re in my pocket, I’m just not wearing them right now.”  The temperature was plummeting and I urged him to go to a shelter, but he insisted that he would be fine.  I hope that he was right.  Street Sense’s Ellen Gilmer reported last week that 37 homeless individuals died this last year in the DC area.  Sadly many of them probably died alone.

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Merry Christmas!

Today is a day that we easily associate with giving; a day that we give gifts to our family members and friends as a symbol of our love and friendship.  As we approach a new year, let’s all make a commitment to think more about ways in which we can give to our family, friends and community.

Richard (left) and Paul (day 335) brave the cold to smoke a cigarette.

On Day 357 I was walking north on Connecticut Avenue when I passed a guy who looked just like Paul from Day 335.  Paul was the bike messenger who I met and then couldn’t find any of my notes from meeting him; not even his email or phone number.  Well, would you believe it, it was him!  Yes!  I found him.

He was standing outside a custom framing shop with his buddy Richard who works there.  The three of us chatted for a while and then I decided to give my $10 for the day to Richard.  He proved to be an interesting character!

“I like to make films,” he tells me taking a drag off of a cigarette in the subzero December afternoon.  “I’m doing a commercial for a record label now, but I’ve done some shorts and music videos too,” he adds.  He’s even recently bought an 8mm camera which he was eager to tell me about.

Now I’ve got to tell you that after yesterday’s recipient told me about his fetish to use heart monitors during sex I thought I had to ask Richard if there was anything interesting or unique about him.  I mean, after you hear about the heart monitor thing you can’t pass up the opportunity to top it.

Well, Richard’s answer doesn’t disappoint!  “I’ve been arrested twice within a five-day period in two different cities,” he says.  It turns out that he was traveling through Oklahoma City when he found himself in a supermarket and was arrested for shoplifting.  “I had some tea in my pocket which was actually mine, but they thought that I had stolen it,” Richard says.  He goes on to tell me that he had some cheese in his pocket as well.  “I’m not sure about the cheese though,” he confesses.  “That might not have been mine.”  As a result he was charged with larceny, got to spend 24 hours in an Oklahoma City jail and wear a bright-colored jump suit!  “All in all I probably spent $500 on that tea and cheese!”  Incidentally he said it was probably about a dollar’s worth of cheese.

Three days later Richard was leaving the South by Southwest Conference and Festival and driving through Brenham, TX when an officer of the law pulled the van over that he and his friends were traveling in.  “He pulled us over for a broken tail light,” he says, “but we ended up being detained for two hours while they searched the car and found a joint on one of the other guys.  So they brought us all down to the station.”  Well, the officer didn’t finish the paperwork and they had to spend the night in the jail.  “We somehow ended up in there for 36 hours.”    He smiled and said, “It’s bad man when you’re getting booked by some 18-year-old cop who is bitching and moaning about his prom.”  That being said, the Texas facility was apparently a lot better than the jail in Oklahoma City.  Their bail bondsman even brought them pizza when they got out of jail.

“So a few months later,” Richard goes on to tell me, “I traveled back down to Brenham to appear in court but at the last minute it was decided that we didn’t even have to appear!”

Richard said he was going to hold on to the $10 for now.  I thought he might be saving it for future bail money, but he advised me that it would be put toward some studio recording fees.  “I play the guitar and bass and am planning to get into the studio in January.”

I said goodbye to Richard and Paul and told them about the Year of Giving Anniversary Celebration.  They said they would try to make it but I didn’t see them there unfortunately.

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It’s Christmas eve and I am in Mechanicsburg, Pennsylvania.  I spent most of the day in the kitchen cooking and baking.  From a chocolate chess pie to cranberry chutney to marinated mushroom crescents…it was a food-centric day.  I might have also started a new tradition of mojitos on Christmas Eve.  They were crowd pleaser.

By the way, I have found a few Kindness Investors for this year already, but I am still looking for unemployed people to give away $10 for a week.  If you or someone you know wants to give it a try, send me a message.  Keep a look out by the end of next week for blogs coming from Melinda from Ohio, the first Kindness Investor for 2011.

I found my recipient on Day 356 around 11:00pm after I dropped off an electric blanket that  Michelle from North Carolina sent for Bill M. of Day 330.  He was very appreciative and even worried about using the electricity from the bank where he sleeps without checking with them first.  I left and trudged out in the cold windy night looking for a new recipient of my ten dollars.

I first found Sean who was running east on Pennsylvania Avenue to his car which was parked on Pennsylvania.  He was probably running because it was below 30 degrees and he wasn’t wearing a coat.  “I’m a giving person and I just couldn’t take your money,” the tall twenty-something guy told me.  So, I scanned the dark silent streets for someone else until I spotted Alberto crossing 20th Street toward me.

Alberto holding his ten dollars.

Originally from South Africa, he’s been here for two months and works for a large NGO.  “I like DC,” he says as my bare hand stiffens up from the December air as I scribble in my Moleskine notebook.  “I’ve enjoyed it here.  I have even been to a Redskins game; they lost though.”  Well that is no surprise.

We didn’t talk much.  The frigid temperature made it tempting to us both to wrap things up quickly.  I did manage to ask him a couple quick questions; one of which led to a surprising response from the South African.  I asked him if there was anything unique about him.  “Well,” the 31-year-old said pausing slightly, “I like to wear a heart monitor when I’m having sex.”  I didn’t quite no what to say.  “It makes sex kind of kinky,” he shared.  I got to tell you that I had a million questions racing through my mind when I heard this.  Forget the obvious of questions of why someone would do this, but what about how you would explain this to your partner.  “I usually introduce this when I come home from the gym,” Alberto says.  “Then it seems like it is just kind of a spontaneous thing that happens.”  I wonder if he leaves the beeping noise on?  And if you were wondering, yes, sometimes he convinces his partner to wear one too…then there would be lots of beeping going on.

Well, this was certainly an interesting meeting.  If you asked me to name 10,000 things that tonight’s recipient might tell me I can guarantee you that “wearing a heart monitor during sex” would not have been one of them.  This guy should be a sponsor for Polar or Timex.

His $10 didn’t go toward a new heart monitor.  Instead he said he would use the ten spot to buy someone else some coffee this coming week.  I’m sure that will be greatly appreciated now that the temperature is venturing less and less above the freezing point.  We said goodbye and I hurried across the avenue and practically dove into my refrigerated car.

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A man tucks a $5 bill into the donation kettle.

How many times have you walked by the Salvation Army bell-ringer in your lifetime?  Probably hundreds.  How many times have you stopped to make a donation?  Probably a fraction of those times if you are like most people.  Have you ever stopped to speak to the bell-ringer? Well, I did and met Daniel.

 

Originally from Houston, Texas, Daniel moved to Colorado Springs for middle and high school before moving to DC.  Now 17, he is a youth pastor here in our nation’s capital and is studying to get his associates degree in legal affairs at the University of the District of Colombia.  If all this wasn’t enough to make him one heck of an interesting recipient, check out his voice.  That’s definitely what caught my eye, err…ear I guess, when I walked by him on 12th Street.

He accepted my two five dollar bills and put them right into the bright red tub next to him.  “Nobody’s gonna to steal my bucket,” Daniel told me in response to a news report that I shared with him about a bucket being stolen from a bell-ringer in Arlington, TX earlier in the week.  “I’m a good Christian, but if somebody tries to steal my bucket I’m gonna get’em,” he tells me with a deafening smile.

 

Daniel sings holiday songs for hours while he volunteers with the Salvation Army.

“I’ve been doing this since the sixth grade,” he says while continuing the melodic ringing of the shiny silver bell.  “I do it every day and people seem to really enjoy the singing.”  I have to agree with Daniel.  I saw probably a dozen people putting money into the kettle.  “There’s been a lot of fives going in today,” Daniel said.  “It’s gonna be a good day!”  If you haven’t already heard Daniel’s singing and made a donation to the Salvation Army, he’ll be there until 11pm tomorrow night, so if you are in DC, head down to 12th and G Streets and say hello to Daniel and make a donation.

 

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Many people have told me how they were touched by what Alex from Day 109 did with his $10.  He was the Georgetown student who took his new-found money to the supermarket and bought supplies to bake cookies with and then passed them out to people that he saw every day but didn’t really know.  We all know these people; the receptionist at a doctor’s office, the convenience store employee, the bus driver, your mailman.  Well, today’s recipient used to be one of those people to me – a person I saw fairly regularly but never stopped to meet.  That all changed on December 3rd.

Today’s recipient wanted to remain anonymous.  I’ve agreed to call him “Ilyas” for the purpose of this blog post.

A few times a week I frequent a building here in town that has a variety of very pleasant staff working there, however, Ilyas made an impression on me.  He is always neatly dressed and very generous with his smile and kind remarks to people as they walk by.

Now 58, he told me that he was born in Pakistan.  He was a businessman there working hard to run a successful business and support his family.  In 2000, September to be exact, he had an opportunity to move to the US.  He had visited several other times but it seemed to be the right decision to move here given the questionable security in Pakistan at the time.

Fortunately he was able to continue his business from his new location here in the US, but after 9/11, demand slowed down and he made the hard decision to supplement his income with some additional work.  I say the decision was hard because Ilyas had never worked for anyone else but himself.  He first got a job as a teller at a bank, but he didn’t care much for that.  “There was a lot of pressure there,” he said referring to the nature of handling money all day.

He eventually ended up at the building where he now greets me on a regular basis.  He’s been there for six years now.  I have a special feeling inside me now when I see him.  I know more about him.  I know his name and how to correctly pronounce it.  I know a little bit about his life and his family.  He’s a proud father of three girls.  And I know that it is not only his smile that is warm and generous but also his heart.  He’s kind and gentle and very thoughtful.  It’s no wonder that I often see other people stopping to speak with him as well.

After chatting for a while Ilyas placed the ten dollars back on the counter in front of me.  “I can’t accept this,” he said showing me the same warm smile that I had become accustomed to seeing.  I urged him to keep it and reminded him that he could do anything that he wanted to with it.  After a bit more convincing, he decided to keep it and said that he would donate the money.

 

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Are you unemployed and want something inspiring to do for the next seven days?  Well, I have a solution for you!  Become a Kindness Investor and give $10 away every day to a new stranger for a week and then share your experiences here on the Year of Giving. I need someone to start tomorrow!!! So please email me today if you or someone you know are up for this amazing experience.

1417 22nd Street Northwest Washington D.C., DC 20037 - (202) 835-2665

On Day 353 I went over to Books for America, a great nonprofit bookstore that I have frequented for several years.  As I was purchasing the book I decided to give my money $10 to someone working there.  Two of the clerks that I mentioned it to both pointed toward a guy slouched down behind a computer off to the side of the register.  “He could certainly use the cash,” one of the clerks said pointing toward Adam who had by now stood up and made his way over to the counter.

I gave him the $10 and he thanked me and said, “I can definitely use it.”  I asked if I could jot down a couple of notes and he invited me outside to talk to him while he smoked a cigarette.

Adam grew up in Maine and attended St. John’s College in Annapolis, MD.  “I studied Liberal Arts – what do you do with that?” he rhetorically asked.  Well, he ended up working at Books for America and told me, “This is the best job ever.”  Adam picks up donations of books around the city and brings them to the store where they are resold at lower than market prices.

“I one time went to pick up some books from this lady’s house and when I got there she was so upset about parting with her books that in the end I recommend that she hold on to them and think about,” Adam told me.  “I mean, books can mean a lot to people and I want the person to be comfortable with the donation, otherwise it’s not good for them or us.”  I don’t recall if the woman ever called back for Adam to get the books or not.

Adam, who is very thankful to be employed now told me, “The thing that really sucks about being unemployed is having to tell your friends and people from high school that you are ‘in between jobs’ when they ask what you are doing.”  This never really bothered me when I was out of work, but I know a lot of people have shared this same comment with me.

Adam shared an amazing personal story of giving with me.  When he was in high school he and some buddies decided to buy some strangers breakfast.  Their simple altruistic act of kindness lived on for years without them knowing it; until recently when he happened to be visiting one of the same friends that was with him that morning and they received a very unexpected phone call.  Check out the entire story…

My favorite part of his story is, “Her gratitude was so much greater than our generosity in the moment.”  That is beautiful.  It just goes to show you that sometimes the little things you do mean a lot more to others around you.

By the way, the 28-year-old’s ten dollars are going to be handed to a bartender at the Big Hunt in exchange for a few “Bad Ass Amber beers.”

Adam and his ten dollars

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View from Tabaq of the Washington Monument keeping watch over DC.

On day 352 I headed over to Tabaq Bistro, the venue for my year-end celebration, to meet up with my friend Patricia who managed the entire event.  She’s a rock star and knows how to run events.  We went over a bunch of logistical issues about things you’d never dream of (i.e. will they have waiters or a buffet table, what kind of connection cables does their sound system use (1/4 inch if you were wondering), does the price quoted include serving plates and napkins, and the list goes on.  After an exhausting review of items, my head was sufficiently cloudy and we decided to get some food upstairs and figure out what we had forgotten.

We maneuvered our way up the two flights of dimly lit stairs to the upper level of Tabaq which has one of the best views in DC if you haven’t been there.  Its wall to wall glass gives sweeping views toward the downtown, the monuments and beyond.  We grabbed some space at the rather empty bar area and ordered a drink and began perusing the dinner menu.  Muhammara, that sounds interesting.  It’s a roasted red pepper and walnut puree.  We got one of those and chicken breast stuffed with spinach, cheese and peppers that glistened with thin layer of port wine sauce.  My mind swirled like the cocktails the bartender was serving up.  There were a myriad of things that had to still get done that day.  One of which was to deliver my $10 to some unsuspecting individual.

Rachel chatting with Patricia.

Our bartender was a young woman named Rachel.  Why not give it to her?  She was very friendly and frankly had the time since at the time we were her only customers.  The Connecticut native had been working there for about a month.  She recently graduated from American University with a degree in graphic design and photography.  My friend Patricia also went to American University here in DC and actually knew exactly where Rachel lived in Connecticut.  Small world…almost freaky.

Rachel mixes up the perfect martini.

The world is in fact small for Rachel.  She loves to travel.  Maybe it’s because her father is originally from New Zealand and she has always had the international bug.  Her father grew up in Auckland.  “I’d like to move to New Zealand some day,” Rachel says.  “Maybe try sailing or just hang out for a while,” she added.

At some point the conversation turned very technical focusing on the specific fonts she used to develop her website – which you can find here!  “I used universe font,” she started to say, “I tried to avoid gil sans and helvetica.”  Fonts…hmm, I can barely choose between wearing brown or black shoes in the morning much less what kind of font I am going to use on my website and documents.  Patricia and Rachel debated the finer points of fonts – the conversation gliding far above my comprehension.  I drifted in and out of the conversation while shifting my attention to the hearty portion of Muhammara that was still in front of us.

A cherry blossom photograph that Rachel made. For more of her work, click on the photo to visit her website.

Rachel stood close enough to get us something should we need it but not too close to make us feel uncomfortable as we ate.  “So what do you think you will use the ten dollars for,” I asked the camera shy bartender.  She paused for a moment and told me that she would probably use it to pay for the Metro or maybe put it toward a dinner she planned to make that week for a really good friend of hers.  “I’m thinking about making chicken picatta,” she said.

 

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Jim has been homeless for more than three years.

So many of the 365 people that I have met have touched my soul.  They have made me think about things that I would have never had the perspective to ponder prior to taking this walk.  Jim, a 52-year-old homeless resident of Washington, DC, invited me into his world for a while.  Will you join me?

It was an abnormally warm November 30th.  Puddles filled the streets and sidewalks as water droplets still fell from rain covered tree branches from the late afternoon showers.  Tucked under a small awning in front of what used to be the Riggs Bank in DC – now PNC – was Jim.  His head didn’t move much at first when I called out to him, rather his eyes abandoned the crossword on his lap and found their way to mine.  He sat up a little bit, plucked the earphones away from his ears and offered me a dry piece of real estate next to him.

Mostly homeless since 2007 he credits not being able to find work as the cause of his current lack of regular indoor housing.  The biggest challenge he faces being homeless is not the cold or the danger, but finding a place to store his personal items.  “I lost all of my belongings…twice!”  He once tried to hide his things in Rock Creek Park only to find them gone when he came back.  “There needs to be some type of lockers downtown where to store things in,” he says, “I’d be happy to pay a reasonable fee for such a service.”

It’s a different paradigm living on the streets.  You become more in tune with some things.  “The saddest people out here are the schizophrenics,” Jim says.  “They don’t access all the resources that are available for them and they can’t keep schedules.”  We touched on a variety of levels of mental illness and I jotted down one of the things he said that caught my attention: “There is a certain charm that mildly psychotic people have.”

He told me about an “ex street boyfriend” he had.  “He once stole some ugly sunglasses and some eye cream; only a gay homeless guy steals eye cream!” he said appreciating the humor.

The air occasionally brought a chill with it and Jim slipped a blue knit hat over his head.  With the Express newspaper still in his lap he says, “If a crossword is too hard it gets to be like work and if it’s work, I expect to get paid!”  We laughed together.  Speaking of work, Jim did recently get a job at a Cosi for about a week.  “It was just not for me,” he said shaking his head slowly and watching some young people walk by probably on their way to a nearby coffee shop or bar.  “I felt like I had hundreds of managers telling me what to do.”

We must have sat there for about 90 minutes.  I shot some video that I have included here of Jim talking about where he is from, about being homeless, suffering from depression and finally he took me on a short field trip over to the Marvelous Market to do some dumpster diving.  His compassion and charisma impacted me a great deal. Check it out.

Jim plans to use my $10 to get some coffee and maybe a snack in the morning at Books-A-Million.  “I’ve been wanting to read God of Small Things,” he says about Arundhati Roy’s Booker Prize winning novel.  “It appears to be a rich fictional piece that I might just end up getting lost in.”

I asked someone walking by to take our photo.

Through my conversation with Jim I learned that he knows Bill C. and Tommy N. who I gave $10 to earlier in the year.  As a final note, I have stopped by and left some food for Jim when I have seen him sleeping at his spot.  He also joined me at the Year-End Celebration which meant a lot to me!  Do check out the Lend a Hand initiative to see a couple of very simple things that you could get to help Jim out.

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My gym.

I am constantly trying to find new places to give my $10 away.  I was walking over to my gym the other day, a walk that I have made far too infrequently these days,  when I realized that I had never given my money away there.  It’s a little weird to go up to someone bench pressing a bunch of iron and say, “Hey, could I give you $10?”  but I was determined to find someone.

The easiest option would be to go give it to someone who was stuck working at the desolate reception – they’re practically begging for someone to come and talk to them there.  Instead, I combed the gym looking for someone working out.  I walked by and saw a lone person in the spinning room; a glass enclosed cage full of stationary bikes sentenced to life in gym.  Inside, Natalie was working up a sweat on one of the two dozen bikes.

"I'm a liberal working for a bunch of republicans," she said referring to her job.

This was awkward.  I didn’t want to affect her workout, but I did.  She slowed down to a leisurely pace as we talked.  Originally from Little Rock, AK, I quickly learned that we both had a connection to former President Clinton’s foundation.  She had worked for the organization in Little Rock and I had worked for the Alliance for a Healthier Generation, a nonprofit that he helped start jointly with the American Heart Association.  Now she works in government relations.  “I’m a lobbyist,” she says as I probe a little deeper on what someone in government relations actually does.  She’s been putting in long days working on energy related issues and only gets to the gym when apartment lights are being dimmed and people are pulling down their covers to go to bed for the evening.  I asked her what her motivation was to go to the gym and she said, “Just basic maintenance, stress, and guilt.”

When this twenty-something is not immersed in wonky energy related policy or relieving stress on the stationary bike, Natalie enjoys reading and traveling.  Her dream is to become a high school teacher some day and then retire in a sleepy town in the Ozarks of northern Arkansas.

As for the money, “I’ll have to give it away,” she says.  “I’ll probably give it to someone who is homeless.”  We talked about how society today has changed and people don’t stop to talk to strangers that much.  “I don’t talk to people on the street,” she admits, “I’m a headphone person.”  I encouraged her to take a second and talk to the person she gives the money to – ask them their name.

I totally screwed up Natalie's work out.

Before I left, I asked if she needed anything that I could add to the Lend a Hand initiative.  “Maybe some advice,” she started to say, “about how to make my parents golden years meaningful.”  Her dad, a bar owner, and mother, a special education teacher, live together in Little Rock.  I liked that she thought of them and their happiness.  Our parents do so much for us.  I could also use some similar advice for my father.  I have some ideas, but getting him to want to do those things is a whole another story.

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Yesterday evening was Day 365 of my Year of Giving.  It was absolutely brilliant.  It was so good to see so many past recipients of my $10 joined by blog followers, family and friends.  I couldn’t have asked for a more perfect evening.  If you want to get a taste of how the evening went, check out this awesome segment that ran on ABC-7 here in DC.  More to come on this when I write up the blog post for Day 365.

I hope I look as good as Margie does when I'm 65!

Now, let me take you back 17 days to a cold November 28th.  My brother Ryan invited me to be his guest at a Washington Capitals game.  It was there that I met Margie while she checked the tickets of the fans who entered the 200 level concourse. 

Margie, an usher at the arena for the past nine years, works all kinds of events.  “At first I didn’t care for hockey because I didn’t understand it, but I’ve learned some of the rules and things and now I’d probably say that it’s my favorite.”

A DC native, Margie and has four children and five grandchildren!  I wasn’t surprised to learn that she had worked in the nursing and healthcare field for most of her life as she is clearly a caring person.  She provided home healthcare for both children and adults; helping them bath, get dressed, cook, grocery shop, etc.  “I love helping people,” Margie said, “I’m a people person.” 

We laughed a lot.

She told me that this has been a difficult year for her.  “I’ve been having kidney and liver problems,” sounding positive despite the unfortunate circumstances.  She’s on several medications and hopes that her situation starts to improve soon.  It would be completely reasonable for her to use the $10 to help pay for the medications that she needs, but she decided to pass it on to someone who needs it more than she does; one of Margie’s daughters has a foster child who is expecting a baby.  As she looked down at the ten-dollar bill in her hand she said, “I know she could use the money.” 

I gave her a big hug before I left.  I look forward to seeing her again the next time I am at the Verizon Center.

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Tomorrow is the big day!  I am sadly not going to be caught up with my blog posts by Tuesday, Day 365.  At one point I thought I could do it, but I have to let that idea go.

I am still looking for people who are out of work and would be willing to do what I have been doing; giving away $10 a day and then sharing the experience.  You don’t need to do it for a year, just 7 days.  If you are interested, send me an email to reed@yearofgiving.org.

Day 347 was the day after Thanksgiving.  I woke up that morning still sufficiently full from all the turkey and stuffing I consumed the day before.  I had agreed to go to Yuengling Brewery that day with my friend Laurie whose parents live about 15 minutes away in Camp Hill.  There was no specific reason to go other than I enjoy beer and used to brew my own and we had nothing to do that day. 

It was no more than an hour and thirty minutes from Mechanicsburg.  The last 10-15 miles of it is a very pretty drive through the winding hills of central Pennsylvania.  Pottsville, where the brewery is located, is a picturesque little town that reminded me of several other towns in Pennsylvania and Ohio.  I parked the car in front of the brewery and started digging for quarters in my pocket to feed the meter.  Thankfully it was only twenty-five cents for each hour.  In DC it costs about twenty-five cents for every seven minutes! 

Filling cans of Yuengling lager beer.

As we walked up to the building bearing the name “D.G. Yuengling & Son” on it I mentioned to Laurie that one of the brewers was the uncle of a good friend of mine.  I had met him once or twice and once even completely confused him with my friend’s father.  In my defense they do look quite a bit alike.  Anyway, it would be nice to see him again if he was there.

Just inside we were greeted by a woman who said we needed to wear a wristband.  While we were waiting for the tour I asked her, “Do you know James Buehler?  He’s a brewer for Yuengling.”  Perplexed she looked at me and said, “Yes…he’s my husband!”  I introduced myself to Cindy and explained how I knew her husband.  She informed me that he had the day off.  I guess there is a decent chance that I had met her before too, but neither of us seemed to remember.  As we were taking the tour, we were asked to go and wait in the gift shop for them to call for us.  Afterwards I thought I would look for Cindy and give her my $10 for the day but I couldn’t find her.

We then headed down the hill to Roma’s to grab something to eat.  It’s a good place that looks like it once was just a small walk-in pizza joint that had expanded to having a dinning room with sit down service.  I thought about giving the $10 to the waitress, but in the end decided to walk around Pottsville and find somebody.

Stacie protects Kylie from the strange man handing out money.

I saw a young woman and little girl skipping down road.  It reminded me of that scene in the Wizard of Oz when Judy Garland (Dorothy), Ray Bolger (Scarecrow), Jack Haley (Tin Man), and Bert Lahr (Cowardly Lion) all go singing and skipping down the Yellow Brick Road.  I stopped them and asked Stacie to accept my $10.  She did.

Stacie, 19, and Kylie, 4, were heading home to Orwigsburg which apparently is not far from Pottsville.  Although Kylie is her boyfriend’s daughter, Stacie seemed so natural with her.  Like most small children that get close to me, Kylie shied away as I approached her.  She clutched the drawing of a bear that she had colored earlier that day and ducked behind Stacie’s leg seeking protection from big scary Reed.  Thankfully she didn’t start bawling, usually they do.

Stacie is taking online classes right now to get her Associate’s Degree in Childhood Development.  “Someday I hope to have my own day care,” she said smiling at little Kylie.  She seems to have a knack with children and will probably be great working in that field. 

She told me that the $10 was going to go toward Christmas.  “It’ll probably end up going for something for her,” nodding her head toward cute little Kylie.

We said goodbye and Stacie carefully loaded her precious cargo into the car-seat in the back of her SUV and they drove off.  I walked up Market Street a little more and took some photographs of the town before heading back to Mechanicsburg.

The other day I got an email from Stacie.

I just wanted to e-mail you and tell you that my $10 is in fact going towards Christmas gifts for Kylie.  I bought her [books] (ended up being 20 books and a pack of flashcards!) for her Tag reader (you know those electronic pens that read the words in books out loud?  I got her one of those for her 4th birthday this summer and ever since then she’s loved reading.)  In my mind your $10 paid for a Super Speller book for her so thank you for helping my ‘stepdaughter’ (I hope one day she legitimately is) learn and to help support her love of reading.  I’m sure after this project you really understand just how important things like reading skills are. “

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Three more days…

There were really no cars out. I took this in the center of Simpson Street, a "major" road in Mechanicsburg.

Today’s blog post is from Day 346 which was Thanksgiving.  I was in Mechanicsburg with my father.  Dad cooked a delicious turkey and I handled some of the sides.  My favorite is the stuffing.  In fact I made two stuffings.  Dad prefers cornbread stuffing, but I’m more of a bread stuffing guy.  I make sure to add a little sausage and plenty of sage like my mother used to do.  I also added pine nuts which I don’t think she did.

After the tasty spread was consumed along with a blurry amount of wine, I decided that I should try to go and find my recipient of the day.  I decided to walk, note the reference to wine above, and headed out toward downtown Mechanicsburg.  I was going to head to the CVS at 30 East Simpson Street.  It’s probably less than a mile from the house although I bet people rarely walk there from my father’s neighborhood.  Most people here drive everywhere.  Dad decided to stay behind because of his knee – at least that’s what he said, maybe it was because there was still some wine left!  “I don’t think CVS will be open,” he shouted down to me as I opened the front door.

The town looked abandoned.  The streets were empty and rather dark with a hint of precipitation making everything glisten ever so slightly.  I could peek through the windows of several homes and see families sitting down to Thanksgiving dinner.  Several houses already had their Christmas lights on.  

I got to the CVS and saw that it was in fact open.  There were two cars in the parking lot, one of which had just arrived.  A couple with a small child got out and disappeared into the store.  “Maybe I’ll give it to them,” I thought.  They ended up eluding me and I shifted my focus to my cashier: Kristen.

Kristen is a shift supervisor at CVS.

The 19-year-old is originally from a place called Troy, Missouri, “about 45 miles north of St. Louis.”  She’s the shift supervisor and had been there since 4:00pm – it was about 7:00pm. 

“Can I donate the $10?” she asked.

After explaining that she could do anything she wanted to with it she grabbed a piece of paper near the register that said, “St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital.”  Each card is worth a $2 donation.  She swiped it five times.  I looked at the card more closely and it said, “Help fight childhood cancer.”

Children are probably on her mind these days.  Kristen, who lives with her boyfriend, is expecting a baby in May.  “We don’t know if it is a boy or girl yet,” she started, “and I am not sure I want to know.”  She has an appointment December 30th and they will know then if they choose to.  

We were joined then by a co-worker, Atle, who coincidentally has a sister named Reed!  Wow…I almost never find someone named Reed – although I did give my $10 to a guy named Read on Day 280 – much less a woman.  The store was dead and they looked bored.  They had another two hours before they could go home to their families.

Atle (left) poses with Kristen in front of the a shelf of "Light Up Santa Clauses." Thanksgiving isn't even over yet!

As we chatted Kristen’s boyfriend’s family was probably just finishing up the big meal.  “They had dinner at 6:00pm,” she said looking down slightly.  “But this was really special – I’ll remember this Thanksgiving because of this – otherwise I’d just remember coming to work and going home and eating leftovers.”   

Kristen and her boyfriend live in a one bedroom apartment and live on a modest income.  If you would like to help them through this financially difficult time, please drop me a note.  “We could use pretty much anything for our baby.”

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Just four more days.  Wow…time flies when you are having fun (and scrambling to get everything ready for Tuesday’s celebration!)  Lots of recipients and blog followers have RSVP’d for the event.  It will surely be an interesting evening.  Some donations are coming in for the raffle and auction, but still no primary sponsor.  Hmmm….it looks like I am the primary sponsor ;)

Here in DC it seems like Starbucks cafes are everywhere.  I think you can walk to five of them within ten minutes of my house.  Oh, before I go on, let me go back to the sponsorship item really quick since I mentioned Starbucks.  I actually thought they would be a very interesting sponsor.  I have given my $10 away at several Starbucks locations, have given to employees, and happen to frequent their establishment quite often myself.  In addition, the Year of Giving is all about bringing people together, connecting our community.  I’m guessing that if you ask Starbucks what their business is, I doubt they’d say it was making coffee…but providing a much bigger holistic service that had more to do with bringing people together.  Maybe not, just a guess.  But anyway, nothing from them yet…although that’s not for a lack of trying.

Cliff nimbly maneuvers over the curb.

Anyway, do you ever think about how is that every morning a place like Starbucks has everything it needs to quench your cravings?  It’s because of people.  It’s because of great people like Cliff who I ran into on the night before Thanksgiving.  I guess I could say Thanksgiving Eve, but that sounds weird to me.  Anyway, he was hard at work around 10:30pm at the Starbucks closest to my apartment.

I walked around to the back of his truck where he was pulling a dozen crates off at a time with a dolly and then rolling them into the cafe.  Each one was full with fresh milk, coffee beans, pastries, you name it.  “I don’t work for Starbucks directly, but they’re the only account I service,” Cliff told me as he heaved the dolly up over the curb.  “You build up some muscles doing this,” he added with a half smiling half grimacing expression.  He rolled the dolly around the side of the truck, opened the door, and backed into the now dimly lit coffee haven.  It was weird to see someone inside a dark completely empty Starbucks.  Usually they are brightly lit with an even flow customers percolating in and out. 

He came back with an empty dolly ready to load up another set of crates.  Cliff was very friendly and willing to speak with me although he told me he used to be more reserved and kept to himself.  I found that hard to believe based on my encounter with him. 

“It usually takes me about 10-12 hours to do my shift,” he said.  Starbucks goes through a lot of product.  He told me something like that he delivered some 686 units of milk each day, and I can’t remember if that is total or per store.  I’m guessing total, but I just did a quick search and it seems like it is possible that that figure is per store if he delivers every other day.

“I’m a very happily married man,” the 44-year-old from Maryland told me.  “I’ve got two girls and two boys; been married for 18 years.”  I asked if he was going to be spending Thanksgiving with the entire family and he said only one of his kids would be home, “The others are all grown and have their own families.” 

Cliff is a solid guy, not only personality-wise but also physically.  Let’s put it this way, you wouldn’t want to have to wrestle him to get your coffee every morning.  He’s recently been focusing on his health.  “I’ve been working on my weight,” he shared.  “I’ve lost 40 pounds…you see I’m diabetic,” he told me as he muscled another load over the curb.  “I got 20 more pounds to go to reach my goal of 200.”  That’s quite an achievement to lose 40 pounds. 

I waited for him while he disappeared again and delivered the goods.  I looked at the lined walls of the interior of the truck.  It was full of all kinds of goodies.  My mind slipped into a dream-like state and I envisioned myself driving the truck around giving all the homeless people I have met this year some hot coffee and pastries. 

I needed to get on the road to Pennsylvania and I’m sure Cliff was getting sick of chatting with me.  He came back and I asked him what he was going to do with his money.  “I’m going to give it to my wife,” he said grinning like a child.  “A man’s got to provide for his wife and family.”  I shook Cliff’s hand and invited him to the Year of Giving Anniversary Celebration this Tuesday.  “I might have to work that night,” he said.  “But let’s see.”  I started to walk away and he added one last thing, “I’m going to tell my wife about this.  She’s gonna love it.”

I walked back to my apartment, got in my car and began the two-hour drive to Mechanicsburg to spend Thanksgiving with my father.

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Deb Felz: singer, guitarist and songwriter

I never know where I am going to find my recipients.  Today I found Deb at the Potbelly’s where she was playing guitar.  It’s cool that Potbelly’s has musicians in there.  It’s not a place that you would expect to hear some great local talent, but Deb is pretty awesome.

I ordered their Uptown Salad and headed over to a table.  I was pretty sure that I had seen Deb before.  And then I figured it out, she was opening act at the Velvet Lounge the night I gave my $10 to Ethan, Day 128.  I just took a look back at that blog post from April and sure enough I even mentioned Deb!  

As I walked over to get my drink I asked her if she was in fact Deb Felz who had opened up for Ethan and Machines on Vacation.  In fact it was her, it’s a small world.  I sat down and started eating my salad and then it hit me.  She should be my $10 recipient of the day!  I waited until she finished her song and applauded, I was the only one, not because the others didn’t enjoy the music but because it is just not the environment where people are clapping for the performer.  But I did anyway. Then I went over and explained what I am doing and asked her to be part of it.  She set the $10 on the Fender amp that was to her right and started another song…I sat back and listed to about a half-dozen beautiful songs.  She finished and we pulled up some chairs to talk.

Deb plays as Adam gives me the "Who the hell is this guy?" look.

We were joined by her boyfriend Adam.  I noticed him while she was playing and I was photographing her.  I’m sure he was like, “Who the hell is this guy?”  I introduced myself to him and he was really nice as well.

Deb’s card says “singer, guitarist and songwriter.”  She is in fact all of these…and quite talented at each.  She does pretty much all original music.  I remember at one point some people at a nearby table asked her if she took requests.  “Not really.  I mainly do originals because I can’t do anything else,” she said warming the room with her smile.  Wow…there are a lot of people out there making music that can’t do anything original.  Her creativity started with writing.  “I’ve been writing as long as I can remember,” she told me.  “I wrote my earliest song around 9 or 10 and started guitar to put music to it when I was about 11.”  She doesn’t just enjoy the writing; she says that it’s something she needs to do.

She likes when people listen to her music and get something out of it that she hasn’t even thought of.  “All art,” she says “is for the audience.” 

Adam said that Deb has good Karma.  I’m not surprised after hearing what she intended to do with the $10.  “I’m going to give it to this one Street Sense vendor, she’s always by the Smoothie King.”  She ended up not seeing that vendor for a while so she gave the money to Kenneth B. from Day 30.  “He’s out there in all kinds of weather.” 

"Deb has pretty good karma!" - Adam

I particularly liked something she told me during our conversation.  She said, “The people who I admire the most are the people who have something to complain about and don’t.”  Well said.

Well, here are some links to Deb’s music.  I love it.  My two favorite songs are Pull and Meant to Be.  If you want to hear more of Deb’s music, just come to the Year of Giving Anniversary Celebration next Tuesday…she’ll be playing live!

Deb’s website where you can listen to many of her songs for free

Video of Lovesick, Pull and one other song at Potbelly

Video of Raining in Baltimore at Potbelly

Video of Backwards at Potbelly

My video recordings have some annoying background noise that I can’t remove with my free software I use to edit.  Sorry!

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This post is a little out of order, but I will get caught up on the ones I skipped by this weekend.  I am getting behind doing my day jobs, planning for the Year of Giving Celebration next Tuesday, giving my daily $10 away and planning the next year’s commitment!  Trying to sleep now and then too!

Over Thanksgiving weekend, I took my father to see a Hershey Bears hockey match.  I would often go to the games as a child with my Boy Scout troop.  I used to enjoy them, but this time I didn’t really enjoy it.  Partly I think because the people that sat around us were loud and obnoxious the entire game.  The other factor was that it became pretty clear that the fans showed up more for the fights than they did the hockey. 

The Bears easily won 4-0.  The nearly 10,000 fans packed into the Giant Center Arena would celebrate after each goal however if you really wanted to see cheering all you had to do was wait until somebody started punching his opponent in the face.  “I want to see somebody bleeding on the ice,” a fan who was behind us said casually. 

I’ve been to many Washington Capitals games and have not felt this same blood and guts mentality.  Anyway, it left a bad taste in my mouth.

After the game I suggested to my dad that we hang out inside the arena for a while since getting out of the parking lot was sure to be an abysmal experience.  He and I walked down a little bit to the area where wheel chairs are allowed and saw two older men chatting away.  At the first opportunity I inserted myself into the conversation and explained my mission.

George, a man probably in his late 60s or early 70s with cotton-like flowing beard, told me he wouldn’t accept the ten dollars.  “I don’t know why,” he started “just because.”  I turned to his friend Melvin and asked him the same question and got this response, “Well, I don’t know either, but if that is what you want to do than I guess I’m OK with it.”

It was incredibly hard to hear Melvin.  The acoustics were funky where we were standing and he was a bit of a soft talker so I feel like I got about 70% of the story.  The 73-year-old from nearby Campbelltown, PA told me that he’s retired from the transportation business.  “I loaded and unloaded the trucks,” he said just loud enough that I could hear him.  He also was a volunteer fireman for many years.

Giant Center Arena

To his left there was a metallic cane that leaned against the railing.  “I broke my pelvic bone,” Melvin shared.  “I did it right after a game here come to think about it.”  I wouldn’t be surprised if he fell trying to get through the aisles.  The aisles are so thin that you can barely squeeze in and out of the aisles.  I nearly dropped a platter of chicken tenders, french fries, ketchup and beer all over the row in front of me because I could barely get by some women in our row.  Not to mention that I too probably would have landed on their heads.  It’s possibly the most poorly designed, not to mention dangerous, seating area that I have ever seen.

Anyway, Melvin said he was doing better now and that this was the first hockey game he had made this year. 

I asked him what he planned to do with the money and he didn’t know for sure.  “I’ll probably use it to take my wife out to breakfast in the morning,” he said after pondering it for a moment. 

A man who looked to be in his 40s walked up the aisle and stopped to talk to Melvin.  It turned out to be one of his three children.  They got to talking and I figured it was time to go and said goodbye.

Melvin preferred not having his photograph taken and didn’t leave me any contact information, so I will probably never know if he reads this or get any more details on the whereabouts of that ten-dollar bill.  I wouldn’t have gotten a good picture anyway; the arena wouldn’t let me bring my camera in.  They have a strict no detachable lens camera policy which I think is silly.  “We do this to prohibit professional photographers from taking photographs at the game,” I was told by a security guard.  I was surprised since I always take my camera to NHL games and have never had a problem.  This was the second time in two weeks that I have been turned away at the gate of a sporting event for carrying something that was not allowed in the stadium.  Maybe I ought to just stay away from stadiums.

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Still no major sponsor for the Year of Giving Anniversary event.  Have spoken to a few law firms, they have passed.  Had two corporate companies analyzing it too, one passed the other one now has completely gone silent.  Although I try not to be bitter, the sad reality is that these companies spend this on business travel without batting an eye.

Lorrie at 13th & H Streets in DC

On a positive note, today’s recipient will make you smile.  Her name is Lorrie and she is a Street Sense vendor who I met at 13th and H Streets in downtown Washington.  

Lorrie has been selling the Street Sense newspaper since May and says that she loves it.  Her wide smile and contagious laughter is still vivid in my memory.  “I try to make everyone’s day,” she told me.  Well she made mine!

Check out this short video of Lorrie and see her warm smile for yourself!

After meeting Lorrie, we have spoken a few times on the phone.  She explained that even with her paper sales she is falling short of the income that she needs.  If you would like to help Lorrie by making a donation, you can go to the online donation portal of Street Sense and make a donation.  In the comments section just put what percentage of your donation you would like to go directly to Lorrie H.

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I found Lisa wrapped in a sleeping bag nestled in an alcove in front of a Chinatown building near the intersection of 9th and E Streets.  I walked about 20 feet past her and decided to go back and give her my $10.

It was about 10:00pm and sun drenched streets had long been replaced by the black and blue shadows.  At first I wasn’t sure if she was a man or a woman, but as I got closer and my eyes adjusted I could see clearly that she was a woman.  The 50-year-old’s dirty blond hair was mostly covered by a wool hat.  Her eyes were like perfectly cut Brazilian aquamarines.  They were so stunning that it was hard to look elsewhere. 

She said that she has been homeless for 10 years.  I handed her my card.  She studied it for a while – rocking it back and forth between her uncovered fingers to catch the dim light that cast over her from the empty street.  She took the $10 and told me that she would get some breakfast in the morning.  “Maybe get me some pancakes,” she said still suspicious of the altruistic gift. 

I tried to make small talk and ask her about her experience on the streets.  “The toughest part is finding enough water,” she said as I pushed my hands deep into my pockets to keep them warm.  It was chilly, maybe 40 degrees yet she cited drinking water as the biggest challenge.   

Things got very awkward when I asked if I could take a photograph of her.  She got noticeably upset, “No.  I don’t want my picture taken.”  She extended her hand toward me offering the folded up ten dollar bill.  “You can have your money back.  I don’t want it.”  I explained that if she wasn’t comfortable being photographed that that was fine and the money was hers to keep.  We were both silent for a moment.  I looked away from her and saw a Styrofoam food container – the kind you get from a Chinese take-out restaurant – and a half full bottle of water.  Her hand and the ten dollars disappeared again under the many layers garments.

“Well, thanks for speaking with me,” I told her as I picked up my trusty backpack – I’ve been carrying that bag around for 342 days now!  “Good luck and stay safe…and warm!” I added as I went on my way.

Every time I leave a homeless person I have more questions than answers.  It always weighs heavy on my mind for the rest of the day.  As I pull the covers up over me at night and close my eyes I wonder if Lisa is withstanding the cold.  I wonder when the last time she slept in a bedroom with lots of pillows and a thick warm comforter.  I wonder what she dreams about?

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A few weeks ago I headed up to Greenbelt, Maryland to see a musical dinner theatre performance of The Sound of Music.  It was held at the MAD Theater which is actually a special interest club at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center devoted to the theatrical arts and supported by the Goddard Employees Welfare Association.  My friend Jill was playing the role of the Baroness Elsa Schraeder. 

So the directions had me going through rural Maryland and at one point making a left onto a dusty gravel road where I was greeted by a police officer.

Officer: Good evening.  Can I help you?

Me: Uh, I am looking for the MAD Theater, we’re going to see a musical.

Officer: A musical? 

Me: Yes, The Sound of Music.

Officer: Do you have a ticket or something?

Me: Yes sir…here you go (showing him the form I printed out).

Officer: Of course, just pull up about 100 feet and you can park anywhere you find parking.  Enjoy the show.

I guess it’s due to security but he didn’t act like he knew anything about the show until I actually produced the ticket and then he let us in where we found a hundred other cars.

Anyway, it’s a really neat place and I enjoyed the show.  The entire staff is volunteer and two of them were Gayle and Andrew.  I actually met Andrew first as he was waiting on our table.  “Oh I couldn’t accept your $10, I am volunteering,” he told me at first but then said, “but maybe my wife will do this!”  He promised to talk to her and then sure enough came back with her a little bit later.

I asked them how long they had been married.  “How long have we been married or how long have we been happily married,” Andrew shot back at me causing Gayle to roll her eyes and laugh.  “28 years,” she said smiling.

Gayle is a travel agent and Andrew is a meteorologist.  “If you want to go on a trip,” Andrew began, “I can give you the forecast and she can book the trip!”  That’s a pretty good combination don’t you think?  I gave each of them $5 so that they could each chose what they wanted to do with the money.  Gayle said that she was going to donate her five bucks to the Prince George’s Little Theatre.  I looked at Andrew and he just handed his money over to Gayle making it a ten-dollar donation.

They were quite busy so I let them get back to work.  They were really nice and I am always happy to support community theatre!

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I am not a huge music fan.  I don’t have libraries of music or walk around with earphones attached to my head, but I do enjoy live music.  It’s a little like sports.  I couldn’t care too much if I watch a game on television, but I really enjoy going to a game.  The energy that you feel when you are at a concert or a sporting event is simply not recreated in your living room. 

The other night I headed over to see my friend Michael play a little jazz gig.  They were playing at the Imani Temple on Capitol Hill.  Attendance was sparse but that didn’t affect the show.  They performed as if there was standing room only.  They had a special guest that evening, Denyse Pearson.

Denyse sang about seven or eight songs.  She has a beautiful melodic voice and I was really surprised to learn that she hadn’t been performing in years.  After the show I approached her and asked if she would accept my $10.  She agreed and even took some time to talk with me.

Denyse with her husband Lawrence who is also a talented musician.

Denyse started singing when she was five years old.  “My earliest recollection of me singing is sitting on my grandmother’s steps baby scatting,” she said breaking a smile and drifting off to her childhood.  “I used to sing as I slid down those steps.”  Her father was also a strong influence on her.  A Nat King Cole fan, he was also a gifted singer but “he never went as far as he could have,” she said.    

She followed her passion and her father’s footsteps and developed a singing career until she stepped aside in the 1990s.  “It just got little dangerous,” she explained, “going in and out of clubs late at night.”  She is hoping to get back into performing more now.  In fact, she said she was putting my $10 toward future recording costs.  

I will ask Denyse to update this post with upcoming concerts that she has scheduled so that those of you in the area can check her out for yourself.  In the mean time, you can take a listen to one of the tunes she did when I saw her.  By the way, that’s my friend Michael on piano…he’s also terrific.

And if you live far away and want to hear more of Denyse, why not order her CD?  I bought one and if you would like to get one, drop me a note and I’ll get you in touch with her.

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I’m starting to think that this city has too many law students.  Ok, I guess it makes sense since Washington is our government’s central nervous system.  But Molly was applying to law schools, Sarah from yesterday was in her third year of law school and today’s recipient is currently applying to law schools.

Matt and I were seated in the two chairs just under the Starbucks sign.

It was one of the coldest days of the year and my exposed face and hands were stinging from the frigid wind.  I ducked into a Starbucks to get a cup of coffee and warm up a little.  I sunk into a big comfy chair by the window and found myself sitting next to Matt; a young professional dressed in a sweatshirt over a t-shirt that had the Rolling Stones written on it.  He was buried in his computer until I interrupted his concentration.  “I’m applying to law schools,” he said in response to my question of what he was up to that evening.  “I am genuinely interested in philosophy and believe that laws serve as agents for social change.”  He told me that his interest to go to law school is similar to the interest expressed by Franz Kafka’s character Fräulein Bürstner in the

The Trial.  She says, “I am fascinated with court matters.  The court has a strange attraction, doesn’t it?”

We talked about the Year of Giving and how people react to my offer.  Matt told me about a study that measured people’s willingness to help based on them having recently found a small amount of money.  He later emailed me this:

According to one experiment conducted by Isen and Levin, experimenters looked for helping behavior in unaware subjects after they left a public phone-booth. Whether or not the individuals helped a person in need was found significantly influenced by whether or not one had just found a dime in the phone-booth. In the initial experiment, the results for the 41 subjects are as follows (Doris 2002, 30):

Found Dime: (14 exhibited helping behavior, 2 did not exhibit helping behavior)
Didn’t Find Dime: (1 exhibited helping behavior, 24 did not exhibit helping behavior)

These results suggest that morally significant behavior such as helping another in need depends largely on minute factors of the situation that are not in the control of the agent.”

I found this fascinating.  The fact that finding a dime could influence people’s behavior so much.  Here I’ve been giving ten spots away, when people apparently would have been happy just getting a dime.  It would have saved me $3,613.50 too!  

He told me about another study where if a subject was asked to donate money to a cause that they were much more likely to give if there was another person in the room.  Now here is the fascinating part.  The study also showed that the subjects were equally more likely to give if instead of the other person there was a poster of a robot prominently placed in the room.  Weird.  It’s like we do the “right thing” if we think others are watching.  Even robots…painted on a poster!  Interesting.

Matt is originally from Michigan and plans to be here for about two years until he leaves for law school.  “I like DC but I think I am going to go someplace else,” he told me.  

The 24-year-old works for the government right now and preferred that I not use his last initial or be photographed.  Hmmm.  CIA?  Who knows?  He was a nice guy though, smart too.  I enjoyed chatting with him.

In his follow-up email to me he told me that he gave his $10 to a guy who plays trumpet in the morning near the World Bank offices at 18th and G or K Streets.  “He’s got a good heart,” he went on to write.  My ex-girlfriend used to always talk about this guy.  I went looking for him one morning but I couldn’t find him.  Maybe I will try to find him in these remaining 9 days.

Matt inspired me to do something too.  He suggested I try to go talk to Arlen again.  “Give her a second chance,” he suggested.  I have seen her from time to time but have never talked to her again since our meeting when she was bitter and confused.  I will try to approach her again.  Thanks Matt for the encouragement.

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Day 338 – Sarah B.

I’m 10 days away from the 365th recipient.  It’s hard to believe.  I have met so many amazing individuals through my daily giving as well as through the blog.  Letters and comments have poured in day after day giving me telling me how my story has inspired them in some way and offering encouragement to me to make it to the end.  That day is now in sight and I find myself reflecting a lot upon the last 12 months.  For those of you in the DC area, I hope you will join me on December 14th at Tabaq Bistro which has been so generous in helping make the year-end celebration possible.  The festivities get started at 6:30pm.

Sarah was worried her bangs were too short. I told her they looked fine...then again I'm not exactly a fashion expert.

Today I thought I would share with you a second recipient: Sarah.  I met her walking up 20th Street in DC.  She said she also lived in Dupont and we shared the next eight blocks together.  “I got my hair cut today,” she told me beaming.  “I go to a guy named William who works at Ava Salon on Capitol Hill.”  She adjusted her blue scarf so as to keep herself a little warmer, “I left my coat at happy hour…I might have had one too many!”

Sarah is a third-year law student at George Washington University.  Her anticipated graduation date is May 11 and after that she said she would like to find a job with the US government.  “I had an interview recently with a judge in Alaska, but I turned that down – it’s just too far away.”  She said she really enjoyed contract law, “and the government has contracts for everything.”  Then her mind must have slipped back a few hours to happy hour, “maybe I could practice wine law?”  Sounds interesting.

She wasn’t sure what she was going to do with the money.  “If this was money I had earned through work,” she started to say, “I’d probably just use it on food , maybe buy lunch with it, but since this came in such a unique and unexpected way, I feel as if I should do something different with it.”  I followed up with her this week but haven’t heard from her yet.

I have some other notes that say something about blue grass music and fiddles…but like so many other times, I can’t read my scribbles weeks later when I write up the blogs!

That's the Brewmasters' Castle in the background.

Sarah was so nice.  She is one of so many people that I have met through the Year of Giving who I’d like to be able to call my friend.  And we’re practically neighbors.  She lives a block or two away.

Sarah will be missing the year-end celebration unless she changes her holiday travel plans.  She’s got a ticket to Houston, TX on the 13th.

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After being unemployed for 285 days, I have a special connection when I give my $10 to someone out of work.  According to data released by the US Department of Labor yesterday, unemployment has risen to 9.8% from 9.6% where it had hovered since August.  That represents 15.1 million people who can not find work.  The good news is that we are slightly better off than we were in 2009 at this time when there was 10% unemployment which accounted for 15.4 million people out of work.

Phiona is one of the 15.1 million people searching for work in this country.  She has been unemployed for five months now.  Back in February I recall that the average duration of unemployment was 7.5 months.  I tried to find what it is at now, but couldn’t find an updated statistic on this.  So if she is an average case it will probably be February before she finds another job assuming the rate has stayed similar.  It’s tough out there.

She wants to do project management work for nonprofits.  In addition to her experience in disaster management and post-conflict reconstruction, she did a fellowship at UCLA and got her master’s degree from the University of Pittsburgh.  She sounds like she is prepared.

Speaking of being prepared…this 28-year-old was certainly prepared when I ran across her talking on her cell phone at the top of the Metro escalators at Dupont Circle.  She had a colorful umbrella next to her and opened that up just as the rain began to pick up – it had been drizzling lightly for a while.

She was quite weary of my intentions at first and asked not to be photographed – even when I offered to photograph her from far away with her face safely hidden behind the umbrella.  That’s just the way it is sometimes.  People are often uncomfortable being photographed, especially if it is going to be uploaded into the cavernous halls of the internet.

Originally from Kenya, Phiona is hoping to go to Africa for the holidays.  When you’re unemployed there is that weird balance of time and money.  When you were working you could afford to travel but didn’t have the time.  Now when you are unemployed you have more time than you could imagine but spending money on travel was always difficult for me.

Anyway, I wanted to share something with you that Phiona said.  We were talking about a variety of different things as the rain fell from the steel-wool colored November sky.  “It’s always somebody else who tells you who you are,” she said.  That’s an interesting comment because it goes along well with a phrase that I particularly like, “perception is reality.”  But is it really true that we are the person that someone else tells us we are ?  I say that we are who we are but we are to others what they tell us we are.  Wow, somebody else could surely phrase that better than I did!  By the way, I don’t think I have ever written a sentence where I used “we are” three times…perhaps I just won a prize or something!

Anyway, she didn’t know what she was going to do with the $10 when we said goodbye but promised to email me and give me an update.  Well, she did just that.  This week I received an email from Phiona letting me know that she bought herself some lunch with $5 of it and gave the rest to a homeless man by the Metro.

Enjoy your weekend!

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I just got home from work, kicked my shoes off and scanned around my messy apartment.  This week has been crazy and I have kind of let things get out of control around here.  Well, I have blocked off this weekend to get things done, so hopefully that includes getting things straightened up.

Day 336 was November 15th which was a Monday night.  On that night a tragic murder was committed here in Washington.  The Redskins fell victim to the Eagles 59 – 28.  But before the horrific slaughter, the parking lots were full of jubilant and hopeful fans who were still gossiping about the earlier news of the day that the Redskins extended Donovan McNabb’s contract for five years.  The deal pays McNabb 78 million dollars over five years with a guaranteed amount of 40 million.  Shoot, maybe I should be asking McNabb for some financial support for my Year End Celebration!

Antoine gave $3 to his friend and said he was going to save the rest.

Anyway, I told my buddy Chris that he could choose the recipient of the day but that his wife had veto power.  Well, this didn’t go very well.  Chris kept picking people that Beth didn’t approve of.  Until Chris drug 11-year-old Antoine over in front of her to be inspected and she approved.

Antoine was a sixth-grader who was selling candy to raise money for at risk youth in the DC area according to a gentleman accompanying Antoine who didn’t identify himself.  “I’ve got caramel hearts, peanut butter crisps, peanut brittle, green tea,” Antoine began to tell me.  What would you like?  I explained that he didn’t need to give me anything in return for the $10 and that he could just add that to his collection. 

“We use the money to provide activities for the kids and keep them off the street,” the man explained to me.  “You know we go to Kings Dominion, bowling, laser tag, all kinds of things.”

About this time another kid came over, he was a little older than Antoine.  I went to go get my camera to capture a few photographs.  “We got to get going,” the adult said as I returned 30 seconds later.  “We got to leave by 8:00pm and they still have plenty of items to sell.”  

I set up my camera while I asked some more questions to Antoine.  He told me that he had sold 12 boxes and that he had 7 more to go.

That's Antoine in the middle with his crate of goodies.

I snapped a few quick shots and let them get on their way.  As he grabbed his milk crate that he carried the items in I asked what he was going to do with the money.  “I just gave him three,” he said nodding his head toward the older boy, “and I think I will save the rest.”

This was a weird exchange.  Our conversation was awkward and I didn’t feel good or bad about it, just ambivalent.  I thought about it for a while even after Antoine was long gone and I was comfortably sitting in my covered seat in the stadium.  I wondered if he had ever come inside to see a game.  Probably not. 

As I said earlier, the game went on to be a disaster.  It poured rain for all of the second half and the score looked more like a basketball game than it did a football game.  The Redskins played awful.  I think 11-year-old Antoine could have played better than several of the guys that night – he would have played his heart out just be on the field.

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Before I get to today’s recipient, I need your help to find two things.  First, I need a couple of people who are out of work who would be willing to take the same challenge that I have done this year for a week or two.  In other words to go out and give $10 away every day and then blog about it on the Year of Giving.  If you or someone you know wants to do this, please email me.

The other thing is that the Year of Giving is expanding!  We need a part-time intern for next year.  Someone who is a little web savvy and can dedicate about 10 hours a week to the project.  It doesn’t need to be for the entire year, but at least a 6 month commitment.  It will be an amazing experience, trust me.  Any interested people should get in touch with me ASAP and tell me why you should be chosen.

This is not good.

Now…on to today’s recipient.  This is really embarrassing yet it was bound to happen at some point.  I opened my journal up to the page marked Day 335 and there was nothing written there except the name Paul.  I had no idea who Paul was or where I met him.  How is this possible?  Then I went to look at my photos and figured out the photos immediately after Tyler were probably of Paul.  Bingo!  I was right.  I remember him now, he was a bike messenger I met on Columbia Road in Adams Morgan late one Sunday evening.  But where are all the notes about Paul?  How old is he?  What is his email?  What the heck did he do with the $10?  Hmmmm…I don’t know.  I know I wrote them down some place but I didn’t have my trusty Moleskine on me apparently.  I do have a video though…although it doesn’t tell too much either.

Paul powering up on some beverages at CVS.

I ran into Paul in front of the CVS that is next to the Safeway.  He was getting some beverages to take down to a restaurant down there street where his brother was waiting for him.  He had heard of the Year of Giving and was very friendly.  I told him about my losing my mother and he shared that his father had passed around this summer.  He talks about his dad and their relationship in this clip.  It’s clear that this was not easy for him to talk about.

Other than that, I can’t recall much.  The last couple weeks have been a complete blur.  I think he is in a band or DJs or something…who knows.  Hopefully I will find the little piece of paper where I jotted all the notes down.  And if anybody knows Paul…tell him to get in touch!

UPDATE: Jan 7, 2011

So I was doing some new year cleaning and found the paper where I wrote down the info on Paul!

When I met him he told me, “I’m coming back from a show that I didn’t go to.”  That kind of perplexed me, but then he explained that he went to a show where the band didn’t play.  “I ended up buying some CDs of the band,” he said referring to the metal band that calls themself Body Cop.

Paul is no stranger to music.  He plays bass and drums and even does some producing.  I asked him about musical influences.  “I’ve been inspired by so many but Brian Wilson, Myles Davis and Frank Zappa for sure.”   He has a website where you can listen to some of his work.

“I’m going to use the money for food,” he told me.  “I’ve been trying to conserve money lately.”  He said that he was lucky to have a job and enjoyed the flexibility of being a courier.

When we parted he said to me with so much enthusiasm, “It was really cool running into you.”  The feeling was mutual.

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