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Archive for January, 2011

-Blog post by Reed Sandridge from Washington, DC

"The Amazing Kim Perry" volunteering at Robert E. Lee High School.

Last year a good friend of mine, the amazing Kim Perry (I actually call her that too), invited me to spend Martin Luther King Jr. Day doing some community service.  This past MLK Day marked the 25th anniversary of the federal holiday and I thought what better way to pay tribute to the great civil rights leader, and continue on a tradition that Kim instilled in me, than to spend my day off helping others.

The holiday was officially designated as a day of service by Congress in 1994.  So it’s actually supposed to be a “day on, not a day off.”  A day when people from all backgrounds come together to strengthen the fabric of communities we live in.

I invited lots of people to come out and serve with me.  Greater DC Cares organizes a massive effort in DC to help a plethora of organizations; from revitalizing schools to helping feed the poor and hungry.  On their website you can create a team and activate your own network to come together to work on a project.  I signed up a Year of Giving team, however, the web-portal that Greater DC Cares uses for registration locked a week in advance so many of those who wanted to join me were unable to which I think was a shame.

Anyway, the response I got from friends was interesting.  Many supported the idea of serving on MLK Day, a handful even came out and worked alongside me.  And of course there were a few who took the attitude of, “I have the day off…why would I waste a day off to go out and work?”

Fair question.  I guess because I believe that if you really want to celebrate the holiday, and after all isn’t that why we are released from our work commitments on these holidays, the best way to do that for MLK Day is to volunteer your time to help transform the dream that Dr. King had of a “beloved community” into a reality.

My team was part of a larger project that helped paint parts of Robert E. Lee High School in Springfield, VA.  In all I think we had 40 volunteers there.  Although I thought the service day lacked a little overall leadership and guidance for the volunteers, we managed to complete the task.  The team I was assigned to gelled really well.  What we lacked in the way of instructions we compensated with initiative, enthusiasm and compassion – not to mention a heavy dose of FUN.

I really believe our team produced the best looking wall.  Now to be fair we had a bit of an advantage.  Several of the teams painted stripes down the hallways; we were assigned yellow, others had blue, red and green.  Yellow is the lightest of the colors and hides flaws very easily whereas those who were painting more contrasting colors, such as blue and red, had a challenging time concealing the brush strokes that escaped the painting area.

Volunteers at Robert E. Lee High School in Springfield, VA.

All in all it was good experience and I hope we created something that the high school students will appreciate – although I doubt that when I was a student I would have valued such an effort very much.  Back then I just didn’t appreciate the challenges that schools face financially and value the efforts that were made by others to make the learning environment a more attractive space.

Thanks to all of those who helped to keep Dr. King’s dream alive.  For those of you who haven’t ever spent the day serving, make a commitment to do this next year.

And for those of you in DC who can’t wait to get out and help your community keep checking my calendar for service events.  Also keep an eye out for Servathon in April – two extraordinary days of service organized by Greater DC Cares that bring together nearly 5,000 volunteers to help 70+ nonprofits!  I checked their website and they don’t have any information up as of today on the 2011 event, but hopefully they post it soon!

Did you volunteer on MLK Day?  If so, I’d love to hear about your experience!

Want to see more photos from this event?  Click here.

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-Blog post by Mary J., a Kindness Investor from Houston, TX

As I clicked Jack’s leash to his collar for our walk around the park this morning, I decided to put my card with the $10 in my pocket, anticipating a potential kindness investment.  The weather is cool and sunny this week, so there would likely be a lot of walkers today working on their New Year’s resolutions.

Across the park, I could see a lone basketball player throwing hoops. “There’s someone with a story,” I said to Jack, as we headed over to get it.  Not in my wildest dreams did I expect a teenager who is friendly, caring, deep, a recycler, athletic, technical, methodical, ambitious, an animal lover, quick, honest, dramatic, and wise?  And very, very funny.

I told the young gentleman about Reed’s Year of Giving project and asked if he would like to receive my $10 Kindness Investment.  A huge smile flashed across his face and his eyes went wide. “OF COURSE?  I’d be CRAZY not to accept $10!” He’s friendly.

Then his smile turned to concern. “But you’re not working. Don’t you need it?”  He’s caring.

I explained that part of the idea behind the giving project is to help us realize that no matter how down and out we are, we always have something to give.  “That’s very cool”, he said. “And a good lesson for everyone throughout life.” He’s deep.

Marcos D. is 14 years old, much younger than I thought, so I’m leaving off some information because of his age.  I also asked him to get his parents’ permission for me to post his story on the Year of Giving.  I was delighted when he told me they said yes, as Marcos is a very interesting guy with a great story.

Marcos lives with his mom, step-dad and little sister, and speaks English and Spanish.  He’s in the 8th grade, but was quick to point out the school shirt he was wearing was from last year in the 7th grade.  “It’s still in great condition, so why waste money?  I re-use.” He recycles.

“You know,” he continued, “I’ve been very lucky with money lately.  I found a $100 dollar bill in front of the grocery store before New Year’s.  One thing about me is that I’m not a good saver. I have slippery fingers,” he said, waving his fingers through the air. “If I have it, I gotta spend it.”  He’s a teenager.

Marcos says he’s “somewhat of a mutt” when it comes to hobbies, because he likes outdoor sports, mainly basketball, as well as indoor gaming. “Most people like one or the other, but I like it all.”  He also likes building and dismantling things. He’s athletic, technical and methodical.

When he grows up, he thinks he’d like to go into technology, maybe developing computer games. He’s ambitious. I told him I would put him in touch with my nephew, John, who works for a gaming company in Austin.  “You never know, Marcos.  John may be able to help you figure out where you want to go.”  I promised him I would give him John’s contact info.

Marcos pets Mary's dog Jack.

“Hey, don’t pee on the jacket,” he said to Jack, directing my attention to my dog, who was sniffing around Marcos’ jacket bunched up on the ground. I laughed and called Jack over to sit by us while we talked.  He gave Jack a big, genuine hug.  He told me he’s also a huge dog person and misses his dog, Coco, named by his little sister.  Marcos got a little down when he told me they had to give Coco away, but he knows where she lives and sneaks her treats when he can. “I miss Coco.  She always made me happy with those big, chocolate eyes. I wish we didn’t have to give her away.” He loves animals.

“So, you got a girlfriend, wife, kids?”, I asked to lighten the mood.

“Nope, still a bachelor,” he said, making me laugh.  He’s quick.

I asked what he was going to do with the $10.  He thought for a minute and said he might give it to his mom, who could use if for groceries, then looked down at his hands and said, “But with these spending fingers, it may not make the trip home.”  He’s honest.

A few favorites:

Class:  “I’d have to say reading.  DEFINITELY not math.  I’m NOT a math person.  I’m going bald from all the stress!” he cried as he tugged at a head full of thick, wavy hair. He’s dramatic.

Book: “I like Gender Blender from the library.  A guy and girl switch bodies and they have to figure out everything, like going to the bathroom and stuff.  It’s ridiculously funny.”

Computer Game: “Metroid.  It’s good for the mind, too.  You have to collect data, figure out weak points, and stuff.  Plus it’s fast-paced action.”

And regarding Lend a Hand…. “Any wishes?” I asked.  “Too many to count.  I see trillions of doors in my brain right now,” he told me, “and I don’t know which one to open.”  He’s creative. “Obviously I could use help with math.” He’s wise. “But more than anything, I’d like my own computer to shoot my own video blog.”  He’s a teenager.

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-Blog post by Mary J., a Kindness Investor from Houston, TX

Brittany at Lavish Salon.

Having a bad hair day, I made an appointment at Lavish, a salon in Webster referred by my sister, Susan.  I didn’t plan to give my $10 kindness investment to anyone there, but after talking to colorist Brittany F., I felt she was “the one.”  When she asked what she could do for me today, I told her I wanted long hair like hers and I wanted to be as thin as she was.  “Sorry, can’t help with either of those requests,” she laughed, “but I promise to make your color look great!”  Sounded good to me.

I told Brittany about Reed’s Year of Giving projects and about being an unemployed Kindness Investor.  She was very interested and thought it was a cool idea.  She happily accepted my $10 investment and started work on my hair.

Brittany is 20 years old and originally from Canada.  Her father’s job brought the family to Texas; first Corpus Christi, then to Friendswood, just south of Houston.  It turns out Brittany attended the same high school in Friendswood that my nieces Lauren and Allison attended, though they had graduated by the time she entered high school.

Following graduation, she was deciding between college and cosmetology and opted to attend cosmetology school.  “It was only a year-long course and I figured if I didn’t like it, I could go back to school later.” Turns out she loved her career choice and plans to continue to hone her skills. She was hired by Lavish upon graduation and has been extremely happy there.  “We’re like a close family here.  We all get along really well, travel together, hang out together. I work with a great group of people – makes a big difference coming to work every day.”

If not cosmetology, Brittany was considering oceanography or marine biology. She’s always loved the ocean, is an avid swimmer and snorkeler and plans to scuba dive in the future.  “I love everything about the ocean,” she said as she layered on more color.  “Except for sharks.  I swam with dolphins at Atlantis in the Bahamas and snorkeled in Thailand. It was very cool. I just don’t want to meet up with any sharks.”

In her spare time, Brittany loves to travel and swim.  She and her boyfriend, Kevin, met in high school and have been dating about six years.  She has three dogs; a golden retriever named Harley, a brittany spaniel named Cricket and a little “weiner” (dachshund) she calls Weezi.

A few Favorites include:

Book: A Piece of Cake

Quote:  Live like there’s no tomorrow.

Movie: The Hangover (“I could watch that every day. Hilarious! And they’re making a sequel!”)

She plans to put the $10 in her savings account.  “I just bought my first new car, a Volkswagen Beetle. Red with a black top.”

“Cute car,” I said.  “You look like a VW Beetle owner, Brittany.”  Check out her picture – she does!

I told her about the Lend a Hand section on Reed’s Year of Giving website.  After she thought for a bit, she decided her one wish would be help paying off her student loans. “It would be awesome to be debt free!” she said.

You and me both, Brittany!

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-Blog post by Mary J., a Kindness Investor from Houston, TX

When I read Reed’s invitation to share in his daily $10 give on 29Gifts.org, I knew immediately I would be an investor. When I told my mom what I was going to do and suggested she participate, she thought I was nuts.

After reminding me that I’ve been unemployed for two years, my husband and I are in debt, and that my husband won’t be too happy about me giving away $70 to strangers, she added, “We taught you kids to never talk to strangers and now you want me to AND give them money?  Are you crazy?”

Maybe.  But I’m in good company.

I was drawn to my first Kindness Investment, Patricia M., while standing in a very long line at the Post Office.  She was wearing a pink baseball cap, food-stained Donna Karan NY sweatshirt, jeans, and a fanny pack around her waist.  She had near her two fully stuffed backpacks and held an old, scuffed up handheld radio with the earbuds in her ears. She counted her change several times before deciding which services she could afford to add to her shipment.  My first impressions were that she was very well-spoken, very tall, friendly, possibly homeless and had an eye problem, as she leaned in closely to where the clerk’s finger pointed, showing where to sign on the delivery confirmation slip.

After her transaction ended, she turned around several times, asking question after question of the clerk already serving other customers.

“Oh, another question – How do I get a P.O. Box?”  “I’m sorry, one more question. How much does it cost?”  “May I have the forms to get one?”  “Thank you!”  “Bless You!”  The clerk appeared more than happy and patient to answer her. The long line of customers was drawn to her, as well, as we pitched in to answer more questions.  “How much is this?,” she asked aloud to no one in particular.  I told her the shipping box she held was $3.75. Another customer said she gets them for half that at Walmart, so she thanked them and put the box back on the counter.

As she turned to collect her backpacks, I introduced myself.  “Hello, I’m Mary. I have a project I’m working on I think you can help me with.  If you’re not busy for the next 15 minutes or so, I’d love to tell you about it.”   Without hesitation or hint of suspicion, she said, “I’m Patricia.  Yes, I’ll help you.  My bike is in the front lobby with my other things.  I’ll wait there for you.”

After adding the shipping box (the one that Patricia decided not to buy) to my purchase I found out it was half-price!  I approached Patricia in the lobby, told her about Reed’s Year of Giving project and asked if she would accept my $10 kindness investment for the day.  “YES!  God Bless You. I will gratefully accept!  You don’t know what this means to me!  I ABSOLUTELY accept your $10! Thank you!”

“I also saw you needed a box, so I got one for you.”

“Praise the Lord! Thank you!  Oh my God, this is unbelievable”, she said.

I invited 55-year-old Patricia for pizza next to the Post Office and offered to help carry her bags, which were heavier than I thought possible. I could barely carry one and she carried several while riding her bike.   It turns out Patricia is legally blind –  legally blind, toting heavy bags and riding a bike! “This is going to be a very interesting meeting,” I thought.

Patricia is an African American born and raised in Austin, Texas.  A straight-A honor student, she loved learning and reading.  She transferred to Houston in 1978 with her job at the time and has been here ever since.

Things took a downward spiral in 1987-88 after her mother died.  “I lost control of life and reality.  I locked myself away and started destroying myself”, she shared, using the cuff of her sweatshirt to wipe away the tears.  “I was around 38 years old, five months pregnant with a broken foot, the father had abandoned me and I got arrested for probation violation.  Then God intervened.”

During time in jail, she read the entire bible in 60 nights, from sundown to sun-up.  “God planted seeds in me back then and now they’re sprouting”, she said smiling.

Back in court, the judge had just sentenced her to 15 years in jail when she went into false labor.  Seeing she was pregnant, he threw out the sentence and sent her to a rehabilitation center called The Shoulders, a home for pregnant women in trouble.  It was there her daughter was born and “everything became new.”

She and her now 17-year-old daughter were evicted from their apartment last year and have been living in hotels. She has two sons, but didn’t say where they lived. She receives Social Security Disability Income, after losing her sight last year during a routine eye exam to treat what the doctor diagnosed as glaucoma.  Patricia believes she has cataracts and that the glaucoma medicine is what blinded her, so she stopped using the prescribed drops.

“Have you ever been in a burning house filled with smoke?” she asked me.

“No, I haven’t.”

“Well you’re lucky”, she laughed, hinting that she may have.  “That’s what I see – outlines of things, but the details are very dark and smoky.”

“But you ride a bike,” I said in astonishment.  “Do you ever fall or run into anything?”

“Of course!  I’ve even been hit by a car.  You’re gonna fall and roll around in ditches, just like in life. But you get up and keep going.”  Patricia doesn’t see her blindness as a curse, nor is she afraid to die.  Her favorite quote is, “To be absent from the body is to be present with God.”  She believes her purpose in life is to share God’s word, because her life is testament to His promises.

“When you find your life’s purpose, you can live fully and lack nothing, regardless of what’s going on around you.”  After a lifetime of struggling, Patricia knew she was in the presence of God when she finally found rest amidst the turmoil and chaos and blindness.  “You may see me as homeless, but I have everything I need.  I’m in submission!” She’s not sad about being blind.  Her doctors told her she could wake up totally blind any day, but that doesn’t bother her, either.  “The evil that took my eyesight isn’t going to break me.  God gave me other senses.”

Patricia is going to use the $10 towards credit on her bus fare card, as she takes her bike, backpacks and computer with her everywhere she goes.  “I know this sounds crazy, but I’ve been assigned a mission from God and I’m going to fulfill it.  They said Moses and Noah were crazy, too. No one believed them, either,” she laughed.

Her mission to bring attention to government and social service corruption began in 2006.  She needed the box to start shipping legal documents she’s been collecting as evidence.  “I’ve carried this burden long enough.  Literally!  Those bags are HEAVY,” she laughed.  “It’s time to let go and let someone else carry on that part of the mission. God’s got more for me to do.”

Her greatest wish is to find a way for her and her daughter to make a home in San Diego, California.  She wants her daughter to experience more of the world and see that “the sun doesn’t shine any differently on Oprah or Michelle Obama.”  She’d also like to find her long lost older brother, another moment that brought great sadness, as well as rekindle a relationship with her estranged younger brother, who lives just outside of Houston.

Patricia has a presence about her; a pure sense of purpose that pours from her soul.  I felt I was in the presence of courage and greatness and I was very inspired by our meeting.

Her current mission is to make a change.  She loves our country and wonders if Americans really know what the words to our national anthem or pledge of allegiance really mean.  She asked me if I knew the words to The Star-spangled Banner. “Yes, I think I do,” I replied.  “Let’s hear it then.  Start singing.”  So there we were in the front lobby of Pizza Hut singing The Star-spangled Banner at the top of our lungs.  “I love and believe in this country, but we need to fix it.  We can’t keep trusting someone else to do it for us”, she said.

“I want to go to Washington and touch President Obama and he will look around and say, ‘Somebody touched me; who touched me?’  I’m going to draw from his power to make positive change,” she said.  “I’m going to make a change in this country.  God told me to.”

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Mary with her husband Henry celebrating his birthday last October in Curacao.

Name: Mary J

Age? 50

Where do you live? Houston, TX

Where were you born? Houston native, born and raised

What’s the highest level of education you have completed? BA, Journalism, Photojournalism from University of Houston

Do you have a family? Yes! Great husband and best friend, Henry; no kids; Jack, the smartest shelter dog in the world; cats Fritz and Smoke – one shelter, one feral; seven brothers and sisters; lots of brilliant nieces and nephews.  Henry and I both come from big Catholic families who lived within 10 miles of each other for over 50 years and never met until Henry was 29 and I was 32.

My 87-year-old mother lived with us for over two years after my father died in March 2008.  She temporarily moved out recently, starting a 6 month “road trip”, staying with other siblings through the summer.

How did you hear about the Year of Giving? Your post on 29Gifts.org

How long have you been unemployed? Since May 2008

What happened? American National Red Cross had its largest layoff in history, removing mostly field staff across the US who reported to National Headquarters in Washington, DC.  I volunteered with them for a bit following the layoff.

Do you currently volunteer? YES!  Way too much, according to Henry…  I’m the volunteer Content Manager for 29Gifts.org and support numerous charities and causes.  Favorites include Sewing Hope and blankets4babies, two groups on 29 Gifts; Texas EquuSearch, a search & rescue group; local and Caribbean animal shelters, among others.  Volunteering is a win-win during unemployment, as it keeps my technical skills up-to-date, you never know when a connection might lead to a full-time job lead, AND it feels so darn good to give someone a hand up.  I truly enjoy helping others.  It’s amazing how a simple moment of kindness can affect someone’s life, even if for a day.

Who have been your biggest influences? My parents.  Both Henry and I have unbelievably incredible parents who raised their children with just the right amount of discipline and never-ending love, guidance, support and laughter. They instilled in each of us a strong and honest work ethic, a thirst for adventure and knowledge, respect for everyone – especially those most different, and the confidence to change the world.  Though money was tight in both families, our parents were kind and thoughtful people who never hesitated helping others.  Couldn’t ask for better role models.  Man, I miss my dad.

What is your favorite food? If going out, pan-seared Tilapia, garlic green beans and fried okra from Peppers in Pasadena, or spicy tuna sashimi, salmon sushi rolls and green tea ice cream at Masa Sushi in Webster.

Staying in with fam? Too many faves to list, but I’ll take a stab at it – preferably with a knife and fork: Henry’s jerk chicken and seafood gumbo. David’s prime rib. Becky’s potato salad. Anything Sean & Maureen make. Steven’s Thanksgiving dressing (winner of the dressing throwdown at last T-Day dinner). Cheryl’s squash casserole. Mike & Kathie’s lobster thermidor. Traci’s chocolate mint and peanut butter candy. Glenn’s iced tea.  Susan’s crème brulée bread pudding, Mom’s chicken noodle soup and kolache rolls.  Dena’s beef stew.  Chris & Carol’s eggrolls and fresh mozzarella. Bonnie’s gourmet cole slaw with toasted ramen noodles. Cheri’s mom’s thousand dollar four layer pie. Valerie’s pecan and pumpkin pies. Tracy’s chicken & dumplings. Amy’s sausage queso dip.  Juliana’s johnnycake and guava jelly. Pearl & Gladys’s short rib Caribbean stew.  Steve H’s grilled fish and lobster. And anything curry.

What is the most meaningful gift you have ever received? Unconditional love from my parents.

Describe your ideal job:  I want to join an organization where I can use strong director-level global communication, management and technical skills to make the world a safe, secure and productive place.  I want to work with a creative team in a progressive, forward thinking environment, where all staff are seen and treated as key contributors and partners to success.  I want to work with leadership who “get” that when we expect and encourage the best from our employees, we will get their best in return, and success will inevitably follow; a place where we all learn from mistakes and we all celebrate successes.

Web content management… communications… problem resolution… policies & procedures… research… total quality management… customer service… team building… mentoring… disaster preparedness and recovery… search and rescue… sustainable project management… fundraising… vendor negotiations… teaching… training… travel… relocation…  It’s all good.

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-Blog post by Mike B., a Kindness Investor from Cromwell, CT

This week was a very interesting week.  Thanks Reed.  The people I have met along the way in just 7 days are people I could have met sometime in my life, although it’s extremely unlikely I would have the type of conversations that I have had with them.  It was the taking of time, the interest in their lives, the one-on-one conversations are all what made it special to me.  I remember Reed saying something about, it’s not the $10 that he’ll remember, it was the quality time he spent with each individual he talked to.  I would agree wholeheartedly.  So thanks for the opportunity to do this.

I love it when I’m surprised by things in life.  If it’s a TV show or a movie, I love a plot twist that I didn’t see coming at all. It really makes me appreciate that show. Same thing for a book.  I love it when I’m surprised in life with people as well.

Today’s recipient, Joey, surprised me very much.  I was up and out the door earlier than normal this morning, as I was at Literacy Volunteers of Greater Hartford again.  Today was a big day as we were filming some students and tutors of the school to be put together for a video for the event in April (as I wrote in Day 23).

We were there at 8 am in Hartford, so it was almost like I was up and getting ready for work again!   We filmed and interviewed a few students and tutors which kept us pretty busy for the morning.  During that time, the first group came in and in the group were 2 males and a female.  They all come to Literacy Volunteers for different reasons; some to learn English from scratch, some to better their English and some study and prepare to take the GED.  Still others come to overcome a disability they may have when it comes to learning.  Joey fit into this category, but you would never know it.  When it was his turn to be interviewed, one question was asked and he proceeded to answer, but the words that came out of his mouth sounded anything like a person with a disability!

Manuel Joseph Arango (“Call me Joey”) is 68 years old, retired and now, a former student at Literacy Volunteers.  When I heard him speak, I knew he had to be my recipient of the $10 for today.  After his filming was done, I asked him if I could talk to him about something else, but knowing there was another group coming in to do filming, I asked him how long he could stick around.  He said he could hang out till noontime, and so when the filming was on a break, I went in search for Joey.

We connected and I proceeded to tell him about the Year of Giving.  “This is unbelievable,” he said as he agreed to accept the $10.  If I could describe Joey in one word, it would be eloquent.  He spoke very succinctly, but yet with passion.  He spoke with a reverence about him that made you want to hear more.  You could say he made an impression on me and he definitely surprised me.

He grew up in Hartford with parents that did not read or write, had his own learning disability and his language skills, as he put it, were deceiving.  He went to a Catholic school in Hartford and became involved in Hartford schools as a swimming instructor.  The federal government wanted to put him through a program at the University of Hartford, but due to the learning disability that he had hidden so far, he had to decline their offer.  He would have become too embarrassed if anyone were to find out!

He became a tractor-trailer driver for 35+ years among other things in his life, and retired recently.  He’s married to a woman who’s a bigger “giver” then he is, has three children, all successful and now he works part-time doing maintenance for Social Services of Manchester, CT.

He and his wife also offer cooking classes occasionally at Stonewall Kitchen in Evergreen Walk (a local shopping center) in South Windsor, CT.  Those classes fill up quickly he said as they’ve been doing them for a while and they don’t get the chance to do them that often.  I told him I hope to take his class one day!

We talked for quite a while on several topics and I wished everyone could hear him speak.  Almost all of the time though he would revert back to the Year of Giving and give a quote I just had to write down.  “The philosophy of this whole project, what we believe in life we can hold onto, there is good being done! There’s meaningful people walking right by you.” and “The element of emotion in what’s trying to be presented is larger than the element of finance”.

When asked what he would do with the $10, there was no hesitation; he said that he would pass it on.  “This is the first $10 in passing it on.  I want to commit myself to go even further.”  He said he would tell all of his recipients about the project as well as anyone else that wanted to hear.  He gets together with people from his church once a month in participating families’ homes and said he would share with them as well.  He then started naming off some friends or relatives of his that he couldn’t wait to tell about the project!

I knew I had to go back to the filming and it was time to say farewell.  He was anxious to read the blog and wanted to write about his experience as well, so Reed, I’m thinking he could be another Kindness Investor!   We said goodbye, and the last words were had by him, “You made my day.”   I couldn’t have asked for a better final recipient!

Thanks again for letting me be a Kindness Investor for a week.  It surely was a memorable one and I hope to have the ability to do it again at another time.  In the meantime, I would offer another blog called Things I’ve Learned Weekly to read.  It’s my own and I try to keep it updated every week or so with just as it sounds – things I’ve learned about, or even re-learned about, over the past week or so.  Hope you visit it!

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-Blog post by Mike B., a Kindness Investor from Cromwell, CT

It occurred to me that when I first agreed to be a Kindness Investor, I should have some kind of a plan going in to my week of giving.  Who would I give to?  How would I choose?  Would I get it right?  How was my pre-rehearsed speech going to sound?  After much thought, probably too much thought, I thought I’d follow Reed’s lead and just go with my gut.  And it’s worked out for me so far!

In the beginning of this project for me, the week itself was a bit out of sorts.  It started on a Wednesday after all.  What week starts on a Wednesday?  Mondays had always started my work week for 22+ years, but hey, I’m flexible.  Of course since I’ve been unemployed, it’s more or less the same thing, except now Mondays are usually good “interview days”.  The interviewer is usually a little more alert then the rest of the week and I’m a bit more on my “A” game.  I’ll bet someone has done studies on this somewhere.

Cromwell Library

But as I didn’t have an interview today, I was able to spend a little more time in the library. I almost forgot how useful and resourceful libraries are!  My local one has been a tremendous help in my unemployed days.  I could work on my computer at home (and do), but in the library, there’s more chance of getting work done.  And the librarians are extremely helpful as well.  This library day was a good day for me, as it was where I met Pamela, the recipient of today’s $10.

Pamela is an unemployed nurse, or rather a nurse that just happens to be unemployed.  She’s from Middletown, CT and has been a nurse for 29 years, most recently working for the State of New York in the disability area she said.  I was in the Cromwell Library on a computer and she was in the next seat over.  However, I was busy perfecting a cover letter while I was there and didn’t get the chance to talk to her.  It seemed to be a busy day in the library as no sooner did she get up and leave, someone else sat right down and started doing their own internet surfing.  My time was up on the computer (they give you an hour) and I was done with the cover letter, so it was time to find my recipient of the day.  I headed over to where the newspapers were and there Pamela was to my surprise, with many forms in front of her.  She had very light blond hair which stood out to me, and I knew, or I hoped, she was the one for today.

She looked very busy, but when I asked her if I could talk to her, and told her I would be brief, she graciously said okay.  She lost her job with the state of New York nine days ago and she was working like a mad woman to make sure she wouldn’t be out of work much longer.  She had all kinds of applications and forms in front of her to fill out, and she continued to do so as I spoke.  She had been a nurse for 29 years and had seen quite a bit through those years.  She mentioned that when the State of New York started to issue mandatory furlough days, she knew her time there was coming to an end. She said she worked all different shifts as a nurse and I wanted to ask more, but her mind was definitely on filling out those forms.

I asked if she could do it all over again, would she still be a nurse? Her answer was “Yes, that’s what I know how to do.”  But after thinking a little more, she said, “Maybe an X-Ray technician or something else in the medical field.”

When I asked her what she would do with the $10, she said it will help paying for sending more forms out!  She was headed to Kinko’s next, to fax all the forms to an office in Boston where I’m guessing she was applying.  Faxing is a $1.50 a page at Kinko’s, so that adds up she said.  We discussed what a profit Kinko’s was making on that, but as I was speaking I saw Pamela not lift her head up once and I had that feeling of she wants to be left alone to finish her work!

I asked to take her picture, but she preferred not to have it taken.  I did get to tell her why I chose her, telling her I saw her at the computer and felt this was a woman with a purpose.  I guess I was interrupting that purpose, so we said our goodbyes and I left her and her forms.

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-Blog post by Reed Sandridge

Last year was an exhilarating daily adventure.  Every day I had a mission of finding someone new and sharing a small gift with them: ten dollars.

As you have already seen, the giving keeps on going this year.  Every week I will introduce you to a new Kindness Investor who will continue the ten dollar a day giving tradition for seven days.

“So you finished your year-long commitment and that’s it,” many of you have said to me.  Nope, not even close.

This year my personal commitments are focused around volunteering.  One thing that I learned while doing the Year of Giving is that what made every day so magical wasn’t the ten-dollar gift, but rather the time that I spent with each individual.  Time.  It is so valuable, yet we don’t treasure it as much as we should.  That’s why this year I couldn’t think of anything more valuable than to spend my time with others.

Each week I will volunteer in some capacity and share those experiences with you.  Why?  Because I hope to inspire you to volunteer as well.  I hope that you will speak to your employer about creating an Employee Volunteer Program, join your children in student learning service projects and become leaders for volunteerism in your own community.

Here is my first blog of my year-long commitment to volunteering!  I hope to blog about my volunteering every Monday!

Me going nuts with the sander

On a recent Saturday I spent the day helping Rockville Little Theatre build the set for their upcoming production of Translations, the acclaimed work of Irish playwright Brian Friel.  I showed up around 10:00am to the Theatre’s workshop that is tucked away behind some municipal buildings for the city of Rockville, MD.  “Quarters” as it is referred to is no foreign place to me as I spent many evenings rehearsing in this space when I performed in RLT’s productions of The Laramie Project and The Foreigner – I’ve done a little acting.

Pat Miller, the show’s producer, along with his wife Melanie were in charge.  Melanie was busy painting some of the backdrops when I arrived.  I went to work sanding and staining and spent most of the next six hours doing that.

A volunteer from a nearby middle school works on a large wall for the set.

There were probably about ten of us total that helped out.  Three of which were local middle and high school students who were completing Student Service Learning credits.  Menen, an 11th grader from Rockville, told me that she had more than 170 community service hours.  “I’m hoping to get a college scholarship,” she said as she maneuvered the power sander over wooden bench she was working on.

RLT has a variety of volunteer needs listed on their website.  “We’re an all volunteer organization,” Pat told me, “so quite literally the productions could not be possible without volunteers.”  And it’s not just the actors, they also need donations and lots of behind the scenes support as well; from publicity to construction.  “Community theaters really need to tap into the community in order to be successful,” he went to say.

And don’t miss the upcoming production of Translations opening on January 28th and running through February 6th.  Followers of the Year of Giving might even recognize the show’s director: Jacy D’Aiutolo.

This is a very important play for many reasons according to Pat:

Translations is first and foremost a beautifully constructed play with amazing use of language and an amazing story. In addition to being a great piece of theater, it’s also a very significant play for a number of reasons. Translations was the first production staged by the Field Day Theater Company, which was cofounded by Playwright Brian Friel and actor Stephen Rea who American audiences would know best from The Crying Game and V is for Vendetta. Unlike most Irish theater of the 20th century, which grew out of the Abbey Theater in Dublin, Field Day was founded in Derry, which lies just across the border in Northern Ireland.

Pat stains a bench that will be used for the show.

When the play was written in 1981, it was a particularly tense time during “The Troubles” and bombings were common both in Ireland and Great Britain. Guildhall, the theatre where Translations debuted was itself bombed repeatedly. The play, which deals directly with the subjugation of Irish language and culture at the hands of the British military, had tremendous resonance during this difficult time.  It also marked Field Day as a company that was striving to reestablish a cultural “fifth province,” which could unite a divided Ireland through its literature, poetry and theater. The work, that began with the production of Translations, continues to this day.

I hope you will come out and see the show – I’m planning on going this Friday.  As Pat reminded me, “In the end the most important people for a theatre company is the audience.”  So even if you are not able to volunteer with your local theatre go see a show.  There’s nothing like live theatre!

As a bonus, check out this behind the scenes footage of the making of RLT’s production of Translations:

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-Blog post by Mike B., a Kindness Investor from Cromwell, CT

Two days in a row, to waking up with more snow on the ground!  I know, I live in New England so I should expect it.  I do expect it, but to expect it and to like it are two very different things.  I am not complaining though.  After going to school in upstate New York (Oswego) and seeing snow fall for eighteen straight days one year, I am definitely not complaining.  Besides, pitchers and catchers show up for spring training in a little over a month.  I didn’t ask today’s recipient, AJ if he was a baseball fan, but you’ll see, at least his heart was in the right place.

A senior from Newington High School, A.J. works part-time in Goodwill Industries Store and Distribution Center in Newington, Connecticut.  He’s been there since the beginning of the summer and he likes his job.  He’s 18, a generally quiet guy and likes to be honest with everyone.  He’s learning how to be a diesel mechanic at Newington High and will hopefully work in a garage somewhere. He says he loves cars and likes being around them.  When he’s working, he works in both the Goodwill Store and the Distribution Center.  He doesn’t really prefer one to the other, but he was in the Distribution Center today.  There’s what looks like a garage door and a little car port for the people driving up and donating their goods.  People drive up, unload their donations and then AJ and others in the center, divide them up into good stuff and trash.  I asked him about that, thinking maybe a manager or higher level employee would decide what was trash or not, but no, he made that decision.

There were a lot of very large blue bins which were all stacked up waiting for donations to be put in them and three other bins that were marked trash.   Those had mainly pieces of cardboard, some clothes hangers and miscellaneous trash in them.  When I asked him how he got into the business, he mentioned his buddy was already working there and thought it was a decent job.   He sees all kinds of donations and what he called the “crazy stuff”.  What makes it crazy I was wondering and he said he saw a lot of antiques, people cleaning out their houses and donating it instead of just throwing it away.  I did see a very large rimmed bright purple hat with some flowering around it which made me think of something out of a 1970’s movie involving pimps and did I mention it was the color of bright purple?  That was my definition of crazy stuff.  AJ said one item that came in recently was an old-fashioned electric razor, which could have been the one of the first ones ever!  I was there really by chance as I was on my way to somewhere else, saw the Goodwill sign which made me think I needed to go through a lot of stuff of my own and decided to just stop in and see the place.  I’m glad I did or I wouldn’t have met AJ.

He preferred not to have his picture taken, but when asked what he was going to do with the $10, he mentioned his girlfriend’s birthday was coming up quickly and he wanted to get her a necklace she had seen at Claire’s.  The necklace apparently had little elephants on it and she was a fan of elephants.  I just saw a movie trailer for Water for Elephants recently (a really good book) and wonder if he’ll take her to see it?  I took a couple of pictures of the place and was on my way.

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-Blog post by Mike B., a Kindness Investor from Cromwell, CT

To describe Latora, my recipient of the $10 for today, what I would say in one word, is radiant.   Her demeanor, her speaking, her vibe she was giving off, all just had that warm glow.

I woke up to about 7 inches of fresh snow on the ground and the knowing I was going out in it to give away the $10.  Always the multitasker, I was thinking I’d take a few pictures of this winter wonderland around as well and immediately thought of a favorite spot for doing just that.  The Connecticut River runs through the state and makes for many wonderful photo opportunities, especially after a fresh snowfall.  So I headed out to a local boat ramp in Rocky Hill where the CT River ferry also is located.  The ferry doesn’t run and the boat ramp is closed in the winter, but it’s still a great place to park and get out a bit and take some pictures.  Surely I’d find someone there to take the $10.   No luck on finding someone though, so it was off to Plan B, another great place for pics, the Middletown Harbor.  There’s always someone there.  Again, no such luck, and so it was onto another option.  I was heading to Office Depot to pick up something and there’s a Starbucks close by for a quick cup of coffee and hopefully I would find a willing person in either of those two places.

I spotted Latora in Starbuck’s who was making sure her hair looked its finest in her compact mirror.  She spotted me as well looking at her and smiles broke out on both our faces.  I mentioned to her that she looked fabulous and she said that was a good confirmation. We started chatting and she said yes, she would accept the $10.  A self-proclaimed journal freak, she said she would take the $10 and either buy another journal, or “sow the seed into someone else’s life.”  A very creative and expressive person, Latora is a dancer, a poet and a current student at the Connecticut Center for Massage Therapy.  She just started at the school, but loves it already.  She is very involved in her church, the Grace Worship Center Church in Hartford where she performs “liturgical dancing” or praise dancing. I had never heard of that form of dance so I asked her what it was.  It’s an act of worship for her and incorporates some jazz and ballet influences.  She is a poet as well and as I said to her, she is not only a child of God, she is a Child of the Arts!  It seemed to me, whatever she did, she went in 100%, not holding anything back. Keeping a journal was important to her as a journal is “an inventory where you are in the thought process,” and you never know when the “idea of brilliance” will come. I love that!  We continued our conversation for a little while longer, touching on the topics of giving (sowing the seeds and reaping the harvest), poetry (every word you say is speaking into someone’s life!), and music, (singer Melissa Etheridge! -she liked her voice and the lyrics of her songs.)

Latora gave me this flyer for her church.

I gave her my Kindness Investor card; we hugged and said we would connect again.  I have left each recipient so far with a very nice feeling, but with Latora and her infectious effervescence, I found I couldn’t stop smiling for quite awhile afterwards.

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-Blog post by Mike B., a Kindness Investor from Cromwell, CT

My third day of this journey gave me my first rejection, but life always takes a strange turn.  I began the day with the intent to give the $10 to a person in Southfield, Massachusetts, who I had yet to meet.  Southfield is a very small town in the Berkshires and I was there for the day assisting a friend on a 500+ acre plot of land that is home to a YMCA Summer Camp called Camp Wa Wa Segowea.  It’s an old-fashioned resident camp that is one of the most beautiful spots on the planet.  Of course, I might be a little biased, but it does seem that time stands still there.  And there’s nothing like seeing and hearing kids in the summertime enjoying themselves outdoors all day, learning and playing with their new best friends.  Every kid should go away to camp!

Anyways, stopping in Southfield for a cup of coffee brought me to my first person saying no, they couldn’t accept the money.  When asked why, his response was he had just finished an internship that had “that kind of giving” included, and also he was trying to reduce his presence on the internet.  I was a little distraught, but said goodbye and moved on.   Cut to the end of the day, and now I’m on my way back home, knowing I still had not found my daily recipient.  I was pretty sure I didn’t have anything in the refrigerator at home, so I was also in search of dinner.  I passed by a place, Tonio’s in New Hartford, Connecticut and was always going to stop there, but hadn’t yet.  I figured maybe two birds with one stone?

I went in, placed my order and spotted another guy also waiting for his order.  I made my introduction and found myself feeling pretty good as this was the 4th time I had said it, and thought I had it pretty down to a science now.  When the part came to ask if he would accept the $10, he asked if he could ask me a question.  Uh-oh, I thought, here it comes.  If I don’t answer it correctly, he’ll say no!  But the question was pretty simple.  He asked why the unemployed part?  I interpreted that meaning wouldn’t it be easier if an employed person would be the one doing the giving?  And I think I was correct in my interpretation.  My response was a couple of reasons and I gave them with the caveat that it was from my perspective.  I felt as an unemployed person, it was a shock at first and I was okay with it being that way right in the beginning, but after the newness wore off, it felt like I wasn’t a contributing member of society anymore.  This type of giving was helping me back in the fold.  I had something to offer someone.   The second reason was that it just feels good when you’re giving.

I’m guessing I interpreted right as he agreed on the being a contribution part and he indeed, said yes to the money. He even said he felt honored to be given it!  He himself was unemployed for nine months and shared that same feeling about needing to contribute to society.  His name is Tim L. and he’s from Wethersfield, CT.  He and his girlfriend were coming back from skiing at Catamount up in Hillsdale, NY and added the skiing was great there!  From middle school on, he said he always wanted to be in radio, on-air.

 

Tim L. at Tonio's Pizzeria in New Hartford, CT.

He graduated from the Connecticut School of Broadcasting and then had an internship at Clear Channel Radio.  He was on his way!  Unfortunately, due to the economy, he was laid off and he’s currently working in the mental health field at Community Mental Health Affiliates.  He helps monitor people with mental health problems and it keeps him quite busy.  His first love is radio though and before he left the internship, he was working in promotions for Clear Channel and liked that as well.  Unfortunately he couldn’t find a job in radio, and he was just starting to get into the behind the scenes work.

 

I said earlier that life takes a strange turn and because that first person said no to my $10, I felt I was destined to meet Tim, just to share radio stories!  My career in communications started in radio as well, after completing a course in NY, similar to Tim’s path.  We had a common bond!  So it was fun hearing someone else saying they had a passion for radio.

Tim had gotten his pizza, and I had gotten my sandwich and his girlfriend, who had been waiting in the car for him, came into the restaurant wondering what was up?  I felt bad keeping him and asking questions, but she was very nice and waited till we were done. I gave him my card, took his picture and he said he would look up the website for Year of Giving and we both went our separate ways.

Two questions I wished I would have asked him…1. What was he going to do with the money?  And 2, is there anything he would like in the Lend a Hand portion of the website?  I’m totally guessing on #2, but I bet he would love a job in radio!

So, Tim if you read this, what did you do with the money and am I right about #2?

 

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-Blog post by Mike B., a Kindness Investor from Cromwell, CT

Dwayne (left) with his stepfather Jonathan

I really didn’t know what to expect today after yesterday’s recipient (Jayne) being quite the individual.  Well today’s yogi turned out to be memorable in a whole different light.  No his name wasn’t Yogi, but that’s the nickname I’ve given to the people I’m giving to. Yogi being Year of Giving Investment with no reference to Yogi Bear!.  Sorry, but I love my acronyms.  Yogi today was actually two people, Jonathan and Dwayne.   They are father and stepson who were together in the computer lab at Hartford- Literacy Volunteers.

I participate in the Communications/Marketing committee there and was working on a fundraising event coming up in April.  When I knew I was coming into Hartford today, I thought for sure I’ll find someone to give the $10 to.  So after I finished my meeting, I went in search. There weren’t too many people there and I wondered why, but a staff member mentioned it was Three Kings Day, so the students had the day off!  I knew or had met all the Literacy Volunteers staff so my best laid plans was having the proverbial wrench thrown in them.

I told the same staff member of my plight and asked if she could help me.  She took me to the computer lab where a couple of students were there, working hard on improving their English.  I found my Yogi!  Both students looked up and I was wondering which one to choose when their instructor told me they were father and stepson.  So I introduced myself to both of them and they agreed to take the $10.

Jonathan was 54 and had come from Jamaica just last month.  His wife had been here for a long time and she had come to be with her sister.  Dwayne was 26 and had been in the country for two days!  I don’t think I ever talked to anyone before who just had recently come to this country.  Amazing what this project does!  They were both very friendly and were at Literacy Volunteers to help them with their English.  Jonathan said he took a class on Monday and Wednesday and was in the computer lab on Tuesdays and Thursdays. His spoken English was fine, but as he said in his heavy accent, he needed to fill out forms if he wanted to work and thus needed to learn!

Dwayne had come to also work on the computer.  This was his second day there and he was working side by side with his stepdad.  They both said working on the computer helped them quite a bit and offered a lot of opportunity.  Jonathan said he was willing to do just about anything for work to get a break and try to make some money.  As he said, “you need cash!”

The $10 was going to be spent on food and in his words: “Something good!”  We talked a little about Jamaica and they said they miss it a little, but they were here for a purpose.   Had to admire someone who comes to the Northeast in the middle of winter, especially from Jamaica! Jonathan mentioned his other son played cricket all over the world and was playing now in Barbados in 2020.

I asked what 2020 was and with his accent I didn’t quite get it.  After going home and a quick Google search, I discovered it was actually called Twenty20 and it was the World Cup for Cricket!   I asked if I could take their picture and they said “No problem”. So I did and then left them to return to their individual computer screens where it looked like they were learning suffixes.

I left with a different feeling from yesterday, that I was happy the $10 was going for food this time but was wondering where they were going to find “something good” with just the ten bucks!

We’re supposed to have a little snowstorm tomorrow, so it could be interesting finding my next recipient.  Can’t wait!

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-Blog post by Mike B., a Kindness Investor from Cromwell, CT

Her name is Jayne T., and as it was my first day being a Kindness Investor.  I couldn’t have asked for a more interesting subject.

My name is Mike and I am honored to be a Kindness Investor.  While reading Reed’s daily blog through the year, it made me think about what I consider “giving”.  It wasn’t a life changing thinking, but more of a subtle difference.  I consider myself a genuinely normal guy and will help a fellow human being out as much as I can “till the cows come home” as my father would say.  But to read Reed’s daily outpouring of kindness, I, like many others, couldn’t help but be inspired.  So when the chance to follow in his footsteps was asked, it was a no-brainer for me.  I too, am unemployed, and have been for 18 months, but due to some long-term planning and some luck, I still have a roof over my head and am able to put food on the table.  So when the opportunity arose to give back, like I said, it was plain and simple.  I was doing it.

So today starts my week and as I told Reed I would do it back in December, I had a good amount of time to prepare for it.  I thought a good way to at least start a conversation with someone, was to follow Reed’s lead and come in with a business card.  So a couple of drafts later, I came up with this.

I was in Middletown, Connecticut this morning mailing something at the Post Office and was looking for that right person to be my first recipient.  No one at the Post Office seemed right and so it was on to my next stop, getting a cup of coffee at a place on Main Street in Middletown called Brew Bakers.  An interesting side note (to me anyway) was the day before I was to start my week, I came across not one, but two people I would have felt right at least trying to give the $10 away to.  But I didn’t, as I was monetarily ready to start the next day and had $3 on me when having a conversation with both of them!

So I stopped at Brew Bakers, got a cup and sat down and surveyed the place. They have a pretty busy lunch crowd as they offer some good soups and sandwiches as well as their coffee bar.  I noticed several people by themselves and decided Jayne was the one.

She was sitting on a couch in the back part of the place, reading a book and enjoying her coffee.  When I approached her, it was a friendly voice that said, “Sure, I’ll listen to your request for help with a project.”  We had quite the conversation and a few hours later, we just about closed the place which was just open for breakfast and lunch.

Brew Bakers in Middletown, CT.

She was excited about receiving the $10 and when asked what she would do with it, she immediately said “Pay it Forward.”  She’s a unique person and very interesting conversationalist.  When asked where she was from, her reply was, “from her mother.” As for her occupation, she was at first apprehensive about telling me, saying it wasn’t easy to describe.  But eventually she said, “What I do is invite people into my life with whom I am able to share my passion for caring for others and creating and finding places for people to play music, who might not otherwise have a place to play.”  She herself is a musician who plays guitar.

She is also an advocate for people in her words, who “need some caring, such as veterans, people with mental health issues or disabilities”.

We talked about quite a number of topics and I would say that I hope all my recipients are as giving as her.  She even wanted to help me in my job search as well!   I asked her if she needed anything for the Lend a Hand portion on the blog and after much thought and consideration, she said she is looking for us all to be a more caring society, to act on that caring (not just talk about it) and not to forget the seniors in our lives.

We both left the place at the same time and agreed to keep in touch.  What a way to start my week!  Can’t wait till tomorrow.

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Petra did an amazing job last week

I am so happy about how this experiment is going of having a new Kindness Investor every week share their adventures.

Now I have the pleasure to introduce you to Mike from Connecticut.  I “meet” Mike a few weeks ago via email and telephone.  He’s an interesting guy with a knack for painting a verbal picture.  He’s a really nice guy who is searching for work mostly in the sales/marketing area.

Here are Mike’s answers to my questionnaire.

Name: Mike B.

Age? 48 years old.

Where do you live? I live in Cromwell, Connecticut which is right in the middle of the state.

Where were you born? I was born in Schenectady, New York, which is part of the “Capital District”.

What’s the highest level of education you have completed? A BA in Communications, concentration in broadcasting at State University College at Oswego.

Do you have a family? I’m a single guy with no kids here in Connecticut, but have a sister and brother in NY and their families and another sister in Colorado and her family.  My Dad lives over in NY as well and Mom passed away close to 20 years ago.

How did you hear about the Year of Giving? I believe I first heard about the Year of Giving on National Public Radio in April or so of 2010 and started following the blog at that point.

How long have you been unemployed? January is now 19 months since I was employed.

What happened? The national company I worked for (for 21 years) closed six local offices in one day. They were in Hartford, Boston, Miami, Detroit, Philadelphia and Houston.  They had previously downsized and outsourced quite a bit prior, but the recession hit pretty hard and they had to make the drastic cuts.

Do you currently volunteer? I do volunteer and very much believe in the power of volunteering.  I currently am focusing time on two main ones, Literacy Volunteers of Greater Hartford and YMCA Camp Wa Wa Segowea in the Berkshires.

Who have been your biggest influences? I like taking my inspiration and influence from a wide variety of people, but family and friends influence me as well as people that are very passionate in what they believe in and try to accomplish.

What is your favorite food? Growing up I was known as a picky eater, but could find no fault with pizza.  Now as I’m a little older, it’s the smells of fresh baked bread, or a nice garlic sauce that always trigger something in me.  But for a favorite, it would have to be a family recipe of Stuffed Cabbage!  (with sour cream, not tomato sauce)

What is the most meaningful gift you have ever received? It wasn’t necessarily a gift, but the most meaningful thing I ever received was my version of a birthday cake.  When it came time for my birthday,  my mother knew I liked Pecan Pie and so that was what I had, complete with candles and everything!  I don’t recall why it became a yearly thing, but when it came time for my birthday, I could count on one thing, that I was having a homemade Pecan Pie for the celebration. Looking back, it made me feel special on my birthday, and not like everyone else.  And isn’t that what birthdays are for?

Describe your ideal job:  My ideal job would be one I could be proud of performing while following my passion, allowing time off for traveling, getting paid enough to be at my level of comfortability, not have a long commute, and of course helping individuals reach their goals.

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This blog post is by Petra, a Kindness Investor from Seattle, WA.

Solana in front of wooden wall art carving.

It’s a bit intimidating writing a story about a professional story-teller. But the truth is, as soon as Solana has her baby girl – which is any day now – and is back doing what she loves to do, I will be front and center, mesmerized by her gift of telling tales that are grand and important.

Daybreak Star Indian Cultural Center occupies 20 acres on an extraordinary location in Seattle’s largest park – Discovery Park – located in the neighborhood of Magnolia just north of the city.  The structure itself was built in 1977 and hosts a wealth of original Northwest Native American art.  The center is part of the United Indians of All Tribes Foundation and is a major gathering place for cultural activities and events from business meetings to powwows to weddings. This borough within a park within a city has a dramatic view of Puget Sound and the Olympic Mountains. And Solana enjoys that perk whenever she has a moment to look up from her job as the center’s go-to person for all things regarding prenatal/Headstart programs and Operations. It even says so on her business card.

This exquisite 30-year-old woman, whose own Native American Indian ancestry is both Lushoolsled and Kostalish, has been an integral part of Daybreak for 10 years.  She began as a lead teacher and then spread her wings into other education related horizons – and of course – storytelling. The center’s Headstart program embraces 108 children – 42 are Native American. The other 66 kids complete the tapestry, coming from an eclectic, precious mixture of cultural backgrounds: East African, Spanish, Caucasian, Black, Asian and more. Suddenly I wanted to be a kid in the Headstart program at Daybreak!

Painting at Daybreak Star Indian Cultural Center

Solana is already a mother of two girls – one is old enough to understand the value of becoming positively involved in the lives of those less fortunate. They spend holidays and other occasions helping those in need at various locations throughout the city where homeless people gather. It’s something Solana knows all too well. She was homeless for two of her teenage years.

Then, immediately out of high school, Solana began her storytelling career which she now weaves into curriculum for schools and programs to enhance mental health. Currently she is devoting much of her own education to Chief Dan George who she reports is a major influence in her life and also paramount in her mother’s lineage. I suspect Chief Dan George will also occupy prime real estate in Solana’s storytelling nation.

As for the big question: What is the baby’s name? Oh, no. That was my question. As for the other big question – what will she do with her $10?

Artwork of Native American leaders at Daybreak Star Indian Cultural Center

“I don’t know yet. I find that I am constantly giving. I keep small packages of food in my car in case we meet someone who is hungry. I have change for those who need some money.”

“I’m going to hang on to it until the moment is right. I’ll know. My daughter and I will know when it’s the right time to pass this gift on to someone who could really use it.”

“You know this giving thing is contagious!”

I LOL’d and exclaimed “That’s what I keep saying!”

Solana has a Website which houses the details of her work and the importance of keeping the oral history of Native American Indians of all Tribes alive. Although it’s “down” for the moment, she hopes that after her baby girl is born, she’ll have time to tend to it again – it and the million other selfless acts of love which Solana demonstrates every day.

View of Puget Sound from the Daybreak Star Indian Cultural Center

Spring is around the corner and Daybreak is around the bend. Me thinks I’ll be spending more time with my new friend and mentor when she returns to Daybreak Star with her girls in tow. What fun it will be to sit on the grass, watch the birds, water, and mountains – just like Native American Indians of the great Pacific Northwest have done for centuries.

..and then she’ll tell me a story!

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Kindness Investor: Petra from Seattle, WA

Curran made me so happy. After we’d chatted and I gave him $10 I couldn’t help but tell one of his co-workers in the grocery store, that he made me so happy (even though poor Elle had no idea what was going on).

I’d paid for my modest purchase and couldn’t resist. I walked over to the register where Curran was now helping other customers and gave him a huge hug and a kiss on the cheek. “You have made me so happy!  Thank you.”

Frankly, I don’t think I actually embarrassed him – although I may have. Curran instantly understood what being a Kindness Investor is all about. So, I think he just took my public demonstration of gratitude in stride and smiled, and went back to work. However, my bet is that his smile – both inside and out –has remained with him as long as mine has with me.

Curran is an associate at Trader Joe’s Grocery. Although I had $10 in my pocket, ready to give to someone, I didn’t expect it to be an employee where I was buying my food. But there he was. He just walked up to me. It was kismet.  After briefly explaining the project and extending $10 to him, he was quick to grasp the concept.

“That’s really cool! It’s like paying it forward,” he stated matter-of-factly. I couldn’t help but think I was actually trying to catch-up, karmically. The past few years have been very difficult for me but my own family and friends Kindness Investors have helped me through so many of the extremely rough patches.

Curran grew up in the Portland, Oregon area and moved to Seattle about seven years ago; he’s now 28. He’s been a crew member of this store since it opened two years ago. One thing I know after today’s encounter, if I were in need of any kind of crew member, I’d want it to be someone like Curran.

“I got engaged on December 22nd,” he proudly announced. “We are hoping for a November wedding in Hawaii. We want a small ceremony and it’s really exciting.”

He and his fiancé have a three-year-old girl named Hayden (OMG, I can only imagine how lovely they both are). “It’s an amazing feeling.”

“What is?” I inquired.

“Settling down. Everything. All things are just lining up. I must’ve done something right.” He was beaming. Proud. Excited. Grounded.

Although he has no pets (you know I had to ask!), he loves dogs and hopes to add one to their family when they can.

As far as what he plans to do with the $10? He didn’t miss a beat when I asked. “I think I’m going to buy bouquets of flowers to keep the random act of kindness going. Won’t that be cool to make people smile with a beautiful arrangement of flowers? I’ll just hand them to people like you gave this $10 to me.”

Earlier when I was taking Curran’s picture, Elle had stopped by to get the string of beads which he had been wearing. Evidently the person donning the au natural necklace indicates to customers that s/he is available to assist and answer questions. Later when I ran into Elle said that Curran had briefly told her about our exchange and the money.

“I wonder what he’s going to do with it?” she asked.

“I don’t know…I guess you’ll have to wait and see,” I replied with a smile.

Who would think that three minutes and $10 with Curran (or any of those with whom I’ve spent time as a Kindness Investor) would make me so very happy?

Oh, I mentioned that, didn’t I?

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Being a Kindness Investor is a very interesting study in human nature. Especially my own. Especially when I allow myself to follow my gut and not my mind’s predetermined plan. For instance, my intention to give away my fifth $10 was specific: I was on my way to Ray’s, a well-known Seattle restaurant with a breath-taking view of the Puget Sound and the Olympic Mountains. On my way, I kept catching glimpses of an exceptionally clear, majestic day which was hosting glistening water and a horizon boasting one long dance of snow-capped peaks.

 

John holding his newspapers in front of his truck.

As I descended off a main road, preparing to make a left turn under a bridge to get to Ray’s, there stood John at the corner, several cars ahead of me. In that instant, my plans completely changed. I had to talk to him.

 

I made a U-turn, and then pulled around and under the bridge to park. John was clearly a bit confused as to why I was getting out of my car and approaching him. I’m sure I’d seen him before at this well-traveled intersection, but until that day, I never saw him.

John is one of hundreds of Seattle’s homeless people who sell Real Change, a weekly newspaper dedicated to advancing not only the facts (instead of assumptions) about those who are living on the streets, but also providing a safe and legitimate way for them to make money (as opposed to holding a sign or otherwise asking passers-by for spare change). When I meet a person who is offering this newspaper and asking that I purchase it for $1, I also see a badge which indicates that s/he is a bona fide participant in the Real Change extended family.

On the day I met John, the wind seemed to gather even more momentum as it whipped around the cement columns and twist through the underpass where we spoke. John’s pickup was parked near the corner where he stood patiently, albeit freezing, hoping that those who were sitting snugly in their cars would not ignore him at the stop light and perhaps buy his newspaper.

John was more than happy to accept my $10. He pointed to his truck. “I’ll probably buy some gas for my truck or propane because I live in the back-in the camper. There are a few of us who park over there in an empty parking lot at night and we use the propane to keep warm. No, I don’t light the propane in my camper,” he continued as my brow knitted in obvious concern.

“I’ve been homeless for about 12 years. I’m 43 and it all began after a very bad divorce. I lost everything, including my daughter.” John had lived a warm and productive life in Tennessee where he had a business – a store which sold everything from carpet to hardware supplies.

“We lived on a 12 and a half-acre farm. My ex-wife and her family are rich. But they wanted me gone and to keep me down. So here I am.”

I was struck by John’s optimism and confidence. Throughout our conversation he quoted several verses from the Bible which punctuated a point he was trying to make. His breath left a wake of steam as he spoke.

“I really need a job. I have a lot of experience doing many things. So if you or anyone you know needs help with building or painting or any of that kind of thing, please think of me.” John ran back to his truck and returned with a one page resume which was clean and professional. “They help us with our resumes at the office (of Real Change).”

When I asked him about staying at homeless shelters, he didn’t actually diss them but offered his own observation. “In a shelter they label you.  You’re a drug addict, or an alcoholic, or just plain crazy. Hey, I’m just out of work. Besides, I like living and sleeping in my own place – as humble as it is.” He gestured to his truck again.

Throughout the years, John had been to Texas where he worked off-shore on a boat fishing, but that didn’t stick as two of the guys were drunks. He had part-time job at the post office and then decided to move to California.  There, he had a sleeping bag, a tarp, and a man who helped him out by hiring him for some construction jobs.

He was quick to give the staff of Real Change a lot of credit. “This newspaper and the organization – what they do – has helped me in so many ways. I’ve been able to buy clothes and food because of it. They give me four papers free and I buy the rest for $.35 a paper. I sell it for $1, so I make $.65 off each one.”

While John’s day was just beginning, my ear lobes were bright red and my nose was running from the biting cold. And I grew up in Minnesota where this day’s weather was SOP!

I asked if he could use a blanket. “Always,” he replied with a smile. I ran back to my car and pulled a small blanket out of my emergency car kit and handed it to him. Then I remembered that I needed to buy the paper. I offered John $5 for a copy of his Real Change, he said no-I’d already given him $10!

“That was a Kindness Investor gift. This is for the paper. And since I don’t have change, please take the $5.” He did.

A hug and “good luck” was the only appropriate way to say good-bye to John. He smiled and waved as I climbed back into my car and hit the fan which blew warm air over my face and hands.

Driving home I was once again overwhelmed with gratitude and happiness. Not because I was returning to my own warm home with (some) food in the fridge and an inviting bed. I was grateful that I met John and had an opportunity to learn about him, his life, and ambitions. He really does have a striking resume. I hope I will someday be in a position to hire him. That would make me even more happy.

-Petra from Seattle, WA

 

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I was rich! I had $4 in my right pocket which I was going to splurge on me, Me, ME. In the other pocket was a crisp $10 which I would give to someone-although I did not yet know who it would be, I was confident I would find the “right” someone who would appreciate a little extra coin.

In Seattle, one of the best Goodwill stores is north of the city itself in a neighborhood called Ballard. And I was off to find treasures for the New Year!  After all, weren’t people discarding of the old as they’d just brought in the new from Aunt Gladys and co-worker Andy? And I knew that someone else’s “old” would be a treasure for me.  Besides, they were having a sale!

This Goodwill store was all a buzz on the first day of the New Year. The employees were working very hard to dust off and carefully place all of the newly donated items.  As I checked the shelves and racks for what I might possibly need, I carefully observed these hard workers.  They were fast!

Alas, I’d found a blanket for my doggy and very shabby chic flower vase for $.49, so I was happy. I brought my new treasures to my car and returned to the store to find the tall young man I’d spotted earlier working  so hard.

Finally I caught his attention and asked if he could help with my project. Sadly, he was being distracted by fellow staff and – surely – his boss to keep moving.  But when I presented the crisp $10 bill and asked if he would take it, his eyes lit up, a huge smile consumed his face and he – admittedly a bit perplexed and under pressure to get back to work – slipped the bill into a pocket.

As employees and fellow shoppers whirled about us, I tried to glean some back ground information about Mohamed A. who is 23 and attending Shoreline Community College.  He hopes to graduate with a degree in radiology. But that, he informed me, probably won’t happen until 2012.

He and his family moved to the United States in 2000 from Somalia. Their first home was Phoenix, Arizona but evidently the consensus was that it was much too hot for them. So, about two and a half years ago, they set out for Seattle. I doubt they are often bothered by any extreme heat here in the Emerald City.  Perhaps a few days in the summer when it reaches a suffocating 86 degrees, but even that is rare. For many Seattleites, we do not have air conditioning in our homes; it usually doesn’t warrant the investment of an extra appliance – save a western facing bedroom, perhaps. And of course if that is needed, the only place to go is the Ballard Goodwill for a great deal on a gently used window air conditioner.

So here he was, a tall, strong, young man, working hard to ensure the heavier items were set in place. Once again, someone called for Mohamed’s help so I knew I was required to let him return to his work.  As I took his photograph, I asked what he thought he might do with his $10.

“Buy lunch!” he gleamed.

And there you have it. On my first day of 2011, I was given the honor of buying a hard-working young student – an immigrant who came to secure a better life – lunch.

What a wonderful day.  What a wonderful world.

Best of luck, Mohamed!

-Petra from Seattle, WA

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Day 17 – Kristin

Who can resist a sale? Especially when it’s just days after Christmas? And on this particular day, it was the last day of 2010.  So, I rushed to the nearest PetCo in hopes of finding the (promised) toys for my critters, having explained for nearly a week that Santa was lost in the East Coast blizzard. It was time to make good on my promise.

As I perused the store, a woman pushing a toddler – and a lot of dog and cat food – kept catching my eye.  After finishing my own thoroughly vetted purchase, I boldly approached this young mother and asked her if she would help me with a project. We shifted the cart, child, and critter food out of the line so others could move forward.

“Sure, I guess,” she said hesitantly as I handed the $10 to her. What I remember most of all about Kristin was that she was either quite shy or a bit confused about the entire situation.  Perhaps it was a bit of both.

I asked her what she did for a living, besides raising a cute toddler. “I’m a Vet.”  Well, “dah,” I thought. What a great place to find a veterinarian, besides an actual animal clinic.

photo courtesy of http://www.lienanimal.com

“It’s over in West Seattle. The Lien Animal Clinic.  But I’m on maternity leave.  I have a new-born at home,” she explained.  And I think I have a handful with a small dog and an indoor cat to take care of! My heart went out to this woman, who was, by every measure, in every way, a caregiver. And a giver of tender loving care to so many, regardless of how many legs they have.

“My husband is also a Vet,” she continued.  Both attended veterinary school at the University of Wisconsin at Madison.  She graduated in 2005. “What do we say?” she asked her son. “Go Badgers!” he shouted as he punched his fist high in the air.

She is originally from Menasha, which is about two hours north of Milwaukee. After graduating, it was work that brought both she and her husband to the great Pacific Northwest. Kristin confesses that she misses the snow, but not the mosquitoes (okay, I prompted her about the mosquitoes because I hate mosquitoes).

Kristin needed to think about what she might do with her new $10 bill on this, the last day of the decade. As I took her picture and then thanked her for her time, I secretly hoped that an orphaned animal in need would be helped because of a chance encounter at a PetCo store on New Year’s Eve.

-Petra from Seattle, WA

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He was sittin’ near the dock of Fisherman’s Bay when I approached Michael.  He was having a smoke, trying to decide how he would eat and get his one change of clothes washed.  It was cold and blowing near the water of Puget Sound in Seattle. Michael was shivering as I walked toward him.

When I asked if he would take the $10 I had extended in my hand he was quick to say “Sure, what do I need to do for it?” and promptly tucked it into a pocket. As I explained the project and that I just wanted to talk to him, he seemed a bit touched by the gesture.

He patted the bench, inviting me to sit next to him. The short horizon before us was filled with fishing boats – owned mostly by independent, small fishermen.

“Most of ‘em are back for the season,” Michael noted.  “It gets mighty cold up there in Alaska during the winter so they come back to Seattle. I used to have a boat-I moored it at Elliot Bay but it got pretty expensive.  I’d fish sockeye…all kinds of salmon, and black cod. There are a lot of fish in that ocean.”

Michael snuffed out his cigarette when I asked him what he thought he would do with the money I gave to him. “Eat breakfast and buy a pouch of tobacco.”

Beneath his knit hat and overgrown scraggly beard, were bright blue eyes, twinkling as he shared his story with someone who actually wanted to listen. He explained how he had broken his foot: He was helping clean up a yard with a high fence. When he tried to jump it instead of going the long way around to the gate, the razor-sharp barbed wire snagged him; he fell from the top and shattered his heel and other bones.  That was six months ago and he’s still in a splint, hobbling about.

“It’s really been a crummy year. I’m unemployed and then had my van towed. I had my camping stove in it, my jeans, shorts, CDs and it’s all gone.  But even before that, I had 45 years of life auctioned off to pay my bills.  Everything went: There were shoes, boots, my potter’s wheel, and a beautiful wooden chest from Thailand that was my grandmother’s. My dad helped me some when I needed money, but you just can’t replace the memories when those things are taken away from you.

“I was a photographer, too. I did poster quality work.  Most of what I shot was of the Pacific NW-the fish, the mountains, the water. Man, I loved doing that. But I’m a survivor.  I’ve seen some tough times before and I bounced back – I will again.” He smiled. He was determined. Somehow he will again have a life he wants.

Today, with a duffle bag, some blankets and one change of clothes he has an advantage because he can just leave – go – hit the road, if he wants. And he’s thinking about it.  With family and some friends who are in San Diego, he may just head south and hang with some pals who are still surfing. In 2006 he was fortunate enough to be surfing in Hawaii; in fact, another one of his skills is that he can build boats, kayaks, surf boards, canoes; he said he was taught by the best of the best.  He paid close attention when the carving and crafting artists were assembling their means of water transportation or sport.  After that, he learned how to paint – anything! Yachts, boats, houses.  He gazed at the marina filled with fishing boats.

“Yeah, it’s true.  I’ve been knocked down many times but then I always managed to get back and prove to myself that I’m the survivor that I am.”

I asked if I could take his picture. Proudly, he agreed. It was only appropriate that he be photographed against a tapestry of boats. He smiled. He had $10 in pocket, a meal on its way, and hopes and dreams in his heart.

Best of luck, Michael!

-Petra from Seattle, WA

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I love my new job. I have been dreaming about this for years. Seriously. I’ve so often thought how wonderful it would be to head out the door with a hand full of cash-and just walk up to someone and say “Here, have some money. Please, take it.” And walk away.

Dreams do to come true.

Except in my reality (as I discovered today), the joy was not only in the giving, but in the fellowship of two unknown people thrown together by – what? Fate? A Spirit nudge? An angel? Coincidence?

As I began to run errands on my first day as a Kindness Investor, forecasters were threatening snow in Seattle so I paid close attention to whom I was drawn to; who was the intended recipient of my crisp ten-dollar bill? Several people caught my eye but none spoke to me, if you will.

She was on the right hand side of the street making her way toward a small bridge which crosses over freight trains and their many tracks. It can be a dicey, if not dangerous area for anyone making their way over this small viaduct. But there she was and now I had to figure out how to get her attention without scaring her; she was somehow calling me to be the recipient of my first Kindness Investor’s random act. And so it was.

I slowed down and let several cars pass me as I approached this quintessential Seattleite riding her bike. I gently beeped my horn and rolled down the window on the passenger side of my car.

“Excuse me; can I talk to you for a moment?” As if she had a choice; I felt like I had practically run her into the parking area which we both approached. I pulled up in front of her and popped out of my car. It was cold.  Frozen snow drops had begun to fly through the frigid air.

Once I was close enough to see her beautiful face, I understood why she was wearing a flowing, flowery, silky skirt over what I hoped were very warm leggings.  The skirt said so much to me: Kindness, an independent spirit, fun!

As I began explaining to her why I tracked her down, I described the project…etc., etc., etc., and asked if she would please accept ten dollars from me. I handed it to her. She smiled in delightful surprise.

As we talked, I learned that Nora is a student who is now studying to be a pre-school teacher. In the meantime, she also works in upholstery and ceramics. I knew it. Between the bike, scarves, and skirt, she had “eclectic” and “artistic” written all over her.

While Nora lives in Seattle’s Central District, her parents live in Ballard. Via bike, a hike, a bus, or car, this is not an easy journey. Seattle’s many hills and waterways create challenges for anyone trying to get from point A to B, much less point A to point K. But there she was-our Nora peddling the trails and streets and yes, train tracks of Seattle!

As I explained that Reed in Washington, DC had begun this most wonderful journey of Kindness Investing more than a year ago, I added that giving away money has been my own dream job for some time.  And there I was – with Nora – my first “client” on the first day of my new job.  Together we were shivering on the outside but both compassionate on the inside – kindness can warm up the mood of nearly any spirit. It can also be very contagious.

“I’ll have to start my own year of giving,” she stated, smiling as she again looked at the ten dollars.

When I asked what she thought she might do with the money, her first notion was to buy the book “Finding Your North Star” by Martha Beck. Nora had read it and felt a friend could benefit from the uplifting messages within the books’ pages.

“My friend has been struggling with darker feelings…maybe the book – and your story – can be a catalyst for her; it’s about being fearless and following your passions. I think this should cover the cost of the book.”

I wanted to spend more time with Nora-she was clearly kind and considerate.  And for some lucky Seattle toddlers, they would soon know a teacher and friend who would soon be encouraging them to nurture their own desires and creative passions. Besides, who in pre-school doesn’t like a pretty teacher?

When Nora asked what I did, I explained that I was unemployed, but when I connected with Reed and we discussed the yearofgiving.org project, I knew I had to participate.  It is my own North Star. My own passion. From where ten, twenty, fifty, a hundred dollars a day will come, I do not know. But this I do know: I think my new job is a great fit. I have faith that the money will appear so I can pass it on to the Nora’s of my world who in turn will use the blessing to help their friends and perhaps others in need. And when that friend is inspired, she too, will continue to invest in kindness.

This is addicting. And very, very fun.

Thank you, Reed.

Bless you, Nora.

-Petra from Seattle, WA

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Meet Petra!  She’ll be sharing her adventures of giving $10 away in and around Seattle, WA for the next seven days.

Name: Petra

Age: 54 years young

Where do you live? Seattle, Washington

Where were you born? Rural, northern Minnesota (but grew up in the Twin Cities- St. Paul/Minneapolis)

What’s the highest level of education you have completed? BA with additional certificates of completion in other continuing education arenas

Do you have a family? Single, never married, but do have a wonderful life – saving family of two furry critters – a dog and a cat

How did you hear about the Year of Giving? Huffington Post article-changed my life
How long have you been unemployed?
Technically, 8 years.  However, I have had myriad contract and freelance jobs; I began my own business but really wasn’t what I wanted to do…

What happened? I was working at biotech/pharma company (an amazing, rewarding experience) which was acquired by a larger Bio/Pharma company.  Most non-scientific staff were laid-off, including me.

Do you currently volunteer? Because of some complicated health issues over the past few years, I have not for a while. However, two organizations have been top of mind for a while and I’m preparing to approach them to offer my services.

Who have been your biggest influences? A dear friend who, after battling breast cancer for 22 years, passed away three years ago; a former boss who taught me both good business skills and what a fair, inspiring supervisor/mentor looks and acts like

What is your favorite food? Caprese salad!  As long as the tomatoes are ripe and aromatic,  and the mozzarella is fresh

What is the most meaningful gift you have ever received? Unconditional love and compassion from my friends and family; when a friend spent her birthday driving me around town on a hot summer’s day to deliver important documents in an important step to help me plough through official red-tape; in the end, it/she helped save my life

Describe your ideal job:  A professional Kindness Investor; I dream of giving away – say $100  – to someone I don’t know, talking with them and then writing about what they might do with the money.  HEY!  Sounds like a full-time REED SANDRIDGE profession!  No, seriously.  I have thought about this for a long time- more than a year before reading about your endeavor, Reed.  To have the means to walk up to someone (as I follow my keen intuition) who could use – who really needs – a  C note right now, would be amazing.  And as you, Reed, have done so gracefully for more than a year, then take the time to invest in that person-to learn a bit about who they are – and then write about it/them … well, that is my heart’s desire.

Thank you for being an inspiration to me, and to so many others.  Let us hope and pray that your year-long “experiment” will become a daily practice for people like me…and many, many other Kindness Investors! Bless you, Reed!

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Ernest decided to donate his $10 to charity.

Sadly day 14 is here which means this is my last day of participating in the Year of Giving.  I met Ernest today at our local hospital.  When I walked in Ernest was mopping the floor.  A never-ending job since we have snow on the ground again.

Ernest has worked in the housekeeping department at the hospital for two years.  His favorite part of his job is that it gives him the opportunity to meet many people and he likes helping those visiting the hospital.  Ernest said he was going to donate the money to a charity.  He wasn’t sure which charity yet, he was going to think of one as he finished mopping the floor.

I chose the hospital as my place for donation today as I feel very fortunate that I was recently offered a position with Hospice of Dayton.  I start working with them next week and am really looking forward to the opportunity to not only get into the health care field but also work in the area I’m most passionate about which is helping others.

I would like to thank Reed for the opportunity to touch the lives of people in my area for the last two weeks.  Meeting the 14 people I met during this journey was extremely rewarding to me, I can only imagine how rewarding the experience was for Reed having the opportunity to meet 365 different people.

If anyone reading this is unemployed I encourage you to send an email to Reed right now and participate in a week of giving.  I’m sure you will find the experience rewarding.  You will be amazed at the people you meet and the stories of their lives they are willing to share.  It’s such a rewarding experience.  I feel very fortunate being given the opportunity to not only kick off the second Year of Giving but also having the opportunity to participate for two weeks.

-Melinda T. from Xenia, OH

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Gary, like Kristen from Day 346 who also works for CVS, donated his $10 to St. Jude Children's Research Hospital.

Today I was in CVS and saw Gary S. the manager at my local CVS stocking shelves.  Gary always has a very enthusiastic attitude toward his job.  As I walked toward him he greeted me with his normal warm and enthusiastic hello.

I told him about the project which he thought was amazing and accepted the $10.  He said he was going to donate the money to St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital because it’s a charity that CVS is very passionate about.

Gary has worked as a Manager at CVS since April 2010.  Before working for CVS he spent 30 years working for Taco Bell as Manager, District Manager and at the end of his term he was a franchisee co-owner for 12 Taco Bells.

He retired and spent a few years enjoying retirement life and decided retirement wasn’t for him.  He was going stir crazy, plus he needed healthcare.

He loves his job because he is involved in both the retail portion as well as the pharmaceutical portion of the business.  He also loves the customers and how passionate they are for the company.

-Melinda T. from Xenia, OH

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Today's recipient Kathy gets a hug from one of the wolves. (photo: Melinda T.)

Today I went with friends to view the wolves at Wolf Creek Habitat in Brookville, Indiana.  Upon arriving I was greeted with a hug from Kathy who is one of the caregivers for the wolves.  I explained the project to Kathy and she accepted the $10 and walked right over to the donation box with it.

 

Kathy was kind and passionate about educating people old and young about wolves.    They have a couple of packs of wolves that were either rescued or have been breed at the center.  We got to go in the area of two different packs.

One pack was still young about 8 months old and was bottle feed by human since they were ten days old.   They were not afraid of people and would come up to you.  The other pack was not bottle fed and they stayed further away but were still beautiful to watch.  At one time the habitat had a few rescue wolves that were bred with malamutes.  Kathy recommended staying away from these breeds as she feels you get the worst of each breed and they are not ideal pets like some think.

 

Photo: Melinda T.

 

The habitat gets their feeding meat from a butcher that processes deer meat.  This benefits both the habitat and the butcher since the butcher normally would have to pay to dispose the carcass and the habitat gets free food.

-Melinda T. from Xenia, OH

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Today I met a man named Dallas who was working at the Ramada Hotel.  Dallas has worked at the Ramada for 2 years and usually works the night shift.  He likes working nights because it’s more laid back.  His favorite part of the job is getting to know the guests that stay at the hotel even though some of them he may never see again.

Dallas grew up in Nebraska and moved to Florida in his 20’s.  He met his wife there and they lived in Florida for about 15 years before moving to Ohio to be closer to her family.  Dallas has lived in Ohio for 15 years and really enjoys it even though the weather is quite different.

He laughed about people who live in Florida not knowing what snow is.  When asked what he thought he was going to use the $10 toward at first he said he wasn’t really sure but quickly decided he was going to take himself out to breakfast when he got off work that morning.

-Melinda T. from Xenia, OH / Dec. 25, 2010

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Today I went to downtown Dayton again attempting to find Pappy from Day 7.  I thought I was in luck a man walking toward the corner where I met Pappy at with a coat that resembled his.  I ran across the street and ran under the bridge area yelling “Hey Pappy”.

The man turned around and I said, “Oh, you’re not Pappy”.

“No, I’m Ted,” he replied,”can I help you.”

Hmmm, well yes you can.  I told Ted about the project I was working on and that today I wanted to give him $10.  “Are you serious,” Ted replied, “you don’t know what this means to me.”

When asked what he was going to do with the money Ted replied, “look over there at the BP, do you see the girl walking with the purple pants on.  That’s my girl, I’m going to go buy her and I some food.”  He then said, “maybe tomorrow you will meet her and give her $10.”  Ted made me laugh with that reply.  “You never know,” I replied.

Ted told me that Pappy had left for the day and he was leaving as well, “The cops give us tickets after 3:30 you know.”

As we walked back toward the streets Ted told me he was young and dumb and it really messed his life up.  He’s been on the streets for 8 years now and doesn’t see being off of the streets anytime soon.

“You’re a real gem,” he said.  “Most young girls would never be brave enough to confront people like me and you were very willing to talk to me, that shows you are a real genuine person.”

Thanks Ted!

-Melinda T. from Xenia, OH | Dec. 24, 2010

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Day 9 – Quinton R.

 

Quinton stands a few feet away from his suitcase. (photo: Melinda T.)

Today (Dec. 23, 2010) I walked over to talk with Quinton R. while he was waiting at the bus stop.  So far he seemed to be the shyest of those I’ve met during this adventure.  Quinton thought it was just amazing that Reed had given $10 to a stranger everyday for a year and was even more amazed that it was being carried on by others.

 

I noticed his suitcase sitting near the bench so asked if he was going somewhere for the holidays.  He had no plans of going anywhere for the holidays as his family lived in the area.  He had the suitcase because he had just picked up some clothes that were given to him and the suitcase was the easiest way to transport them back home.

When asked what he thought he would do with the $10 Quinton said he had been eating hotdogs daily lately because it was all he could afford so the money was going to go toward a meal other than hotdogs.

-Melinda T. from Xenia, OH

 

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Photo: Melinda T.

A few days ago while speaking with Reed on the phone I was telling him about my dog Max being a Therapy Dog.  Later that day Reed saw a news story about a service dog that helps an autistic child.  The dog was trained through a group called 4 Paws for Ability.  Very ironic because 4 Paws for Ability is located in Xenia, Ohio where I’m currently living.  Reed had no idea of this at the time.

I’ve lived in Xenia for almost a year and a half, drove past  4 Paws for Ability several times but never actually stopped to check it out.  I decided I should head over to 4 Paws for Ability and donate $10 to a volunteer there.  I gave the money to Charlene who in turn donated the money to 4 Paws for Ability.

Connor says hello to Melinda. (Photo: Melinda T.)

Charlene showed me around the facility and introduced me to quite a few dogs.   In total 4 Paws for Ability has 200 dogs but they are not all living at the facility.  Some of the dogs live at a Correctional Facility where the inmates there train the dogs, other dogs are living with foster families.  75% of the dogs at 4 Paws for Ability are rescued from animal shelters, I thought this was just amazing.  After working with the dogs if a dog just doesn’t seem like it will be a good service dog they place the dogs on PetFinder.com.  All dogs placed on Pet Finder have went through extensive obedience training so you get a fully trained dog.

4 Paws for Ability has designed the inside of the facility to resemble a home.  They have an area in the facility which is set up like the living room in your home.  This area has toys, television with video games and a computer.  The area is somewhat barricaded and was designed for children who are getting a service dog to be able to spend a day in a home like setting with just them and the dog as the parents view the interactions from outside the area.

Outside the building is a 2 acre area which is sectioned off into different yard type areas for the dogs to play.  Outside I was greeted by Connor who is currently going through training.  Connor was playing in the area which was made up to look like a typical backyard area with swings and play-sets.  During the warmer months the children can spend time outside interacting with the dog.

4 Paws for Ability play area (photo: Melinda T.)

If it weren’t for participating in the week of giving I may have never walked into 4 Paws for Ability.  Thanks to this opportunity I may have just found an additional opportunity to volunteer.

4Paws for Ability has ongoing needs for donations.

-Melinda T. from Xenia, OH

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Today I went to donate blood and was on my way home when I saw a man named “Happy Pappy” standing on the side of the street when I was at a stoplight. I detoured around and parked at a nearby McDonald’s and headed across a few streets then under a bridge to speak with him. I explained the project to him he accepted the $10 and said “Proverbs 28:27 He who gives to the poor will never want, but he who shuts his eyes will have many curses”. The next words he spoke almost left me speechless. Pappy said, “would you like to know what I think about those on unemployment, I think they have got too used to the check coming to them without having to do anything that they just don’t want to work. There is work out there, I’ve mowed lawns, painted houses”.

Pappy decided it was time for him to head to McDonald’s to warm up. I walked back across the way with him and sat in a nearby McDonald’s and we sat and talked for an hour until he said he needed to go.

The conversation with Pappy was very broad. He is 61 and a Vietnam War Veteran and showed the scars on his legs from where he was hit with shrapnel. He has been married twice and has children. Currently he was renting a room nearby but has been on and off the streets for 12 years. He spoke of coming home from Vietnam and working as a Publisher at the local Veteran’s Hospital and then having to return to the Veteran’s Hospital for nearly 2 years of rehabilitation therapy after being in a car accident and didn’t know if he was going to ever walk again.

He’s attempted suicide twice, and showed me the scar across his neck from his most recent attempt in 2001. Pappy attends church 7 days a week and spoke of the 3 different churches he attends service at. He shared how he has been on many prescription drugs due to illnesses, one of those being Hepatitis however he decided to heal himself through God and garlic herbs rather than healing himself through pharmaceutical companies.

He spoke of getting caught panhandling without a permit which has a fine of $154, he went to court and his punishment was making him wait 1 year to get a panhandling permit so he is still on the streets with no permit. He says he has figured out the best place to stand where he can see in all directions and if he sees the police he folds his sign up and walks away, so far this tactic has worked for him.

Pappy said he was going to use the ten dollars for food.

Unfortunately the picture I took of Pappy wasn’t clear. I’ve tried going back to his spot but was unsuccessful in finding him.

-Melinda T. from Xenia, OH

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