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Archive for the ‘Church’ Category

Hey!  I am still looking for a place to hold the year-end celebration.  If you know of someone with a philanthropic heart who would like to be a part of this special day, please shoot me an email at reed@yearofgiving.org!

On Sunday after a weekend visiting friends in southeastern Pennsylvania, we headed to Philadelphia Premium Outlets in Limerick, PA.  When you go to their website you will see this picture of the shopping center.

 

What they don’t show you is this.

 

That’s what you would see if you turn 180 degrees from the place where the first picture was taken. Twenty minutes before arriving, I could see the two cooling towers and the billowing cotton-like smoke streaming out of them.  As I pulled into the parking lot I have to admit that I was surprised to find this nuclear reactor so close to the mall.  It was literally next door to the outlets. 

Mario has worked at the outlets for two years. (photo: Reed)

After grabbing some lunch and saying goodbye to my childhood friends, I spotted Mario hustling about the grounds of the mall emptying the trash.  Originally from Oaxaca, Mexico, he moved here in search of a better paying job.  In Spanish he explained, “I chose this area because I had some relatives already living here.”  Back home, his wife and five children receive regular money orders that he sends from his modest pay checks.  It’s been almost four years since he has seen them.  He’s been working at the outlets for about two years.

Mario took a second to let me snap this photo of him with the nuclear cooling towers in the background. (photo: Reed)

Some of you might have heard about the heavy rains that caused catastrophic flooding in his home state of Oaxaca back in September.  I asked him if his family and loved was were affected by the disaster and thankfully he said that they were all safe and doing ok.

Mario reminded me a little of Paulina from my second day of this year-long journey when he promptly told me that he would donate the money to his church.

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Day 269 – Doris S.

Doris driving my Jetta. You can't see it well, but VolksWerks is in the background. (photo: Reed)

 

I told you recently that my car has had a bunch of problems.  Well, I finally bit the bullet and took my car to VolksWerks, a VW/Audi mechanic in Falls Church, VA.  I needed to get some work done in order to pass DC’s emission tests.  I dropped the car off early Friday morning.  Like a lot of places, they offer to drop customers off at nearby Metro stops.  Doris, the office manager, gave me a ride in my vehicle over to the East Falls Church Metro station.  On the way I figured I would give her my $10.  I mean, this is an interesting scenario.  Someone I don’t know is driving around in my car!  So, I pulled out my $10 and asked if she would accept it. 

She agreed and had a few questions about the Year of Giving.  

“I know exactly what I am going to do with it,” Doris said as she turned onto a side street.  “I’m going to give it to my church, the Holy Transfiguration Melkite Greek-Catholic Church in McLean.” 

Doris shared that she had recently started dating a man who was really interested in her church. “I did nothing to cause that, he just did it on his own,” she explained.  “I’m going to donate this $10 to my church on behalf of him and his soul.”  She explained how beautiful it was to see him growing with his faith.   

Honda Shadow Spirit 750cc

 

It was early and we were stuck in some morning rush hour traffic.  I asked 32-year-old Philadelphia native to tell me about herself, what kind of things she liked, hobbies, etc.  She told me that she recently got a motorcycle.  “I got a Honda Shadow Spirit 750cc.”  I don’t think I could ever own a motorcycle.  My brother has one, but I can’t ignore that no matter how safe you are some other idiot can hit you and you just don’t have as much protection as you do in a car.  This is all coming from someone who has 100+ jumps as a skydiver…then again, I haven’t done any skydiving for almost ten years, so maybe I’m just becoming more of a chicken as I get older. 

In addition to being a motorcycle enthusiast, Doris has something else in common with my brother.  They both went to Drexel University in Philadelphia.  She studied music there.   

She also has completed a couple triathlons.  She even did one while coping with a foot injury.  Wow… that must be really hard. 

My 2000 Jetta has seen better days. (photo: Reed)

 

We arrived at the Metro station and I thanked her for the ride.  I traveled back into DC and went on with my day.  My car was not done that day, so I had to go back and pick it up the following day.  It cost me about $500 to get the emissions issues fixed on my car.  Just another reason for me to consider getting Zipcar!

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Lowe's Gainesville, VA (photo:Reed)

I spent the Fourth of July weekend at my friend Tom’s house out in Manassas, VA. Our goal was to gut his bathroom and put in a brand new one and surprise his wife when she returned from visiting her parents on Tuesday. Well, let’s just say that she was surprised alright when she got back. Yeah, we didn’t exactly finish the project, but we did manage to strip it all the way down to the 2×4 boards, water pipes and electrical wiring. Everything, and I mean everything else was ripped out of there. I was back out there this last weekend and we now have the new tub in, the cement board down, the ceiling and walls up and all the pipes and electrical work done.

photo: Reed

Well, while I was out there the first weekend we made many trips to Lowes and Home Depot. On one occasion I let Tom go hunt for some bronze coupling part we needed as part of moving all the pipes and I went hunting for a recipient. I found George scoping out some of the flowers and plants over in the gardening area.

When I looked at George I couldn’t help but see a resemblance between him and one hard working gentleman from the North Pole. As it turns out others have seen this similarity too and he has been a working Santa Claus for more than 40 years. He has some great stories too. Check some of them out here:

I learned a lot about the ins and outs of the Santa Claus industry. For example, where is the best place to work? I would have said the mall. But the most fun that George ever had was at a Chik-fil-A believe it or not. But you’re probably wondering what the heck George does for the other 11 months of the year.

Well after a short career in radio he went to work for the US Postal Service for 34 years until retiring recently after suffering a stress-induced coma that lasted one month! “I guess the work was causing more stress than I thought,” he said before jokingly saying, “At least I didn’t go postal!” After coming out of the coma George had to go to speech therapy. He even started volunteering at the clinic which resulted in them hiring him on a part-time basis working one day a week. After four years there this sadly came to an end last week when they let George go due to a cost cutting effort. I felt really bad for him as he seemed to enjoy it so much.

“I would really like to find a part time job around Manassas where I can work about one day a week.” If anyone knows of something, please let me know and I will connect you with George. He seemed very interested in trying to get back into radio and possibly working at a Christian radio station.

photo: Reed

In the spirit of giving George told me that he was going to donate the $10 to his church: Manassas Assembly of God. “I am going to donate it toward the missions.” I went on their website and they have extensive missionary work in all parts of the world.

Before I let him go (he had to go pick up his wife) I invited him to the year-end celebration for the Year of Giving that will take place on or about December 14th here in DC. “Could I come as Santa Claus?” he asked.

Absolutely!

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

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

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

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

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

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

UPDATE (April 7, 2010)

I received the following email from Ivory today.

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

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

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

Ivory

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Day 2 – Paulina

Today I spent most of the day trying to get Year Of Giving up and running.  This blogging software is pretty user-friendly, however, like many things some tasks have somehow taken longer than expected.

So today I went searching along the U Street corridor of DC.  I first approached a woman who was waiting for the bus.  Just as I started to speak with her the 96 bus headed toward McLean Gardens rolled up and she slipped away.  I thought about just jumping on the bus…but I had no idea where McLean Gardens was and didn’t quite have time to do exploring this afternoon.  Strike 1.

My second attempt turned out to be a failure as well.  A nice woman who would have probably been very appreciative had we been able to communicate.  She spoke French, I tried some spanish and portuguese and even a few words in French, but she wasn’t impressed with my French skills.  Strike 2.

My third and ultimately successful attempt came at about 4:30 pm.  I spotted Paulina, a tiny hispanic woman in her 50s, crossing the street with one hand holding a tattered bag and the other clutched tightly around the small hand of three-year-old Dominic.  Our conversation quickly turned to Spanish (phew, that language I have covered) and I explained what I was doing.  She was a little timid but ultimately accepted the $10.

No more than I had put the money in her hand, she proudly told me that she was going to give the money to the church.  I think Dominic, although a little confused, was a bit disappointed with the decision :).  I was pleasantly surprised that she didn’t hesitate a bit with her altruistic decision.

Paulina politely thanked me and said that God would take of me.  I thanked her, smiled, and said good-bye.

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