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Back in 2010, at the midway point of my yearlong journey of giving away $10 a day to strangers while I was unemployed, I named June 15th the Worldwide Day of Giving. It’s a day I encourage others to try what I did day in and day out for my Year of Giving: give a stranger ten bucks! Now, I later broadened the scope of the day to include making a $10 donation to a nonprofit or volunteering for part of the day. Some people just aren’t comfortable going up to strangers and giving them money – much less taking a little time to get to know them.

William Jeffrey's Tavern. Photo: arlnow.com

William Jeffrey’s Tavern. Photo: arlnow.com

Well today I found myself over off of Columbia Pike in Arlington. I was having lunch with my friend Patricia. You may remember Patricia was the rock star who put my year-end celebration together on December 14th, 2010. It was an amazing night where I brought as many of the $10 recipients and followers of the blog together to celebrate the 365 day journey. Everything that night ran so smoothly thanks to Patricia who managed all the logistics.

So…back to the sunny sidewalks of Arlington. Patricia and I walked up to William Jeffrey’s Tavern for lunch. On the way up there, we passed an adorable young boy out playing in front of his house. The scene took me back to my own childhood and I was jealous of his day of playing with Transformers on the cool shaded front steps of what I assumed was his home.

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Patricia, Alfonso, his son Aaron and me.

After lunch we walked up to the Columbia Pike Blues Festival. When we got there we ran into Alfonso Lopez, a charming and charismatic 42-year-old who I learn is running for reelection as the Representative of the 49th District of the Virginia House of Delegates. We chat a bit and I shared with him that today was the Worldwide Day of Giving and explained a bit about the Year of Giving. “You’re THAT guy?” he blurted out. “I totally remember your story!” He then grabs the attention of the other half-dozen people who were nearby working the Democrat tent at the fair, “Hey guys, this is the guy who was unemployed and went around every day giving strangers ten dollars, remember him?” I wish I had a photograph of his colleagues and the quizzical looks that came over them. It was as if Alfonso had just spoke to them in Klingon. One guy looked down a bit and murmured sheepishly something like he was sorry that he didn’t know what he was talking about. The others, frozen in the confusion, kind of shrugged and then went back to their conversations. It’s no big deal…I don’t expect people to have heard of my project. But it is fun when they do!

At about this time his son Aaron shows up. It was the same youngster I had seen earlier that day playing. Something just seemed right at that moment and I handed Alfonso my ten spot for the day. “I’ll put five toward my campaign and give the other five to the democratic party of Virginia to help other delegates,” he said. I thought it was pretty cool that he wanted part of the money to go to help someone other than himself.

Alfonso was in high demand at the event. A constituent had stopped by to speak to him about an issue and I didn’t want to take more of his time. He gave me a firm handshake and shot me a smile and thanked me again. “Move to my district,” he said half kidding but half serious as we walked away. Let me tell you, if I moved to Virgina I’d be honored to have Alfonso represent me. Good luck in the election this fall!

If you also participated in the Worldwide Day of Giving today – go to the Facebook Page and share your story.

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The cast of A Year of Giving: Patrick Miller, Devon DuPay, Reed Sandridge, Steve Langley. Photo: Timothy Sharpe

It was the fifth and final night of A Year of Giving at the 2012 Fringe Festival. We sold out the day before and had several people trying to get tickets at the door – unfortunately they were turned away.

The performance went very well. I was really happy to that my friend Anthony from Day 67 was in the audience! That being said, the evening was a bit sad in that the show was coming to an end. A lot of hard work, time, energy and heart went into bringing this production to the stage and I am very thankful for all of those who were a part of that.

On this final evening, I gave my $10 to a woman seated near the back of the audience. I picked her because she kept looking straight ahead when I went into the audience…you know the type that is saying, “Please don’t pick me.” I actually like to choose them! Well, instead of me telling you how it happened, I am going to let Dale S. Brown, my $10 recipient that evening, tell you through her words that she so kindly sent to me via email. Here you go.

(more…)

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Jeff displaying his $10 after the show. And yes, I know. My camera phone sucks. Photo: Reed Sandridge

So last Sunday we did a matinée show. It went really well and we had a good crowd for a Sunday afternoon. Celia Wren from the Washington Post was there and did a very nice review on A Year of Giving – check it out!

So at the show…I gave my $10 away to Jeff M. He’s a program analyst with the government – he told me which (more…)

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Blog post by Sibyl W, a Kindness Investor from Brentwood, Tenn.

The Williamson County Park has a walking path that follows along a river on one side.  There’s a hopscotch design painted on the path and a little further up you’ll see three different circles with a sign that says:
Try this:

  • Stand in the circles, looking at each other. Make each other smile or laugh.
  • Hold hands, give your child a hug, a smile or a pat on the back.
  • Watch, listen and learn.  See what your child looks at, talks about and does.

As I went further up I stopped and met walking his little dog, Yachi.  Ed adopted this adorable dog and was told Yachi’s former owner was a lady from Japan who could no longer care for her.  Ed is in the process of teacher his dog to come to him in English because his first master spoke only Japanese.  One thing is for sure, she loves people and attention.  Ed was told Yachi means “good luck” in Japanese.  I don’t doubt she is.

I explained the Year of Giving to Ed and he accepted my offer of $10 dollars.  Ed told me, “for the rest of this year I’ll be working my bucket list. I’m going to travel to Vermont and check that out and I love Washington, I’m going to travel there as well.”

Ed has moved eight times in the last 17 years and he’s going to find the place where he’ll finally settle down.
I asked Ed what he might do with the $10 dollars and he said, “I’ll give it back to you so you can give it to the next person.”  I explained I couldn’t accept anything so he said, “well then I’ll probably give it to a cause, maybe the Humane Society.”

I wish Ed a safe trip and lots of fun while whittling down his bucket list.

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Blog post by Stephanie, a Kindness Investor from Mt. Laurel, NJ.

Today’s Intention ~ I am grateful.

Meet Miss Liz.  She is the hardworking friendly lunch aide and crossing guard at elementary school of my boyfriend’s son Gregory.  This mother of three daughters is always concerned about the children’s safety and was surprised by my gesture.  She showed her appreciation with a large smile.

According to Gregory, “Miss Liz is one of the nicest lunch aides! She is always happy and helps the children at the school.”

I wanted to involve Gregory in the project so I asked him why he was grateful for Miss Liz. He said, “Miss Liz cares for us, helps us when we need and is nice.”

She will be giving the money to the humanitarian efforts to help Japan.  She is so grateful for all that she has: food, clothing , shelter and feels it’s important to give back to people who have far less, especially the people of Japan.

I’m glad that today I was able to get a child involved in helping me give to someone; especially someone who offers so much help and support to children.

Today will be the last day that I will share my journey with you.  I am so grateful for having the opportunity to get involved in the Year of Giving!

It was a great joy to be part of it and I truly believe it inspires others as well.  I know today Gregory will be thinking more and more about giving.
A funny side note is that I keep finding money!  I found $6 in an old coat, $20 in the washing machine, and my mom gave me a scratch-off lottery ticket that won $50!

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Blog post by Stephanie, a Kindness Investor from Mt. Laurel, NJ.

I created an intention this morning ~ Today, I focus on listening.

My next Year of Giving experience brought me to my local library, a place I hadn’t really been to since I was a kid.  I was motivated to sign up for a library card when I was there because I found a series of children’s books called “The Way To Be” series which interested me.

This is where I met Carl B, who can best be described as “a wealth of historical knowledge”.  We began talking and Carl shared stories about Shakespeare, Abraham Lincoln, Milton Hershey, Da Vinci, Pearl Harbor, The Roman Empire and Ancient Greeks.

He is currently unemployed himself, but dreams about being a highschool history teacher one day. I was amazed at the “wealth of knowledge” Carl has within him and could easily share with high school seniors.   He said he was always interested in history since 5th grade and he learned a lot from books and museums.  He did say history movies sometimes fabricate the truth but documentaries are more accurate.  What fascinated me was Carl, didn’t just share historical facts and info. He talks about history like he lived it and knew the people directly.  He talked about the character of people, the stories that aren’t always in text books, and the history of objects and technology.

Carl was very friendly, talkative and is truly motivated to make a difference in teens.  He said his dream would be to teach seniors specifically because that would be the last year to motivate them to go to college and continue learning.  He believes he is a self-taught historian because of his hunger to learn about the past.

Carl plans to donate the money to PHILABUNDANCE, an organization that helps feed the hungry throughout Philly and the Delaware Valley. Every year he gives them money and shares a quote from Deuteronomy.

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Blog post by Maria D., a Kindness Investor from Washington, DC.

 

Greetings to Emma, from Takoma Park, MD.  She’s lived in the area her whole life and loves the community she shares with others. She had a big dose of skepticism though and declined to be photographed or exchange contact information.  She decided to give the $10 to her friend Marilyn’s business as a donation.  “She’s in financial strain and I know she could use the money.”

 

When asked if we could do anything for her, she rummaged through her bags (luckily before the bus came) to find her friend Marilyn’s flyer.  “If you could get the word out, that’d be great.  She’s a really deserving person and just needs a break right now to help her with her family expenses piling up.”

 

Marilyn sells health products through her website portal: www.MarilynCooper.FreeLife.com.  So if you have time, check it out. Maybe you’ll find something you need and can help support a mom looking to take care of her family.  Thanks for the brief but encouraging encounter, Emma!

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-Blog post by Traci, a Kindness Investor traveling in Southeast Asia.

Mr. Leng's tuk-tuk

A “tuk-tuk” is a motorcycle taxi. Mr. Leng was my tuk-tuk driver while I was in Cambodia. And a fine driver he is indeed; and not too shabby at snooker either. I believe the average monthly income of a tuk-tuk driver is about $60.00 USD a month. Mr. Leng will use the money I gave him to feed his family.

I also helped out some monks that I met this week.  The monks are an integral part of a Buddhist community by providing many services such as giving blessings and participating at weddings and funerals. Since the monks do not work for an income, it is customary to give Alms to them. I gave Alms to a monk in the form of rice, tea, coffee and a few other essentials. Poor village boys are allowed to live at this particular monastery. They go to public schools and learn the ways of the monks. At an older age they can choose to either become a monk or go back into the secular world.

One of the monks I helped.

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Day 37 – Aki R.

-Blog post by Traci, a Kindness Investor traveling in Southeast Asia.

 

Photo: Richard Fitoussi

Today I visited the Cambodia Landmine Museum and Relief Center which was established in 1997 by former Khmer Rouge child soldier turned de-miner, Aki Ra. The original museum displayed his collection of landmines, bombs and other UXO material that Aki Ra cleared from around the country since the end of the war. In 2001, a Canadian relief organization partnered with Aki Ra to create the CLMMRF NGO that was able to construct a new museum for his growing collection of decommissioned weapons as well as a relief facility for dozens of children affected by landmines, poverty and physical handicaps.

 

All museum donations go directly to support and educate the children who now call the museum home. Aki Ra says, “I want to make my country safe for my people.”

 

The Cambodia Landmine Museum and Relief Center

Check out this trailer for a movie about Aki and his life as a child soldier and his work now which has resulted in the removal of more than 50,000 mines – many of which he probably planted himself.

 

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-Blog post by Traci, a Kindness Investor traveling in Thailand.

Picture from Big Heart Project in Cambodia

While on a bus from Bangkok to Siem Reap, I met a young woman named Kathleen from Australia.  She was a fundraiser for an organization called Big Heart Project.  The purpose of their existence is to identify communities and individuals who are living in conditions where basic necessities are scarce, opportunities are limited and many freedoms are inhibited, they then dedicate their time to educate these communities in a holistic way.  The main focus is to prevent children from entering prostitution and situations of slavery and abuse in the first place.  Where they can, they also rescue, rehabilitate, care for and educate girls leaving child prostitution and sexual slavery.

I gave my daily gift to Kathleen who had come to Cambodia to deliver funds that she had collected for the purpose of purchasing land and building an orphanage in Phnom Penh.  They need about $13,000.00 USD for the land and another $20,000 for the building.  Hopefully my gift helped her meet her goal in some small way.

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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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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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My very first recipient: Knox

Happy New Year!

365 days ago I embarked on an amazing journey.  I didn’t know it at the time, but it would forever change my life.

When I started I had been out of work for 75 days, I was hungry for a job, at least that’s what I thought.  Looking back on it, I think I was searching for something even greater: purpose.

Sure, the first month without work is awesome.  I got loads of sleep, made it to the gym on a regular basis, read all the books that were on my list to read and made time to see friends and family.  But the second month brought with it changes.  I started waking up late and staying in bed watching television until midmorning.  Don’t get me wrong, not all of my skills were wearing away, oh no.  I was actually developing a rather impressive talent in guessing the showcase showdown price on The Price is Right!  By the way where do they get those people…I should be on this show.  Anyway, this need for a higher purpose in my life combined with my interest in philanthropy and the values my mother and father taught me as a child all collided.  I literally woke up one morning in early December with the idea of giving a different stranger a few dollars every day.

Writing the blog was a purely personal venture at first.  It quenched my thirst for a job-like activity.  Every day I would come home and write up the blog entry.  I had never blogged before and to be honest, hadn’t really followed anyone else’s either.  So I really had no idea what I was doing.

Me and mom in Rio de Janeiro in 2003.

I started on the three-year anniversary of my mother’s passing.  Possibly the kindest and most generous person I have ever known, she was a huge inspiration.  She guided me through all 365 days.

Every day was a unique adventure.  People always ask me who my favorite recipient was.  That’s like asking a parent to name their favorite child.  So many of them were special in their own way.  Whether it was someone’s personal story that touched my heart or their creative idea of what to do with the ten dollars, every person left their own unique footstep along this year’s path.  And at some point what was a personal project turned into a movement and you joined me on the journey.  That moment was magical.  I received over ten thousand emails and comments from people all around the world who said that they were inspired; whether it be by my personal commitment or by one of the stories of the year-long cast of characters I introduced them to.

December 14th always loomed deep in the distance but before I knew it the day had arrived.  I decided to host a celebration with the goal being to reunite as many of the recipients as possible and put them together in one room.  In addition to introducing them to one another, it was also an opportunity for those who had been following the journey on the blog to meet the recipients in person.

Darrold, recipient from Day 189, picks a winning raffle ticket. (photo: Michael Bonfigli)

It was bitter cold and windy on the 365th morning of the Year of Giving and my emotions were equally turbulent.  The excitement for the evening was met with a bit of sadness that this special year was coming to an end.  Sure I have some tremendous plans for 2011, but things would be different.   It’s like moving back to a place you once lived.  It’s never the same.  The magic isn’t easily created twice.

I spent all day on the 14th doing last-minute things for the event.  Thankfully my good friend Patricia Anderson had volunteered to take care of the brunt of the work and I was only left with a few minor tasks.  I ran a few errands and delegated a couple of jobs to my father.  The thing that took me the most time was editing the video that I wanted to show.  I have close to two hundred video files from the last year and I wanted to piece something together that would capture what this year meant to me.  I had never worked with video files before I started blogging and one thing that I learned is that it is a very time-consuming process.  A film editor once told me to benchmark one to two hours of work for every minute of final cut video.  I literally was editing until 10 minutes before I needed to be at Tabaq Bistro, the location of the event.  Miraculously I managed finish on time.  Click here to watch the video.

I was reunited with Knox, my very first recipient from Dec. 15, 2009. (photo: Michael Bonfigli)

I arrived and any plans I might have had for the evening were checked at the door. Events tend to just take over and you are then on autopilot for the most part.  It was very much like a wedding; lots of beautiful and emotional moments all blurred together.  Thankfully there are some great video clips by ABC-7 reporter Jay Korff and amazing photographs by Michael Bonfigli.  I encourage you to check out both of these links.

The year would not be complete however until I passed on the final installment in my $3,650 investment in kindness.  Who would it be?  There were several people at the celebration who I didn’t know, so they qualified.  But who?  People often ask me how I choose the recipients.  It’s not a science, it’s much more of an impulsive decision.  Then I remembered the dozen individuals who were volunteering their time to work the event.  I knew some of them, but there were a few unfamiliar faces.  One of them belonged to Alyson, a 25-year-old DC resident who was busy working when I pulled her aside and placed the ten-dollar bill in her hand.

The final $10 changed hands during the event when Alyson H. became recipient #365. (photo: Michael Bonfigli)

She works in congressional relations at the Peace Corps headquarters here in Washington, DC.

“I’m going to buy two raffle tickets,” Alyson told me.  Participants at the event could purchase raffle tickets for five dollars a piece for a chance to win some fantastic prizes from generous organizations and individuals (see list of sponsors) in the DC area.  All the money collected, about $2,200, is being donated to three amazing nonprofits: DC Central Kitchen, Street Sense and the Urban Philharmonic.  Each have played a special part in this year-long journey and it seemed fitting to mark this event with an act of giving back.

Unfortunately Alyson didn’t win anything in the raffle, but that wasn’t this Minnesota native’s real motivation.  She is just a giving person at heart.  In addition to her meaningful work with the Peace Corps, she takes time out of her busy schedule to do things for others.  In fact, she had recently volunteered at DC Central Kitchen.

So what now?  Well, for 2011 I have two big things planned.  First, the ten-dollar a day giving continues with other unemployed people signing up to be Kindness Investors and give a ten spot away every day for one week and then share their stories here.  It’s truly an amazing experience.  Later today you will start to get blog posts from Melinda from Xenia, OH, the first Kindness Investor for 2011.

Elijah (Day 185) made it to the event, still not wearing shirts or shoes...and it was cold! (photo: Michael Bonfigli)

The other big project I am planning is to personally volunteer once a week for the entire year.  After reflecting on the previous 12 months I realized that the most valuable part of this experience has been the interaction with others, the time I spent with the recipients.  That’s what matters, to really care about someone else and their story.  So, I am going to be volunteering my time with some great nonprofits over the coming year and sharing the stories here on the Year of Giving! I hope you will follow along and drop me a note about how you incorporate volunteering into your life.

In addition to my personal commitment, I am challenging all those who are out of work to volunteer at least one day of their time.  We currently have 15 million individuals who are out of work in the US.  If we take an arbitrary hourly salary for each of them of $20 and calculate the value of each of them spending an eight our day volunteering, it comes up to $2.4 billion.  Now the average person is unemployed for six months right now, so double that amount and you get the total potential for the US for a year.  $4.8 billion is a seismic amount.  To put that into perspective, that is more than the economy of Zimbabwe!  Or three times the economy of Belize!  And we haven’t even mentioned the benefits the individual gets from volunteering!

I also want to work with companies to get them to create programs that encourage their employees to volunteer.  Imagine what we could do if we got just 20% of the active workforce to volunteer one day a year!  Anyway, check back in the coming weeks for more on this exciting new project.

Pierre from Day 359

Everything that I have ever done that was meaningful was sad when it came to an end.  So too is this moment.  The Year of Giving is not an earth shattering idea.  As Pierre from Day 359 put it, “Probably many people have thought something similar, but the difference is that you took the initiative and did it!”  He’s right.  What is unique is the experience that I have had.  When I started this project I thought that I might potentially change the lives of a handful of people, but I never thought about how it would change me.  I am forever changed.  I look at giving differently now.  It’s contagious and it has seeped into all aspects of my life.  I look at the homeless man on the street through a new lens now.  I’ve learned that sometimes it’s more valuable to stop and ask their name and how they are doing than it is to drop a dollar into their bucket.

As I reflect on this experience, I can’t help but be reminded of some sage advice in Mitch Albom’s real-life story Tuesdays with Morrie. In the book, Morrie tells Mitch, The way you get meaning into your life is to devote yourself to loving others, devote yourself to your community around you, and devote yourself to creating something that gives you purpose and meaning.”  I did just that and today I have 365 new friends and a truly meaningful purpose in life.

It’s ironic that just when I thought I was reaching the end I’ve realized that in fact it is just the beginning!  It is truly a happy new year.  Stay tuned…

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

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

 

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

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

 

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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Three more days…

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

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

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

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

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

Kristen is a shift supervisor at CVS.

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

“Can I donate the $10?” she asked.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Officer: Good evening.  Can I help you?

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

Officer: A musical? 

Me: Yes, The Sound of Music.

Officer: Do you have a ticket or something?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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In addition to my work with World Wildlife Fund, I am the Executive Director of the Urban Philharmonic Society, a nonprofit orchestra that plays in diverse neighborhoods in the DC area.  The organization was started by Maestro Darrold Hunt back in 1970.  I actually met Maestro Hunt through the Year of Giving and gave him my $10 on Day 189.

Well he and I were heading up to see the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra perform a unique event focused on the complex Austrian composer Gustav Mahler.  It was half orchestral half theatrical.  Basically they played some of the highlights of Mahler but also had a small group of actors that tried to reenact an encounter that the composer had Dr. Sigmund Freud. 

It was an interesting performance.  The orchestra sounded very good, the acting portion was interested but I would have rather had more of the music.  Maestra Marin Alsop seemed a little off, but that was explained during a talk back session after the performance where she stated that she had been battling a severe cold all week. 

Margarita and Jack at Meyerhoff Hall

After the show, I ran into Margarita and Jack in the lobby area.  “We enjoyed the show very much,” they told me.  She said that she was more of a theatre-goer than a symphony-goer, but they thought they would check out this unique hybrid.  Jack on the other hand said he leaned more toward music.  “I played clarinet as a kid and had a drum set,” he told me. 

This performance seemed to have a special significance for Margarita.  “My father loved Mahler…and Freud for that matter,” she said. 

The couple seemed well-traveled and in fact I think they are currently in Colombia, where Margarita was born.  Jack grew up the son of a Foreign Service diplomat and lived in Brazil and Dominican Republic.  We got talking about different places we’d been and figured out that we were both in Brazil’s northeast city of Salvador at the exact same time in 2003 for Carnaval!  Small world.  I had been living in Brazil for just three months and decided to check out the celebration in Salvador.  Margarita and Jack were on their honeymoon!

“I think we’ll donate the money,” Margarita said looking for confirmation from Jack.  He nodded his head and shrugged his shoulders a little in agreement.  I tried to email them and see what exactly happened to it in the end, but I am almost positive they are in Colombia still and may not hear for them for a few days.  Stay tuned for an update!

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I was attending a training seminar at the Hilton Hotel near the King Street Metro in Alexandria.  I had some roof leaks the night before during a heavy downpour and I ended up getting no sleep.  I arrived right at the time it was starting.  Hmmm…do I sit at the front and hope that helps motivate me to stay awake, or do I try to hide in the back, I thought.  I chose the front, although that ended up being a poor choice because I ended up surrendering at points to the inner need to sleep.  

I felt terrible…I was really interested in the subject matter but I just could not fight the narcoleptic impulses that pulled my eyelids downward.

Tiffany sent me this photo of herself.

The person sitting next to me at the conference was Tiffany.  She works as the Director of Philanthropy at a VA based nonprofit.  Originally from the DC area, Tiffany moved to Alabama for three years but returned recently.  “My parents and two brothers live here, so it’s nice to be back in the area,” she told me.

We chatted at the breaks.  She even offered to nudge me if I slipped into a slumber.  At the end of the day I asked her to take my $10.  She did and the fun began.  We talked about a lot of things; however, the thing that I could not get past was her unique obsession with hedgehogs.  Yep, hedgehogs.  Now, I think people often interchange hedgehogs and porcupines, but I’m going to assume that her infatuation is in fact with the hedgehog (Erinaceinae).

She has a hedgehog collection which started on a missionary trip she took with her father to Romania.  “This guy had 200 figurines and he gave me one,” Tiffany recounted.  She’s got them from about 20 countries although she was quick to point out that, “There not on display!”

It gets better though.  She later bought a live hedgehog in North Carolina and named him Darcy after the Lost character.  Well, this gets fuzzy (no pun intended) here but she transported Darcy to Virginia which may or may not have been legal.  I did a little research and found that there are about a half-dozen states that do not allow hedgehogs, however, I didn’t find anything related to Virginia or North Carolina that prohibits them.  THEN she decides she has to sell little Darcy and sold him on craigslist!  Well, before you go commenting that you can’t sell animals on craigslist, there is a little loophole.  She actually didn’t sell Darcy, she sold the cage and accessories and gave Darcy away to a veterinarian student.  I hope they didn’t use Darcy for lab work.  Tiffany had thought of this as well.  “There was one stipulation, no dissecting,” she told me.  

Hedgehogs apparently make good pets.  “You don’t have to walk them,” she said.  “And he was really cute and stayed up while I studied, they’re nocturnal, and he would run on his little wheel.”  The drawback she told me was that her clothes started to smell like hedgehogs.  She smelled fine when I met her though!

Tiffany has crossed paths with hedgehogs in other periods of her life.  Her sorority “little” had one too!

In all fairness, let me tell you that Tiffany is totally normal and even told me that she doesn’t know why she thought of the hedgehog when we were talking.  It definitely made for an interesting and educational chat though!

Oh, and remember that trip to Romania where the whole thing started, that was through Oakseed Ministries.  They help abandoned children and the poor throughout the world.  Tiffany donated her $10 to the organization.

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A couple of weeks ago I told you that I had given my $10 to celebrity…well today is the day that you find out who I ran into.

Willie Geist on MSNBC's Way Too Early with Willie Geist

An unscientific statistic that I came up with tells me that somewhere between 16-17 million people wake up and tune in to morning show programs.  I occasionally turn them on while I am getting ready, but most the time I listen to NPR.  Anyway, I watch them enough that I know a little bit about each program.  Well, I was surprised when I stopped in my local book store and found one of the hosts of MSNBC’s Morning Joe there.

It was the likeable and funny Willie Geist who also hosts Way Too Early with Willie Geist which is on immediately before Morning Joe for all those early birds who are up at 5:30am.  I haven’t seen that program yet…I rarely am up at 5:30 and if I am I doubt I am checking what is on TV.  Anyway, he was making an appearance at the Borders Bookstore at 18th and L Streets in DC. 

“Hmmm….would he take my $10,” I thought.  What the hell, let’s give it a try. 

Reed talking to Willie.

He was talking to a large crowd about his newly released book American Freak Show.  A long line formed to meet him and have him sign books.  I decided to wait around.  Then I noticed that his wife Christina was there.  I checked with her to see if she thought Willie would be game for my ten bucks!  She was lovely and told me that he probably would be thrilled to be a part of the Year of Giving.  Interestingly enough, I think I remember a comment in the bio section in his book that says that he and Christina met in the sixth grade or something like that…she was helping him with his homework.  Willie’s a pretty smart guy so I’m guessing he just wanted to find a reason to spend some time with a smart attractive girl like Christina!  Anyway, they’ve been married for seven years, have two children and live in New York.

So I finally get to meet Willie.  I asked him to sign a copy of his book for my father, which he graciously did.  The book is pure satire and a fun read.  It kind of reminds me of the concept of the Onion.  It takes real people and creates completely fictional occurrences, like Sarah Palin winning the 2012 election and delivering her inaugural address from the WWE’s Monday Night Raw at the Ice Palace in Tampa.  He also has a fantastic chapter on former governor Rob Blagojevich.

Jimmy "The Rent is 2 Damn High" McMillan

I asked Willie if there were any individuals that he felt got left out of the book.  There were two that got their 15 minutes of fame after he had already sent the book for publication.  “It’s too bad that I didn’t get to include Christine O’Donnell or Jimmy McMillan – ‘The Rent is 2 Damn High’ guy,” Willie explained unable to hold back a chuckle as he envisioned the stories that he could create about those two.

I explained the Year of Giving to Willie and asked him to accept my $10.  “Oh, I couldn’t accept your ten dollars,” Willie said.  “I would just give it to someone else who needs it or donate it.”  I assured him that he could do that and he accepted it.  

Willie had been there now for a couple of hours and it was after 9:00pm.  “I’ve got to get up in about four or five hours to do the show,” he explained.  He looked as if it had been a long day.  I imagine it was too…he probably got up around 3:00am, did his shows, took the train down to DC, made some appearances and now was focused on getting to his hotel.  Accompanied by his wife, three-year-old daughter Lucie who had been so well-behaved all evening, and a few personal friends, Willie slowly made his way to the front of the store.  I wished him luck with the book and said goodbye to him and Christina.

Willie said he would pass the $10 along.

By the way, I did a little research online about Willie and thought I would share the following with you.  Now 35, he was born in Evanston, IL and graduated high school in Ridgewood, NJ where he was the captain of the football and basketball teams.  He went on to graduate college from Vanderbilt University in Nashville.  His little sister is an accomplished documentary film producer (Crazy Love, Black Magic, Ring of Fire) and they are the great-grandchildren of Herbie Lewis who led the Detroit Red Wings to two Stanley Cup victories.  Check out Willie’s satirical video blog on msnbc.com called Zeitgeist!  Oh and I love this.  On MSNBC’s website it reports that he is proficient in Microsoft Word. Well done, my friend!

Note: If you live in Miami and want to meet Willie this weekend, he is scheduled to be at the Miami Book Fair this Saturday.

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This weekend we had a snapshot of the cold that awaits us this winter.  This morning it was near freezing when I went to the gym.

Today’s post took place during a really busy work wise.  Long days followed by work related events in the evening.  After an event at the Brazilian embassy, I headed across town to meet up with a friend of mine from Spain who I hadn’t seen for years.  Although it was late, this was our only chance to meet up so you push yourself a little and try to squeeze everything in.

Exhausted, I hailed a cab home to my apartment in Dupont.  The driver was a man named Tekele.  He was really nice and I enjoyed talking with him.  Originally from Ethiopia, he’s been driving a cab here in DC for 18 years.  Before that he worked almost nine years for PMI, a leading parking management firm.  “I like driving a taxi very much,” he told me.  “But you have to be really disciplined to do well at this,” since you work your own hours and set your own schedule for the most part. 

Having been in the business for such a long time, he has seen it all.  “Just other day a guy got in my cab and told me to go to Georgia Avenue,” he began to tell me.  “Then he fell asleep.  When we got there I tried to wake him up but he was really sleeping hard.”  Tekele finally got the man out of his cab.

There is a large Ethiopian community in DC.  Tekele says that many people like himself fled his homeland as a result of the civil war that began there in the 70s.  “I originally escaped to Italy,” he told me explaining that he spent six months there until Catholic Charities arranged for him to come to the United States.  He hasn’t traveled back to Ethiopia much.  “It’s so expensive especially with kids,” the father of three told me. 

Ethiopian platter at Etete

I shared with him that I had tried Ethiopian food many years ago and didn’t care for it.  This is odd too because I like almost all kinds of foods from other countries.  Especially spicy food, like Ethiopian food.  I guess I just had a bad experience because I recently went to a place called Etete at the corner of 9th and U Streets and tried it again and really enjoyed it.  The injera, a spongy flatbread made with a thin sourdough batter, took a little getting used to.  “Etete is a good place,” Tekele confirmed. 

We got to my place and I explained my Year of Giving to him and asked him to accept my $10.  He agreed and I paid him the fare and tip plus the ten dollars. 

I got home and realized I totally forgot to ask him what he was going to do with the money!  It was late and I was really tired.  He had given me his cell number so I called him on Sunday October 31st and asked him.  He was happy to hear from me and explained that he had donated the money to his local Virginia police department.  Hopefully he gave it to the actual department and not the Fraternal Order of Police.  I’ve had a very bad experience with the telephone solicitors from that organization and no longer give to them.

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In addition to her stage and television work, Bonnie has produced two radio shows. (photo: Reed)

I recently learned about a local writing workshop.  I thought, heck, I should have seen something like this 303 days ago!  When I started this I had no idea how MUCH writing I would do.  I’ve also never really stopped to think about my writing style or how I can improve it.  Hopefully I have learned something along the way but certainly I could benefit from a more structured environment to develop my writing skills.

 

 

The leader of the workshop is an inspiring and energetic woman whose name is one letter different from yesterday’s recipient!  Bonnie is a former stage and television actress who studied at the performing arts school in New York City that the movie Fame was based on.  She went on to study at Howard and UCLA and helped found the Los Angeles Theatre Works and has taught workshops to all kinds of audiences, even prison inmates!

 

Now divorced, she lives in the DC and has two grown sons; one a cinematographer and the other a plastic surgeon.  

 

Bonnie asked for a few days to consider how she wanted to use the ten dollars.  In an email to me the next day she wrote, “I donated the $10 to the Seva Foundation.  One of their programs addresses preventable blindness.  Through a dynamic network of partners around the world, Seva helps communities develop their own high-quality, affordable eye care services.”  Pretty cool that she decided to use it to help others see…something that many of us take for granted.  On a side note, I have wanted to give my ten dollars to a blind or deaf person.  I don’t know why I am a little obsessed with this idea, but I am.  Haven’t been able to yet, but I still have some time!

 

Bonnie on the set of Good Times

I was so moved by Bonnie’s interest in the Year of Giving.  “I’m going to be up half the night trying to think of ways to help you and your project,” she told me.  Since then she has made some introductions for me in an effort to find a venue for my year-end celebration.  Still nothing confirmed yet, but hopefully soon I will have more details.

 

 

 

In the workshop she asked us to think of one word that described ourselves.  As I write this I wonder what one word Bonnie would use to describer herself.  I can think of a couple: creative, sincere, confident, inspiring, etc.

 

So I did some digging and found some old clips of Bonnie doing some television shows back in the 70s.  From kissing Redd Foxx on the cheek on Sanford and Son to playing J.J.’s cousin on Good Times, she did some exciting work!  Check out this clip of her on successful TV series Good Times.  She plays Naomi and first appears around 7 minutes and 30 seconds.  If you watch the entire episode (there are three parts) you get to see more of Bonnie and hear Jimmie Walker utter his famous phrase “Dyn-O-Mite” twice!

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Giving is the theme of this post!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Can you say hero? (photo: Reed)

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

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

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

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U.S. Cellular Field

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Final scoreboard message (Photo: Reed)

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

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

Photo: Reed

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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I often tell people that it’s much more meaningful to give of your time than your money.  So why am I giving away $10?  Good question.  I wanted to make a year-long altruistic commitment that I could quantify with relative ease.  A monetary amount lends itself very well to this.  Having said that, I probably give of my time almost every single day to help someone.  Whether it’s giving directions to a lost tourist, watching someone’s bag while they go to the bathroom or cooking something for a friend’s birthday, I do something for someone else just about every single day.   

Vincenzo and his new wheels. (photo: Reed)

 

 Well on Day 260 I was on my way to a meeting near 11th and G Streets in DC.  I was on foot and cutting through Chinatown when I saw Vincenzo stressing out in front of his blue station wagon at the corner of 7th and G.  

“Do you know anything about cars?” he asked me standing in front of the open hood of the car.  I made a quick call to tell the person I was meeting to inform them that I would be a few minutes late and then told him that I would try to help but that I didn’t know much about cars.  I thought he probably only needed some help pushing the car out of the way of other traffic.   

Another passerby, Joel, also topped to lend a hand.  

None of us really knew what was wrong with it.  The 22-year-old from Virginia Beach explained that it felt like the breaks were on and he couldn’t get the car to move forward.  I did what I always do when I’m in this situation and the hood is up.  I walked over and took a look at the engine.  I don’t know why I do that, I don’t know the first thing about cars.  I mean I know the difference between the alternator and the starter, but when things go wrong, I doubt I am going to be able to fix anything.  

Joel and I were a little more preoccupied with getting Vincenzo’s car out of the middle of the road so that he could take his time to figure out how he wanted to proceed.  I looked over at Vincenzo who now was pacing a little bit saying something about how he shouldn’t have bought this car.  “I bought this car yesterday from some ghetto dealer I found on Craigslist,” he told me.  Vincenzo paid $2,000 cash for the car.  “It’s got 152,000 miles on it.”  He beat me, my 2000 Volkswagen has 139,000 miles.  Speaking of my car, I have spent over $1,000 on it in the last week, but more on that later.    

Then I heard something about an interview.  I peaked my head around the hood and asked, “You’re on your way to an interview?”   

“Yeah, I’m supposed to be there in 20 minutes.”  

Oh man, this is really turning into a bad day for Vincenzo, who is now fully stressed and sweating pretty bad in the 90+ temps.  This is not how he envisioned this day going, I am sure.  

Finally I ask if I can try to start the car to feel what the car is doing.  He tosses me the keys and I get into the station wagon and turn the ignition.  I eased off the breaks and the car crept forward.  It seemed to be working fine to me.  Vincenzo looks at me somewhat puzzled and I frankly don’t know what I did, but we switched places and he gave it a try.  It worked!  We closed the hood and I gave him my cell number just in case it started having problems again and he was close by.   

Vincenzo managed to smile despite the day's misfortunes. (photo: Reed)

 

A few days later I got a voice mail from Vincenzo.  He was at a repair shop getting his car fixed.  Apparently his car died again that day on his way to the interview and he parked the car and hopped on the Metro to get to the interview.  “There was something wrong with the disc brakes and the left caliper that was making the breaks stick.”  It cost him $706 to get it fixed.  

As for the interview, he didn’t get the job.  “I kind of new that it was a long shot, but it would have been the perfect job.”  Vincenzo’s background is in personal training and he is looking for a job with large organizations to build program’s that help keep their employees in good health.  Many companies are hiring people like Vincenzo now because they can get cost savings from their insurance provider for offering these sort of services as well as get more efficient employees.  He told me that he has personally seen how people in better shape are more productive at work.  If anyone would like to contact Vincenzo for work opportunities, give me a shout.  

Anyway, it was a tough day for this guy.  I was kind of surprised that other people didn’t offer to stop.  It was just me and Joel helping him.  By the way, Joel works nearby at the Portrait Gallery and said that it was a simple decision to stop and try to help, “I stopped because he needed help, that’s it.  He seemed pretty genuine.”  Thanks for your help Joel!  We need more Joels!  

When we spoke he also told me that he donated the $10 to a charity focused on multiple sclerosis.  I also learned that he has started to train for some cycling races.  He recently kept up with some road racers for 11 miles on his mountain bike.  This is not easy when you consider they were riding road bikes and Vincenzo was on a mountain bike.  It’s a lot more work and he said he wasn’t even drafting off the other cyclists.     

So, I mentioned my car had cost me $1,000 this week.  I recently swapped cars with my father and had to get my new car registered and inspected here in DC.   It needed some work on the emissions which ran $500.  Then I had to get it registered and inspected which cost me a total of $364.  Look for the upcoming story about Chad who I gave $10 to while waiting at the Department of Motor Vehicles.  And then, get this, my car was broken into last night!  So, chalk up another $200 in repairs not to mention over $500 in stolen items.  I am seriously thinking about ditching my car and using Zipcar.  Anyone done this and been happy?

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