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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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Happy Worldwide Day of Giving!!!

I spent the day at Nonprofit 2.0 unconference conference sharing ideas and strategies for nonprofits in a social networking world. On my way home I cut through Dupont Circle – one of my old haunts when I did my year-long commitment to giving ten dollars a day away in 2010.
I made a lap around the circle looking for my recipient and spotted Dave K. rooting through a garbage can. Although he never said it, I believe the 45-year-old former science teacher from New York is homeless right now. His faded pants and worn sneakers were putting in overtime. His missing teeth didn’t stop him from being really generous with his smile that was tucked away under a thick cotton-white beard.
“Nothing in particular…just looking,” he said when I asked him what he was looking for. I had seen him open up some food containers from the lunch-goers from nearby offices that pepper the grassy respite in Northwest DC. “I think I’ll get me some coffee from Starbucks,” he told me looking down at the $10 in his hand. “I’m gonna get a venti dark roast!”

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The sunlight shifted back and forth on his face as the leaves above waved in the wind. I asked him why he was no longer working and he placed his index finger over his pursed lips. “There are some things that I prefer not to talk about,” he said.
We chatted a bit more…from quantum physics to garbage. “I once found a hundred-dollar bill,” Dave said causing his eyebrows to come out from beneath the white Virgin Atlantic sunglasses he was sporting. “Yep, it was sitting right on top of a public garbage can in New York City.”
I could sense that he was satisfied with our talk and was ready to move on. I asked a guy walking by to snap our picture, invited him to small happy hour celebration for the Worldwide Day of Giving tonight at L’Enfant Cafe and Bar. He smiled again and we shook hands goodbye. He wandered over to another garbage can and leaned in to sift through the refuse.
It felt great to give away the $10. I still do it from time to time but I don’t write about it…so this was kind of special as I enjoy sharing the stories of the amazing people I meet.
Click here to check out other stories of people participating in the Worldwide Day of Giving.

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-Blog post by Reed Sandridge of Washington, DC

Good morning!  Today is the second annual Worldwide Day of Giving!

This all began as part of my Year of Giving project last year.  Today is a day to focus on others by giving or volunteering.

There are three simple ways to support this kindness movement.

1. VOLUNTEERING

You can volunteer with any organization.  For those of you who are busy and can’t take off work, consider micro-volunteering on www.sparked.com.  This is one of the coolest websites I have seen.  I did a project this morning while I ate my breakfast!  What are you waiting for?  Go tackle one of the 3,493 projects!

2. GIVE A STRANGER $10

So you’re old school?  You want to celebrate the Worldwide Day of Giving by paying it forward like I did last year for 365 days.  It’s easy.  Find a complete stranger. Approach them and tell them that you are participating in the Worldwide Day of Giving and would like to give them $10. The only rules are that you may not know the person and you may not receive anything in return for the $10 (aside from the rush of goodness you will feel).

Ideally you will take some time to speak with the recipient, find out what they will do with the $10 as well as a little bit about who they are. If you can take a picture or video, that would be even better – we would love to have you post that here or on the Year of Giving Facebook Page.

3. DONATE $10 TO THE YEAR OF GIVING

Your $10 will be used to help those listed on the Lend a Hand section of theYear of Giving website.  Donations accepted at http://www.yearofgiving.org.

Whatever you choose to do I hope that you will share your experience here or on the Year of Giving Facebook Page.

I’m off now to do my second volunteer project of the day at the IMPACT Summit – a forum that convenes leaders from the business, education, government and nonprofit sectors that leverages volunteerism, service and philanthropy to address critical issues facing our community.

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Sammy (Day 113) and Ashley (Day 181) at last year's Worldwide Day of Giving (photo: Reed Sandridge)

Later in the day I will be celebrating the Worldwide Day of Giving at One Lounge in Dupont from 6-8pm.  Come join us!

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-Blog post by Reed Sandridge of Washington, DC

This post was supposed to be put up yesterday – sorry. I was out volunteering and got behind.

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I captured this image of a fallen soldier being delivered to Arlington Cemetery on a recent return flight to DC.

Yesterday was Memorial Day – a day when we remember those who have served our country. I took some time to think about my family members who have served – most recently my cousin Jonathan and his wife Alex. Thankfully they made it home safely. I then was reminded of Jen B. who I met on Day 362 of my Year of Giving. She lost her husband, Army 1st Lt. Todd J. Bryant, when his Humvee came under attack in Fallujah in October of 2003. My thoughts go out to her, Todd’s family and all of those who have lost loved ones serving their country.

My first bike ride of the year is something that I look forward to every spring. The mixture of warm sunlight and cool air on my face as I roll by some of our country’s most iconic monuments keeps me sane.

Washington is full of wonderful trails that provide safe riding throughout our nation’s capital. However there is one day each year that gives riders full access to the city and so many of the breathtaking vistas usually reserved only for snapshots out windows of slow moving cars. That day is Bike DC.

I rode in Bike DC last year and even gave my $10 away to another rider. You can read the blog post and watch some video I shot while riding. This year I too was going to ride and then I got the idea that I would volunteer for them.

I was stationed at the Will Call table which was set up on the corner of 3rd and Jefferson, directly west of the US Capitol. Technically I was supposed to be answering questions that the cyclists had, but there was a much greater need to actually check the nearly 4,000 riders in so I started checking them in too. It was impressive. We managed to process every single rider in about 90 minutes.

Crossing the Potomac River (Photo: Charles Hagman)

The event, which costs riders about $35, supports the Washington Area Bicycle Association (WABA). They represent cyclists’ interest here in DC. I overlook their tired emails and letters because I, like many others here in the area, benefit from their work. Click here to find out how you can support WABA.

After I was done working, I tacked on a rider’s bib and headed out on the course. It’s beautiful and there is something indescribable about riding through such a picturesque city with no cars. My favorite part though is crossing the bridge into Virginia and riding down the GW Parkway! That is pretty cool.

Ghost Bike

Photo by M.V. Jantzen

I started this post off remembering those who have served in the military. In the theme of remembrance, I offer a name to you: Alice Swanson. She died just a block from my home while riding her bike to work in July of 2008. For a long time there was a white bicycle placed at the corner of Connecticut and R Streets as a memorial. Although I never knew Alice, there is not a day that goes by when I walk by that corner that I don’t think about her.

Next Monday I will take you along on a volunteering journey with Yachad DC where we will rebuild some lower income housing near Fort Totten.

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Blog post by Rose M, a Kindness Investor from Forest Park, IL.

I found my teens today on St. Kitts!  Our ship arrived around 11am and we disembarked an hour later.  I didn’t have an excursion today so I ended up taking a so-so tour of the island by taxi, which ended at Frigate Bay, a rock black sand beach.  I took a half-hearted dip and dried out at the bar where I had a Ting (similar to Seven Up) and a chicken roti.

I was served by an ex-pat who had left America with her husband six years ago.  She was originally from New York.  She and her husband lived on a boat for three years.  Then they decided to settle on St. Kitts, but she doesn’t think they’ll stay there forever.  She’s written a book about their adventures which is supposed to be published by McGraw Hill in May of 2012.  You never know who you’re going to meet, do you?!

She said St. Kitts was very expensive, and several times referred to financial worries.  Her husband was working construction on a nearby hotel, which afforded him health insurance.  But she had none.  She seemed like a good person to give ten dollars.  So I explained the whole deal to her, and she happily accepted the ten dollars.  Just then a few people came up to buy some beers.  While they were finishing their order, it dawned on me I had not left myself enough money to get a taxi back to the ship!

Good grief, the embarrassment!  Here I am a Year of Giving Ambassador and I had to ask for my money back!  She was good natured about it, though, and as it turned out it seemed to be for the best.

When I got back to port I hoofed it on to the boat, unloaded my stuff and grabbed a ten from the safe in our room.  Then I hoofed it back out to the port’s shopping plaza.  Someone walked by with a huge waffle bowl of ice cream.  I asked where she got it and she pointed down a certain street.  I walked in that direction when suddenly, just up ahead, I spied five teenagers walking away from me.  Perfect!

They seemed relaxed as they chatted and ambled on some distance ahead of me, so I increased my pace to catch up with them.

“Excuse me,” I blurted to their backs, “Can I talk to you for a minute?”

They all turned to look at me with surprise.  They were willing to listen as I explained to them my mission.  When I’d finished, I said I could give one of them the ten, if they wanted, or I could split it five ways.  They were fine with receiving the money split five ways.

One reason I was interested in giving to teenagers is that teens are still so idealistic and inspired.  I thought for sure they would be supportive of the Year of Giving philosophy.  Several of them commented something along the lines that what I was doing should happen more often.  So I think I was on the mark, and made sure to write down the website address for them.

I used my slightly battered digital camera to briefly film each one of them.  It was a lot of fun playing junior documentarian.  Unfortunately when I played it back later I couldn’t understand much of what they said because background noises garbled their speech.  So what you’re about to read is mostly true, some part best guess and one, and a bit pure invention.

This much is true.  All five of them are sixteen.   They all belong to the fifth form, which I took to be roughly analogous to our senior high.  They were all excited to be graduating to sixth form in two months which would allow them to move on to college or other goals.  The mix was three boys and two girls, and they all seemed to be good friends.  They were excited because their school had won the St. Kitts interschool championship for sports.  Tomorrow would be a school holiday to celebrate and there would be a “motorcade,” as one boy described it, “with lots of cars honking and people cheering.”  

I didn’t get this boy’s name.  However, I did find out he is a cheerleader and the school mascot.  The mascot is a cheeto…a large, orange cheeto.  He’s a tall, handsome boy so I’m sure he makes a very dignified cheeto.  The others in the group described him as a “natural born salesmen” and deferred to him as the leader of the group.  He responded modestly to their praise, but I could tell he was an ambitious young man.  He told me he hoped to major in electrical engineering, and was planning on saving his two dollar jackpot for the time being.  Since school is free in St. Kitts, he won’t need to save it to pay off a hefty education debt, thank goodness!

Chez, whose name I did get correctly, wants to major in IT.  I assured him that was a good choice because it was lucrative.  He agreed with a big smile. He planned on buying a soda with his two dollars “because it’s hot!” He’s a practical sort, I think.

Hasia (I think that’s his name but not certain) is going to major in economics.  He seemed the most excited about getting the money, and was clearly the spiritual one of the group.  When I started to hand out the money he said, “We have received a blessing from God!”  Later, when I gathered them as a group to take a picture, he said, “We should all be smiling because God has given us a gift!  We should have a big smile on our faces!”  He’s also the one who suggested they all shout “Ten Dollars!” when I snapped the photo, a variation on saying “Cheese.”  He planned on saving his windfall.  I have a hunch he might give it to his church or a charity.  Just a hunch.

Tahira, the smaller of the two girls, was the only one of the group who didn’t have plans to go onto college.  Well, that may be true of Tamika too.  She was too shy to be interviewed.  We all decided as a group she was speechless with joy over the two dollar boon.  Tahira, however, wants to get a job after school.  She’s interested in being a pilot because she likes to travel and would like to go to Africa.  Another career possibility is the spy business.  She sees them on TV sit-drams and thinks their lives look very exciting.  She didn’t know yet what she wanted to do with her double sawbucks.  She’s the imaginative one of the group, so I suspect she needed time to ponder the many possibilities available to her.

I asked them how it felt to receive money from a stranger for no reason at all.  They all thought it was “weird,” a word I found to be just about right, since the root of the word comes from the word “wyrd,” which means “fate” or “destiny.” And you never know what chance encounter may change your fate or destiny.

I wouldn’t be surprised if they would try to change someone’s fate or destiny for the better through the Year of Giving, or in some other way.  If I could roll these five bright kids into one, I bet I would come up with an ambitious, practical kid full of faith, hope, gratitude and imagination.  This kind soul would be speechless with joy at the way life can surprise you with grace.  What kid like that wouldn’t go out of his or her way to make someone else’s day a little brighter?

This kid would be like my cruise-mate Carol who a few minutes later treated me to a delicious waffle bowl of sour soup ice-cream.  I told her I’d pay her back on the ship, to which she replied, “No worries.  I’m good.”

They would also be like Chuck, a man on my cruise whom I’d never met before, who a half hour later saw that I didn’t have the money I needed to buy the perfect souvenir for my mother which had finally manifested at the last possible second—a coconut shell carved into the shape of a pig with ears that actually moved (no accounting for taste)— and bought it for me.

They might be like the tall, lanky fellow with waist-length dreadlocks who heaped adorable monkeys on my shoulders as I raced back to the ship moments before it was leaving and when I told him, “I’m so sorry!  I’ve absolutely no cash left on me,” insisted on taking a few pictures anyway, even though he knew with the end of the cruising season next week his opportunities to make money were about to dwindle sharply.

And I know they would be like Hasia, who tossed a “God bless you” over his shoulder to me in a lovely West Indies lilt as we parted ways.   And God—who is not outdone in generosity—did.

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Blog post by Rose M, a Kindness Investor from Forest Park, IL.

Today I cheated and gave away $20.  That’s because the first encounter so annoyed me I had to find something to leave a sweeter taste in my mouth.  It was my first lesson in detachment, I think, because clearly I was attached to how the gift giving made me feel.

We’re in Barbados today.  I went on a bike and swim excursion.  We were taxied by Mike, a local, to the highest point on the island.  Barbados is a lovely island, well-festooned with bougainvillea, ginger, and other flowers.  So even though we were passing many homes just as poor as on the previous islands, I was lulled into a sort of stupor by the colorful displays and couldn’t bring myself to take any pictures.

Mike taught us that half the homes here are made of cement, and the other half are wood.  The wooden houses are called chattel (meaning “possessions”) houses and slaves used to be called chattel.  When the slaves were emancipated, some of the former owners allowed them to build houses on pieces of land they owned but the owner could evict them at any time and take possession of whatever property could not be taken away.  So the former slaves learned to build houses from wood which could be taken apart in a single day and carried elsewhere.

Our bike ride was a six mile downhill trip.  We saw a beautiful waterfall and the country club where Tiger Woods was married.  Then Mike picked us up and drove us to a local beach.  On the way, we passed some of the richest real estate on the island.  He pointed out one particularly exclusive condominium community called The Sands.  I asked him if anyone famous lived there.  He replied, “They must be famous if they have $18 million to buy a condo.”

Our beach was a tad less upscale but seemed popular with locals and tourists alike.  The was a bar and small restaurant at our beach and when we pulled into the parking lot, I saw a woman standing by the open hood of her taxi, testing the radiator cap to see if it was cool enough to take off.  I wondered if she would be a good person to give my ten dollars.  It was not what I had intended.  I’d left the boat thinking I’d like to find some teens.  I had a hunch they would have a pretty interesting response to a ten dollar bill.  But I decided a bird in the hand was worth two in the bush and, once we’d embarked, I sought her out.  

At first Monica thought I wanted a taxi.  Lots of taxi drivers were standing around, hopeful as sparrows flitting around the edges of a picnic.  I explained I was part of a project called the Year of Giving, and wondered if it would be ok to give her ten dollars. I could tell right away Monica was a wary sparrow as she had a look in her eye that said, “What’s the catch?”  I assured her there were no strings attached.  I would just like to know what she would do with the money, and maybe take a picture.

“Well, ten dollars doesn’t buy much,” she said.  “I couldn’t hardly buy a pack of coke with that!!”

I was taken aback, not only by the cost of coke, but by her lack of pleasure.  I soldiered on bravely, and enquired into the cost of food in Barbados.  “Oh, yes!  Food is very expensive.  You can buy one small bottle of coke for $2.25. That’s all.”

“So what will you do with your ten,” I asked after handing her the bill.

“Oh, I’ll buy something to eat I think,” she said nonchalantly.  I had a feeling she was really hungry.  I tried to engage her in more conversation, but it was like pulling teeth.  She told me making a living as a taxi driver was great in the winter, but in the summer it was very hard.  In the summer you get maybe one cruise ship a week.  So she has to budget her money carefully to make it last all year.  She also told me she owned her cab, and that she was responsible for all its maintenance.  When I saw her earlier with the hood of her car up, she explained she was just checking the radiator.
Monica is 67 years old.  I asked her when people retire.  She said 65, but she couldn’t afford to do it.  She is single with no kids.  She was clearly one tough broad, and I think not a little jaded by a career of ferrying around rich visitors to her island.  So maybe my ten wasn’t as appreciated as much as I would have liked.  On the other hand, maybe the real gift for her was to be able to speak frankly about how it felt to be under-appreciated and under-tipped, expressed so well in that little snipe, “Ten dollars doesn’t buy much.”

Well, I left Monica and toddled off to the beach for a bit of a wade.  We had less than an hour and I decided to spend it walking and praying the rosary.  My Lenten observance this year is to pray a rosary a day.  I decided to offer it for Monica.  I’d like to say my motives were pure, but I think a part of me was hoping I could strong-arm God into changing her attitude.  But I have to be honest—as I sit here writing this, I think I’m the one who got the attitude adjustment!

The bonus ten went to Clare.  I found Clare at the end of the beach—well past where most of the tourists hung out—sitting splay-legged with a bucket between them.  She seemed to be peeling some thing which she dropped into the bucket.  I was so taken by her I grabbed my camera right away and shot a few pictures, trying to include what looked to be a makeshift outdoor home a little ways behind her.  Too curious to resist, and still a little fed up with Monica, I approached her.

“What’s your name,” I asked.

She gave me a toothless grin and replied, “Clare.”  Well, that got me.  I love St. Clare, St. Francis of Assissi’s first female follower.  I’m born on her birthday, as a matter of fact.

“Clare,” I said.  “I love that name!  Is that your home back there?”

“Yes, it is.  I’ve been living there twelve years now.  No one else lives with me.  It’s all mine.  I got a dog.  She’s big with babies right now.”  All this in a rush, and straightforward as a child.

“What are you peeling there,” I asked noticing that her hands were badly damaged.

“Onions.  Them are potatoes back there and a couple of eggplants.  I have a friend in town who is a professional and when he has food that’s just a little old he brings it out here for me.”

“Clare, what happened to your hands,” I asked.  She explained that fourteen years ago someone had thrown a bottle into her house which exploded—I assume a malatov cocktail—and her house was destroyed.  She got out but over 95% of her body was burned.  The culprits were never found.  I wondered why she was here and not with family.  According to her, her family lived on another Island, and she’d come here when she was twenty years old, over 40 years ago.  She didn’t want to go anywhere.  This was home.

She also said she had a son in New York who was a “big police sergeant” but he never sent her money.  That was the only time a shadow of a frown crossed her face.  Otherwise, she was ebullient and her eyes sparkled with diamonds.  My mind wanted to charge her with a diagnosis of mental illness, but my heart saw she had a radiant energy that made her shine with a resilience and joy which I and Monica, in our relative states of wealth, lacked.  It was a reminder to me to be grateful for my blessings, meager as they sometimes seem.

Before the fire Clare used to work on the plantations.  Her job was to cut and carry sugar cane on her head and throw it onto the trucks which carried it away to turn into sugar.  Now she still feels useful.  “I help the tourists now,” she exclaimed.

“How do you do that?”

“I keep the robbers away.  They see me sitting here knowing I’m watching the beach, and they leave people alone.”  She took obvious pride in her volunteer position.

By then I was kneeling in the sand with her, searching through my backpack looking for my money.  I wasn’t going to bother explaining what I was up to.  I just wanted to give her ten dollars.  I found it and gave it to her.  She stuffed it in her bra and with sincere gratitude said, “God bless you!”

“What will you do with it, Clare?”

“I will buy my dog some food.”

Clare had a watch on her left wrist and I noticed the time was getting short.  Standing, I told her I had to go.  With her permission I took a few pictures.  Finally it was time to leave.

“Wait!  Before you go!  Tell me your name!”

“Rose,” I said.  “Like the flower.”

Taking my hand, she said, “I love you, Rosie.”

“I love you, Clare.”

And Monica, you crusty old broad, I love you too.

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Blog post by Rose M, a Kindness Investor from Forest Park, IL.

Hi, my name is Rose and I am this week’s Kindness Investor.  I am underemployed this year.  However, I had an opportunity to take a cruise recently to the British Virgin Islands as a Teaching Assistant to Donna Eden, by whom I am trained as an Eden Energy Medicine Clinical Practitioner.  So my first four opportunities to give away ten dollars a day began on the cruise.

I started my week of giving early here on the island of Tortola.  I spent the morning on a nature hike in the Sage Mountain National Park.  Then we went to some touristy beach the name of which I do not recall.  No, it was Cane Something.  Well, anyway.   It has a centuries old rum distillery on it that is still operating.  Samples were wasted on me since I don’t drink, but the distillery itself was fascinating and beautiful to photograph.

We had about an hour on the beach which was a bit crowded.  The pelicans here are to the locals what seagulls are to American beach-goers.  No, they don’t beg from you, but they are very tolerant of people and float in the water very close to shore.  I was lucky enough to get a shot of one flying up into the air.  However, I couldn’t get a reverse shot of any diving into the water to grab a fish.  It was fun watching them swallow their meals.  Just like in the cartoons, you can see the little lumps wiggling down their pouchy gullets.

When we finally got back to the area near the boat, I did some shopping.  There were two areas which sold “local crafts.”  The first area sold mostly cheap junk.  I didn’t even bother looking for anything here.  I just made off for the other area.  It was very close to the same.  However, I found one gem there.  An artist who is a fourth generation Tortolan had a little hut full of his artwork.  His ancestors came from West Africa, and art has been in their blood.  His dad, he said, was also a painter like him.  “But, when my parents divorced, I didn’t divorce the tradition.  So I kept on painting.”

I bought a small painting of slaves cutting sugar cane which touched me deeply with its sense of peace despite hardship.  Then, upon his recommendation, I headed down the street to Bamboushay, a coffee shop which also sold locally made pottery.

When I walked in there was an Asian woman—very pregnant—typing on her laptop, a Caucasian woman with long blonde hair I pegged for an ex-pat, and a beautiful slender black woman behind the counter.  A small array of cookies and muffins was on display, and—much to my relief—a long list of coffee specialties were available.

At first I ordered a large decaf iced latte.  Then I spied Chai latte on the board.  So I said, “Wait a sec, how’s your Chai tea?  Is it really, really good?”

I asked that because I don’t think Starbuck’s Chai is all that good, and I wanted a really good one.  She cut a smirky glance at her ex-Pat friend that looked just a little eye roll-ish, if you know what I mean.  Then, without looking at me, she said, “Yes, it’s really, really good.”  Her friend giggled a wry giggle.  The whole encounter made me feel a bit self-conscious, even though I knew I’d set myself up for it.  What was she going to say, after all?  “No, we make lousy Chai?”

“Well, I’ll take your word for it,” I said.  “I’ll take a large.”

Trying to adopt a sweeter attitude, she asked me to wait a few moments while she finished her friend’s order.  But I sensed she was feeling irritated and maybe sad.   I wondered if it was because she took me for a rich, white American girl out Island-hopping.  I wanted to protest my innocence, but what was the point?  In comparison to her world, I was exactly that.

Wandering around the shop I took the time to admire the local pottery.  Some of it was exquisite.  I would have bought something if it wasn’t such a fragile souvenir.  Eventually she finished making my chai.  Perhaps feeling a little bit of a need to please, I asked if the cookies and muffins in the case were fresh, and where did they come from.
“They are home-made,” she replied (in a lovely, soft BVI accent), adding, “I make them in my home.”

Well, I was sold.  So I also bought a small, whole wheat, carrot muffin.  The total bill was $6.95.   I handed her a twenty.  She started to make change when it hit me.  I could begin my week of giving with her!  Why not?

She handed me three dollars, a nickel and a ten.  I said thank you, and then I dove right in.  My explanation of the project was a little bumbling as I wasn’t prepared in the least.  I wish you could have seen the look on her face when I first told her I wanted to give her ten dollars, no strings attached.  It was a look of pure surprise.  Who was this weird stranger offering her money for nothing?  In fact, at first she thought I was describing a sort of “chain letter.”  I would give her ten dollars, and then she would be required to find seven other people to give ten dollars.  No wonder her look of surprise quickly changed to one of wariness.

I explained it again.  By that time a worker had come out from the back to find out what was going on.   They both got the gist of it finally.  I wished the worker had been out there earlier because I would have offered both of them $5, rather than $10 to just one of them.  It took her a few minutes to make up her mind, but she finally agreed and I handed her the ten.

The smiles that broke out on our faces at that moment were like two simultaneous sunrises peeking over the Caribbean horizon.

She told me her name was Susan (pronounced Suzanne) R.  She wasn’t the owner of the coffee shop, but its manager—and apparently its baker (the muffin was delicious, by the way).  When I asked her what she would do with the money, she hesitated for a long moment.  I sensed she was expected to do something altruistic with it.  So I offered, “Listen, you can drink a bottle of $10 rum with it if you want.”  That got a laugh from both of them.

Finally she said she thought she might by some all-natural juice for her daughter, Enya.  I asked if she was named for the singer, and she said yes.  This was another small moment of connection for us as Enya is one of my husband John’s all-time favorite musicians.  I told her so, and we both agreed it was a shame she hadn’t put out anything new lately.

We chatted for a few minutes more.  Susan told me Enya is five years old and is in the First Level of school.  I didn’t know what that meant, so she explained to me it would be analogous to our kindergarten.  Then she wanted to know if it would be possible for her to do this as well.  Only, she thought it would have to be for less than ten a day.  She couldn’t afford that much.  I was deeply touched by that.  I could see she had a big heart, and it would be in her nature to want to give more than receive.

It also brought to mind one of my favorite sayings:  God cannot be outdone in generosity, and it occurred to me I had already received much more than I had just given.

Finally, although she had protested earlier, she allowed me to take a picture of her.  I thought it caught something breathtaking about her, something I noticed earlier despite her slightly churlish mood.  It was a defiance and pride that made me like her instantly.  If I lived in Tortola, I would have to have known her better.  I think she’d make an inspiring friend.

Just about then an older couple came in, presumably looking to escape the heat as I had earlier.  I made my goodbyes quickly, making sure to leave the website address, my name and email.  At the door I turned and looked over my shoulder for one more glance.   Her mood was entirely different from when I had entered twenty minutes earlier.  It suddenly dawned on me then the real gift was not the ten dollar bill.

Bambooshay is a festive Virgin Islands dance performed to invoke good luck.  I hoped she would remember this day as one in which good luck danced her way.

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Name:

Rose M

Age?

54
Where do you live?

Forest Park, IL

Where were you born?

Salisbury MD

What’s the highest level of education you have completed?

Masters of Science
Do you have a family?

Married to my husband John for almost 16 years.  No kids.  One cat
How did you hear about the Year of Giving?

I was starting my own blog and was searching the web for blogs that sounded interesting and were well-written.  I ran across this one and fell in love!
How long have you been unemployed?

Not unemployed. Underemployed.  I would say off and on since 2005, although things got a bit better last year. But they bottomed out at the start of 2011.
What happened?

I don’t know.  I’ve been told that the “recession” which has been plaguing the nation has actually started to hit the midwest hard this year.  Maybe that’s just a comforting myth.

Do you currently volunteer?

Not in the traditional way.  I make meals about four times a year for our parish soup kitchen, and sometimes help out there.  I also volunteer for various parish activities on an as-needs basis.  Last year I volunteered a week of my time in New Orleans helping to rehab houses.   I plan on doing that again this year.

Who have been your biggest influences?

Jesus Christ, Mother Teresa and Donna Eden.  Also, I have a long list of strangers in my life who have said or done just the right thing when I’ve needed it most, and whom I’ve never seen again.

What is your favorite food?

Edible.
What is the most meaningful gift you have ever received?

A ring inscribed in Hebrew with the words “I am my beloved’s and he is mine.”

Describe your ideal job:

I LOVE the work I do.  I’m very grateful for that.  I am a psychotherapist and energy medicine practitioner, and what I do changes people’s lives for the better.  My ideal job would simply doing what I love to do more.

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Day 61 – Pam

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

Around lunch time, I ran out to do a bit of grocery shopping at Walmart because they seem to have the best prices.  Getting out of my car I noticed an SUV with its back hatch open and several people eating and talking inside.  Not wanting to scare anyone, I cautiously went up to the car and explained who I was and what I was doing.  I handed Pam, the adult in the group of three, a printout of the “About” page from the Year of Giving website and she said she’d be happy to be my recipient of the day.

I asked her how her day was going and she replied, “I’m here in Nashville with my granddaughters and we’re having a picnic.  Their parents are at a leadership retreat with their church and so I’m taking care of the girls and we’re just doing fun things today.  So the $10 dollars will just about cover the Bubbles I bought and the hot dogs, chips and drink.”

I handed her the ten dollars and she said, “Well God bless you.  Thank you!  My husband and I are the benevolence ministers at our church so I’m used to giving it out, not receiving it.”

That of course reminded me of a quote by St. Francis of Assisi, “For it is in giving that we receive.”

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

I noticed Brian several months ago, standing on a corner selling newspapers; I even bought a paper from him once.  The paper, The Contributor, contains stories and poetry written by homeless or formerly homeless citizens.  I thought he would be a great recipient of the day’s $10.  I stopped and asked Brian what led him to sell the paper.

“I just started doing this in December.  I’d been doing ironwork, but the trade has been dwindling down and the guy I worked for was a small outfit so he was about ready to lose everything.  See that roof over there on that bank; I did that building about 20 years ago.  I’ve been an ironworker for 25 years and I hope I get called back.

“But that’s why I started selling this paper.  It got to where I’m behind, but I’m not going to lose what I’ve got.  But it’s hard; I get out 5-6 days a week, if weather permits.  I’ve got family to take care of.”

I asked Brian if he had a place to live.

“Yeah, I pay rent every week, if I don’t have it one week; I catch him (landlord) up the next week.  He’s really good like that. There’s good people out there and before I started doing this with The Contributor I also gave to everybody.  Even though I’m doing this, if I see other contributors, I give them a dollar or whatever I can spare.  We’re all in the same boat.  There’s like 400 of us.   I drive down here from Nashville because there’s so many people in downtown you can’t get a good spot.

“But doing this I have also received a lot.  One month a guy gave me $200 dollars and the next month he gave me $200 more.  I bought four brand new tires with it; I put it to good use.  He took me to lunch the other day, bought lunch, but I left the tip. I said look I know you want to do this, but I have to do something too. “

Brian waved to someone.  “There goes my mailman.  See, I got regulars out here. “While he’s sitting at the red light, the mailman hollers, “Hey there’s no telling what he’ll tell you.”  But then he laughs and says, “Just kidding, it’s all good.”  I wonder what other drivers were thinking, seeing us standing on a street corner laughing, waving, and having a good time.

Brian explained that, “There’s people like me standing out here trying to make a dollar.  Like when you leave here, I’ll walk up and down this sidewalk as much as I can.  You know if you sit at home you’re not going to make any money. And in reality, it keeps me up and keeps me healthy because once you start sitting idle you can hang it up.

“Basically I’m out here trying to make a living.  And I do love being a pioneer because you ain’t gotta answer to anybody; you just have to think about what the Lord’s got you doing.  I ain’t got anything but a desire to work and help people.”

I saw the truth in that. He made my day.

As for the ten dollars, Brian said, “I’ll either get me a meal or some cigarettes.”

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

Today’s Intention ~ Today, I Appreciate Joyful Living
I met birthday girl Liz at Border’s Bookstore.  She was working intently at her computer while listening to her iPod, the image of today’s college student.  I approached her as she was packing up and she was at first surprised and unsure about the Year of Giving.  She asked if I was going to ask her a bunch of “philosophical” questions about the meaning of life.  Being a deep thinker, I thought if we had more time I probably would have.  Instead I said I just wanted to learn a little bit more about her and her story.
Liz began sharing that she took a year off after highschool before she started community college.  She is currently undeclared, but she does harbor the idea of eventually going to law school.  She told me she would also like to take philosophy classes in college.
Liz went on to explain her passion for story telling.   She told me about a fictional love story she wrote in a blog a year ago.  She elaborated that she was contacted by a man who wants to turn the romance into a movie after Liz converts the blog into a script.  I now wonder if that is what she was working on before I approached her with the $10.  Liz also shared a ghost story with me about Ellicot City, Marlyand which I thought was funny because I have actually been there before.
Later in the conversation, I found out that it was Liz’s birthday and she was meeting up with a friend soon, but before she left I asked her what 3 things bring her joy in her life.  She said her Bichon Hagen, her family (Liz currently lives with her mom and her older brother just got married), and finally that one day she may be discovered! Hmmm, I wonder if that means joy that she will discover in herself or someone will discover her great talents as a writer.
Liz was a friendly young woman who I enjoyed speaking with!
I made an avatar of Liz because she didn’t want her picture taken.  Her hair was more blond with longer bangs, but I wanted to do something fun to honor the birthday girl/college student/writer who loves her dog and family!  Oh and she said the $10 will buy her coffee. She loves coffee and it keeps her going.  We both shared a good laugh that I was able to give her a surprise birthday gift!

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Name:  

Stephanie

Age?

35
Where do you live?

Mt. Laurel, NJ

Where were you born?

Voorhees, NJ

What’s the highest level of education you have completed?

B.S. in Elementary Ed and Special Ed.
Do you have a family?

I have an AWESOME FAMILY, GREAT FRIENDS who are like family to me and a WONDERFUL Boyfriend, Greg. His kids, Gregory & Grace are a ton of FUN too.  To tell the truth,  I feel connected to a greater global family as well!
How did you hear about the Year of Giving?

Facebook last Spring :)
How long have you been unemployed?

The beginning of Jan.
What happened?

What happened was honestly an unexpected story I could tell.  I didn’t expect to lost my job,  but in the bigger picture I believe the ending occurred in my life for something new to begin.  I valued the experience and loved working with kids, but I feel the change occurred in my life to empower me to create something more!

Do you currently volunteer?

I did volunteer the last two months to help co-create a character education curriculum for BUNNY HULL of DREAM A WORLD.   She wrote a series of awesome books called “The Young Masters Little Wisodom” series. I am now looking for a Montessori School to pilot the program at.  I have also recently volunteered to put together 15 raffle baskets for a friend’s mom who lost her home do to a house fire.

Who have been your biggest influences?

Wow, many people have influenced me throughout my life. I am inspired by my mom’s kind and giving spirit, the teachers who recognized something greater within me and helped pull it out,  and I am often influenced and inspired by children.  Since I was young I have been positively influenced by Walt Disney’s spirit because he had a vision and dream and made it come true.  I’d like to create something for kids based on my own visions and dreams.
What is your favorite food?

I ate at Planet Raw Organic Food restaurant in California once and not only did the food look like a beautiful work of art, but it felt like heaven.  By far it was the most satisfying food I have ever eaten in my life!

What is the most meaningful gift you have ever received?

I have received lots from friends in family in forms or loving supportive energy, but I also love receiving “gifts” from nature, like finding heart rocks while I am on a walk or finding a tree smiling at me. (See pic)  I find these “gifts” from nature are soooo much FUN!

I also feel it’s a “great gift from the universe” when I am driving and I find a license plate that speaks to me, like

WITHLUV, PEACEINU, LUVNLYF, HV F8TH, B-THEONE, BSTRONG, LVLIFE

(These are all license plates I have seen and when I safely can, I snap a pic)

The best one was HOPE ANN because that is the “pen name” I gave to myself for the two children’s books I wrote.  Whenever I see a license plate it’s like the perfect words for the day that often lifts my spirits!

Describe your ideal job:

Wow, I have begun to think I don’t want just another job. What I wish to do in my life would require lots of work, but I would rather be known as a creator as well as a published author who also designed products that positively influence children.  More than anything I would eventually love to be the creator of a children’s discovery play center called A MAGIC NATION!  It would be a place that brings a child’s imagination to life by focuses on the mind, body, spirit. This great space for kids would also feature a place called HEART KIDS PLAY SHOP, a creative gift shop where the products have a great value and purpose!

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

Photo: Maria D.

Meet Alex.  She’s a vibrant, young woman, full of life and energy.  She’s lived in Australia, Oregon, Chicago, and attended undergrad at Northwestern.  Alex has a passion for grapes, which is what has led her to her current gig as Director of Marketing and Communication for Washington Wine Academy, based out of Arlington, VA.

But it wasn’t a smooth transition – she was an unemployed, “freaking out” new graduate “loafing” around Oregon and came to VA on a whim to take a wine certification class after working at Winestyles in college.  Her instructor at WWA saw something in her that he wanted to snatch up, and hired her back in April 2010.

Alex’s gamble of moving out East from Oregon seems to have paid off as she loves her job – wine, people, events, what’s not to love?  Which brings us to her $10.  She knew immediately how she’d be spending it: “mmm, a giant coffee and a breakfast sandwich” while working her company’s event this weekend, a 1K Wine Walk.

When I asked her if she needed anything, she quickly responded, “No thanks, I’m perfect!  Well….(she hastily recanted) I could use an extra day before Monday!  Can you guys help me with that?”  Probably not…but thanks for your infectious smile and boundless energy, Alex!

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

Today was a very hectic day. It was around 2:00pm and I hadn’t had lunch, when I spotted a Popeye’s Chicken drive-thru. I hadn’t eaten at Popeye’s in years and suddenly had a craving for their cajun-style fried shrimp and iced tea with lemon, no sugar.  After paying for my order, the server asked me to move forward and she would bring the food out to me.

As she handed me the bag, our eyes met and I thought, “next kindness investment!”  After explaining the project I was working on, she happily accepted the $10.  I didn’t have a pen on me, so she quickly volunteered to get me one, as well as tell her manager that she would be taking a few minutes to talk to me.

Ana M. was born in Mexico 19 years ago.  She and her parents came to Pasadena, TX when she was only one. She’s single, lives with her parents and four younger sisters and brother.

Ana is studying Nursing at San Jacinto Junior College and hopes to work in Pediatrics after graduation.  She’s been working at Popeye’s for about three years and would like to one day work in a hospital, as she likes helping people, especially children.

When I asked her what she was going to do with the $10, she said she was heading to Starbuck’s next door for her break.

Unfortunately, we didn’t have much time to talk, as another hungry driver was ready to pay for his order, and Ana had to go back in.

A few of Ana’s favorites:

Hobbies:  “I like scrapbooking, spending time with family, and watching movies.”

Movies:  “Anything romantic.  I don’t watch much TV, though.  No time with school and work.”

Music:  “All kinds.  It’s hard to pick a favorite.”

Her greatest wish is to get her citizenship finalized.  “It’s been a long time and I want to be a citizen very much.”

I wish Ana all the best and can tell by her kind, relaxed nature that she will be a great nurse.  Her future patients will be fortunate to have her take care of them.

 

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

Dwayne (left) with his stepfather Jonathan

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Buy lunch!” he gleamed.

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

What a wonderful day.  What a wonderful world.

Best of luck, Mohamed!

-Petra from Seattle, WA

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Best of luck, Michael!

-Petra from Seattle, WA

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Thanks Ted!

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

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Day 9 – Quinton R.

 

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

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

 

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

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

-Melinda T. from Xenia, OH

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

-Melinda T. from Xenia, OH

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Day 3 – Brandie

I was doing some grocery shopping today and Brandie had approached me while I was going down the aisle to help her pick out some BBQ sauce.  I shared my insight on the ones I liked and she was appreciative of that.

Even though Brandie had approached me first I figured, while I’m here speaking with her on BBQ sauce I might as well carry the conversation further and tell her about my project.  I gave her $10 and she was so more than grateful.

Brandie is a single mother of 2 boys ages 1 and 3.  She anticipated the $10 would probably go toward bills or perhaps toward the groceries she was accumulating in the cart.

-Melinda from Xenia, OH

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Day 1 – John

From the moment I found out I was going to be the first person to kick-off the second year of giving I was confident the first $10 I was going to give away would be to someone I met in the hospital as today my father was having a defibrillator put in.

I had a long day in the inpatient waiting room sitting beside my mother and was watching the people come in and out of the waiting room.  Not that there is a right or wrong person to approach for the $10 but I just didn’t see anyone else that day in the hospital that I felt was the one for the day.

The Milkhouse in Richmond, IN

Driving back to my parent’s house that evening I still had the $10.  I passed by the Milkhouse in Richmond, Indiana and decided whomever was working there would be my first person.  I pulled in and was greeted by a man named John.

John had always lived in Richmond and enjoyed his job however the cold weather months he didn’t find it quite as enjoyable.  John was blown away by the $10 and really didn’t know at the time what he may do with it.  He mentioned possibly getting a few snacks.  I didn’t have the chance to speak with John as long as I would have liked because he had customers to wait on but I enjoyed the little time we had.

- By Melinda T. from Xenia, OH

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Charmaine suffers from various illnesses and alcohol dependency.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Me and Tomas near Dupont Circle.

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

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

Let’s go Nats!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

James eyes rarely opened wider than this.

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

James tries to stay warm next to his belongings.

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

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

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

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

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

Rachel chatting with Patricia.

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

Rachel mixes up the perfect martini.

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

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

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

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

 

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