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Archive for the ‘Gave the money back’ Category

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

Tadiyass! (that means hello in Amharic)

Well friends, I had the pleasure of meeting Asrat last weekend and would like to introduce him to you all. I have only taken a cab 3 or 4 times since moving to the DC area in October 2010. Serendipitously, out of the few times I have hailed a random cab, I’ve had the good fortune to ride with Asrat twice! Each time I was feeling low but both time we cheered each other up by chatting about topics ranging from national politics to Neti pots.  That is to me what being human is all about – connecting with one another.

 

Anyway,  Asrat is originally from Ethiopia and has resided in the DC/MD area for the past 8 years.  He has some family here but most are still in Ethiopia and it has been a long time since Asrat has seen them.  He sends money and other things home and works incredibly hard everyday as a cab driver in order to take care of himself and others.  In fact, both times I have met him, he’s just started a second shift after a brief nap at home.
Asrat’s life can be rough at times, but he did have some advice for those currently un- or underemployed, “Work hard to find a job.  You don’t have to wait, it’s not easy, but you don’t need to depend on others.”
It was this hard work ethic that may have lead him to do what he did with the $10 I handed over.  “I’ll give it back to you, thank you.”  It was a kind gesture, but not surprising coming from a kind man.  Even though Asrat thoroughly enjoys engaging with others on the job, he is often concerned for his safety.  As such, what would Asrat want or need from us?  A safer job.  Not too much, if you ask me…

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

Say a big hello to Mrs. Marilyn J. If you’re going to sit down and chat with her, get ready to laugh your head off because Marilyn epitomizes what it’s like to be young, flirty and fresh at ANY age.  This grandma had taken a roughly hour and a half journey by bus and Metro to get to the Kennedy Center to see the ever-shocking, totally filthy red-headed comic Kathy Griffin.  When asked why she traveled so far alone to the show, she replied, “Are you kidding me! I’m not just gonna rot at home. And this just sounded like fun! So I’m here!”  In fact, she laughs at her kids when they ask her about being older.  “I wouldn’t trade my age for any other in the world.  I’m totally satisfied.”

This beautiful Canadian gem gave me all kinds of advice on topics from career and love to life and fashion (she was sporting a very lovely dress, by the way, purchased for $5 at Burlington Coat Factory).  When she heard I was an under/unemployed lawyer, she had some ideas. “Well honey, get involved in immigration law.  That was one hell of a struggle for me and my husband when we came here. Sheesh!”
Marilyn’s husband passed away 6 years ago, but she’s still going strong in her job as a Parks and Services Manager at an RV store in Cherry Hill Park.  Marilyn fell into the job on account of her husband and she absolutely loves it.  “I love what I do, lemme tell you.  I sure get paid too much to be so happy!  But don’t tell my boss that, shhh….”
When I asked what she’d be doing with the $10, she replied, “Hmm well I tell you what.  I’m going to be giving it to a budding lawyer.  Because she needs it a heck of a lot more than I do!”  As I handed her the $10 and she promptly handed it back to me she noted, “Now you make me proud!  I want to know what happens to my investment!”
I’ll sure do my best, Marilyn.

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Good morning!  Today has got to be a better day than yesterday…I just wish I had a few more hours in the day.

I hope to send out the invites via email today for the Year-End Celebration…still waiting on the venue to send over the agreement.  At the event we will have a small auction of a couple of items to raise money for some awesome charities.  If you know of something that would make a really cool auction item, something that could generate some interesting bidding, and you have a way to get it, please let me know.  I am also seeking items to give away to the attendees when they leave.  You know in one of those “thanks for coming” bags.  If you have a contact that could get something interesting for us to give away, please let me know ASAP.  It could be t-shirts, could be books, could be Flip video cameras….whatever!  We would need about 250 units.

Also, I heard some people were sending emails to the Ellen show to suggest that she include the Year of Giving in her 12 Days of Giving.  If you want to send Ellen a suggestion…click here to submit your message!  I even broke down last week and emailed her and asked for some help making the Year-End Celebration happen.  No response yet.  Not even the standard, “Thanks for your email.  We get lots of mail so …. “

Molly holding the Sherman Alexie novel on the Metro. (photo: Reed)

Well today’s recipient threw me for a loop with what she did with the $10!  I met Molly 100 feet below the bustling city of Washington in our Metro system.  I was at the Tenlytown station waiting to board a Red Line train to take me back to Dupont Circle.  Molly looked like she was waiting for the same train so I thought I would ask her to be my recipient.  

Molly, who just turned 27 a week ago Saturday, is a researcher at an environmental institute here in DC.  She’s originally from Seattle which is maybe why she’s reading Native American author Sherman Alexie’s 1998 novel Indian Killer – it takes place there.

Within a minute the trained arrived and we boarded the subway car.  “I’m heading over to Capitol Hill,” she tells me as the doors close.  I looked at my watch; it was 10:20pm.  I had about eight minutes until my stop.  I hastily explained the project hoping to find out more about her, but frankly I didn’t learn much because there just wasn’t time.

She told me she was living on a tight budget so I thought the $10 would come in handy for her.  “I’m applying to law school,” Molly said suggesting that maybe she would use the money to help pay the application fees.  “Or who knows, maybe I will buy some drinks on my birthday?”  Ah, yes…I almost forgot, she was going to NYC to celebrate her birthday.  Well, ten bucks wouldn’t have gotten her very much there.  Then again law school application fees are hundreds of dollars probably, so really not much help on either front.

The metro screeched into Dupont and I nearly lost my balance as I furiously crammed notes down in my little Moleskine book.  I said good-bye and headed home. End of story, right?  Wrong.

So a few days later I got an email from Molly.  Here’s part of it:

…[it] was a rather rushed and, on my part, flustered conversation about what I would do with the money. Well, since then I’ve been thinking about that interaction a lot. And I’ve been thinking about the ten dollars a lot, too. For some reason, I can’t seem to spend it. And I can’t seem to stop obsessing about the best way to use it.  In fact, it’s starting to drive me a little crazy. So, if you don’t mind, I think I would like to donate it back to your project. Would that be possible?”

I think it is great that this experience has caused her to stop and think about it.  To think about different ways it could be used.  Certainly I didn’t want to stress her out, but she really pondered what to do with it.  Anyway, we are meeting Thursday and she is going to donate the money back to the Year of Giving and I am going to use it to help me pay for the Year-End Celebration.

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Moleskine: The official unofficial journal of the Year of Giving

I keep all my notes from the people I meet in a small Moleskine notebook.  I had filled up my third notebook and today I cracked open my fourth one.  By the way, Moleskine was very cool and sent me six notebooks when they heard about my project!  I use the small pocket-size ones and they sent me the exact size I use in a variety of styles.  Some have hard covers, others have soft covers.  I think I prefer the hard cover ones – they seem to hold up a little better as I schlep them around with me every day in the elements.  Anyways, thank you Moleskine!  You guys rock!

I used to live in Mexico when I was in high school and for a short while in college.  I have a very special place for the people of Mexico, especially those from my “home town” of Guasave, Sinaloa.  

1,000+ people attended the celebration (photo: Reed)

2010 is the year of the Bicentennial Celebrations in Mexico. This wonderful country is commemorating 200 years of independence from Spanish rule and 100 years of its revolution that began in 1910 and toppled dictator Porfirio Diaz.  Mexican Independence Day is September 16th but is often celebrated on the evening of the 15th.  Here in Washington there was a huge celebration put on in the outdoor courtyard at the Kennedy Center that was free to the public.  As I listened to live music and watched the jubilation unfold, I noticed a large Mexican flag in the center of the courtyard.  I decided to give my $10 to whoever was holding that flag!

Diego is originally from Chihuahua, Mexico. (photo: Reed)

Diego, whose real name is Dagoberto but nobody calls him that, stood in the center of the crowd holding the red, white and green flag.  Originally from the state of Chihuahua which is located in northern Mexico, the 21-year-old has lived in Maryland for two years now.  His father runs a security company that provides services to a branch of the federal government.  Diego, who is the middle of three kids in the family, works there with his dad and also takes English classes.  Although he likes being able to work with his father he hopes to get his degree and establish his own career.

“I want to succeed,” he says with pride.

There were fireworks after the famous Grito de Dolores. (photo: Reed)

“This is an important day for me and all Mexicans,” Diego told me in Spanish.  “It’s a day that we spend with our friends and families.  It’s a day that makes me particularly proud to be Mexican.  It makes me cry.”  He smiled and added, “I’m just kidding about the crying part, but really, it is very special.”  

There were about a dozen of Diego’s friends around us celebrating.  I let him go with one final question, “What will you do with the $10?”

“Well, I have been thinking about that.  At first I thought I would just buy me and my friends some beer tonight, maybe some Modelo Especial, but I think I have changed my mind,” he said pausing and looking far off into the crowd.  He looked back at me and said, “I would like to give the money to you.  You are doing lots of good with your project and I would like you to have my $10.”  I explained that I would be happier if he did something else with it, but it’s not about me, it’s about what he wants to do with it.  He said he was sure about his decision and placed the $10 back in my hand.

Diego decided to give me his $10. Thank you Diego! (photo: Reed)

I thanked him for the $10.  We took this photo together and exchanged some final words in Spanish before saying goodbye and wishing each other the best of luck.

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Yab with all of his belongings (photo: Reed)

Today is my brother’s 39th birthday! Happy birthday Ryan. He has helped me in so many ways with my Year of Giving; from suggesting that I start on the anniversary of my mother’s passing to countless hours of computer and camera support to reading every blog post and pointing out mispelled words that I missed. He has been there with me the entire journey. Thanks LB! I love you.

Often times when I speak to someone about the Year of Giving and the conversation turns to the homeless people who I have given to people assume that they use the money for alcohol or drugs.  Of course that has happened.  However, sometimes you would be surprised what a homeless person does when they are offered $10.  I was certainly surprised with Yab’s response.

On this particular day I was walking along 23rd Street near Rock Creek Park in northwest DC.  I saw Yab lying on some cardboard on the side of the road.  He was sleeping.  I took a chance and went over and spoke to him.  He took a second to wake up and I introduced myself.  I explained what I was doing and we started talking.

Yab hasn’t shaved since 1997 (photo: Reed)

Originally from Ethiopia, Yab told me an amazing story about his life.  He patiently invited me back to the year 1943 when he was seven years old living in Ethiopia.  It was July, the cold season, when one morning he volunteered to take some of his family’s cattle up the mountain to graze.  When he got to the top of the mountain, he came across a man standing outside a cave.  “There’s a hyena inside there” the man told young Yab.  He walked cautiously over to the entrance of the cave and peered inside.  Sure enough, there was a massive hyena lying inside.  The man suggested that they build a fire to drive the hyena out.  Yab started to gather sticks and small logs to build the fire and the man came close to Yab and touched his arm and out of nowhere the wood caught fire and the hyena fled the cave.  It wasn’t until 50 years later on President Clinton’s inauguration day on January 20th, 1993 that he realized who that man was.  “I didn’t know it then, but that was God there with me.”  Ever since this realization he has lived a deeply spiritual life.  He shares his message asking everyone to accept Jesus into their life in this short clip.

So how did Yab get to the US from that mountainside in Ethiopia?  Well, in the 1980s Yab was in Somalia working on some oil ventures when he was captured and taken hostage by terrorists who were against the country’s leader Siad Barre, who was later overthrown in 1991.  When the UN and the Red Cross got involved he asked for political asylum to the United States.  Since he had lived in the US briefly in 1958 he was given priority and offered asylum in Minnesota.  He said he didn’t really want to go to Minnesota but they promised him free housing, free education, food, a Pell Grant, etc.  However, when he arrived, he said that the assistance only lasted for about a month and then he was asked to leave the Mayflower Church where he was staying and told that he would have to go. 

He eventually got them to give him $1,600 and a ticket to Washington, DC where he even got to meet with then Mayor Marion Barry before Barry went to prison in 1991.

Later that year Yab became homeless and has been so ever since.

The former electrical engineer now carries signs around with him with messages on them that definitely make you look twice.  I asked him to explain some of the signs; most of which seemed too bizarre to be true.  One said:

Monster Obama must stop cuttin’ human throats at the expense of:

1. Dupont Circle chess players 

2. Oprah Winfrey – Arsenio Hall – Horton – Barry   

3. Odinga PM of Kenya.

One of Yab’s signs (photo: Reed)

Probably the most extreme thing he shared with me was that he believed that President Obama was with the CIA and tried to kill him when he was in the concentration camp in Somalia.  “I know it was him, I saw him.”  I tried to understand his thoughts and messages but it was difficult to follow his logic.  It reminded me a little bit of John from Day 121.  Both men are extremely nice.  Both have turned to signs to spread their message.  And I think both are greatly misunderstood because their choice of messages.

photo: Reed

I finally asked the bearded 74-year-old what he planned to do with the $10.  Would you believe that he gave it back to me and said that he wanted me to have it.  He said that he hasn’t accepted money from anyone since he became homeless in 1991.  “God will take care of me,” he assured me.  I tried to convince him to keep it or give it to someone else, but he said he wanted me to have it.  Faith and dignity are strong stubborn things. 

I’ve walked by that place several times since I met Yab but haven’t seen him again.

Update 12/Oct/2010

I ran into Yab on the streets of DC today.  He was doing well, seemed in good health and good spirits.  He recognized me and remembered our conversation well.  Pushing a cart full of personal items, he was walking south on Columbia Rd. toward Dupont.

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Technology is just not being my friend these days.  First last week the display on my point and shoot Canon camera died.  Then that little ball that you use like a mouse on the Blackberry decided it didn’t want to roll to the left.  The WiFi switch on my laptop is starting to fail.  It constantly says that it has been switched to off…causing me to lose my connection.  This is really annoying when you have a daily blog!  What’s next?  Maybe I need to go back to low tech.  I could write up my daily adventures by hand, make drawings of the people I meet, get a mimeograph (now that is old school!) and make copies of everything and then mail them out to you via the post office!

Anyway, last Friday I tried to give my $10 away near Dupont Cirlce to a Hispanic woman who was carrying some bags.  She just looked like she could use ten bucks, but she didn’t want to talk to me at all.  She just kept saying, “Sorry, sorry, sorry.”  I tried in Spanish, but she just kept on going.

Later I found Jona (pronounced Yona) pushing a scooter over to a place to lock it up by the Metro entrance.

The 27-year-old hails from Tirana, the capital and largest city in Albania, but has been living in the US since 2000.  She is a Finance Manager so she probably has some interesting opinions on my Year of Giving.

She says that she likes living in the US, but makes a point to visit Albania every year.  In fact she plans to return to live there some day.

We chatted for a while.  I asked her if there was anything we could help her with.  She said that she herself didn’t need anything but would like for everyone to start doing their part to help conserve our environment.  I asked her what specifically and she said, “Just the little things.  I mean just do it.  People know what the right thing to do is.”  She herself was participating in a very interesting conference that day called, Creating Climate Wealth.

The two-day conference convened respected entrepreneurs, intrapreneurs, and corporate leaders to provide their insights and expertise on the policies, market frameworks, and programs that will clear the barriers to deliver emission reductions and promote job creation.

She said that Virgin’s Richard Branson was there launching his new venture the Carbon War Room.   I found a statement from Branson on Tonic that said, “Almost 50 percent of emissions can be eliminated without adding any burdens to consumers through improved market structures and enhanced policies.  Climate change solutions represent the largest wealth creating opportunity for our generation. It is also the biggest win for governments with respect to economic development, job creation, increased property values, etc.”

Jona said former Costa Rican President José Maria Figueres was on the panel with Branson and had a great comment.  He was talking about how in business and our personal lives we make a plan b in case things don’t go the way we hope.  “There is no planet B!” he said.  Figueres was able to pass a carbon tax in Costa Rica in the 1990s!  He credits this to Costa Rica having a single term presidency and not being sidetracked by re-election efforts.  Commenting on the importance of carbon taxing, he went on to say, “As long as the price of a tree standing is less than the price of a tree cut for timber, we won’t save the forests.”

I wish I had known about this summit. I would have loved to have participated.

Jona didn't want her picture taken, but said I could take a picture of her scooter! (Photo: Reed)

At the end of our conversation, Jona gave me the money back.  She said, “I am going to give $10 of my own money to the guy who sits in front of the Johnny Rockets on Connecticut Avenue.”  She asked me to use that $10 to help someone else out.  I did not give it away that night.

On Sunday I saw the man she was talking about.  His name is Travis.  I used that extra $10 that I had to buy him dinner: Cheese Steak sandwich platter with everything on it and french fries.  I let him know that Jona would be by to see him one day too.

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Katy’s decision to destroy the $10 seem’s to have sparked some interesting discussion.  That’s good.

So last week I went to the opening day game of the Washington Nationals.  I have went to the opening day game every year since I moved back to DC.  I thought it would be fun to find someone at the game to give my $10 to.  Well, I had a little trouble getting in the game at first…I thought that I would just pick up a ticket at the stadium, however, with Obama throwing out the first pitch and the Phillies in town, there were no tickets at the box office.

I finally got a ticket after the 2nd inning.

I was standing next to a couple in the outfield section.  That’s right, I only got a standing room only ticket…couldn’t afford much better, but all I really cared about was being there and being part of it.  Well, it’s also nice to win too!

I was waiting until the innings changed to ask the couple if they would be a part of the Year of Giving.  I didn’t want to disturb them while the game was being played.  Well, the inning was going on forever.  The Nationals were getting clobbered.  They pulled pitcher John Lannan in the fourth inning, better than last year when he was pulled on opening day in the third inning.  Clear sign of improvement.

Juan and his girlfriend on opening day (Photo: Reed)

Anyway, by the time I got to asking the couple, the guy had went to get some hot dogs or something.  So I asked the young lady who gave me a look like, “look buddy, don’t hit on me” and assured me that her boyfriend would be right back.  Ok, so I waited, and waited, and waited, and finally Juan arrived with beverages in hand.

I told him what I was doing and he said he was up for it.  Juan is in the landscaping business and was taking the afternoon off.  Juan’s father started the business shortly after the family moved to VA from El Salvador.  He has since handed over the reigns of the company to his son Juan.

Juan originally said he would use the money to buy some beers.  However, a little later he said that he wanted to give me the $10 back if I would give it someone else still today.  Well… I can certainly do that…in fact, I am pretty good at it.  So, back to square one.  I think in the future I might not accept the money back with any conditions.  After all, I don’t put any conditions on those who I give to.  There is some discussion on this from Day 8 when Kevin gave me the money back.

Juan’s nice gesture to give the money back turned into the good fortune for a young guy from Havertown, PA.  Yes, a Phillies fan.  No surprise really, pretty much everyone at the game was a Phillies fan.  Alex was down in DC visiting his friend Brynn who is a pre-med student at Catholic University.  

The 22-year-old fan said he skipped his job as a Project Administrator for a commercial pool company in order to come down and watch his team beat up on the Nationals.  

Philly fans Alex and Brynn (Photo: Reed)

I didn’t want to bother Alex too much more since the game was in progress so I just asked him two final questions.  I asked if he needed anything that I could help him with via the Lend a Hand section and he couldn’t think of anything right then.  As for the destiny of the $10, Alex said it would go toward gas to get him back up to Pennsylvania.

I noticed that people were flooding out of the stadium.  While I was talking to Alex, the score somehow got to 11-1.  And I thought last year was bad when we lost 12-6!

NOTE: I did also try to give to Andrew who was working at the stadium, however he was unable to accept the money due to company policy.  Also, first post I think that I am in both photos that I have posted (if you look close in both pictures, I am in the reflection of the sunglasses!)

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