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Archive for the ‘Gave the money to someone else’ Category

Cast4.jpg

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

Friday night was a great show! We sold all but 5 or 6 tickets. It was the first show I did without forgetting some portion of the play…thankfully the way the play was created it makes it quite easy to go on if you forget something without letting the audience know.

As I had done the previous two shows, I gave my daily $10 to an audience member. I handed it to a tall guy (ok, a lot of people seem tall compared to me!) seated on the left side of the audience. He told me his name was Josh.

Normally after the show I find the $10 recipient and take a few minutes to grab a photo and ask a few questions – just as I did every day during my year-long journey in 2010. Unfortunately this one got away!

Well, I looked at the ticket list and found someone named Josh and Googled him, found someone in DC with his name and I sent him a tweet hoping that he was in fact the same Josh who was at my show.

Josh plays softball in DC’s Capital Alumni Network league. Photo courtesy of Joshua Novikoff

It was, and as it turns out, he is a critic for DCist and was reviewing our show! Oh no. I hope the fact that I gave him $10 didn’t make him feel like he couldn’t do a fair review…I mean after all it is just $10 and I had no idea who he was.

Yesterday, his review was published. “A Year of Giving is among the best shows I’ve ever seen at the Capital Fringe Festival,” he said. Wow…what a compliment!

Today I traded some emails with Josh to find out a little bit about him and what he planned to do with my ten spot! Josh, who moved her from Brooklyn, NY, has settled in Columbia Heights. He’s a busy guy. In addition to being a contributor for DCist, he works on environmental policy issues. And when he is not hard at work, you might find him playing softball or football, checking out some authentic Asian cuisine at Eden Center in Fall’s Church, or making some final arrangements for his wedding this fall. Congratulations Josh!

As for the $10, Josh said he plans on giving it to, “someone on the street that seems like they need it, like someone who is homeless but is not panhandling.” Hopefully he will leave a comment here and share how it goes once he has passed it on.

Also in attendance this evening were two other friends of the Year of Giving: Brad D. from Day 101 and Robert E. from Day 225. Both their stories are woven into the stage version of the project. Thanks for coming out to support the show! Oh, and as always, Knox, from Day 1, was outside shinning shoes!

Only one show left and based on current ticket sales, it should sell out, so get your tickets in advance.

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

Today I was in Antigua.  I began the day with a zipline tour.  We had to drive inland for a half hour to reach our destination—the rainforest.  Our taxi driver introduced himself as Spice Man.  He was a big man with a good sense of humor.  He gave us a talking tour all the way there and back telling us many things about his island.  But I was mostly fascinated by the small, colorful houses we passed, many in a state of extreme disrepair, which began to appear as soon as we left the posh tourist harbor area.  This was the real Antigua.

The zipline experience was fun.  It felt very settling to be among all those trees after more than four days at sea.  The way it works is that you are strapped into a harness similar to what you wear when you parachute.  Then you are hooked with big metal hooks to cable wires that are strung between a series of trees.  Each tree has a platform built around it and a certified zipliner (although I don’t know what that means exactly; I was helped by one of these zipliners and she had acrylic nails that had to be two inches long) who makes sure you don’t fall off the platform into the forest below before sending you on to the next platform.

We ziplined through twelve different stations down to the bottom of the forest.  That was the grueling part because we then had to climb many, many steps back to the top.  There we were able to tip our certified zipliners, as well as buy a t-shirt or two.

Spice Man brought us back to the harbor.  I asked him if he could help me find some Cuban cigars.  My husband had asked me to smuggle some back into the country with me.  Spice Man took me to a liquor store owned by a friend who then directed us to another location.  This was a bonafide cigar store.  I was able to find John some Cuhios, Romeo y Julieta and a few others.

By then it was getting late and I was starting to run out of time.   I decided to run back to the ship and drop off the cigars, then come back to the edge of the harbor and enjoy one last coffee before leaving.  I wasn’t certain whether or not I would give away $10 today.  But as I walked towards the coffee shop I was moved by the site of a young girl in her school uniform leaning listlessly against a post, holding handmade jewelry in her hand.  Her mother was busily opening a suitcase, trying to get passersby interested in buying the trinkets.  I took a candid shot of them.  Then I decided I wanted to give that ten to them.

I began by asking to look at their jewelry.  While I browsed I asked the girl her name.  Euresha she replied before explaining that she was eleven years old and in grade six.  I couldn’t imagine what her life must be like, having to go to school all day and then work selling jewelry to help her family survive.  The mother told me her name was Brenda.  I found out she was the mother of ten, and Euresha was the youngest.  I was browsing very slowly, trying to work up my nerve to offer the ten.  Brenda didn’t take my hesitation as a good sign.  She started bargaining with me, lowering her prices more and more the longer I looked.

Then, wouldn’t you know it, it started to rain.  We moved under the awning of the coffee shop and sat down opposite a couple who were also on my cruise.  I could tell Brenda was getting antsy to move on, and worried I wouldn’t buy anything at all.   Finally I settled on a matching abalone necklace and bracelet.  I said, “Brenda, I’d like to buy this bracelet and necklace.  What would it cost?”

“Bracelet is five, necklace is twenty.  But I give you both for $20.”

“Well, I’d be happy to pay you twenty for them, but would you be insulted if I also gave you ten dollars for no reason at all?”

You should have seen the look on her face.  It was like she’d won the lottery.  But she didn’t miss a beat.  Immediately she responded, “Give it to my daughter.  She needs it for her science project.”

I said, “Oh that’s great, Brenda!  I’ll give it to you, and you can give it to your daughter.  Because I was going to ask you what you were going to do with it, and now I know.”  Then I went on to explain about the Year of Giving.  Frankly, I don’t think Brenda cared.  That ten dollars was manna from heaven, and the unexpected boon was all that mattered.
Meanwhile Euresha was grinning from ear to ear.  I doubt she’d had many experiences like this of sheer good luck.  I asked her to tell me about her science project.  She said she is writing a paper on the Fallow Deer, which is an endangered species.  Her mom explained she needed the money to pay for some computer fees so she could type up the project.  She then went on to boast about her daughter, saying she’d be sitting for an exam next year that would allow her to go on to the next level of school.  “I know she will do very, very well,” she proclaimed proudly.  Euresha told me she wanted to be a teacher when she grew up.

Euresha wrote down her address for me, and we all admired her lovely cursive handwriting.  The couple at the table with us who had witnessed this whole exchange asked me if this was part of a Christian ministry.  I explained to them about the Year of Giving website and suggested they check it out.  Then I took a picture of Euresha and Brenda, smiling broadly and looking hopeful, the worry and strain wiped away for a moment.

The rain had let up a little and now it really was time for me to get back on the boat.  I dashed between the drops, imagining the story Euresha and Brenda would have to tell the family that night.  It gave me such a good feeling, I thought, “I don’t know if I’m going to be able to stop this after seven days!”

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

Today I needed something to read.  I love book stores, I love perusing the different books to find the right one.  Being unemployed I try very hard to stay away from them because I know what I’ll do.  This trip I had meant to buy only one, but walked out with three.  At least I was shopping at the Book Gallery (half price books) and the three were cost less than one hardback book.

While checking out I asked the person behind the register, Judy, if she would be my recipient of the day.

She explained how she happened to be working at the book store, “My husband is retired and years ago.  I used to be an RN, then mom but now just enjoying working at the book store two days a week and I play tennis three days a week.”

It sounded like a dream schedule to me, but then I realized it would probably cost me to work there, I would probably spend more than I made.  I also admire anyone in the medical field and I told Judy she must love what she’s doing because it comes with some heavy responsibility.

“Yes,” she agreed”, and you have a lot of shifts and you weren’t home on a regular schedule. I actually retired when I had my kids.  Now my kids are raised, I have one in Chicago and one in Knoxville so any time I want to take off and see them I can, and not have to worry about my schedule.  They’re very nice here so they give me the time when I need it.“

I asked her what she might do with the ten dollars.

“I will definitely pass it on.  I have no idea right at the moment but somebody who needs it will get it.  Thank you, you’ve made my day.  Can I give you a hug?”

And with that, she made my day.

It has been so fulfilling to meet and interact with seven awesome people who used to be strangers.  It has definitely done more for me than the $10 did for them. I want to thank Reed for starting this project and continuing it in the way that he has.  Evidently I am the first one in Tennessee to be a Kindness Investor, so come on Tennessee, give it a try.

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

Today I met Jeannie, who is a total sweetheart.   I was just getting out of my car when I saw her and just knew she was the one to be today’s recipient.  Lucky for me she said yes.  I wasn’t even ready and had to ask her to wait just a moment to get the things I needed out of my car, including the $10 dollars.

I explained what the Year of Giving was about and asked if she would be willing to share a piece of her story with me.  Like a lot of others, she has a lot going on in her life right now.

“This week my aunt, who’s 85 years old, had open heart surgery.  She lives in Toledo, Ohio and we just got back. She’s my mom’s sister, they are the only two siblings left in that part of the family.  She’s the golden star patient and she’s doing phenomenal, better than everyone expected.  Her mind is good; everything else is good it was just her heart.  But it was miraculous.  God healed her.

“There’s just so much to say.  I was in an accident in January but all is well thank the Lord.  My Aunt, the one in the hospital, was going to give me her car but she’ll be able to get back out and drive, go back to church and enjoy the things she likes to do.  So my brother-in-law, he’s in Afghanistan, they loaned us one of their cars.  God is amazing; you just can’t stop giving Him the glory.

“And, my husband and I have been approved to be adoptive parents.  But, I just found out Monday the birth mom changed her mind.”

Worried about her disappointment I said, “Oh no.” But she responded, “Oh, that’s good, she’s going to keep her baby and my prayer is that God is going to give us our baby. We believe in adoption, there are a lot of adopted kids throughout our family.  We were doing an independent adoption over the summer, the mother was a family member, but when the baby was born she decided to keep it and that’s great too.  I always promote babies being with their natural mother.  So we’ve been dealing with this since January.”

In my opinion, Jeannie’s life consists of things that I would refer to as stressful, but I don’t think she saw it that way.  She was so positive and upbeat it totally brightened my day.  We hugged and I thanked her for sharing her story. I told Jeannie I had one more question, could I ask what she might do with the $10 dollars. She immediately replied, “Give it to somebody.  I’ll bless somebody.”

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

After trying twice today and being turned down, I met Linda as she was coming out of a Borders that’s closing its doors. On this gorgeous day I asked Linda what she was doing and she shared that she was, “running errands, getting my car fixed, I saw Borders is closing and decided to get some books to read. “

Linda isn’t from this immediate area, but drove the short distance from Nashville.  I asked her what she did for a living and I was impressed when she told me she’s an engineer for a pacemaker company.

Family?  “Yes” she replied, “I have a daughter, she’s four years old, and I take care of my 81 year old mother who has Alzheimer’s.  She came to stay with me about three months ago; she moved here from Chicago.  So that is what my life is right now, taking care of a 4-year-old and an 81-year-old.  My mother goes to an adult day care while I’m at work and we have someone come in once a week, a medical aid, that helps with other stuff like bathing, housecleaning and things like that.”

I asked her what she might do with the $10 and she answered, “Interesting question.”  She thought just for a moment and answered, “I was just about to give to a college fund for one of my church member’s granddaughters so I’m going to put it in the coffers.  I was going to give $100 so now I will give $110.  So that’s what I’m going to do with it. “

I would bet that young lady will be very grateful for Linda’s generosity.

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

I created an intention this morning ~ Today, I appreciate a kind heart!

Meet Tom, who not only has a very kind heart but also sells something very sweet and tasty, namely ice cream.  Tom and his wife Shari, opened The Zebra Striped-Whale in Newtown, PA several years after his wife self published her first book, which shares the same name. When I encountered Tom he was busy at work behind the counter but was still open to share his story before I even presented him the ten dollars.  I learned he used to work for years in my town (small world) and that he is the father of two daughters, Maxine (Max) and Ariele, one of which who was having her first day of work at a law firm in Philly.

When I asked Tom what was the greatest thing about his job, he answered that, “People come in excited.  They know it’s going to be a happy experience, not like going to the dentist, but when they come here they know they are going to get something good to eat.”

He says the shop was designed to delight all five senses from attracting your nose with the smell of the crepes and waffles,to the taste of his delicious ice cream.  Tom shared that his favorite flavor was the, “Sweet Cream because you can mix it with anything.”

The Zebra-Striped Whale is known for whirlwinds.  A whirlwind invites you to choose your ice cream flavor and the toppings are blended into the ice cream by hand with a flat paddle.

Tom with Colleen.

Tom was a psych major in college and worked in sales for most of his life.  He shared his dream of opening an ice cream shop with his wife and the two took it to the next level.  Tom is a creative spirit both on and off the job.  He created the artwork for The Zebra Striped Whale Alphabet Book, which is soon to be published. Tom’s motto is create a nice life, live well, and share good fortune and happiness with others.

Before we left, Tom surprised my friend Colleen and I by giving the $10 to her.  She used it to buy “The Zebra-Striped Whale” and Tom also gave both of us a book called “Cop Buddy” that was created to honor a fallen officer.  Tom and Shari not only own an ice cream shop and publish children’s books, but they also created The Zebra Striped Whale Foundation which serves the community through the art of children’s picture book publishing.  He truly has a kind heart and I enjoyed meeting him.

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

I created an intention this morning ~ Today, I honor healthy living and well being!

I met Beth at Starbucks and we chatted over coffee.  She is a mother of four and a breast cancer survivor with a great faith and zest for healthy living.  She knew over 12 years ago she was fighting for her life against the aggressive form of cancer. With the support of her loving husband and the desire to raise her children (ages 5 to 13 at the time), she began “feeding” herself all kinds of fruits, vegetables and healthy foods while surrounding herself with positive people.  She was receiving great support through letters from other cancer survivors who openly shared their stories of what they did to win the battle.  Beth also focused on prayer and asked God to help her with the fight. The cancer itself became a catalyst in itself to live a healthier lifestyle.

With the power of veggies she was not only able to rebuild her immune system but also created a path for her family to become healthy as well.  though Beth went through chemo, radiation and surgery, she truly believes God taught her how to be healthy and in doing so led her to  become educated about whole foods.  She learned a great deal from Christine Pirello, a local food expert and studied at the Institute for Integrative Nutrition.

Beth is now better known as a health coach and instructs others to eat healthy.  She works with children, teens and adults while also running her own website!  Beth believes you don’t change anyone by telling them to change; rather you give them reasons to want to change. For her, the reason to create change in her own life came from the fight to beat cancer and she now uses that passion to help others change.

I would highly recommend Beth as a health coach.  I appreciate her openness to share her knowledge. Healthy eating for her is less about a diet, and more about creating a lifestyle of choices that are easy to implement.  She says it’s easy steps that make the difference. People, she feels, should simply cook for leftovers,  create their own healthy snack packs (especially for kids) and eat more foods that grow.

I had considered myself a “healthy eater” but Beth shared a great tip for me.  I tend to like “soft” foods: yogurt, avocado, humus, etc.  I honestly I don’t love food and therefore don’t spend much time cooking, preparing or eating.   Beth shared the value of simply taking more time to chew the food I’m eating because it allows the body to release more enzymes to aid in digestion.  Speaking with Beth helped to highlight that I always seem to be eating on the go, even when I am eating healthier foods. I have a new attitude towards healthy living thanks to Beth and now value the time it takes to eat properly.

Much in the way Beth passes along great advice, she is going to give the $10 to someone else.

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

For over a year now,  I’ve often seen a gentleman with the lower right half of his leg missing asking for money, sitting on a triangular-shaped esplanade on a side street just off the freeway.  I’ve waved to him and said hello, but never have gift cards on me to give him.  I decided after I became a Kindness Investor, he would be one of my investments, but I haven’t seen him all week.

Today I got in the car – Jack in the passenger seat – and went to find him.  I had little hope, since it’s raining outside, but I had to give it another shot.

I have mixed feelings about giving handouts to people on the street.  They’re obviously in need of help on several levels, and I’m more than willing to help them out with food. In memory of my father, I give street people gift cards to nearby restaurants, so I know they’re getting one or two good meals and the money isn’t going to alcohol or drugs (if they don’t sell the cards).  But do our donations really help them?  Do the gift cards and loose change keep them on the street, hoping for more, instead of seeking permanent shelter and medical assistance?  I don’t want to be an enabler on any level.  Anyway…

As I turned off the feeder, the triangular esplanade was, once again, empty.  I felt relieved that the gentleman wasn’t sitting out there in the rain.  I parked in Starbuck’s parking lot to see if he was seeking shade somewhere in the little shopping strip, when I spotted three men huddled close together under an overhang in front of one of the shops.  My guy wasn’t among them, but I felt drawn to them nonetheless.

“What do you think, Jack, will one of these guys be my next investment?” Jack looked at me, licked his lips and gave me a big, happy, toothy grin, so I took that as a sign to “man up” and go meet them.  Please note that I never would have approached strangers in such a situation otherwise, but Jack is an excellent guard dog and his size generally keeps people at a distance anyway.

I drove up to where the three were standing, rolled down my window and asked if one of them was interested in helping me with a kindness project for $10.  They looked at each other and laughed, two of them pointing to one, pushing him towards the car.  They were speaking too quickly in Spanish for me to follow, but were apparently encouraging the third to talk to me.

The elected member walked towards me, looking around; more wary of me than I was of them.  “Yes, ma’am? You have a project?” he asked with a strong Spanish accent.

“Do you speak English?” I asked.  “Yes, ma’am.  Very good English,” he replied.

In a combination of Spanish and English, I told him about the Year of Giving project, my unemployment and my week as a Kindness Investor.   “Do you want this $10 bill as my kindness investment for today?”

He looked a little skeptical, turned to see where his companions were, then back to me.  “And what you want for this?”

“Tell me about yourself – whatever you want, where you’re from, about your family, the kind of work you do, what brought you here today.  How will you spend the $10 – will you save it, give it to someone, buy something?”  And, finally, “Do you have a wish you want someone to help you with?  Esta bien?”

“Si, si,” he nodded his head in agreement as I handed him my card with the $10 bill tied to it.  He briefly scanned the card and put it in his pocket.  I asked if he’d like to go to Starbuck’s to sit down and he said no, that he didn’t want to miss “the truck.”

He said his name is Edmund; “Mundo”, for short, and he is 20 years old.  He was at the strip center with his brother and cousin waiting for a truck to pick them up for a job.  I asked if he had other family here and he said his parents, brothers and sisters are in Nuevo Leon, Mexico.  “No wife, no children?” I asked.  “No,” he laughed.  “Too young.”   There is a girl in Mexico he likes, “but she doesn’t know it yet,” he added.  “Maybe one day I will take her on a date.”  In the meantime, he spends most of his days finding work with his brother and cousin, watching TV and practicing his English.  He goes to church if he’s not working, calls home often and misses his family very much.

Mundo said he will probably send then $10 to his family in Mexico.  He doesn’t have a computer, but knows someone who will help him look up the Year of Giving website, so he can see his story.  His greatest wish is to make enough money to take care of his family, and for prayers to keep the jobs coming.

About that time, someone in a white truck pulled up and honked the horn.  “Must go now. Thank you for your kindness loan,” he said smiling, as he waved his compadres over and sprinted towards the truck.

I didn’t ask if the three of them are in the US illegally, but I suspect they are.  Mundo did not want me to take his picture, so I just took one of the shopping center where they had been standing.  He told me he doesn’t have contact information and didn’t want to give me his address, but offered that he lives in an apartment in the area, “with others from Mexico.”

Mundo, if you get a chance to see this, I am praying for you and your family. I am very proud of you for learning English, which you speak and understand muy bien.  And I hope you decide to use the $10 for a date with the beautiful senorita back home, soon. If you are here illegally, I encourage you to return home and go through the immigration process to live and work in the US legally, just as my great-great-grandparents from Germany and Czechoslovakia did two centuries ago, and as my husband’s parents from the Netherlands Antilles did 52 years ago.  Secure borders are critical for our nation’s safety and I would hate to see you hurt or worse crossing the border illegally.

Que tengas buena suerte, mi amigo!  Good luck, my friend. Be safe.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Latora gave me this flyer for her church.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Brew Bakers in Middletown, CT.

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

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

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

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

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Filter Coffee House, 1726 20th NW, Washington, DC

It was the Sunday before my Year of Giving Anniversary Celebration on December 14th and I was scrambling to get everything done that I needed to do.  I had taken a break from my planning to meet up with a friend of mine who was visiting from Sao Paulo, Brazil.  We went to Maggiano’s for lunch and on my way home I stopped by a small coffee shop near my apartment called Filter.  Those who have followed the Year of Giving for a long time and have superpower memory might recall that I met Mark from Day 132 there as well.

I was sitting there having an espresso scoping out the café.  I really didn’t need a coffee, but I did need to find a recipient and given that it was raining outside I figured that finding someone indoors where it was dry and warm was much more appealing than talking to someone while becoming a human sponge.

I grabbed a seat in the cozy café next to two young ladies who were sitting to my left.  There are maybe 10 tables so often times you end up sharing a table with someone else.  I didn’t know if they were together or just sharing a table, but figured I would ask the one sitting closest to me.  It turned out they weren’t together and Meg, after pulling the earphones from her ears, agreed to accept my money.  The other girl at some point seemed bothered by the conversation, or just bummed she didn’t get the ten bucks, and moved.

Meg and her husband JD with the ten dollars

Meg is a 23-year-old who lives in Takoma Park, MD and came into the city that afternoon to go to a “good coffee shop.”  She was reading Wilkie Collins’ 19th century classic epistolary The Moonstone and listening to some music while she waited for her husband JD to arrive.  Meg does some really amazing work.  She works for an organization that helps resettle refugees from conflict areas such as Somalia, Sudan, DRC, Iraq, Pakistan, etc.  “It’s very rewarding,” she said taking a sip of her latte.

Meg and her husband got married this summer and moved here after having met at Oklahoma State University.  Now a bunch of my relatives went to OU and I thought that this would be a good thing to mention.  Little did I know that you don’t want to tell an Oklahoma State alum that you are partial to OU.  We made quick treaty and she went on to tell me that she and her husband had spent time living abroad in Egypt and really enjoyed it.  Having lived in Mexico, Spain and Brazil myself, I think the opportunity to live in another country, especially one where they speak another language, is extremely rewarding.

JD arrived covered with beads of rain from the lingering afternoon drizzle.  As it turns out he left his wallet in the car and asked Meg if she could buy him a coffee.  Meg smiled and slid the ten dollars across the table to her husband.

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My gym.

I am constantly trying to find new places to give my $10 away.  I was walking over to my gym the other day, a walk that I have made far too infrequently these days,  when I realized that I had never given my money away there.  It’s a little weird to go up to someone bench pressing a bunch of iron and say, “Hey, could I give you $10?”  but I was determined to find someone.

The easiest option would be to go give it to someone who was stuck working at the desolate reception – they’re practically begging for someone to come and talk to them there.  Instead, I combed the gym looking for someone working out.  I walked by and saw a lone person in the spinning room; a glass enclosed cage full of stationary bikes sentenced to life in gym.  Inside, Natalie was working up a sweat on one of the two dozen bikes.

"I'm a liberal working for a bunch of republicans," she said referring to her job.

This was awkward.  I didn’t want to affect her workout, but I did.  She slowed down to a leisurely pace as we talked.  Originally from Little Rock, AK, I quickly learned that we both had a connection to former President Clinton’s foundation.  She had worked for the organization in Little Rock and I had worked for the Alliance for a Healthier Generation, a nonprofit that he helped start jointly with the American Heart Association.  Now she works in government relations.  “I’m a lobbyist,” she says as I probe a little deeper on what someone in government relations actually does.  She’s been putting in long days working on energy related issues and only gets to the gym when apartment lights are being dimmed and people are pulling down their covers to go to bed for the evening.  I asked her what her motivation was to go to the gym and she said, “Just basic maintenance, stress, and guilt.”

When this twenty-something is not immersed in wonky energy related policy or relieving stress on the stationary bike, Natalie enjoys reading and traveling.  Her dream is to become a high school teacher some day and then retire in a sleepy town in the Ozarks of northern Arkansas.

As for the money, “I’ll have to give it away,” she says.  “I’ll probably give it to someone who is homeless.”  We talked about how society today has changed and people don’t stop to talk to strangers that much.  “I don’t talk to people on the street,” she admits, “I’m a headphone person.”  I encouraged her to take a second and talk to the person she gives the money to – ask them their name.

I totally screwed up Natalie's work out.

Before I left, I asked if she needed anything that I could add to the Lend a Hand initiative.  “Maybe some advice,” she started to say, “about how to make my parents golden years meaningful.”  Her dad, a bar owner, and mother, a special education teacher, live together in Little Rock.  I liked that she thought of them and their happiness.  Our parents do so much for us.  I could also use some similar advice for my father.  I have some ideas, but getting him to want to do those things is a whole another story.

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Yesterday evening was Day 365 of my Year of Giving.  It was absolutely brilliant.  It was so good to see so many past recipients of my $10 joined by blog followers, family and friends.  I couldn’t have asked for a more perfect evening.  If you want to get a taste of how the evening went, check out this awesome segment that ran on ABC-7 here in DC.  More to come on this when I write up the blog post for Day 365.

I hope I look as good as Margie does when I'm 65!

Now, let me take you back 17 days to a cold November 28th.  My brother Ryan invited me to be his guest at a Washington Capitals game.  It was there that I met Margie while she checked the tickets of the fans who entered the 200 level concourse. 

Margie, an usher at the arena for the past nine years, works all kinds of events.  “At first I didn’t care for hockey because I didn’t understand it, but I’ve learned some of the rules and things and now I’d probably say that it’s my favorite.”

A DC native, Margie and has four children and five grandchildren!  I wasn’t surprised to learn that she had worked in the nursing and healthcare field for most of her life as she is clearly a caring person.  She provided home healthcare for both children and adults; helping them bath, get dressed, cook, grocery shop, etc.  “I love helping people,” Margie said, “I’m a people person.” 

We laughed a lot.

She told me that this has been a difficult year for her.  “I’ve been having kidney and liver problems,” sounding positive despite the unfortunate circumstances.  She’s on several medications and hopes that her situation starts to improve soon.  It would be completely reasonable for her to use the $10 to help pay for the medications that she needs, but she decided to pass it on to someone who needs it more than she does; one of Margie’s daughters has a foster child who is expecting a baby.  As she looked down at the ten-dollar bill in her hand she said, “I know she could use the money.” 

I gave her a big hug before I left.  I look forward to seeing her again the next time I am at the Verizon Center.

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Just four more days.  Wow…time flies when you are having fun (and scrambling to get everything ready for Tuesday’s celebration!)  Lots of recipients and blog followers have RSVP’d for the event.  It will surely be an interesting evening.  Some donations are coming in for the raffle and auction, but still no primary sponsor.  Hmmm….it looks like I am the primary sponsor ;)

Here in DC it seems like Starbucks cafes are everywhere.  I think you can walk to five of them within ten minutes of my house.  Oh, before I go on, let me go back to the sponsorship item really quick since I mentioned Starbucks.  I actually thought they would be a very interesting sponsor.  I have given my $10 away at several Starbucks locations, have given to employees, and happen to frequent their establishment quite often myself.  In addition, the Year of Giving is all about bringing people together, connecting our community.  I’m guessing that if you ask Starbucks what their business is, I doubt they’d say it was making coffee…but providing a much bigger holistic service that had more to do with bringing people together.  Maybe not, just a guess.  But anyway, nothing from them yet…although that’s not for a lack of trying.

Cliff nimbly maneuvers over the curb.

Anyway, do you ever think about how is that every morning a place like Starbucks has everything it needs to quench your cravings?  It’s because of people.  It’s because of great people like Cliff who I ran into on the night before Thanksgiving.  I guess I could say Thanksgiving Eve, but that sounds weird to me.  Anyway, he was hard at work around 10:30pm at the Starbucks closest to my apartment.

I walked around to the back of his truck where he was pulling a dozen crates off at a time with a dolly and then rolling them into the cafe.  Each one was full with fresh milk, coffee beans, pastries, you name it.  “I don’t work for Starbucks directly, but they’re the only account I service,” Cliff told me as he heaved the dolly up over the curb.  “You build up some muscles doing this,” he added with a half smiling half grimacing expression.  He rolled the dolly around the side of the truck, opened the door, and backed into the now dimly lit coffee haven.  It was weird to see someone inside a dark completely empty Starbucks.  Usually they are brightly lit with an even flow customers percolating in and out. 

He came back with an empty dolly ready to load up another set of crates.  Cliff was very friendly and willing to speak with me although he told me he used to be more reserved and kept to himself.  I found that hard to believe based on my encounter with him. 

“It usually takes me about 10-12 hours to do my shift,” he said.  Starbucks goes through a lot of product.  He told me something like that he delivered some 686 units of milk each day, and I can’t remember if that is total or per store.  I’m guessing total, but I just did a quick search and it seems like it is possible that that figure is per store if he delivers every other day.

“I’m a very happily married man,” the 44-year-old from Maryland told me.  “I’ve got two girls and two boys; been married for 18 years.”  I asked if he was going to be spending Thanksgiving with the entire family and he said only one of his kids would be home, “The others are all grown and have their own families.” 

Cliff is a solid guy, not only personality-wise but also physically.  Let’s put it this way, you wouldn’t want to have to wrestle him to get your coffee every morning.  He’s recently been focusing on his health.  “I’ve been working on my weight,” he shared.  “I’ve lost 40 pounds…you see I’m diabetic,” he told me as he muscled another load over the curb.  “I got 20 more pounds to go to reach my goal of 200.”  That’s quite an achievement to lose 40 pounds. 

I waited for him while he disappeared again and delivered the goods.  I looked at the lined walls of the interior of the truck.  It was full of all kinds of goodies.  My mind slipped into a dream-like state and I envisioned myself driving the truck around giving all the homeless people I have met this year some hot coffee and pastries. 

I needed to get on the road to Pennsylvania and I’m sure Cliff was getting sick of chatting with me.  He came back and I asked him what he was going to do with his money.  “I’m going to give it to my wife,” he said grinning like a child.  “A man’s got to provide for his wife and family.”  I shook Cliff’s hand and invited him to the Year of Giving Anniversary Celebration this Tuesday.  “I might have to work that night,” he said.  “But let’s see.”  I started to walk away and he added one last thing, “I’m going to tell my wife about this.  She’s gonna love it.”

I walked back to my apartment, got in my car and began the two-hour drive to Mechanicsburg to spend Thanksgiving with my father.

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I’m starting to think that this city has too many law students.  Ok, I guess it makes sense since Washington is our government’s central nervous system.  But Molly was applying to law schools, Sarah from yesterday was in her third year of law school and today’s recipient is currently applying to law schools.

Matt and I were seated in the two chairs just under the Starbucks sign.

It was one of the coldest days of the year and my exposed face and hands were stinging from the frigid wind.  I ducked into a Starbucks to get a cup of coffee and warm up a little.  I sunk into a big comfy chair by the window and found myself sitting next to Matt; a young professional dressed in a sweatshirt over a t-shirt that had the Rolling Stones written on it.  He was buried in his computer until I interrupted his concentration.  “I’m applying to law schools,” he said in response to my question of what he was up to that evening.  “I am genuinely interested in philosophy and believe that laws serve as agents for social change.”  He told me that his interest to go to law school is similar to the interest expressed by Franz Kafka’s character Fräulein Bürstner in the

The Trial.  She says, “I am fascinated with court matters.  The court has a strange attraction, doesn’t it?”

We talked about the Year of Giving and how people react to my offer.  Matt told me about a study that measured people’s willingness to help based on them having recently found a small amount of money.  He later emailed me this:

According to one experiment conducted by Isen and Levin, experimenters looked for helping behavior in unaware subjects after they left a public phone-booth. Whether or not the individuals helped a person in need was found significantly influenced by whether or not one had just found a dime in the phone-booth. In the initial experiment, the results for the 41 subjects are as follows (Doris 2002, 30):

Found Dime: (14 exhibited helping behavior, 2 did not exhibit helping behavior)
Didn’t Find Dime: (1 exhibited helping behavior, 24 did not exhibit helping behavior)

These results suggest that morally significant behavior such as helping another in need depends largely on minute factors of the situation that are not in the control of the agent.”

I found this fascinating.  The fact that finding a dime could influence people’s behavior so much.  Here I’ve been giving ten spots away, when people apparently would have been happy just getting a dime.  It would have saved me $3,613.50 too!  

He told me about another study where if a subject was asked to donate money to a cause that they were much more likely to give if there was another person in the room.  Now here is the fascinating part.  The study also showed that the subjects were equally more likely to give if instead of the other person there was a poster of a robot prominently placed in the room.  Weird.  It’s like we do the “right thing” if we think others are watching.  Even robots…painted on a poster!  Interesting.

Matt is originally from Michigan and plans to be here for about two years until he leaves for law school.  “I like DC but I think I am going to go someplace else,” he told me.  

The 24-year-old works for the government right now and preferred that I not use his last initial or be photographed.  Hmmm.  CIA?  Who knows?  He was a nice guy though, smart too.  I enjoyed chatting with him.

In his follow-up email to me he told me that he gave his $10 to a guy who plays trumpet in the morning near the World Bank offices at 18th and G or K Streets.  “He’s got a good heart,” he went on to write.  My ex-girlfriend used to always talk about this guy.  I went looking for him one morning but I couldn’t find him.  Maybe I will try to find him in these remaining 9 days.

Matt inspired me to do something too.  He suggested I try to go talk to Arlen again.  “Give her a second chance,” he suggested.  I have seen her from time to time but have never talked to her again since our meeting when she was bitter and confused.  I will try to approach her again.  Thanks Matt for the encouragement.

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After being unemployed for 285 days, I have a special connection when I give my $10 to someone out of work.  According to data released by the US Department of Labor yesterday, unemployment has risen to 9.8% from 9.6% where it had hovered since August.  That represents 15.1 million people who can not find work.  The good news is that we are slightly better off than we were in 2009 at this time when there was 10% unemployment which accounted for 15.4 million people out of work.

Phiona is one of the 15.1 million people searching for work in this country.  She has been unemployed for five months now.  Back in February I recall that the average duration of unemployment was 7.5 months.  I tried to find what it is at now, but couldn’t find an updated statistic on this.  So if she is an average case it will probably be February before she finds another job assuming the rate has stayed similar.  It’s tough out there.

She wants to do project management work for nonprofits.  In addition to her experience in disaster management and post-conflict reconstruction, she did a fellowship at UCLA and got her master’s degree from the University of Pittsburgh.  She sounds like she is prepared.

Speaking of being prepared…this 28-year-old was certainly prepared when I ran across her talking on her cell phone at the top of the Metro escalators at Dupont Circle.  She had a colorful umbrella next to her and opened that up just as the rain began to pick up – it had been drizzling lightly for a while.

She was quite weary of my intentions at first and asked not to be photographed – even when I offered to photograph her from far away with her face safely hidden behind the umbrella.  That’s just the way it is sometimes.  People are often uncomfortable being photographed, especially if it is going to be uploaded into the cavernous halls of the internet.

Originally from Kenya, Phiona is hoping to go to Africa for the holidays.  When you’re unemployed there is that weird balance of time and money.  When you were working you could afford to travel but didn’t have the time.  Now when you are unemployed you have more time than you could imagine but spending money on travel was always difficult for me.

Anyway, I wanted to share something with you that Phiona said.  We were talking about a variety of different things as the rain fell from the steel-wool colored November sky.  “It’s always somebody else who tells you who you are,” she said.  That’s an interesting comment because it goes along well with a phrase that I particularly like, “perception is reality.”  But is it really true that we are the person that someone else tells us we are ?  I say that we are who we are but we are to others what they tell us we are.  Wow, somebody else could surely phrase that better than I did!  By the way, I don’t think I have ever written a sentence where I used “we are” three times…perhaps I just won a prize or something!

Anyway, she didn’t know what she was going to do with the $10 when we said goodbye but promised to email me and give me an update.  Well, she did just that.  This week I received an email from Phiona letting me know that she bought herself some lunch with $5 of it and gave the rest to a homeless man by the Metro.

Enjoy your weekend!

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I just got home from work, kicked my shoes off and scanned around my messy apartment.  This week has been crazy and I have kind of let things get out of control around here.  Well, I have blocked off this weekend to get things done, so hopefully that includes getting things straightened up.

Day 336 was November 15th which was a Monday night.  On that night a tragic murder was committed here in Washington.  The Redskins fell victim to the Eagles 59 – 28.  But before the horrific slaughter, the parking lots were full of jubilant and hopeful fans who were still gossiping about the earlier news of the day that the Redskins extended Donovan McNabb’s contract for five years.  The deal pays McNabb 78 million dollars over five years with a guaranteed amount of 40 million.  Shoot, maybe I should be asking McNabb for some financial support for my Year End Celebration!

Antoine gave $3 to his friend and said he was going to save the rest.

Anyway, I told my buddy Chris that he could choose the recipient of the day but that his wife had veto power.  Well, this didn’t go very well.  Chris kept picking people that Beth didn’t approve of.  Until Chris drug 11-year-old Antoine over in front of her to be inspected and she approved.

Antoine was a sixth-grader who was selling candy to raise money for at risk youth in the DC area according to a gentleman accompanying Antoine who didn’t identify himself.  “I’ve got caramel hearts, peanut butter crisps, peanut brittle, green tea,” Antoine began to tell me.  What would you like?  I explained that he didn’t need to give me anything in return for the $10 and that he could just add that to his collection. 

“We use the money to provide activities for the kids and keep them off the street,” the man explained to me.  “You know we go to Kings Dominion, bowling, laser tag, all kinds of things.”

About this time another kid came over, he was a little older than Antoine.  I went to go get my camera to capture a few photographs.  “We got to get going,” the adult said as I returned 30 seconds later.  “We got to leave by 8:00pm and they still have plenty of items to sell.”  

I set up my camera while I asked some more questions to Antoine.  He told me that he had sold 12 boxes and that he had 7 more to go.

That's Antoine in the middle with his crate of goodies.

I snapped a few quick shots and let them get on their way.  As he grabbed his milk crate that he carried the items in I asked what he was going to do with the money.  “I just gave him three,” he said nodding his head toward the older boy, “and I think I will save the rest.”

This was a weird exchange.  Our conversation was awkward and I didn’t feel good or bad about it, just ambivalent.  I thought about it for a while even after Antoine was long gone and I was comfortably sitting in my covered seat in the stadium.  I wondered if he had ever come inside to see a game.  Probably not. 

As I said earlier, the game went on to be a disaster.  It poured rain for all of the second half and the score looked more like a basketball game than it did a football game.  The Redskins played awful.  I think 11-year-old Antoine could have played better than several of the guys that night – he would have played his heart out just be on the field.

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Happy Thanksgiving!!!

There is SO much to be thankful for today.  Here’s just a few things…

the last 36 years 327 days ■ my amazing family ■ loyal friends ■ love that I feel ■ my job ■ my home ■ my sight ■ my hearing ■ my sense of taste ■ my sense of touch ■ my sense of smell  ■  asymptotes  ■   the ability to run  ■ our differences ■ our similarities ■ sleep ■ spell check ■ rain ■ nature ■ sun, moon and the stars ■ mornings ■  evenings in San Gimignano ■  laughter ■ children ■ gardens  ■  trust  ■   history  ■ spices  ■  caipirinhas  ■   tacos  ■   hugs  ■   music  ■   the 33 Chilean miners  ■   language  ■   my mother’s recipes – especially stuffing …

I could go on…but I if I did, we would never get to know about Meghan…and her friend John!

She looks sweet and innocent, but Meghan was ready to club me with her 1/2 steel bike lock had I been an attacker.

So on a cool evening I wandered over to Dupont Circle to see who I would find.  I immediately saw Meghan sitting next to a bicycle on the east side of the circle but I decided to make a lap around the fountain to see if I found someone who caught my attention.  Nope.  It was Meghan.

The 28-year-old from Richmond has been in DC for almost six years.  She has a government job which she says that she doesn’t enjoy very much.  “I’m waiting for a friend and where going to go for dinner,” she told me when I asked what brought her to the circle that night. She said she would probably put the ten dollars toward the evening.

As we were talking her friend John showed up.  It’s cool how they met.  They both worked for years for the same agency on the same floor but didn’t know each other.  Then on a trip to Spain Meghan found herself in a cozy little tapas joint in Sevilla.  John, who also happened to be in Sevilla on vacation, happened to come over and talk to her and it turned out they worked together!  Now they are great friends.

“She’s one of the funniest people I know,” John told me.

Meghan, who lives in the Shaw neighborhood, changed her mind and decided to give John half of her ten dollars…who knows, maybe that compliment literally paid off!  “He’s great,” she told me.  So then something happened that had never happened so far this year.  John said he wanted to give me his five dollars!  What could I do but accept it.  I’ve put that five dollars toward covering my costs for the Year-End celebration on  December 14th!

“I saw you walk around the fountain twice and then come over toward me,” Meghan began saying, “I was ready to hurt you with my ½ inch steel bike lock!”  Phew…good thing I made a good impression!

Me, Meghan and John. Meghan holding her $5, me holding the $5 that Meghan gave to John and he passed on to me!

Here is a quick story to make you feel good on Thanksgiving!  John told me that he was at the American Museum of Natural History New York City this summer when he found $70 on the ground.  “I turned it in to the information desk figuring someone had dropped it,” he explained.  He gave them his information as well and would you believe four months later they called John and told him that since nobody had claimed it that they were going to send it to him.  Wow…can you believe it?  It gets better.  “I told them to keep it and consider it a donation,” John said humbly.  I love it!

We’re getting ready to sit down for dinner now.  I was in charge of making two stuffings…one a regular bread stuffing full of celery, sausage and sage that my mother used to make…it’s my favorite.  The other is a cornbread stuffing that my grandmother (Dad’s mom) used to make.  I hope you enjoy your Thanksgiving, but do take a moment to reflect on all that you have to be thankful for.

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Every tooth in a man’s head is more valuable than a diamond. ~Miguel de Cervantes, Don Quixote, 1605

Today I’m going to take you where many people loathe to go.  That’s right, the dentist office.  Now I have been going to a great little dental practice up in Bethesda for many years: Dr. Juan Loza.  But they don’t accept my new insurance so I started looking for a new one.  We have a wiki site at work and I found some good comments about Dr. Margo Robinson at Watergate Dental, so I decided to make an appointment.

It’s very much like any other dentist office, with the exception of the hallway that is full of photographs of notable people (I guess they’re notable, I didn’t stop to check any of them out) who presumably have been there for dental work.

Dr. Robinson didn't find any cavities. (photo: Reed)

I plopped down in one of those reclining chairs and the dental hygienist started cleaning my teeth.  I guess my teeth were ok…she didn’t find any major issues. 

Then Dr. Robinson came in and took a look.  I was thinking that if I gave her $10 maybe she would say I didn’t have any cavities.  She did say that I have some “notching” or recessed areas on parts of my gum line though.  Dentists have been telling me this since I was in my early 20s.  She gave me a mirror and pointed out several places where the gum no longer covers the lower part of the tooth.  “The good thing is that the root is not exposed,” she told me.  However, if they keep receding she advised me to get some bonding done on top of that to protect the area.  

These are NOT my teeth, but here is an extreme example of notching. (photo courtesy of oakvillefamilydenistry.com)

After the exam I asked her to accept my $10.  I bet at first she was thinking, “$10 isn’t going to cover your office visit!”  She agreed and I spoke to her for a few minutes, although I was aware somebody was probably hanging out waiting for her to go and examine their teeth as well.  “I’ve got a second,” she said.  “I’m actually waiting for another patient to get numb.” 

Dr. Robinson received her D.M.D in 2006, spent two years working in Connecticut, where she is from, and then moved down here and joined Watergate Dental Associates.  “This is a fantastic practice,” she said.  “I was very impressed when I interviewed here and am really happy to be a part of it.”  

I asked her for some dental advice for you guys.  “Prevention is key; regular cleaning.  The biggest issues usually stem from patients ignoring problems.”  She also spoke very highly of conscious sedation.  “It helps patients with oral disease cope with their fears.”  Conscious sedation, she explained, is where the patient is in a state where they can respond to verbal directions, but he or she feels little to no pain.  I think she said they don’t remember anything either.  Freaky!

Dr. Robinson gave her $10 to a street musician near the Courthouse Metro. (photo: Reed)

She wasn’t sure what she was going to do with the ten dollars.  I emailed her yesterday and she told me that she gave it to a street musician who plays the trumpet near the Courthouse Metro stop in Arlington.  In fact, she told me in her email that she has been giving much more to Street Sense vendors and other homeless since learning about the Year of Giving.

When Dr. Robinson is not helping people keep their teeth in their mouths and have beautiful smiles, she enjoys running, biking, swimming, skiing and golf.  She’s pretty active.  She even told me that she was supposed to run the Marine Corps Marathon the previous day, however an injury interfered with that.  It didn’t hold her back too much though, she still ran in 10K event that’s held along side the marathon!  Way to go Dr. Robinson!

I got my complimentary tooth-brush and floss and was on my way.

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Save the date!  I am still working hard to secure a space for the Year End Celebration for December 14th here in DC.  Still no definite venue, but I am working on it.  If anyone knows of a venue who will do a lot of this for free or a group, company, law firm, individual person, whoever, that might be interested in sponsoring the event, let me know.  There will be plenty of media there…could be a very interesting opportunity for the right company or group.

Jacob holding his "cowbell" sign next to his father. (photo: Reed)

Anyway, on to today’s recipient!  Today we’re going back a few weeks to the Rally to Restore Sanity that was held in Washington, DC on October 30th.

My father had come to DC to attend the rally.  Dad and I took a bus from Dupont Circle down to Chinatown and walked down to the mall and picked up my friend Tricia.  We were supposed to meet up with lots of other friends and family there however it was a complete zoo and cell phones weren’t working.  There were hundreds of thousands of people, many toting signs, cramming onto the Mall.  I wish I could tell you what was said or what happened, but due to a lack of jumbo screens and speakers I saw and heard very little.  One of the best lines that I later heard that Stewart said referring to a lot of the political rhetoric is that, “If we amplify everything we hear nothing.”  I get it, but if you don’t amplify enough…the thousands of people who come to see you can’t hear you.

Another sign I liked (photo: Reed)

One of the things I did see was Jacob – a 16-year-old from North Carolina who came up the night before with his father.  I was scoping the crowd looking for people I knew when I spotted his sign, “THIS COUNTRY NEEDS MORE COWBELL.”  There were lots of funny, crazy signs being carried around…there were some that were very serious and even a few that were downright hurtful in my opinion.  But this one just made me laugh with its Saturday Night Live reference.  If you haven’t seen this skit featuring Will Farrell and Christopher Walken…stop whatever you are doing now and check this out!  Don’t worry your boss will think it’s funny too.

photo:Reed

Anyway, I made my way over to Jacob and gave him my $10.  He was cool with receiving it.  “I’m going to give it to the other person I saw carrying around a ‘NEED MORE COWBELL’ sign,” he told me explaining that he had seen a similar sign.  “If I can’t find them then I might give it a hobo.”  This sparked a great moment…his father’s face exploded into a smile saying something like, “Hobo?  Maybe a homeless person, but there are very few real hobos anymore!”  I’m hoping Jacob will drop us a note here and let us know what happened to the ten bucks.

Jacob goes to a special high school that has a five-year program that basically gives you the equivalent of an Associate’s Degree when you graduate. That sounds like a good program now, I’m not sure I would have liked the idea of a five-year high school back when I was in school.  

“I’m going to give it to the other person I saw carrying around a ‘NEED MORE COWBELL’ sign. If I can’t find them then I might give it a hobo.” - Jacob (photo: Reed)

When he’s not studying or playing XBOX 360, he’s learning to drive.  “You see this?” his father asks pointing at his hair, “it’s causing my hair to turn gray!”   

These two were a lot of fun.  They made my day since I didn’t get to see much of the rally.  Thanks guys.

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

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

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

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

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

Reed talking to Willie.

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

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

Jimmy "The Rent is 2 Damn High" McMillan

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

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

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

Willie said he would pass the $10 along.

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

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

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Victory Brewery, Downingtown, PA

Some high school friends of mine decided to get together in metropolis of Spring City, Pennsylvania.  I carpooled up with my friend Kimon, who lives close by in DC.  It’s about a three-hour drive but we hit some traffic getting out of DC and made slight detour to visit Victory Brewing in Downingtown, PA.  All in all it took us about five hours.

This place was packed.  The parking lot was completely full.  We left my car in a questionably legal parking spot and went in just to say we were there, have one beer, and pick up some beer to take to Maureen and Josh, our hosts for the weekend.  When we got inside, you could barely walk.  I was sure that there was some special event going on, but we were later told that it was just “another Friday night.”

I first approached a woman named Kathy.  She was a little bit interested, much more so than her husband who showed up a shortly thereafter.  The couple was waiting on a table and it conveniently became available giving them a polite excuse to exit the situation.

I scanned the area while sipping on my malty Storm King Stout.

Kathy and Jim (photo: Reed)

Nearby I found another woman named Kathy and her husband Jim.  I noticed that Kathy was drinking wine. What?!  Wine in a great brewery.  “I’m allergic to wheat,” she told me.  Not Jim…nope.  He was happily enjoying some of their cold refreshing brews. 

Kathy tells me that her real name was Myra, but as a young girl she attended Catholic School and all the nuns thought she was Jewish…so she went by Kathy.  Jim I think was really named Jim…or James…at least no confessions were made to the contrary. 

Speaking of Jim, I learned that he has a bit of daredevil inside him.  While in the Poconos he went bungee jumping.  “This sketchy guy tethered me to this rope,” Jim explained adding that he wouldn’t do it again.

It turns out this couple was having a little time out before they picked their daughter up from her high school where she was decorating for Homecoming which was the following evening.  And Jim is going to drive one of the cars in the parade too!  “It’s a red BMW 328 convertible.”  Grinning he added, “Everyone should own a convertible once in their life.”

The $10 went toward a glass of wine and tip for the bartender. (photo: Reed)

It was right about then that I got to see my $10 passed along.  Kathy made her way up to the crowded bar and ordered another glass of wine.  Seven for the wine and three for a tip.

Later I received an email from Kathy with an update…here is an excerpt.

“It was fun talking to you and even more fun connecting to your web site and reading all the stories of the people we are ‘one degree of separation’ from. I loved your 10-10-10 story!  We should have told you about our 8-8-08 night at the Triple 8 vodka distillery in Nantucket!  Anyway – I wanted to tell you that even though $7 of the money you gave us went to the alcohol – $3 of it went to the bartender..not sure if that is ‘donation’ or not but either way good luck in your final leg of your interviews and GOD BLESS YOUR MAMA!”

And as for homecoming…

Jim driving his son and fellow homecoming court nominee. (photo: Reed)

“Everyone had a blast. I think Jim enjoyed the parade more than my son Kevin. It was a beautiful fall day. The home team won.  Life is good.  Keep up the good work – you are on the home stretch!

-Kathy”

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"There's a lot of practice that goes into it. There's a lot of prep work." - Kyle (photo: Reed)

Do you think that you are funny?  A lot of us do.  But what would you do if you had to go up on stage and actually make people laugh for a few minutes?  Would you do it?  Could you do it?  Do you really think you could make a group of 50 people laugh hysterically?  Well Kyle found out the answer to that question.

After a dinner with coworkers at the iconic Tabard Inn in DC, we shuffled next door to the Topaz Hotel where on Thursday nights they have open mic comedy.

The place was full and the only seats were in the very front.  You know what that means!  Yep.  I was seated with a coworker from California and the comedian starts with the, “So, are you guys on a date?” type questions to me.  After dodging any severely awkward moments, he found a new person to pick on. 

Near the end of the show the host welcomed back a young guy who had performed his first stand up routine last week…and was brave enough to come back for more!  That was Kyle.  After the show I saw him and figured I would ask him to accept my $10, I mean after all anyone who has that type of courage to get up in front of a crowd and try to make them laugh deserves a few bucks. 

Originally from New Hampshire, Kyle is in DC for an internship.  He’s a journalism major working for a talk radio station here in Washington.  With graduation next month, he has mixed feelings about going back home.  It seemed like he really liked the possibility of staying in DC.

“I’m going to take your $10 to Lucky’s…they have $3 well drinks.  This will buy three drinks and still have a dollar left for a tip!” he told me.

I put him on the spot and asked him to do some of his comedy material.  This is not easy to do at the drop of a hat, but he was a good sport and obliged.  Kyle took a second and pulled out a folded up piece of paper that he had notes written on.  Even if he had been ready, it is a lot easier when you have an audience and can feed off of the crowd’s laughter.  Here goes…

Comedy at the Topaz Hotel (1733 N Street NW) happens every Thursday night at 8pm. No cover.

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photo: Reed

I live nearby a cozy wine bar called Veritas at the corner of Connecticut and Florida.  The other night I was meeting a friend there for a drink.  We grabbed a table in the outside terrace and were greeted by our personal sommelier Fred. 

Now I am a bit of an accent junkie.  I love trying to figure out where people are from based on their accents.  On top of that I have a bizarre condition that makes me want to imitate the accent of the people with whom I am speaking.  Ok, it’s not really a condition, but we seem to make everything else a condition or disease, so why not this, right? 

Fred moved the US from England about 10 years ago. (photo: Reed)

Anyway, Fred had an interesting accent.  Sometimes I thought he was British other times I thought he was Africa or maybe he was from the States…who knows? I was perplexed.  It turns out he is originally from the United Kingdom.  “I’m guessing you’re a Manchester United fan,” I told him.  “He grinned widely and said, “Absolutely.”  As for the accent he says, “The more I drink or the more I watch football (and he’s not talking NFL), the more the English accent comes out.”

The Royal Palace...this is possibly where the $10 ended up. (photo: Reed)

He brought us our bottle of wine and I asked him if he would accept my $10.  He readily agreed.  I asked him how he was going to use it and he said, “You see that place across the street?”  I turned all the way around to see the Royal Palace, a questionable looking “gentlemen’s club” that from the outside oddly resembles a Chinese take out joint.  “It’s going right there!”

He laughed a little and disappeared back inside.  I couldn’t tell if he was serious or joking.  A while later we went to pay.  We couldn’t find Fred and it seemed as if he had left for the night.  Or maybe he seriously took off across the street to the Royal Palace!  What category would I put that in?  “Something for themself” or “Gave the money to someone else?”  Hmmm…I’m guessing the latter.

Fred apparently cut himself pretty bad. (photo: Reed)

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The Old Post Office Pavilion (photo: Reed)

How the Old Post Office Pavilion looked in 1911. Free tours of the 315 ft. tower are available daily.

I was strolling along Pennsylvania Avenue taking photographs when I was struck by the beautiful flowing flags in front of the majestic Old Post Office Pavilion.  Built in 1899, it houses a little known gem: the view from the clock tower.  Take a free tour of the tower and get an unparalleled 360 degree view. 

After snapping a few photographs, I continued on Pennsylvania Avenue where I found Dave enjoying an afternoon cigar break from his job in IT at the EPA.  He’s a ten-year veteran of the agency and walks the talk of technology.  “That’s an Archos,” he told me pointing at a handheld device he was browsing.  I hadn’t heard about them, but here is a picture of one of the models.

I offered Dave the ten bucks and he refused and suggested that I give it to someone more deserving.  “I’ve actually read about you I think in the Washington Post,” Dave said.  “Or somebody doing the same thing here in DC.”  I am pretty sure it’s just me doing it every day in DC.  If there is someone else out there…drop me a note!  We should meet up and exchange $10!

Dave enjoying a cigar on a beautiful autumn day. (photo: Reed)

I sat down next to Dave and let my back have a break from the weight I was carrying around in my backpack.  It was a gorgeous day and I was thrilled to take a minute and just soak in the serenity from Dave’s shaded vantage point along Pennsylvania Avenue.  

I talked to him a little more and convinced him to take the $10.  I’m getting better at this!  He said that he wouldn’t keep the money though; he preferred to give it someone else.

This is the handheld device Dave was using.

I found out that he’s married and a father to two boys.  One is in high school and the other is away at college.  “He claims it is going fine,” he says about the college freshman.

About this time a beggar walked up and asked for some money.  We were both silent and I was wondering if Dave would give him the $10.  Would I reach into my pocket and give him a few dollars.  But we both somewhat automatically shook our heads no and said that we were unable to help and he walked away.  Actually we were both able to help, but we didn’t.  This has happened before and I think it is interesting from a psychological point of view.  It’s a challenge to analyze this issue fairly in a city like Washington where you get asked probably two or three times a day minimum for money.

Dave could give George A. from Day 201 a run for the money in a Santa Claus beard competition. (photo: Reed)

After he left Dave explained that he was going to give his $10 to a homeless man that was usually at the corner of Constitution and 12

th.  “He always has a friendly hello,” Dave said.  “Every time I walk by him for almost two years; and he only ever asked for money once.  He just says hello.” 

I knew Dave needed to get back to work so I headed on my way.  Later that evening I went for a run and visited with John, the man who holds the signs in front of the Vatican’s embassy here in Washington.  He was doing well.  He has a new banner that he is holding and somebody hacked his website too he told me.  It was good to see him.  All in all, a great day.

UPDATE: 10/28/2010

Check out the comment below from Dave sharing what happened to the $10.  I got a very nice email from him as well today where he said something that I want to share: “I’ve said it to many people on many occasions but I don’t think I’ve ever meant it quite as much: keep up the good work.”  That means a lot to me.  Thanks Dave!

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Some of you might recall that two of my recipients are celebrating a very special day today.  October 16th is the anniversary of Bob (Day 251) and Michelle’s (Day 277) sobriety.  Bob has been sober 24 years and Michelle eight.  I am so proud of them both and am thankful to have met them through my Year of Giving!

A VW Beatle sits almost completely underwater as flood victims make their way through town by boat. (Photo: Alfredo Estrella, AFP)

Today I am going to tell you about a fascinating young woman.  But first let me give you a little background on the circumstances that I met Ximena.  In September parts of Mexico were devastated when torrential downpours caused disastrous flooding in the states of Oaxaca and Veracruz.  As you might know, I used to live in Mexico and have many friends there today.  Fortunately everyone I know is safe, however, hundreds of thousands of Mexicans were affected by the relentless waters.  In September a group here in DC put together a fundraiser to collect money to send to needy families in Mexico.  My neighbor Paulina, who is Mexican, told me about the event and I stopped by to donate some money.

The fundraiser was held at Lupe Cantina, 1214 18th Street, NW (photo: Reed)

In addition to my donation to the fundraiser, I made another “donation” of $10 to Ximena.  She is a performing artist who was preparing to sing that evening at the event.  I found a moment when she was not busy and approached her and explained the Year of Giving concept

Ximena talking to a friend. (photo: Reed)

Ximena is 34 years old and hails from the Mexico City.  This talented young singer caught my attention when she shared with me part of her life where she spent four years living on a bus.  That’s right.  At the time she was living in Austin, Texas when she met up with a guy from DC who had driven a bus down to Texas.  The bus, called “Destino 2000”, would later turn into the home for several individuals.  The core group was about four people.  They loaded up and started driving south into Mexico.  But they didn’t stop there; they kept on going to Belize, Guatemala, Honduras, Nicaragua, Costa Rica, etc.  “We worked everywhere,” she explained in Spanish, “to get enough money to get us to the next place.”

Ximena, originally from Mexico City, lived on a bus for four years. (photo: Reed)

Her experience on the bus taught her many things.  “When you live here you take many things for granted,” she told me.  Sometimes the most basic necessities presented challenges.  “Without drinking water you can not survive,” she added. 

There was one common thread that sustained the nomadic group during their journey: music.  “The music was always the vehicle that opened doors for us and sustained us,” Ximena said.

Last May she received her degree in music education.  She smiled and said, “It took me 14 years to do it, but I made it!”  Although she currently does not have a job she says that she is fortunate enough to pick up small projects here and there.  When I invited her to the year-end celebration in December, she said she would not be able to attend because she would be in Texas in the area that is made up of Juarez on the Mexican side and El Paso on the US side.  “I am organizing some Fandangos in response to the violence that that area has suffered.”  I thought that I met Ximena before the alleged murder of David Hartley by Mexican pirates, but after checking it was in fact the same day that I met Ximena.  As a side note, something seems strange about that case…I’m not sure we are getting the full story.

“When you live here you take many things for granted.” - Ximena (photo: Reed)

Anyway, being out of work you would think that Ximena would use the money to help pay for her rent or get some groceries but that was not the case.  “I’m going to send the money to my ‘papa’” she told me.  “He doesn’t work any more and I haven’t had very much to send him lately.”  I thought that was very touching.  Our parents do so much for us as children that it is nice to be able to help them when they are in need.

I unfortunately had another event that evening and had to leave before Ximena performed.  Hopefully I will get another chance.

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Busboys & Poets at 14th and V Streets (photo: Reed)

 I decided to go over and grab dinner at Busboys and Poets and see if I could talk with someone about holding my year-end celebration there.  They gave me the name of a person to talk to and I followed up later via email.  Coincidentally today someone called me back from their organization.  They were not interested in hosting the event unless I was going to pay a five-figure amount which is simply not possible and completely outside of the spirit of the Year of Giving.  So, if you know of a good venue in Washington, DC that can hold 200+ people and would like a ton of in-kind national and local media, let me know. 

Chavon paid her $10 forward. (photo: Reed)

While I was eating I met the person sitting to my right: Chavon.  A foster care case worker by day, she was enjoying a respite with friends after a long stressful week.  She works with a total of seven kids right now; two of which are siblings.  She tells me about each one of them; their ages: 5, 6, 7, 13, 17, 18 and 19.  “It’s hard work,” she says exhaling.  “But you have to also let people go through their own journey.”

Busboys & Poets gets its name from American poet Langston Hughes. (photo: Reed)

She says she has always been a person naturally oriented to help others.  “It’s a passion,” she says with a smile.  “You know, every time someone gives you something – even a dollar – it means something.  

She says that she has given each one of her kids a notebook that they are to write down things that she tasks them with.  “I have to stay on top of them,” she tells me with a slightly more disciplinarian demeanor.  “I think that I will see how each one does on their assignments for next week and I’m going to give the $10 to the one who makes the most progress.”

Her two friends that were with her, Carla and Marques, spoke very highly of their friend.  “She is a good listener and she’s very honest, brutally honest,” Carla says.  Her friend Marques called her “hilarious” and said that she was also very sensitive.

As I left Chavon put a smile on my face when she said, “Reed, this has made my day!”

"Every time somebody gives you something - even a dollar - it means something." - Chavon (photo: Reed)

On Wednesday I got a note from Chavon saying that she had given the $10 to a new client of hers: a 13-year-old girl.  “She was very respectful and compliant with the things I tasked her with,” she wrote in her email.  “She was able to purchase her own breakfast without having to depend on anyone else.”  Getting her email made my day.  Thanks Chavon!

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Neither snow, nor rain, nor heat, nor gloom of night stays these courageous couriers from the swift completion of their appointed rounds." - unknown (photo: Reed)

How often do you sit down with pen and paper and write someone a letter these days?  My guess is that if you are reading this blog you are more likely to send an email.  I still try to send at least one hand written note each month, but often times I fall short of that goal.  It is so much easier to send an email, text message or update my Facebook status.  Have you ever wondered how this has affected people who depend on the mail for their livelihood? 

Meet Harold, a 22-year veteran of the US Postal Service.  I met him in front of my apartment and decided that he should be my person of the day.  I have tried to give my ten dollars to other postal workers and have succeeded once on Day 12 and failed on Day 254.   This time I succeeded.

photo: Reed

Harold is a letter carrier – and letter carrier is the proper title if you were wondering.  He took a few minutes out of his busy day to chat with me as he organized the mail from his van. 

“Things have changed a whole lot over the years,” Harold tells me.  “Mostly because of the internet; less volume.”  He says that advancements in technology have clearly benefited him in many ways in his personal life, however, professionally it has come with challenges.  “Job-wise it’s killing me,” he says explaining that his hours have been reduced due to the reduction in posted mail. 

We walked and talked briefly as he moved through the neighborhood.  He keeps moving pretty good too. 

He said he was going to give his $10 to his wife.  “That’s what I do with everything else,” he says smiling.

Harold has worked for the Post Office for 22 years. (photo: Reed)

He was busy and I didn’t want to be responsible for the wrong letter winding up at the wrong address so I let Harold go on his way.  Support your local letter carrier and send a hand written letter today.  You’ll be surprised how good it feels and the recipient will be ecstatic to receive something personal rather than bills and junk mail!

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I have received so many nice emails from people from Russia due to the media coverage that I have received there by Russia Channel One.  I friend of mine who speaks Russian said the report was very well done.  Spasiba!

Sometimes I find myself cutting it really close to midnight before I give my $10 away.

It was about 11:50pm and I was traveling south on Wisconsin Avenue just north of the National Cathedral.  I saw a Giant supermarket on my right, but it was closed.  Then I spotted a Metro bus waiting in front of the grocery store.  I pulled into the parking lot and saw Wayne, a 22 year veteran of Metro, standing near his bus looking at his phone.

I met Wayne on his 47th birthday. (photo: Reed)

I jumped out of my Volkswagen and walked over to Wayne and explained what I was doing.  He agreed to accept the $10 with two minutes to spare.  I was lucky to catch him because he was getting ready to leave on his next run. 

It turned out that it was Wayne’s birthday!  I think he is the first person I have given to on their birthday.  Happy 47th Wayne!  Instead of keeping the money for himself, he said that he would give the $10 to his 18-year-old daughter.  “She graduated high school this year and doesn’t have a job, so she could definitely use it.”

Wayne started working for Metro because a relative of his worked there.  In general he says he really likes his job, “I love helping people!”  What he doesn’t care for is snow.  “It’s the worst.  I was lucky this year though, I was on vacation during both big storms we had.”  He wasn’t so lucky though in the mid-nineties.  A resident of Maryland, he said that he stayed at work for an entire week because of the snow and ice storms that hit the DC area. 

Wayne just before closing the door and starting his route. (photo: Reed)

With over two decades of service, Wayne has seen a lot.  “I’ve seen a lot of good people come and go; older guys who paved the way for a lot of us younger guys.”  He explained that Metro upped the requirements at one point for drivers, requiring them to pass an exam which many of the veteran drivers failed.  “They were good drivers too, but they couldn’t pass the test.”   

I asked him about rude and unruly passengers.  He says he gets all kinds of people.  “Some times people are drunk and vomit on your bus,” he said shaking his head.  But he just brushes that stuff off.  “You know it’s all about how you choose to make your day.  I don’t let it bother me.”  I couldn’t agree more.

Wayne pulled away right on time. (photo: Reed)

He looked at his watch and said it was time for him to start his route.  He put his phone away and stepped into the bus closing the door behind him. 

Quick fact: Metro has a fleet of over 1,300 buses which provided 123.7 million rides last year. (source: Metro Facts, www.wmata.com)

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