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

-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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