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Mothers Day

Blog post by Reed from Washington, DC

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

A couple of days ago I sat down to brainstorm about the subject of my blog post for today.  As I have been focusing on volunteering with my posts, I thought I would highlight a national nonprofit that gave opportunities for mothers to volunteer.  To my surprise, I couldn’t find such an organization with the exception of very focused groups like Mothers Against Drunk Driving.  Then I thought I would focus on organizations that helped mothers.  I found lots of groups that help pregnant moms, new mothers, single parent mothers, etc.  But somehow I wasn’t finding anything that really grabbed me.

So I decided to dedicate today’s blog to my own mother who was one of my inspirations in creating the Year of Giving.

Born Lenora Ann Reed in 1943, my mother grew up in the sleepy coal-mining town of Richlands, Virginia.  It’s a beautiful part of the country.  I can remember driving down Route 460 as a child, well I wasn’t driving, but I was in the car, and seeing the breathtaking vistas of the Blue Ridge Mountains.

My mother's childhood house and shed. The outhouse she used is long gone, but it still looks more or less the same structurally - except the deck. (Photo: Reed)

The house she grew up in still stands on a steep slope overlooking the town.  Today nearly 6,000 people live in Richlands compared to about 4,800 when my mother was a child.  Not too much has changed in my mind.  The King Kone ice cream and hot dog stand still gets people lined up two or three deep.  Mom used to love their chili dogs.  I went back last year with my dad and got one.  They must have been better back in the day.

Graduation from Richlands High School, 1960

Mom graduated from Richlands High School in 1960.  She followed the footsteps of her older sisters and went to nursing school, however, nursing wasn’t for her and she ended up working for the federal government in Washington, DC.

She was living with my uncle Jack on the fourth floor of a crimson colored brick apartment complex in Arlington,VA. The place is still there today in fact.  In the summer of 1962 my dad was moving in across the hall.  “There were some girls who were whistling and giggling at me as I was carrying things in,” he told me smiling.  “They kept hiding though when I would try to see who it was.”  Well, the rest is history as they say.

Jerry and Lenora were married on January 23, 1964.  They packed up the car and drove to California, sold everything except what they could carry in some suitcases and started out on a trip around the world.  The first stop was Honolulu.  They figured they would work for a while there until they had enough money to move on to the South Pacific.  They never made it any further and five years later left the tropical paradise of Don Ho and moved to California where my brother and I were born.

My mother and brother playing with my Uncle Jack's dog Spike in 1973. (photo: Reed)

The next 20 years were spent raising us kids.  Although we had a baby sitter when we would get home from school, they rarely left us with a sitter to go out to dinner or those kinds of things.  They completely put their social lives on hold in order to spend time with us.  Our house was full of love and laughter and a few screams of my brother and me fighting.

Mom was extremely generous.  We didn’t have much money to give, but she was always thinking of others before herself.  She searched voraciously to find the perfect card to send to her friends and family.  She wrote beautiful kind letters.  She led by example; instilling in my brother and me virtues of kindness, sympathy and honesty.

When I was 16 I was selected to be a Rotary Youth Exchange Student and went to Guasave, Mexico for my 11th grade year of high school.  On the eve of my flight, we sat in a hotel outside of Baltimore, MD fearing the unknown of a year apart.  Tears were flowing and my mother took me for a short walk outside our hotel.  She told me something that I will never forget.

My brother Ryan, Mom, Dad, Me in Ireland

“All my life I have worked to help you become independent.  You’ve grown up so much and are setting out to write a new chapter of your life.  We shouldn’t be crying; we should be celebrating.  This is what your father and I have dreamed of ever since you were born is to see you mature and develop into your own person.”

I think we both knew that I still had a lot of growing up to do but as always she had a way with words to make the pain or the sadness go away.  I must have received at least 100 letters from her during my 11 months in Mexico.

Mom died on the morning of December 15th, 2006 from some complications from a by-pass surgery she underwent a few days earlier.  She had battled heart disease for more than two decades since having her first heart attack days before Christmas in 1984.  It’s somehow ironic that someone with such a big and loving heart would die of heart related illness.

Me and mom in Rio de Janeiro in 2003.

Today I remember her.  I remember her smile, her laughter, her listening, her dancing with my dad in the kitchen, her gentle touch, her love of books, her love for family, her fondness for her work and coworkers and most of all her hugs.  I celebrate her life and the beauty she brought to the lives of so many others.

If you are able to spend the day with your mother, make sure you tell her that you love her and appreciate all that she has done for you.  Hug her and hold her an extra moment while you remember all of those who have lost their mothers.

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By Reed Sandridge, a Kindness Investor and Founder of Year of Giving.

Matt out of costume (courtesy of Faction of Fools)

I thought I would catch you up on a former recipient: Matt from Day 250.  Although I met up with him in February, it somehow seemed appropriate to share this update with you this week since two days ago marked the Ides of March and you might recall Matt was portraying William Shakespeare when I originally met him at an arts festival for children back in August of 2010.

My recent encounter with Matt was at a fundraiser he was throwing to try to raise money for his nonprofit theatre company called Faction of Fools, which focuses on Commedia delle’Arte.  Commedia del what?  It’s a genre of theatre characterized by its use of masks, improvisation, physical comedy, and recognizable character types – all characters are based off of four specific types of characters.  You can find more information here.

As I walked in the door of the Gala Carnavale I was greeted by one of the characters who announced in a thunderous voice to all the other guests, “Welcome Lord Sandridge.”  I thought I was special for about a minute when the front door opened and two more people came in and their names were also proudly announced as well.  I was fitted with a mask and then saw Matt, who was wearing a suit instead of a costume.  I took off my mask to say hello.  He looked a little tired which is reasonable right?  He’s been working his but off to pull this event together.

And it was not only going on here in Washington, but all over the world.  February 25th is Commedia delle’Arte day.  What the heck is that you might ask? Well, “It’s the ‘birthday’ of professional theatre,” Matt explained.  “On February 25, 1545, a troupe under the leadership of Ser Maphio signed the first contract of theatrical incorporation in Padua, Italy.”

“For the first time in history there are celebrations on every continent,” he shared with a glowing smile.  Yep, even the winter-over crew of Amundsen-Scott South Pole Station in Antarctica was also hosting a celebration.  Matt had been busy!

That's Matt under that mask performing The Great One-Man Commedia Epic

The evening was a huge success.  There were some amazing items to bid on in the silent auction, delicious food and drink and of course, a sampling of theatrical pieces that they have been performing.  I tried pretty hard to get some of the items in the silent auction, but I ended up getting outbid.

For those of you in DC, keep a look out for Faction of Fools.  Their performances are a lot of fun.  As I was writing this up I saw that Matt is doing his signature piece, The Great One-Man Commedia Epic, this Sunday at The Corner Store.  It’s pretty wild.  Matt plays all 12 characters!

Oh, I almost forgot.  Happy St. Patrick’s Day.  Be careful if you are out and about tonight.  It’s amateur drinking night.

Stay tuned for tomorrow when our newest Kindness Investor, Sibyl from Brentwood, TN, starts her seven days of giving.

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

Day 4 Intention ~ Today, I Choose Greatness

I had the great honor to meet 9 1/2 years old Stephanie E. at Indigo Moon, a yoga/massage and gift shop where her mom works.  Stephanie is great not just because she shares a great name as me, but she is truly an all around amazing kid.  As a fourth grader, she is a Safety Patrol Monitor at her school.  Her role is to help as a hallway monitor and bus buddy. Stephanie is also involved in The Circle of Giving program at her school that was created to honor a teacher’s son who passed away in the third grade.  Stephanie believes the program has been going on since the 90’s. She thinks it’s a great opportunity because over Thanksgiving she volunteered at The Ronald McDonald House.  Stephanie has also decided to give back by volunteering to help the Food Bank of New Jersey feed people, especially children.

She decided to volunteer with her mom.  I asked Stephanie, “Why is your mom great?”  Stephanie said her mom is funny and makes her laugh. She says being funny helps people to be happy.

This young girl is not only giving in many ways, but also talented.  She is a great artist, an excellent writer and loves gymnastics, even though she is now healing from a sprained ankle.  Stephanie also likes swimming in the summer and always loves playing with her dog, Brodie.

This young lady describes herself as, “crazy in my own way.”  I asked her what that meant.  She said she likes to entertain people and is usually energetic and happy. Stephanie said the greatest gift you can share each day is happiness.  I have to say, I agree!

Kids are great and so are you, Stephanie.  I love the creative person you are.  You are a leader and will continue to do great things in your life!

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A picture of Bob from my original encounter with him a year ago. (Photo: Reed)

Tomorrow will mark exactly one year since I met Bob on the basketball court near the intersection of 17th and P Streets in DC.  Draped in layers of clothing and blankets Bob made me very nervous.  I remember his hands disappearing under the garments several times as he erratically moved closer to my face calling me stupid.  “Was there a weapon concealed beneath the sea of fabrics he wore?” I thought to myself as I held my ground.

It turns out that Bob suffers from mental illness and probably doesn’t pose a threat to anyone.  I have seen him a few times since our original encounter; however, I hadn’t been able to really talk to him until last night.  It was just before midnight as I headed home from a dinner at Birch and Barley on 16th Street with an old colleague in town for the week.

“Oh, yeah…you were the one who writes the stories,” he told me after I reminded him that I had given him $10.  “Well, ok,” he began to say nervously, “So, how have things been with you?”  I gave him a quick update on me and then tried to find out what he has been up to.

He was dressed in the exact same sweatshirt and torn slippers that he wore a year ago.  The aluminum foil, rags and plastic bags that covered his head were gone; however, he now had a small swatch of aluminum foil covering his nose.  It was held in place by a rubber band that wrapped around his head, forcing the skin of his upper cheeks toward his eyes.

I watched as he shot from the foul line.  Like my earlier encounter he sank basket after basket always shooting with just the right hand.  In his left hand he held a newspaper, bottle of water and the corner of the grey standard issue homeless outreach blanket.  His twelfth attempt wasn’t successful.  “That wasn’t a good shot,” he said as he released the slightly deflated ball, “I’m not concentrating.”  I apologized and offered that he probably missed the shot because I was talking to him.  He says that he believes that he has made 20+ one-handed shots from the foul line this century.  That doesn’t compare to his record of lay-ups in a row which he claims to be approximately 2,900.

The evening was definitely worthy of a warm jacket but the still air and bright light from the moon’s last quarter phase helped mitigate the temperature.  He seemed to be shooting a little hastily, albeit every time placing his toe exposed slippers in the exact same location.

“I think there is about four or five specific movements that I do and I try to do them exactly the same way every time in order to make a basket.”  He went on to explain that the key is to add a little bit of top-spin to the release.

Another photo from my original encounter with Bob in 2010.

I stood in silence and watched him shoot.  He’s truly gifted at being able to reproduce the same shot.  One of his attempts misses and I take the opportunity to ask him about the $10 I had given him.  I actually never asked him what he was going to use it for so I thought I would try to take the moment to find out.  He didn’t recall very well, after all it has been a year, but he said it probably went toward some food or bus fare.

My question about money must have triggered something in his head.  “Do you have a few dollars that you could give me,” he asked not taking his eyes from his target.  The shot missed and he walked over to retrieve the ball next to his cart holding his belongings.  I reached into my pockets and found some coins.  “I hate to ask you but I need to add a few dollars on my Metro card.”  I pulled a five dollar bill from my wallet and placed it in his hand.

Shortly after I thought I should leave.  It was now close to 12:30 in the morning and I needed to get up early.  I shook his weathered hand and told him to take care of himself.  He returned the pleasantry and continued shooting baskets.  I watched him shoot as I excited the court.  He made three in a row before he slipped out of sight.

You can find my original post on Bob by clicking here.

 

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Blog post by Reed from Washington, DC.

When I started the second Year of Giving and invited others who were out of work or underemployed to pick up where I left off after my 365 day journey I didn’t know what to expect.  I knew that a year was way too long to find someone who would continue the giving; however, I figured that I could easily find people who would commit to seven days of giving.  I was wrong!  I’ve had a hard time finding new Kindness Investors.  Can you feel me trying to nudge those of you who are on the fence about it?

As a result I am in a situation where we have no Kindness Investor for a few days; however, I figured I would take advantage of this time to give you some updates on some of the amazing people that I met last year.

 

This is Knox on December 15th, 2009.

The Year of Giving began on the afternoon of December 15th 2009.  On that chilly monochromatic day, I got rejected twice before finding Knox who accepted my $10 as he hawked his shoe shining services on the corner of 21st and P Streets in DC.

 

Fast forward 365 days and Knox made it to the year-end celebration on December 14th 2010.  There is a great photo of us from that event.

And then I ran into Knox on February 12th after I was volunteering with Yachad.  It was ten minutes shy of midnight when I heard the familiar voice reaching out to the alcohol coated passersby on 7th Street near Chinatown.

We chatted for a while.  “Business is good,” he told me.  And he said that he has been doing well.  He claims to have a handle on his addictions although I am not sure what that means…especially after he produces a bottle of shaojiu, an indiscernible clear white liquor that based purely on the label probably has never made it to any FDA testing lab.

 

One year after meeting him, I was reunited with Knox, my very first recipient, . (photo: Michael Bonfigli)

Anyway, Knox is Knox.  He still thinks that I am some sort of event producer.  Ever since I invited him to the year-end party he thinks that I organize regular events.  He encourages me to throw another party soon and invite him to shine shoes.  I let him in on the secret that I am actually not an event planner…although I guess I could be as it seems that I am collecting professions these days.  He seemed disappointed but I promised him that when I throw the year-end celebration in December that he will again get an invite.

 

I updated his cell number in my phone, handed him the three dollars I had left in my pocket and said goodbye.  It was late and I don’t think I was helping his business a bit.

To read my original blog post on Knox that I posted on December 16th, 2009, click here.

 

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

I met today’s recipient at Chik-fil-A in Pasadena, TX, while going through the drive-thru with Mom and Jack.  Have you ever had their chicken sandwich? If an investor had approached me about a new restaurant whose feature item was a fried chicken breast with three pickles on a buttered bun, I would have laughed them out of the room.  Now, I probably single-handedly keep the one on Fairmont Parkway in business.  They’re sooooo good.  And they make great iced tea; lemon, no sugar.
 
Chris T. was taking orders outside with a co-worker, trying to keep the growing line coiled around the building moving.  After he took our order, I introduced myself and told him about the Kindness Investment project.  He was very interested and said he’d be happy to talk to me, but didn’t have a lot of time right then to answer all my questions.  I found out he’s working at the fast-food chicken chain while attending college.
 
I gave him the $10 and we agreed to talk later.  He gave me his phone number and I left a message, but he hasn’t returned my call.  I don’t want to hold up the blog, so if/when I hear from him I’ll post an update at that time.

Well, today is my final day of giving.  It went by so fast!  My week as a Kindness Investor was a great experience and one I highly recommend to others, unemployed or working.  The project made me more aware of the many people who pass in and out and around my life every day, whom I never would have thought to talk to.  The experience added a new dimension to giving.
 
I’m now looking forward to meeting the distinguished gentleman dressed in the cream suit who rides his bike near our home, the woman wearing scrubs who walks her young daughter to school every day, and of course, the streetperson with his right leg missing whom I’d planned to include in the project all week.  I’m going to make more time to talk to people while waiting in lines, find out where they’re from, and really make a connection, even if for a few minutes.  I truly believe the electricity generated from each connection made causes a ripple effect that can only add more kindness to the world.
 
In hindsight, the best lesson I learned is that it’s better to pick people who aren’t ‘on the job’ (D’Oh – seems so obvious NOW…).  I thoroughly enjoyed meeting all the ‘investments’ this week, but I think the best interviews were with those I could spend more time with in a relaxed environment – Patricia and Marcos.
 
I haven’t contacted Patricia to follow up yet – she wants me to meet her daughter and see her great-grandmother’s picture,  but Marcos has become a regular fixture at our house.  We’re on his way home from school and he comes over to walk Jack, borrow books and use the computer.  Turns out his mom makes AWESOME tamales from scratch, along with her own hot sauce, for $8 a dozen.  I’m totally hooked.  If anyone in the southeast Houston / Pasadena area wants some, please let me know and I’ll hook you up, too.  Except for Mama Ninfa’s, they’re the best I’ve had outside of Mexico.

Marcos using the computer at Mary's house.

In fact, Marcos is in the living room with Henry and Jack watching TV as I write this.  I can hear him laughing.  He just inhaled TWO huge cheeseburgers Henry grilled for dinner.  Marcos is a great kid and we’re happy to have him in our lives.  This friendship likely wouldn’t have happened if not for Reed and the Year of Giving project.

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

I got a refusal today.  I first approached Carol M who was working at Pier One, but she decided not to accept the $10, but said that she liked the project and I did spend some time talking with her.

Later I gave the $10 to a lady selling newspapers on the street – I wish I had had time to talk with her and find out what she planned on doing with the money, or even get her name, but it just wasn’t meant to be.

Reed asked me to share the cards I have been using.  Below is a picture of the cards with the ten dollar bills that I am giving out.

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