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Archive for the ‘Refusals’ Category

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

Today I gave ten dollars to forty-eight year old Michael B, from Cicero.  I found him while I was walking around my neighborhood on a gorgeous day.  The weather is behaving itself, acting like a spring day should act, so lots of people are out “taking in the air.”

Michael was sitting on the curb outside McDonald’s, next to his blue bike.  Initially I’d thought to go into McDonald’s and find someone so I at first passed up Michael.  Inside I found a scruffy-looking middle-aged man drinking a cup of coffee by himself who let me explain the Year of Giving to him before refusing to take the money.

“You should find someone who really needs it,” he said.  Frankly, he looked to me like he really needed it,  but I took him at his word.

“Well,” I replied, “you could take it and then find someone worse off to give it to.”  He considered that option momentarily before again refusing politely.  I sensed I had hurt his pride.  Thanking him for his time, I left in search of another stranger.

Michael was still there, sitting quietly on the curb listening to his iPod.  He had a worried look on his face, and seemed absorbed in his thoughts.  As I approached he got up and started to unlock his bike.  I asked him if he had a minute to talk about a project and he said yes warily.  So once again, I explained the Year of Giving and my role in it.  

“Well, who wouldn’t want ten dollars for nothin’,” he joked.  “But what do I gotta do to get  it?”

“Nothing,” I said.

He looked taken aback.  I wondered if he thought I was trying to sucker him into a change-making scam.   I guess I looked too innocent for that sort of business because he started to act more curious than suspicious.

“So when is this supposed to happen,” he asked.

“Right now,” I replied cheerily.  “I’ve got the money right here in my back pocket.”  For some reason I felt like the Flying Nun at this moment, swooping in to save the day.

I saw a smile finally brighten his face.  “Sit right down, then,” he said, waving his hand in the direction of the curb as if he were ushering me into his office.

I handed him the ten as I sat.  He took it from me reluctantly, saying, “It don’t matter.  The money don’t matter.”  Once again, I sensed pride was at stake here.  I asked him right away what he planned to do with his ten.  He said he would use it to pay for transportation to work later that day.  I asked him what he did for a living.

“I’m a welder,” he replied with some pride.

“How’s business these days,” I asked.

“Terrible,” he replied, “just terrible.”  Michael went on to explain to me how his field has been railroaded by temporary hiring agencies like Manpower and Benchmark Staffing.  “You go to Careerbuilders.com and you look for welders or tool and die jobs, and you won’t find one—not one—that isn’t handled through an agency.”

The cost to Michael has been high.  Recently he was hired to do a job for $13/hr that would have paid him $25/hr a few years ago.  His income is now a fraction of the $70K he used to make, and as a result he’s been battling foreclosure for the past eight months.  Jobs for Michael only last a few months at a time, and then he is again on unemployment.  Sometimes that gets tricky.  For instance, he had listed his resume with 75 (yes, 75) different temp agencies.  One of those agencies reported to the government that he now had a contract with them, even though they had not supplied him with any work.  His unemployment was cancelled because of the meaningless contract.

Lack of health insurance is another problem.  Temp agencies rarely provide it.  Michael’s health is ok, but this past year has been tough due to a cold he has been unable to kick.  I could hear the rattle in his chest as we talked.  Occasionally he had to stop our conversation to cough.

“It’s from the public transportation,” he explained.  “I have to ride the trains and buses all the time now and there’re full of homeless people.  Homeless people are just livin’ on them, and they’re sick.  They’re coughin’ and sneezin’ and spittin’ on the floor.”  A look of disgust came over his face.  “I get better for a little while and then it just comes back again.”

I asked Michael about unions,  “Aren’t they helping?”

“They said they would help me.  I belonged to three unions, and I paid my dues.  I kept paying them until I couldn’t afford to anymore and then I gave up because they weren’t doing anything.  They were just sittin’ on the bench.”

In addition to the nagging cold, I could hear the exasperation in his voice. I share his frustration.  It seems to me the recession has settled into middle America like a lava flow slowly hardening around its ankles.  It has been enough to put anyone into a foul mood and I wished then and there I could do more for Michael.  I thought it might help if I got him talking about what has helped him survive this difficult time in his life.

“I’ve always had to fight,” he replied.  He went on to tell me about moving to Texas as a child.  His father promptly bought a fancy car and left his mother there with five kids.  Michael never saw his dad again.  Later they moved back to Chicago where he lived until he was sixteen.  “Then my mom kicked me out because she had all those other mouths to feed.”

“Michael, I’m sorry,” I said.  “That sounds really tough.  I can see you’ve had to fight to survive a lot in your life.”

I hoped I sounded genuinely sympathetic and not like I felt sorry for him, or like I wanted to smack his lousy parents for making him feel unwanted and unloved.  But Michael, I could tell, was not going to feel sorry for himself.  “The Lord gives me strength for it,” he responded.  “He has a plan for me somewhere along the line.  Besides, what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger.”

These are the gritty slogans that keep Michael going, and frankly, I’m amazed he can live on such thin soup.  He told me sometimes he gets inspiration from watching Joel Osteen on TV.  I can’t say I get inspiration from a man whose greatest struggle in life is deciding whether to live in a really big house or a mansion.  However, I am moved by Michael, who is fighting tooth and nail to keep his modest home, his health and his dignity as a skilled working man.  We stood and shook hands.

“Well, Michael,” I said, “I better let you go.  I know you have to get to work.“Good luck with…with.”

Michael laughed as together we both finished the sentence together“…with everything.”

Michael climbed on his bike, and I turned and walked towards home, wondering if a ten-dollar band-aid could possibly fix anything.

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

My third day of this journey gave me my first rejection, but life always takes a strange turn.  I began the day with the intent to give the $10 to a person in Southfield, Massachusetts, who I had yet to meet.  Southfield is a very small town in the Berkshires and I was there for the day assisting a friend on a 500+ acre plot of land that is home to a YMCA Summer Camp called Camp Wa Wa Segowea.  It’s an old-fashioned resident camp that is one of the most beautiful spots on the planet.  Of course, I might be a little biased, but it does seem that time stands still there.  And there’s nothing like seeing and hearing kids in the summertime enjoying themselves outdoors all day, learning and playing with their new best friends.  Every kid should go away to camp!

Anyways, stopping in Southfield for a cup of coffee brought me to my first person saying no, they couldn’t accept the money.  When asked why, his response was he had just finished an internship that had “that kind of giving” included, and also he was trying to reduce his presence on the internet.  I was a little distraught, but said goodbye and moved on.   Cut to the end of the day, and now I’m on my way back home, knowing I still had not found my daily recipient.  I was pretty sure I didn’t have anything in the refrigerator at home, so I was also in search of dinner.  I passed by a place, Tonio’s in New Hartford, Connecticut and was always going to stop there, but hadn’t yet.  I figured maybe two birds with one stone?

I went in, placed my order and spotted another guy also waiting for his order.  I made my introduction and found myself feeling pretty good as this was the 4th time I had said it, and thought I had it pretty down to a science now.  When the part came to ask if he would accept the $10, he asked if he could ask me a question.  Uh-oh, I thought, here it comes.  If I don’t answer it correctly, he’ll say no!  But the question was pretty simple.  He asked why the unemployed part?  I interpreted that meaning wouldn’t it be easier if an employed person would be the one doing the giving?  And I think I was correct in my interpretation.  My response was a couple of reasons and I gave them with the caveat that it was from my perspective.  I felt as an unemployed person, it was a shock at first and I was okay with it being that way right in the beginning, but after the newness wore off, it felt like I wasn’t a contributing member of society anymore.  This type of giving was helping me back in the fold.  I had something to offer someone.   The second reason was that it just feels good when you’re giving.

I’m guessing I interpreted right as he agreed on the being a contribution part and he indeed, said yes to the money. He even said he felt honored to be given it!  He himself was unemployed for nine months and shared that same feeling about needing to contribute to society.  His name is Tim L. and he’s from Wethersfield, CT.  He and his girlfriend were coming back from skiing at Catamount up in Hillsdale, NY and added the skiing was great there!  From middle school on, he said he always wanted to be in radio, on-air.

 

Tim L. at Tonio's Pizzeria in New Hartford, CT.

He graduated from the Connecticut School of Broadcasting and then had an internship at Clear Channel Radio.  He was on his way!  Unfortunately, due to the economy, he was laid off and he’s currently working in the mental health field at Community Mental Health Affiliates.  He helps monitor people with mental health problems and it keeps him quite busy.  His first love is radio though and before he left the internship, he was working in promotions for Clear Channel and liked that as well.  Unfortunately he couldn’t find a job in radio, and he was just starting to get into the behind the scenes work.

 

I said earlier that life takes a strange turn and because that first person said no to my $10, I felt I was destined to meet Tim, just to share radio stories!  My career in communications started in radio as well, after completing a course in NY, similar to Tim’s path.  We had a common bond!  So it was fun hearing someone else saying they had a passion for radio.

Tim had gotten his pizza, and I had gotten my sandwich and his girlfriend, who had been waiting in the car for him, came into the restaurant wondering what was up?  I felt bad keeping him and asking questions, but she was very nice and waited till we were done. I gave him my card, took his picture and he said he would look up the website for Year of Giving and we both went our separate ways.

Two questions I wished I would have asked him…1. What was he going to do with the money?  And 2, is there anything he would like in the Lend a Hand portion of the website?  I’m totally guessing on #2, but I bet he would love a job in radio!

So, Tim if you read this, what did you do with the money and am I right about #2?

 

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Knox gets his first customer of the day (photo: Reed)

Yesterday was a great day.  I ran into my very first recipient for the first time since we met on December 15, 2009.  I embarked on this journey 259 days ago when I placed $10 in the hands of a man named Knox who was shinning shoes on a bitter cold afternoon on the corner of 21st and P Streets.  I walked by him yesterday and I wasn’t sure if it was him, so I asked.  “Yeah that’s me,” he said.  He remembered meeting me too.  We talked and I got his phone number so that I can invite him to the year-end party.  “I’m gonna be there,” he assured me.  He also offered me a free shoe shine which I politely declined.   It made my day to see Knox again!  Here is an updated picture of him.

Knox, the Year of Giving's first recipient! (photo: Reed)

I am about two weeks behind writing up the blogs…so today’s recipient is from Day 246.  I was in the Columbia Heights neighborhood of Washington, DC when I realized I was close to the restaurant Social.  You might remember I visited this place on Day 84.  It’s a cool place that is hard to categorize.  I called it a restaurant, but it is rather chameleon like.  It is a restaurant, bar, lounge, living room…it is what you are looking for.  I ended up talking to some people sitting outside on their patio.  I offered a woman there the $10 but she refused.  Then a guy at the table suggested that I give the $10 to the next person that walked by.  Well, I was thinking that it might be difficult to get someone to stop and talk to me since it was almost midnight.

About 100 yards away we spotted a guy walking and when he got close I asked him to accept my $10, but he declined.  I sat back down and enjoyed one of the tasty beers they have at Social.  About five minutes later we spotted someone else approaching the patio.  One of the guys at my table said, “Oh my gosh, you may want to skip this guy,” because the man who was walking toward us had fluorescent blue hair, eyebrows and goatee.  When I saw him, I wasn’t discouraged, in fact, I knew that he was the one.

Freakshow isn't so freaky, he's actually a really nice guy (photo: Reed)

Somehow I wasn’t surprised when the 45-year-old Altoona, PA native told me, “They call me Freakshow.  I’m a DJ.”  He’s been mixing high energy music for several years here in DC creating a music genre that he calls “funky junk.”

I had to ask him about his color choice for his hair.  “It’s always changing; from leopard prints to zebra stripes, to an American flag mohawk.” (I’m back to using the word mohawk on my blog!)  He channels his creativity in many other ways too.

Freakshow is a flower designer and a re-creation artist; someone who takes “something that is considered to have outlived its useful purpose and give it one last chance at being worthwhile.”

He told me about one of his artworks that got a considerable amount of attention from his neighbors.  He decided to reuse his downspouts in a new and creative way.  Check out these photos from the Prince of Petworth’s website.

Freakshow's downspout art (photo: Reed)

"Creativity takes courage" -Henri Matisse (photo: Reed)

Like or dislike his creation, it does get a reaction.  It generated 90+ comments on the August 9th Prince of Petworth blog post.  Freakshow himself even chimed in to explain himself.  I personally don’t care much for the result of his new arrangement of the downspouts, but I get what he was doing and what I like even more about it was what he said about how his experiment triggered social interaction within his community.  “I in the past two weeks have had the opportunity to meet more of my neighbors than in the two years I have lived at this residence. I have made friend and foe but I have lived an experience that allowed me to see and grow, to realize how people can be so utterly judgmental of another person’s vision. I never claimed beauty or functionality I only took a moment to look at life from a different perspective and my god it was a journey.”

"It's always changing." Freakshow commenting on his hairstyle (photo: Reed)

By the way, Freakshow told me the whole creation was held in place by three screws and some duct tape.  I may be wrong, but I believe that he has since removed the downspout.  He wrote in the blog post comment that he envisioned replacing it with a brick patio, flower-cart and bench that hopefully won’t offend his neighbors.

So I bet you are wondering what this guy did with my ten bucks right?  More duct tape perhaps?  Nope, he joins previous recipients Matt and Isaac in using my $10 to purchase cigarettes.

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Abraham sits in the background near his flower stand (photo: Reed)

I wandered over to the benches near the Dupont Circle North entrance/exit…hoping to maybe find Johnnie, but he wasn’t there.  Near the benches I saw some guys selling flowers, I walked over and met Abraham and Moses.  Nice guys, but they both refused the $10.  

Larry shows his $10 at the north entrance of Dupont Circle's Metro stop (photo: Reed)

Then I spotted Larry back over on the bench where I had met Johnnie.  I walked over and handed him one of my cards and asked him to be recipient number 244.  After a little discussion he said, “I will accept the $10 but I will not keep it, I will find someone else to give it to who needs it more than I do.”   

Larry, a 55-year-old resident of DC, was enjoying a Starbucks coffee before catching the Metro home.  He has worked in housekeeping at a nearby hotel for the past 17 years.  “It’s a very good place to work,” he says.  But as you can imagine, as someone who goes into guests rooms, he has seen some crazy things over the years.  “I’ve seen grown men fist-fighting.  I have seen rooms completely destroyed.  I’ve probably seen it all.”  

One of twelve children, Larry has grown up in this city.  All twelve of the children and his parents still live here.  He is married and has a daughter.  

Larry was very committed to giving the $10 away.  He tried several times while I was there with him, but was not successful.  Some teenagers walked by and he tried to give it to them but they kept walking.  A father walked by with his child and Larry jumped up to try to give it to them, but they didn’t even stop to talk to Larry…they just kept walking.  Here he explains his rationale about his decision to pass the $10 along to someone else.  

Finally I thought Larry was going to find someone.  He found a student, Mike, who was sitting nearby on a bench.  Mike said that as a student he didn’t have much money himself but that he was sure there were people more deserving than him, so he politely refused.  Larry was struggling and becoming very anxious to give it to someone.  When we parted ways, he said, “Call me tomorrow and I will tell you what happened to the money because I guarantee you that I am going to find someone to give it to today, I ain’t going to keep it.”  

(photo: Reed)

The next day I called Larry and said that he found a guy and took him to Subway and bought him a sandwich.  “I still have $5 left though.”  I am going to give Larry a call this week and meet him for coffee and see if he did something with the other $5.  

By the way, I was able to deliver some clothes and other items to Garrett that Deb from Illinois sent.  You can see the video of him receiving the items here.

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On Day 241 I met up with the Russian Channel One team again.  They came to my apartment and filmed a little and then we headed over to Dupont Circle to find a recipient.  The first person I stopped was a young guy named Oliver.  He said “no” originally and then he said something that was very interesting.  After we spoke for a few minutes he made me an offer.  “I’ll take your ten-dollar bill if you take my twenty-dollar bill.”  I thought that was a really cool idea.  He was pushing my concept to the next level.  Unfortunately as you may know, I can not receive anything in return for my $10 so I couldn’t do that.  That was his condition on taking my money and unfortunately things didn’t work out, but I loved his creativity.  I didn’t get his information, but hopefully he will check this out and drop me a line!  I liked his style!

I then approached another person who said they were running late and didn’t have time.

Eric at Dupont Circle (photo: Reed)

They say that the third time is a charm.  Well, Eric helped make that statement come to fruition.  He looks to be a twenty-something who works for an IT company where you can dress how you want and the hours are flexible.  Well, I was pretty much right-on.  He works as a software developer for a non-profit that uses the power of the Internet to catalyze greater government openness and transparency, and provides new tools and resources for media and citizens, alike.  Basically it seems like they try to improve transparency and help the public connect with the government.  And since it was close to 10am, I think I am right about the flexible hours too. 

Eric is originally from the Catskills of New York but has also lived in Boston and NYC before coming to DC.  “I really like it here,” he says.  That might be largely as a result of his job as it turns out.  Either he really likes it or hopes that his boss reads this because he told me, “I’m the happiest I’ve ever been working where I am now.  There’s just 35 of us, it’s pretty cool.” 

Eric talking to Andrey from Russian Channel One (photo: Reed)

He keeps himself busy outside of the office as well.  “I like to do improv comedy and ride my unicycle.”  That’s right, Eric rides a unicycle.  He told me that one day when he was in Boston he saw a guy riding to work on a unicycle and he asked him if he could borrow it some time and the guy agreed.  Apparently it’s a small trusting community.  I mean, it would be easy to spot them if they don’t bring it back, right!  I assume he has his own now and didn’t keep the other guy’s unicycle and flee to Washington.  Hmmm…anyone missing a unicycle up in Boston?

Eric has “a few brothers” and is the proud father of a cat.  He also has a girlfriend – sorry ladies.  Speaking of which, he said that my $10 would help him take his girlfriend to dinner.

I finished and then the guys from Channel One had a chat with Eric for a while and we parted ways.  Cool guy.

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I have been contacted by some interesting news organizations about my year-long commitment.  From local news here in Washington, DC to morning shows to CNN.  Even a handful of international news organizations have reached out for interviews.  Recently I was contacted by Russia Channel 1, the leading broadcasting network in Russia.  They asked if they could interview me and follow me around for a couple of days.  Today is the first of two days that they joined me finding my daily recipient.

Carolyn in front of Union Station in DC (photo: Reed)


We met at Union Station and talked for a little while and then set out looking for someone to give my $10 to.  The first person I asked said that they were in a hurry, but the second person I approached agreed to receive my ten bucks.  Carolyn is in DC visiting her daughter who lives here and is a DC school principal.  

Although originally from Little Rock, AR, she now lives in Los Angeles.  In addition to raising five children, this 75-year-old found time to lead a career as a police officer, a nurse and later a pastor. 

Giving is nothing foreign to Carolyn.  She shared with me that she went to Haiti on  missionary tour and fed 2,000 people per day.  “It was such a site to see,” she said describing countless children as old as six that didn’t have clothes.  Back stateside she helped at men’s shelter for many years.  Just then she takes out a piece of paper in her bag that has contact information for free legal services for those living below the poverty line.  “Right now I was planning on going over to this McDonald’s and see if there is anyone who might need this information,” she explains to me motioning toward Union Station.  I’ll probably use your $10 to get me something to drink there too.  Here is a video of her explaining how she shares the legal information.

Carolyn says that she tries to help at least one person every day.  She credits her faith with fueling her service to others.  “I grew up in a Christian home,” she told me.  “I know that Jesus Christ is my personal savior and he has always opened doors for me.”

I asked her if there was anything that anyone reading her story could do to help her.  She reluctantly told me about a hospital bill that has gotten out of hand.  “I still owe about $1,300,” she says.  She tries to make monthly payments of $100, but the interest keeps building up.  She said that she could use some help getting that paid off.  “If anyone would be so kind as to help I can give them the payment information and they can directly pay the hospital.”  So many of my readers are very generous themselves, I wouldn’t be surprised if someone offered to help this kind woman.

After I was done speaking with her, Andrey from Russia Channel 1 interviewed her some as well.  You can see that here:

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If you are in Washington, DC, join me today at the Shakespeare Theatre Family Fun Fair from 10:00-2:00 downtown near the Verizon Center.  It should be a fun event for the whole family.

photo: Reed

I was recently dog-sitting in Manassas, VA for my friends Tressa and Tom.  It was nice to have a new community for a few days to share the Year of Giving with.  On my first day there I headed over to Costco to get some items that I needed.  As I was leaving I saw a man sitting with his child.  I asked him to be my 234th recipient but he preferred not to participate.  His name was Jeremy.

I then headed over to the Giant grocery store on Sudley Rd and picked up another couple items to have on hand for my weekend “getaway” in Manassas.  I was still looking for someone else but just didn’t seem to see the right person.  About a block away from the Giant there was a Family Dollar store.  I drove over there and saw a woman coming out of the store.

I parked quickly and ran over to Angela who was now loading her purchases into the car.  She was very friendly and open to talking with me.  We talked for about thirty minutes and I have thought about her and her story every day since.

Angela has overcome many challenges in life (photo: Reed)

Angela is a 35-year-old single mother of five kids!  The oldest is 17 and the youngest is seven.  Unfortunately she doesn’t have custody of the children right now because the father (they are separated) had nearby family that would be able to help raise the children.  Angela’s closest family members are in West Virginia.  She works two full-time jobs right now as a certified nursing assistant in order to be able to support herself and make payments to help with childcare of her children.  “I have been working as a CNA for 14 years now,” She says.  “I like what I do; it’s like taking care of family.”

As we talked more I discovered that just how difficult of a time it was for Angela when she and her husband separated.  It set off a series of events.  She got depressed and ended up losing her job and later her home.  “I slept in my car for a total of six months to get back to living in an apartment,” she told me.

Angela shared this very emotional moment with me in this video clip.  It’s heartbreaking to see and hear her describe such a difficult time in her life.

Angela has her own apartment now and wants to go back to school to get her nursing degree.  She also wants custody of her children.  “It’s really hard,” she admits.  I think it’s important that Angela pursue her nursing degree so that she can have a more stable financial situation, work fewer hours and have a more active role in the lives of her children.  The challenge with that is to be able to juggle nursing school while still working enough to make ends meet.  If you or anyone you know is a career counselor at a school that might be able to speak with Angela and give her some guidance on how to successfully manage all that, please contact me so that I can put you in touch with her.

As I said earlier I think about my conversation with Angela every day.  Meeting her and learning about her story really touched my heart.  It’s people like Angela that I meet that make going out and giving my $10 away every day worth it.

Angela in front of the car that she lived in for six months (photo: Reed)

She was tired and had worked all week.  Angela told me that she was going to run in to the Aldi supermarket and get some groceries with my $10.  I gave her a hug and walked back to my car and just sat there for a while thinking about how difficult it must have been to lose her husband, her children, her job, her house and live in her car.

Her determination and perseverance remind me of a quote by Harriet Beecher Stowe, “When you get into a tight place and everything goes against you, till it seems as though you could not hold on a minute longer, never give up then, for that is just the place and time that the tide will turn.” 

Angela’s tide is turning.

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I met a friend for lunch over near Union Station and then decided to walk back home. It’s about 30 blocks so I knew I would find somebody! I stopped by So Others Might Eat (SOME) and picked up some information and then kept on snaking my way over to Dupont Circle. I came across a nice guy who was originally from Mexico out walking a couple of dogs. He took my card but said he preferred that I find someone else…so on I went.

 

Tent City DC at Parcel 42 (photo: Reed)

I decided to stop by Tent City DC.  When I arrived at the abandoned lot at 7th and R Streets I didn’t find anyone there.  I walked around, yelled “hello, anybody home” but no voices came from any of the tents. Just then two young girls yelled over to me from outside the fenced in area where I was standing. “Hey, why are you guys staying in these tents?” I walked over and explained to them that I was not one of the people staying in the tents, but that they were protesting the fact that Parcel 42 was being earmarked for development into luxury condos instead of affordable housing like what was promised by the mayor’s office a few years ago.

I told them about my project and asked if I could give them my $10 for the day.

Shaquan and Cierra next to Tent City DC in the Shaw neighborhood (photo: Reed)

 Cierra is 17 and Shaquan is almost 16.  They are high school students who are working this summer at a youth camp.  They are also two of the 463,000 children living in foster care in the US.

Shaquan has been in the system since she was three and has been in and out of group homes and families all of her life. “The system has got a lot of problems,” Shaquan says. “Every time you go to a new place you got to go through the whole screening process again.” Cierra has only been in foster care for about five years but even in that relatively short amount of time she has been shuffled between 6-8 families. Right now they are both living with Cierra’s sister for the summer, but soon they will go back to a foster family or group house.

They say that some foster families are only in it for the money. “They get a lot of money from the government and we don’t see any of it,” according to Shaquan. I played devil’s advocate a little and reminded them that the families also have a lot of costs that they may not see directly. The agreed that that was probably true, but they still felt like there were some inequities there.

I was deeply sadden as I talked to these smart, articulate young women. They have been forced to grow up much faster than others. They have felt unloved and unwanted at times and suffered through the pain that accompanies those emotions. “It’s hard,” Shaquan starts to say, “I used to blame other people for my actions, but I can’t blame nobody but myself. You got to keep your head up!” She went on to say that she was adopted by a family years ago and she “messed it all up.” She was referring to a woman named Ms. Theresa. I learned that in addition to adopting Shaquan, Ms. Theresa had also opened her home to Cierra. “Man, I wish I was back there now. I didn’t know how good I had it, but I messed up again,” Shaquan says.

I asked them what they were going to do with the $5 that each of them had in their hand. “Probably give it to someone else,” they said. “If I see a homeless person and I got money in my pocket, I give something,” Shaquan says.

photo: Reed

This was one of those days that I couldn’t stop thinking about the people who I had met for a long time after the goodbyes. Both of these girls have so much to offer the world. They are smart. They are charismatic. They are strong yet sensitive and thoughtful at the same time. They are beautiful young women who have not had the easiest path to get to where they are today and admitted to having made some poor choices themselves. What impressed me most was their attitude. They could have said “poor me, why me?” But they didn’t. They accepted responsibility for their actions and their lives and were living in the present making the best out of the cards that they have been dealt.  Keep your head up!

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Today’s recipients are third year medical students at George Washington University Medical School.  It seems that I have had a lot of recipients in the medical field over the last couple weeks. 

I was walking by SoHo Café on the corner of P and 22nd Street, which by the way if you live in DC you should definitely check this place out.  They are really nice there and always take good care of you. Anyway, I saw a guy in front of the café holding a bottle of booze and thought that this guy is starting his weekend off with a bang!  He turned out to be a rather bizarre individual.  He was really paranoid or on some mind altering substance and became very nervous.  Soon another individual approached him and he refused my Alexander Hamilton and walked away. 

I slowly turned in a circle, scanning the scene until I saw Kat and Ben sitting at an outside table at SoHo.  They had laptops out and seemed to be working on a project (they were actually filling out rotation schedules) or something.  I walked up to them and introduced myself and the Year of Giving

The med students were a bit curious about my project.  Ben asked a couple investigative questions about the project.  I asked them if they would accept the $10 and they looked at each other and shrugged and said “Sure.”  

I asked them what they thought they might specialize in.  They were still pretty open-minded about this and didn’t really have any decision made yet.  “Not geriatrics or psychology” Ben said.  Kat agreed. 

I asked them what they liked to do when they were not studying.  “We live pretty boring lives,” Ben lamented.  I felt bad about invading their time when he said “This is about the only time we have free.”  But that didn’t stop me!  No sir!  Not me.  Seriously, I tried not to keep them too long, but I did want to learn a little more about them.  I found out that Kate loves to play soccer and has been playing since she was 4!  She really enjoyed watching the World Cup this year.  Ben shared that he did his undergraduate studies at Knox College, a small liberal arts school in Illinois.  There he had a radio show for four years and later became the general manager.  He also studied abroad in Copenhagen.

I thought that was pretty impressive and then Kat added that she studied abroad in Spain (Salamanca) and spent some time in Switzerland and New Zealand where she jumped out of a perfectly good airplane!  Pretty impressive.

So what would two young people who seem to have it all do with this new found $10?  Ben seemed to take the lead in their decision making process and explained to me the likely fate of the ten spot.  “Honestly, I think $5 will go toward beer, $3 and change toward an empanada at Julia’s Empanadas and the rest will end up as tip probably.” 

Ben and Kat, on left, enjoy some down-time from their busy med school studies (photo: Reed)

As I always do, I asked to photograph them and get their email so that I can send them an invite to the year-end celebration.  Usually younger people are very comfortable with both of these requests, however, they preferred to stay more anonymous.  They did allow me to take this one picture from far away…that’s them sitting at the table on the left.

Well, I felt like I might have worn out my welcome a little and said goodbye.  I do hope that they check out the blog and decide to come to the celebration in December.  Time to head home before it rains.

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Day 219 – Tara H.

Day 219 was an interesting experience. It ended up being about 10:00pm and I hadn’t given away my $10 yet.

Tara and Sean in the fountain at Dupont Circle (photo: Reed)

On my way home from an event I attended I decided to see who I could find at Dupont Circle. I saw a group of people sitting on the edge of the fountain. A young lady in their group was actually standing in the fountain and two others dangled their feet in the cool water in search of some respite from the smothering heat. Just as I got close to them they spotted a friend passing by and started chatting with him. I kept walking to the south side of the fountain and sat down on a bench and just watched the scene for a little bit. It wasn’t long before I spotted Tara and Sean.

I saw a couple who were standing in the fountain getting their picture taken by a random person. They were using their phone to take the picture and I overheard someone saying that the picture didn’t come out very well. Although I didn’t have my SLR camera with me I did have my small canon digital camera that my friend Patricia lent me when my canon digital camera died. I figured I might be able to get a better picture for them. While offering to take their photo I took advantage of the opportunity to ask them to be my 219th recipient. This launched us into a thirty minute roller coaster discussion about my motives and reasoning behind my project and giving in general.

While Tara seemed more open to accepting the $10, Sean was quite clear that he didn’t want the money. A few times he actually said that he would  accept it but wanted me then to go and find someone more “deserving” to give it to.  I explained that he could do that but he wasn’t interested in that option. At a certain point I wrote the encounter off as a refusal and decided to take the photo of the two twenty-somethings anyway and send it to them.

About that time Tara made me an offer. “If you get in the fountain with me I will accept your $10” I was dressed in a suit and can assure you that if you had asked me earlier that day to name 100 potential things I would be doing later that evening, jumping in the fountain at Dupont Circle would not have made the list. With a little encouragement from Tara I decided to take her up on the offer. I think this marks the first time that I have had to do something for someone else in order for them to accept my $10.

Off went my socks and shoes. I rolled up my suit pants to my knees and

Reed steps around to the other side of the camera (photo: Sean)

swung my leg over the edge of the fountain. Before I knew it the two of us were standing in the middle of the fountain laughing as Sean took a photo of us. It was fun and felt really good.

We got out of the fountain and I let my feet dry off a little.

I found out that Tara works for a property management firm in Annapolis, MD where she has lived her entire life with the exception of attending East Carolina University. Sean and her have been friends since their freshman year of high school. On this night they were just hanging out, catching up with one another and having a few drinks.

I asked Tara what she planned on doing with the $10. “I want to do something good with it but it might just get spent on alcohol at the next bar we go to” she admits. I told her that she could do anything she wanted to with the money. “You know what, I am going to find a homeless person to give it to on the way to where we’re going.”

I put my socks and shoes back on and said goodbye to them both. They headed toward the Dupont Hotel and I headed back toward my place.

I got the following email from Tara the next day:

Reed,
I met you last night in the Dupont Circle fountain and you chose my friend Sean and I to be your Pay it Forward. I wanted to let you know after a deliciously over priced martini at Cafe Dupont, before retrieving a cab, I walked back over to the circle and woke up a homeless man. I asked him if he was hungry, he said “of course” and then I handed him the $10.
The first words out of his mouth were “God bless you, your an angel” and I just walked away. I’ve read many of the responses on your blog about peoples’ judgement on why we (being the participants that give away the money to someone that “deserves” it) would do such a thing. It isn’t even because it made me feel good, because it didn’t, I was thinking about the much larger picture and impact that you are having on so many people. After grabbing the cab and passing off the $10, we went back to my friends house and were sitting there telling his roommates about how we met this crazy guy named “Reed” and everything about the Year of Giving and his one roommate was like “Yea, yea, yea… OH MY GOD, I’ve heard about this guy! He’s like famous.” And of course I start laughing immediately at Sean from his skepticism but we were so enlightened by the whole experience.

Point being:
a) You chose my friend and I for a reason
b) We could have easily spent the $10 at the bar but instead that $10 fed a homeless man for the next 2 days.
c) Making you get into the fountain with me just so you could give me $10 was RIDICULOUS!
d) What you are doing is special, kind and humbling.

God bless you and your ventures!!!
I’m excited to follow you up until your Christmas Party!

It was a pleasure.
Tara

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Before I introduce you to Andrew, I have two updates.  The first one is a big one.  After 285 days of unemployment I have accepted a position with the World Wildlife Fund and will begin next week!  Don’t worry though, the Year of Giving will continue!  Perhaps this will give me a new perspective on giving.  Thanks to so many of you who have given me encouragement throughout the past 9 months.

The other update is that I delivered some items for Phillip from Day 75.  Click here to see him receiving some of the items that you have sent!

Day 191 was one of the days that I was struggling with my dying laptop.  I had been over at my brother and his wife’s house all day trying to rescue it.  It was nearing the midnight hour and I rushed out of the house in pursuit of a recipient.

Andrew (Photo: Reed)

I saw a man walking along North Lynn Street in Arlington and stopped to see if he would accept my $10.  I tried hard to convince him to participate, but he stuck to his guns and said he didn’t want to “get involved.”  Strike one.  Back in my car and across the Key Bridge into DC.  I headed over to the “Social Safeway” on Wisconsin Avenue where I found Andrew studying the contact lense solution at 11:40pm.  The 22-year-old is in DC for the summer doing an internship for his master’s degree program in international affairs at Georgia Tech.  I asked him if he always does his shopping around midnight.  “No, I just happened to have time now,” he responded.  

When Andrew is not studying and working he is training for his first marathon.  I have never had a desire to run a marathon.  I could see trying to do a 10-miler, but I have no interest whatsoever in running 26 miles!

The grandson of Eastern European immigrants, he has lived abroad in Bulgaria for four months.  He talks about his grandmother fondly.  “She is 86 and still going strong!”  Maybe his grandmother and his time in Bulgaria

Photo: Reed

have fueled his interest to get grant money to go to the Black Sea region and study the relationship between highly bureaucratic governments and the degree of development that has occurred within the country.  If you can offer any suggestions on how Andrew can secure grant funding for this specific project, please leave a comment here.    

“So what are you going to do with the $10,” I ask.  He says that he will put it toward an outing with his “Little.”  That’s right.  Somehow Andrew finds time to be a Big Brother to a six-year-old in Atlanta.  “I feel that the best way to help those who are disadvantaged is to volunteer my time and be a positive role model for them.”  I couldn’t agree more.  “Somehow you got to break the cycle,” he concludes.

Andrew (Photo: Reed)

At the end of our conversation, I learn that Andrew will be joining the Air Force upon his graduation from grad school.  “I just got my bars pinned on,” he tells me.  With his international interest I am not surprised when he tells me that he plans to serve in the Intelligence Division.  I am sure he will go far.  Thanks in advance for your service to our country.

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First of all, happy father’s day!

From time to time I look up some of the statistics of the blog.  What would you guess is the number one word searched upon that leads people to the website?  Giving?  $10?  Reed Sandridge?  Nope, the number one word for weeks now is “Mohawk!”  I have no idea why.  I went to Google and typed in Mohawk and the Year of Giving doesn’t come up.  I did mention mohawks on Day 13 when I was sharing that Davie from Day 5 offered to give me a haircut to thank me for helping him out…that was one style that he said he was good at.

Anyway, today’s story is slightly different from most.  I grabbed a cab over to the Courthouse area of Arlington.  I thought I might give the cab driver my $10.  His name was Ismael.  A 54-year-old immigrant from Ethiopia, he has lived in Virginia for the last 21 years.

He tells me that he likes driving a cab because “I get to meet nice people like you.”  Despite his kindness, people are not always nice to him.  “It can be risky and even dangerous.”  Although nothing really bad has happened to Ismael, he says that some people have threatened him and occasionally customers quickly jump out of his cab without paying.  “Ninety percent of the people are good decent people though.”

I asked Ismael if he would accept my $10, but he said that he couldn’t.  I asked him to humor me though and tell me what he would do if he found $10 or somebody randomly gave him $10.  “I would pass it along.  If I don’t earn the money then I don’t think I should keep it,” he said.  

I really wanted to give Ismael my $10 and figured that he couldn’t stop me from giving him the money.  We arrived at my destination and the meter read $10.  I would have normally given him $12, but decided to give him $22 and include my $10.  I thanked him, wished him good luck, and handed over the money and my Year of Giving card.  Then I quickly jumped out of the cab probably like those individuals he had told me about and entered the restaurant where I was meeting some friends for dinner.

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On my first day back in the US after my trip to Colombia I wandered around my neighborhood looking for a recipient.  I ran into Leonel from Day 56.  He was at Books-A-Million.  He said he was doing well and we agreed to try to meet up that Saturday to watch Team USA play in the World Cup.

I walked over to the Starbucks at Dupont Circle and found a few people sitting outside enjoying the nice weather.  The first man I approached refused to participate and even refused to receive my card.  I walked to another man outside and he shook his head and said no.  He was from Cuba and spoke to me for a minute or two but said he wasn’t interested in participating.  He kept my card.

Feeling a bit rejected, I headed inside to see if my luck would change.  It was there that I found Michael sitting on a stool.  He seemed interested in what I was doing.  After a few minutes, a man came out of the restroom and Michael said, “Hey listen to what this guy is doing.”  I explained the Year of Giving again and his friend said that this sounded interesting.  They agreed that Michael would receive the $10.

“I have been crying all day today,” Michael shared with me.  I imagined the worse and suggested that we not do the interview.  “It’s ok, they were tears of joy!”  It turns out that Michael was celebrating 80 days of sobriety after a two-year roller coaster addiction to crystal meth.  On top of that his friend that was with him was celebrating one year free of the drug.  

Michael is in active recovery and attends daily meetings and has a sponsor.  “I am in a very good place today,” he says.  It’s a day-to-day process though he admits.  “I am focusing on how to stay clean.”  As we begin to talk, Michael’s friend chooses to go outside as it becomes difficult to hear the painful story.

Crystal Meth user (photo: crystalmethaddiction.org)

His addiction started by trying it for the first time with a former lover.  “Meth is a huge problem for the gay community,” he tells me.  I can’t help but listen to Michael’s story without thinking back to Rob’s story from day 117 .  “I lost my job, my partner, my house, my dignity, my self-respect, and my self-esteem.”  A former 20 year alcoholic, Michael is familiar with addiction.  “Addicts are liars.  When I was using my immediate reaction was to lie about everything, even to myself.”  The situation got so bad that I decided to kill myself.  It took an intervention by an ex-partner and a family member that resulted in him going to a treatment center to save his life.

Given the sensitivity of his story, Michael preferred to stay anonymous and not have his picture taken.  He also didn’t want to offer his email address telling me “I will send you an email.”  Unfortunately I haven’t heard from him yet.

“I know exactly what I am going to do with this $10,” he says.  “I am going to donate it to Crystal Meth Anonymous”  According to the website, CMA is a free organization that brings together men and women who share their experience, strength and hope in order to help one another free themselves from their addictions to crystal meth.  Michael spoke very highly or the organization.

The support he receives has helped him stay sober.  He now has a job and is “starting to live again.”  He told me he used to think that he was the only one in his situation.  With the support of the group he now knows that his situation is not unique.

His friend came back and they shared a moment just smiling at one another.  He turned and looked at me and said, “This is the happiest day of my life and I got to share it with someone I love.”

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The day had finally come that I had to return to Washington after almost two weeks of incredible work in Manizales. 

I am working on a collage of photos of my trip that I hope to post soon.

I left the coffee and banana finca for the last time and made the way up the mountain.  Four-wheel drive is a must.  I hopped out as we got to Adriana and Augusto’s store and switched the ten dollar bill and we continued on our way.

It’s a pretty drive, wrapping around the mountainous roads of Colombia’s coffee belt for two hours. 

I arrived with plenty of time and started to make my way through the check-in process.  Now I have been to Colombia before and am familiar with the multiple revisions that they do of your luggage, but this time it went a step further.  I had purchased some coffee and other goods to bring back as gifts for some friends.  They poked holes in almost every item I had and tasted it.  They opened up the Colombian rum that I had purchased and poured some over their finger to make sure that it wasn’t liquid heroin!  I know the man was just doing his job and that he is doing it for all the right reasons, however, it’s frustrating to watch someone open and damage all of your gifts for others.

While I was being searched I noticed another man that was being searched who looked familiar.  I asked the customs officer who he was and he said that it was Tego Calderon

, a well-known Latin American Reggaetón artist.  I had heard of his name but couldn’t say that I was familiar with his music.  Anyway, I thought he might be an interesting person to give him my $10. 

Tego Calderon

On board the flight from Pereira, Colombia to Panama’s Tocumen International Airport I saw Tego again.  He was being moved up from coach to first class.  We arrived in Panama and were met on the tarmac by a shuttle bus that took us to the terminal.  As I squeezed into the crowded shuttle bus I found myself shoulder to shoulder with the Puerto Rican musician who appeared to be travelling with his wife and some friends or band members.  I asked him how the concert went in Pereira and he politely replied that it went well.  Then there was a little silence and he turned to chat with one of his friends.

So many of you have written to me talking about anxiety to approach someone and give them $10.  Well, let me tell you…I was very nervous about Tego to accept my $10, but I did.  He accepted my card and read both sides of it.  “So what is it?” he asked in Spanish.  I explained very quickly the concept and he replied, “Man, I don’t have time, we got to catch a flight to Santo Domingo.”  I assured him it would be fast, but he just smiled and laughed and shook his head.  As the doors opened and he exited the shuttle bus he said “I’ll check out your website.”  He and his entourage quickly vanished.

While waiting for the flight to depart, I tried to give my $10 to Alfredo, a COPA Airlines pilot, but he just didn’t feel comfortable.  He asked a lot of questions but didn’t seem to get the giving project.

I boarded my final flight, COPA 488 from Panama to Washington’s Dulles International Airport.  I had seat 14A which is by the emergency exit and doesn’t have a seat in front of it.  As I approached my seat I saw that someone was sitting there.  After double checking tickets, it turns out that Roey was supposed to be in 14B: the middle seat.

The flight was just under five hours and was scheduled to land at 12:55AM.  So I knew I was going to continue the streak of 174 days without missing a day of giving, I needed to find someone on this flight and give them the $10 before we land.  

The plane took off and I pulled out a notebook to try to write some of the blogs from the previous days.  I was so far behind (and still am) and needed to get caught up.  I didn’t have my notebook out one minute before Roey, now in 14B, asked, “Do you journal?  I have more than 2,000 journal entries.”  Inside I was smiling as I realized that I just found my day’s recipient!

Roey (Photo: Reed)

Roey is 29 and lives in Bethesda.  Originally from Israel, he moved here when he was five.  He is passionate about his religion and his heritage and shared openly with me.  When he is not out pursuing some adventure in Costa Rica, Roey works in information security for a firm that specializes in auditing government information systems for compliance with the Federal Information Security Management Act.  

He was traveling with three friends on their way back from a trip to Costa Rica.  They met on Gesher City DC, a social website that according to the site is the “one-stop connection to all things young and Jewish in DC!”  They had been on an amazing eco-farm while they were there.  Roey got his camera out and showed me the many photographs he took while visiting this beautiful natural paradise.  Here Roey talks a little bit about his general impressions of the “Ticos” – that is the name given to the local people of Costa Rica.

We talked about coffee, as I had just been on a coffee plantation and some of the people that he met on his trip were in the coffee business.  It sounded like the highlight of their trip was a day that they visited the Cacao Trails in Cahuita.  Roey said they got to see the entire chocolate making process.  And no tour apparently is complete without tasting the final product.  “It was the best chocolate I have ever tasted,” Roey told me.  He explained that the flavor is so much better because they do not extract the cocoa butter like many commercialized chocolate manufacturers do. 

Roey wasn’t sure what he was going to do with the $10 but he said he planned to do something for someone else.  I look forward to hearing how it was used.

We talked the length of the entire flight.  I met his two friends Julia and David too (the fourth friend took a different flight).  In fact, I even gave Julia and David a ride home.  They didn’t live too far away from where I live so it was nice to be able to help them out.  Roey stayed behind as his parents were on their way to pick him up.

Roey fresh off the plane (Photo: Reed)

Roey is a guy who likes to make connections.  He loves to think of the people that he knows that might be able to help you out or simply be a good friend.  I think I left with a half-dozen names of people or places that he thought might be of interest to me.  I haven’t followed up on them yet, although I should.  Roey loves to meet new people and if you are in the DC area and open to meeting new people, I know Roey would love to meet up!

An interesting tidbit.  The following day the blog was accessed by somebody in Santo Domingo.  I don’t have too many visitors from there, so who knows, maybe it was Tego!

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Two quick updates.  I finally got video up for Anthony’s post yesterday and Victor from Day 139 posted an update from him on his page.  

Colombian 16 string guitar in need of some strings (Photo: Reed)

Manizales continues to be a wonderful and inspiring place for me to be.  I am trying to catch up on my blog writing so that I can start to share the stories of Manizales with you.  But for now, we have to transport ourselves back to the Georgetown neighborhood of  Washington, DC.  

I had just finished seeing my friend Annie in a production of Rhinoceros…she was amazing and the show itself was really good too.  On my way home I stopped at the Social Safeway to get a few items.  I still hadn’t given my $10 to anyone.  I am not sure how much I really needed items from the grocery store or I just figured that a 24-hour grocery store would certainly have a few candidates for my $10.  Would you believe the first two people I approached refused.  The first woman, Mary Pat, was studying the pet food options when I approached her.  She spoke with me for a while but I couldn’t convince her to participate.  The second person, who was buying paper towels, refused and didn’t tell me their name.  

Angela getting items for the Lost viewing party. (photo: Reed)

The third person I approached was over by the bakery and the rotisserie chickens.  Her name was Angela. 

The 39-year-old is a resident of DC and works as a news writer for a media company in DC.  I didn’t ask which one and she didn’t offer the information.  She said she was on her way home from visiting a friend and since she wasn’t tired thought that she would pick up some groceries.  The next day, Sunday, she was attending a party for the final episode of Lost.  I don’t watch Lost and have never really been interested in the show, but I thought a celebration about the show finally coming to an end was a good idea…although I don’t think most people who were excited about the finale were excited for the same reasons that I was.  For years friends have been telling me that they hoped that the next episode would explain things…but it never does…it hasn’t for something like five years.  “I really hope the finale explains some things,” Angela says to me.  If the past is any indicator of the future, she is going to be disappointed with what the show reveals. 

I on the other hand was not disappointed because first of all, I didn’t watch the show, and second of all, I was busy watching the grand finale of Celebrity Apprentice.  I know it’s a cheesy show, but I enjoy it.  And there is not a constant mega cliffhanger incorporated into the plot like Lost.  Each show is pretty straight forward.  Somebody gets fired at the end.  Despite being a fan, Mr. Trump could make this a one hour show…heck a 30 minute show.  He of all people should know time is valuable.  (actually he does know that and that is why it is two hours.  Time is money and he gets lots of money for the commercials that are run during the superfluous two-hour time slot. 

Anyway, sorry, I got off on a tangent.  When I am typing nobody brings me back on track. 

So Angela told me that her life and job was pretty “regular” and that there was nothing particularly interesting to share.  Just after saying that though, she mentioned that through her job she did get to join an interview session with the legendary Ray Charles.  

 “Everything that I had ever hoped about meeting someone of his stature came true.  He was the smartest guy in the room.  He was very nice, but he was clearly in control of everything that was going on.” 

photo: Reed

Working in news, she said other stories have often stuck out in her mind for long periods after the story is over.  She mentioned a story from Frederick, MD about a student basketball player who rarely got to play and was put in a game finally and finally made a basket.  The crowd went nuts.  It reminded me of this story!  I love it.  I even made team members at my last job watch this! 

Angela had a caring nature about her.  It really showed when she shared that she was going to donate the $10 to the Homeward Trails Animal Rescue, a non-profit organization that provides pet adoption in Virginia, Washington, DC and Maryland.  They find homes for dogs and cats rescued from high-kill animal shelters or whose owners could no longer care for them. 

It was getting late and I had to get up early the following morning to ride in Bike DC.  We parted ways and I went to check out in possibly the slowest checkout lane in the world.

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Last Monday I spent the morning doing some phone calls and interviews.  I got outside a little to walk Ruben, the dog that I have been taking care of, but other than that I was pretty much inside.

That evening I had plans to have dinner with some former colleagues of mine from my last job.  We decided to meet up at my friend Patricia’s house in Arlington.  I took Ruben out for another walk before leaving, stopped by a wine shop and a new gelato shop to get some wine and gelato for the evening.  By the way, I got the gelato from Dolcezza in Dupont.  I sampled a bunch of the flavors, but settled on dulce de leche granizado and lime cilantro.  The lime cilantro was such a unique flavor, I had to get it.  The citrus flavors combined with zest of the cilantro created a deliciously refreshing dessert!

The evening was great.  I got to spend time with some old colleagues.  Laura and her husband brought their four-month-old boy Griffin too!  He is amazing!

Bar at the Afterwords Cafe (Photo: Reed)

Anyway, the night winded down and I dropped Kate off at her hotel in Chinatown.  It was 11:45 and I still had to give away my $10.  As I drove I kept my eyes open for somebody on the streets.  I passed a couple of large groups of people, but didn’t think that stopping them and explaining what I was doing would go very well at midnight, so I pulled over at Kramerbooks near my house.  Inside I found a young couple sitting at a table and offered the guy my $10.  He politely declined and I looked toward his friend.  She somewhat reluctantly agreed.

It turns out that she is the bartender there at Kramerbooks.  I didn’t realize that though because she was sitting at a table at the otherwise empty bar.  Get this, I realized I didn’t have a ten dollar bill.  For that matter, I didn’t even have $10!  I think I had $8.  Then I remembered that I had a bag of quarters in my backpack and grabbed them and counted out the rest of the money for her.  It was a little embarrassing, but Cynthia rolled with it and didn’t make me feel awkward at all.

Cynthia said she likes to travel.  Two of her favorite destinations are Dubrovnik, Croatia and Budapest, Hungary.  Camping and snowboarding are also high on her list of things to do.

About this time several people made their way into the bar and I let Cynthia go wait on them.  She returned shortly with a glass of water for me and asked if I had any other questions.  I could see that she was busy and I didn’t want to take up more of her time…so while she was preparing things I asked her what her favorite drink and food items were on the menu at Kramerbooks’ Afterwords Café.  Her favorite drink was a tie between the Brewmaster Reserve by Brooklyn Brewery and the Old Brown Dog by Smuttynose Brewery.  Her favorite dish is the Bison Burger.  Honestly, you almost can go wrong there, everything is good.

I wrapped things up and let Cynthia get back to work. 

Her $10 is going toward the purchase of a new dictionary for a homeless man who she knows.  Someone stole his bag which contained his dictionary.  I asked if there was anything that I could include in the Lend a Hand project and she mentioned that her car needs some work so she would love to get some help with that.  Heck, maybe a show like Overhaulin would come and help her out!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Last Thursday my friend Rick got some cheap tickets to see the Nationals play the Colorado Rockies so I went to the game.  I figured it would be fun to give my $10 to whoever was sitting next to me at the game.  We had tickets in section 309, row C, seats 1-3.  So, I figured whoever had seat 4 is getting $10!

It turns out nobody was sitting in seat 4…but there was a woman who had 5.  So I offered her my $10 but she refused.  I gave it my all to try to convince her but I was unsuccessful…she wouldn’t even tell me her first name.  Oh well.  I then found Jimmy.

Jimmy, Nationals Ballpark (Photo: Reed)

Jimmy is a vendor who climbs the steps of the stands all game long hawking snacks and beverages.  This is not an easy job…you are constantly carrying around a backbreaking container of goods navigating your way up and down stadium steps.  And get this, there is no salary.  That’s right, Jimmy said he only gets commission and tips.

He works for a company that places him in a variety of different stadiums.  Hailing from Baltimore, he said he is not that much of a Nationals fan.  Actually he says he likes football more than baseball, especially the Baltimore Ravens. 

I couldn’t keep Jimmy too long.  After all, he was working and his wages are a direct correlation to how much he sells, so I didn’t want him to lose potential income.  The 28-year-old says a good day he brings in a couple of hundred dollars.  My $10 was going toward gas he said.

Check out this short video of Jimmy in action!

The Nats ended up losing the game 2-0.  On an upside though, it was Earth Day and the ballpark had a special offer that if you brought recyclable items to the stadium you could buy a future ticket for half price.  I did just that and will be going to see my favorite team, the New York Mets, play when they come to town in May!

Don’t forget to tip your servers and vendors for good service!

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I am still working on responding to so many of your truly inspiring emails and comments.  Thanks so much.  So many of you are planning to participate in June 15th’s Worldwide Day of Giving.  I can’t wait.  The more people you tell the more amazing this could be.  Imagine if this goes completely viral and people all over the world are doing this.  I will tape a short video explaining the Worldwide Day of Giving and post it on YouTube.  Several of you have asked for tips on how to approach someone successfully; I will post some tips and other helpful information on www.yearofgiving.org and on my Facebook page.

Last Saturday I took a walk around the city and spent some time in front of the White House.  I often take it for granted, but it is pretty amazing to be able to walk 10 blocks and sit and relax in front of our President’s home (ok, so sometimes it’s not all that relaxing with thousands of people taking photos).  I found a man sitting on a bench and I approached him to participate in the Year of Giving.  He was with a few other people and said he had to go.  I was disappointed, because he was from Canada and I don’t have any Canadian recipients yet!  (That’s ok, the Caps beat his team in hockey that night!)

Javier and Lindsay with their $10 in front of the White House (Photo: Reed)

Then I found Lindsay and Javier.  If they didn’t know better they would have thought I was stalking them because we later found out that I almost ate lunch at the same place they did, instead I ate across the street.  Anyway, the couple is from Portland and Javier was here attending a geography conference and brought his wife along and made a mini-vacation out of it while grandma and grandpa helped them out by watching their two children.  They went to the National’s baseball game (I was also there…seriously I was not stalking them), toured the US Capitol, took a river cruise on the Potomac (I was also on the river boat…ok, not really, I just made that up), visited several museums, and then ended up sitting on a bench in front of the Obama’s pad at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue.

This couple made me appreciate the city I live in so much.  They were so impressed with how nice people were to them here.  They talk about their impressions of the people of our nation’s capital on this video…which could almost be a commercial for Destination DC!

As for the $10, they plan to give it to one of the nice people that have helped them during their stay.  I walked with them to look for a woman they told me about, “C. Thomas”, who works for DC’s Safety and Maintenance organization.  She was no longer there, but they told me how she helped them earlier in the day and even gave them a hug when they left!  I am going to write to that organization and tell them what an impression Ms. Thomas made on Lindsay and Javier! 

We then walked over to the Metro station where we said goodbye and they headed back to their hotel in upper Northwest, DC.  What a nice couple.  I wish they lived here so they could be my friends.

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I have been receiving lots of emails inquiring about my job process.  I wish I had something to update you on.  I am actively looking for work and am participating in several hiring processes right now.  I will certainly post an update when I know something for sure.  Thanks so much for all of your thoughtful messages.

Last Sunday evening I was taking a walk around my neighborhood and looking for a recipient for my $10.  I approached a woman near the Dupont Hotel.  She was kind and said she liked the concept but didn’t feel like she was worthy of receiving the money.  I explained that she could do anything she wanted to with it, including giving it to someone else.  I used all of my negotiation training but I was not successful.  As I was finishing talking with her, a very elegantly dressed couple walked by holding hands.  I thought that they would be interesting to talk to so I chased after them.  It turns out that they had recently got engaged and they were going to get their picture taken.  They didn’t stop so I had to deliver my 30 second elevator pitch as I walked at a good clip next to them.  They seemed completely uninterested in the Year of Giving and said I could talk to them until we reached the next corner.  I thought at first that they would accept the $10 and I would have the shortest time to date to get information from a recipient, but that wasn’t the case.  As we got to the corner they simply blew me off.

Slightly dejected I scanned the street to find someone else and my eyes found Carlos.  Originally from Madrid, Spain, Carlos has lived in Washington, DC for the last 18 months working for an international organization.  I shared with Carlos that I used to live in his country in the city of Valladolid. 

Carlos near Dupont Circle (Photo: Reed)

Carlos was quite tired and jet-lagged having just flown in a few hours earlier from a trip back to Madrid.  I didn’t want to take too much of his time and quickly asked him what he would do with the $10.  He contemplated the choice some and finally settled on donating it to a Clinic in the Adam’s Morgan neighborhood that helps immigrants receive medical treatment.  It sounds like a great organization and I asked him to drop me a message when he donates it and get’s the exact name of the clinic.

I got my camera out to take a photo of Carlos.  While I was doing that I asked how he thought the people of Madrid would react to the Year of Giving.  He thought they would react positively to it and try to do something meaningful with the money.

Giving is not foreign to Carlos, in fact his employer offers an opportunity at the end of the year to donate a portion of each employee’s salary to a variety of nonprofits.  He said he usually participates in this program.

We shook hands and I said “goodbye” to Carlos.  He was probably very tired.  If he was still on Madrid time, it was well after midnight.

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

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

I finally got a ticket after the 2nd inning.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Philly fans Alex and Brynn (Photo: Reed)

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

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

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

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Last Friday is the day that NPR and the Washington Post ran their stories on the Year of Giving.  I got flooded with emails and comments.  My website traffic went through the roof.  So many people told me how inspired they were after learning about the Year of Giving.  It was a tremendous bright spot in an otherwise melancholy day.

The response has been great.  The more media attention it receives, the more people write to me telling me how inspired they are.  99% of what I have received is extremely positive and I am trying to get caught up replying to all the emails.  Especially all the wonderful offers to help those on the Lend a Hand page!  Thank you so much!

After my cousin’s funeral on Friday, my father and I drove south about 3 hours to Richlands, VA.  My mother grew up and was buried there and we went to visit her grave. 

My mother's childhood house & shed. Hasn't changed too much except the side porch was added (Photo: Reed)

Richlands is a small coal mining town in Southwestern Virginia.  According to city-data.com  in 2008 the population was less than 4,000 and the median household income was $30,637 – half of the state average.  I don’t think I need to say more to give you the idea that this is a place that struggles economically. 

That evening my father and I decided to stop by the King Kone; a simple place where you have to walk up to the window and order and then take the food back and eat in your car.  My father told me that my mother used to love to treat herself to a chili dog there.  I thought it was only fitting to order a chili dog for myself.

While we were there, I asked the woman who was waiting on us if she would accept my $10.  She got very uncomfortable and said that the owner would never allow her to do that.  She nervously was looking over her shoulder and I asked if the owner was there.  She confirmed that she was and I asked if I could speak with her. 

King Kone - Richlands, VA (Photo: Reed)

I gave the owner my card and explained what I was doing to her.  She refused and said that they were just too busy to talk to me.  I explained that this was a very special place for my mother and made a final plea, but she shook her head “no” and excused herself.  As a side note, during the half hour we were there…I think they had 5 customers.

So I went back and approached a couple who were finishing up their dogs in their pick-up truck.  I imagine the couple was in their 50s.  I said hello and apologized if I was interrupting and explained what I was doing and asked if they would like to participate.  The woman, sitting near me in the passenger seat, never looked at me and never said a word.  The man remained silent until I finished and just shook his head no and grunted  “uh ah” and looked away.

WOW….this was not going to be easy.  Although I feel a strange closeness to the town since my mother’s family is from there, its clear that I don’t fit in.

I was now 0 for 3 (or 4 if you count the couple in the truck as two attempts).  I looked around and saw a Burger King on one side and a Family Dollar store, a hair salon, and the Richlands Pharmacy on the other.  I decided to walk over to the Family Dollar discount store.  On my way over I spotted Ashley sitting on a bench in front of the A Wild Hair Salon and Academy.  Her easy smile was a huge improvement over my earlier encounters. 

Ashley (Photo: Reed)

The 21-year-old said that she had worked there since she was 16.  With her husband laid off from tree cutting for the region’s natural gas wells, the $10 was warmly received.  It is tough to make ends meet for them and their 13-month-old boy. 

Ashley cuts Samantha's hair. I only noticed later that there is a picture that I assume is her son on her mirror that I captured in the background. (Photo: Reed)

Ashley started working on a regular customer named Samantha.  I told Ashley that my mother was from Richlands and we soon had something in common.  Both of our grandfathers worked in the mines.  “Those are the only jobs that pay well here,” she said.  The other woman cutting hair there spoke up and said, “I used to want to work in the mines…it’s good money.”  Then Samantha shared that her husband is working in the mines.  “Six days a week.  It’s terrible hours, he goes in at 1pm and gets out at midnight.”

The economy is worse here than what we saw in Roanoke the day before. 

In case you find yourself in Richlands and wonder what you might should try to see, Ashley said, “I don’t know, maybe go up to Overlook Park in Cedar Bluff and walk all the way to the top.”  It was late and we wouldn’t be able to do that…but on my list to do next time.

Ashley said she was going to use my $10 on dinner for her family.  I just hope she didn’t go to King Kone…the chili dog wasn’t that good actually…kind of raw and chewy.

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I got out to go to the gym today.  Hadn’t been there since the snow storm.  On the way back I stepped on what I thought was ice and my sneaker sunk like 6 inches and became completely water logged…thankfully it happened on the way home, so I was already done with my workout.

I went out later in the day to find my recipient.  Too many people ventured out in the snow today.  It’s like amateur driver day – people who have no business driving in this weather are out and about.  I saw a little compact car with bicycle size tires trying to navigate the streets.

I got stopped by the Save the Children canvassers…I stopped and listened to him.  Told him I was doing my own venture and he kept trying to get me to give them money until I finally just said I could help them in other ways, but not with money…but he wasn’t interested.

First I approached Ernesto and then a few blocks away Gene … both said they didn’t want to accept the $10.  They didn’t feel worthy of it.  So, I was off to find someone else.  Hopefully both Ernesto and Gene check out the site and comment on their decision.  By the way guys, you are still invited to come to the year-end party..so keep following the blog.

I found Lionel sitting on a bench with a crazy hat on.  I found out that the 43-year-old was originally from Sinaloa, Mexico.  Coincidentally, I lived in the state of Sinaloa in 1990-1991 as a Rotary Youth Exchange Student.  He was from the capital city, Culiacan, about 2 hours away from where I lived.  He first came to the US in the 80s.  Right now he is unemployed.  He was a bike messenger here in DC for the last 13-14 years and hopes to find work again once the snow clears out of DC.  If anyone knows of someone needing to contract a bike messenger in DC, let me know!

Some interesting things about Lionel.  His nephew is Jamar Nesbit, who is a member of the 2010 Superbowl winning Saints!  Nesbit (#67) did not play apparently, but should receive a ring.  That is pretty cool.  Athletics runs in the family.  Lionel used to be a boxer in both the US and Mexico and his daughter has played college sports.

Lionel says he will spend the $10 to put minutes on his cell phone (which is in a Pittsburgh Steelers case!).

I spent another 30-40 minutes talking to Lionel.  He is a very nice guy and I did something that I have not done before.  I gave him my cell phone number.  I usually just give an email address…but he did not use email.  Hopefully I can meet up with him again sometime soon.

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Yesterday my brother invited me to see another Capitals game.  Man, it was a good one!  The Caps were down 4-1, then came back to tie it and eventually win it in overtime.  Although Ovechkin looked a little sluggish sometimes, he was on fire shooting 3 of the 5 goals.

After the game, Ryan and I thought we would hang out a while before we tried our luck getting on the Metro.  They were only running one train every 30 minutes and the majority of those who came to watch the hockey match came by Metro…so you can imagine what a mess it would be right after the game.

We headed into a Starbucks to take refuge from the cold and chat for a while.  I ran into Thomas, a friend who used to live in the same condo as me before he and his wife moved to New York.  Well, they moved back and he spotted me in the coffee shop and said hello.  It’s a small world.

I approached a woman, Lori, reading the paper at the counter and asked her to accept my $10.  She refused, urging me to find someone else more deserving.  I get this answer a lot.  I try to explain to people that they can do whatever they wish with the money.  If you think that you are not deserving of it, why not take a minute out of your day to give it to somebody who you think is deserving of it.  I sometimes think people are too lazy to do that…or they just don’t want to be bothered.

I ended up finding Esteban.  The 67-year-old Mexican-American was standing, with the help of a cane, next to the Verizon Center.  The first thing you notice about Esteban is the fact that he is not wearing any socks or shoes!?!?  He has a pair of sandals on.  He says that he doesn’t wear socks of shoes because he was poisoned with mercury by some people walking by while he slept and now it is too painful to put anything on his feet.

After a few minutes, I find myself a little confused in the conversation.  I switched to Spanish hoping that that would help clear up what he was trying to tell me.  Unfortunately, I realize early into my 25 minute chat with Esteban that he most likely suffers from schizophrenia and/or other mental illness.  Ok, the lack of shoes and socks should have been a red flag.

I am not sure what to believe about what he tells me.  Some details seem normal and very believable.  Like the fact that he came to the US in 1984, has been homeless for most of the time, has relatives in Texas, and is originally from Tamaulipas, Mexico.  But then there were the bizarre stories.  Like the lynching of a bully in a DC shelter or the friendship with a DC police lieutenant or stranger yet, the intimate knowledge he has of a scandal involving the FBI, CIA, and a former DC mayor that caused him to flee the city and end up at the Pentagon. 

It was sad.  Esteban needs help far beyond what I am able to provide.  It takes a while to wrap up the conversation as he retells some of the stories.  He said he would use the money to get some food this week.  I told him to protect his feet.  He explained again about the mercury and how anything he put on his feet hurt.  I suspect his feet are frost bit.  I urged him to go to a shelter, but he refused.

I wished him luck, shook his hand and nodded to my brother to get on our way.  He smiled and hobbled a bit further under the overhang, close to where his bags sat wet from the gray slushy mess that covered the sidewalk.

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I spent my Saturday mostly shoveling the walkways in front of my building and doing things around the house.  I decided to go out in the evening to try to find a recipient.  It’s hard to get someone to stop and talk to you when the weather is like this, so I decided to stop in to a little wine bar that is next to my place called Veritas.
 

Veritas DC: Corner of Conn. and Florida

I like Veritas and recommend you check it out.  It’s a small laid back place, perfect little escape during a snow storm.  I tried a flight of Spanish red wines which was highlighted by a Beronia “reserva” from the Rioja region.  It was excellent…it was a little spicy with a velvety texture that coats your tongue.  

I was seated next to a group of three young professionals.  I asked the one closest to me if she would accept my $10.  Patti declined, but said that she would do something with her own $10.  She was heading back to see her family in New Jersey soon and said she would use $10 to pay for other people’s tolls.  Excellent!

I still had to give my $10 away though.  I asked her two other friends.  They talked amongst themselves a little and then decided that Lauren would accept it.  

I move down to speak with her and find out a little more about her and what she will do with the money.  The bottom line is that I didn’t learn much about these folks.  My questions were deftly deflected to questions back to me for the most part.  I learn that the three of them are in journalism…so they are used to asking the questions.  I did find out that Lauren was 31, lived in the Dupont Circle area, enjoyed boxing (I kept my distance), and yoga.  

She was not sure what she would do with the $10.  She said she would somehow “pay it forward.”  We talked about somehow putting it in a protective sleeve and leaving dropping it on the ground with her email on the $10 so that someone would follow up with her if they found it.  She agreed to email me later and let me know what she did with it.

Lesson for the day, don’t try to ask journalists questions.  They will flip the tables on you :).  Maybe they will check out my site and give me some suggestions for improving it and reaching more people.  Heck maybe they will be inspired to write about what I am doing.

I’m off to watch the Super Bowl now… I have no real passion for either team, so I guess I will go with the underdog, the Saints.

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First of all, today we reached some milestones.  Over 3,000 unique visitors to the site and over 6,000 hits.  The site is growing much faster than I thought it would…that is great…hopefully people are inspired to do something kind to others during their day.

John (right) and I visit a few days after I gave him my $10

I met up with John from day 40 today.  On Day 44 I ran into John from Day 40.  He was not the jovial South Carolina native that I met on Saturday.  He explained that his brother died on Sunday due to complications related to his diabetes.  He had refused to take his medications for an extended period of time and passed away as a result.  His sadness quickly dissolved into anger though as he told me about an upcoming court appearance. 

He explained that he had served 17 years in prison for murder.  I could hardly believe that this gentle giant could have killed another human being.  “It was self defense” he explained.  I didn’t have my notebook with me so I am relying on my recollection.  He said that one day in 1980 he and his father had gone to a store at the intersection of 14th and T in NW, DC.  His father, an off duty police officer, was shot in the head outside of the store.  Upon hearing the gunfire, he explained that he excited the store, removed his father’s revolver and shot and killed the man. 

As much as I want to believe everything that John has told me, I hope that some of this is not true.  I can not begin to imagine what it would be like to struggle with so much tragic personal loss.  He told me on Day 40 that he had lost two children and his wife as well.

I gave John a dollar from my pocket and walked to do some errands.  I told him I would be back by in a while, as I had to walk back the other way to get home.  He asked me to stop by on my way back, that he had a favor to ask of me. 

When I reached John on my way back, he greeted me with the familiar smile.  He asked if I had some more money so that he could get a shirt for his brother’s funeral.  I only had $11 on me…$10 of which I needed to give away to someone else.  I gave him another dollar and went on my way. 

Then I had to find a recipient for Day 44.  Would you believe I had a hard time?  I first went to a couple who were sitting on the sidewalk around 24th and M Street.  Both of them had a crazed look in their eyes.  I sensed I was dealing with some people who were on a significant amount of drugs.  I proceeded cautiously.  I explained what I was doing and asked if they would accept my $10.  They were so confused and paranoid that they declined.  I went on my way and asked a young lady named Liddy who was walking her dog.  She was nice, but said she didn’t feel worthy.  So I was off again.

I walked another 6-7 blocks.  I came across some potential people, but there was never the right moment to go up to someone and ask them. 

I found a woman who was walking next to me and I thought, what the heck, nothing else has worked I am just going to start asking everyone.

Sara initially refused as well.  When I explained that if she refused I would have to find someone else, I think I guilted her into it.  The 28-year-old Chicago native now lives in DC and is a landscape architect for the US Green Building Council.  Her position is an internship and she is actively seeking employment for a full-time position as a landscape architect.  I might have a connection or two for her, but if anyone out there knows of something, please post here.

Sara was on her way to watch the State of the Union Address.  I asked her what grade she would give President Obama after his first year, and she said an A-.  I hope she reads this and will tell us her perspective on his speech.

Sara said that she was a bit undecided on what she was going to do with my $10.  She was either going to use it to buy some food to take to her State of the Union party or try to donate it at Miriam’s Kitchen.  She is scheduled to volunteer there soon.  If you are not familiar with Miriam’s…you should check it out, they are an important organization for the poor and homeless communities in DC.  She said she would let me know for sure what she did with it later.  I hope she is better than Mark from Day 29…he never got back to me!

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I had a great day today.  I was so busy that I ended up not giving away my $10 until the very last minute, literally.  I got home from my theatre rehearsal at 11:35 and walked up near the Metro to see if I could find a recipient.  I asked a woman who I passed on the way, but she said, “I think I am going to keep walking.”

I spotted three people who looked a little lost just outside the Metro entrance.  I asked them if they needed help…they said they thought they were ok, but were a little turned around.  The trio said that they were headed to the Carlyle Suites Hotel – I had no idea where that was so I wouldn’t have been much help anyway. 

Since I was chatting with them and they seemed friendly, I thought I would ask them if one of them would like to participate in the Year of Giving.  The two men and one woman talked internally a little and said they were up for it if I was willing to walk and talk. 

The two men graciously said that their female colleague should be the recipient.  Suzanna, a young sophisticated woman from Oakland, is a web graphic designer for the company where the three work. Who knows, maybe she could help me develop a better website for the Year of Giving.  She also says that she is a jazz singer…although apparently for now the IT job will have to pay the bills.

I asked her how she was going to spend the money and she said that she had been thinking about that since I gave her the money.  “I am going to buy a knish in NYC.  How many knishes can I get for $10?”  Her two colleagues determine that she can probably buy three for $10.  “So, I will buy three knishes in New York.  One for me, one for my friend, and one for someone on the street.”  I thought that was a cool that she planned to use part of the money to do something nice for someone that she didn’t know. 

Although Suzanna was weary of giving me her email address, she promised to take a photo of the Yiddish dumplings and send it to me.  I hope she makes good on her promise.  It would be nice to post it here. 

We were getting close to their hotel and I asked her what her reaction was when I approached them with my project.  Suzanna first said, “Well, I wasn’t too skeptical because you seemed normal.”  Phew, someone thinks I am normal.  Yes!  That however quickly turned into, “Actually, I wasn’t really worried, I mean, I was pretty sure that I could take you.”  What?!  Do I look that meager and weak?  That doesn’t bode well for how convincing I will be as a villain in the play that I am performing in. 

Well, we got to the hotel and I was surprised that I didn’t know it, it is not too far from my condo.  I asked them what they thought of it.  Suzanna and her boss both said that it was very nice.  The other gentleman seemed a bit bitter.  It turns out that he got screwed on his room. (I bet he is not getting one of those knishes in NYC either!)  But all in all they said it was a decent place.  They quoted a price of roughly $120/night which is an excellent rate, so might be an option for those of you who travel to DC.

I shook their hands…said goodbye and was on my way home.  I checked my phone and saw that the time was 12:02 am, so I made it just in time!

Let’s hope Suzzana is a woman of her word and follows up!

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I have been so impressed with how many people I know who have opened up their wallets and hearts to help those in Haiti.  Maybe it is because technology has made it easier for us to make contributions, maybe it is because many of us remember our own times of need and how much it means when someone offers to help.  Regardless of the reason, I am impressed.  I have also seen the generous side of many people after they have learned about the Year of Giving.  Thanks to all of you who have offered me support and encouragement.

Today I struck out three times before finding a willing recipient of my $10.  I first approached a city worker.  There is an area of DC called the Golden Triangle.  That district has workers dawned in bright yellow vests whose job it is to help people find where they are going and keep the area clean and safe.  I doubt they get paid very well and they offer a great service.  The first person I approached said he was not able to accept money while he was working.  So, I went on my way and saw a Latino man leaving a bank with a chef’s outfit on.  I approached him and he seemed very skeptical of my intentions.  He said he was working and could not talk to me.  I gave him my card and kept on walking.  Then I saw another Golden Triangle employee and thought I would see if I got the same answer as his colleague.  Sure enough, he toted the company line.

Three refusals…wow.  One more and I will have a new single day record.  I walked by a man sitting on a park bench next to a guitar case.  Bill was dressed all in black and sporting dark sunglasses.  He looked cool and relaxed as he enjoyed his coffee on this warmer than average Tuesday.  I sat down next to him and explained what I was doing.  He smiled easily and said he really liked my project. 

Bill playing a few songs at Dupont Circle

Bill has been playing guitar for 45 years.  He tells me that he has played and worked with all kinds of people in all kinds of places.  From street corners to now mega-star Alicia Keys.  Yep, Bill did some work for Alicia Keys when she was a young teenager.  He says he likes any kind of music, “from the 50’s to Smashing Pumpkins.”  He credits the Ink Spots, the Platters, and all of Motown as influencing factors.

In recent years, Bill has not been so fortunate.  Playing some gigs here and there and getting some extra cash on the street.  He entertains the public in front of the Starbucks at Dupont Circle and the North and South Dupont Metro entrances.  On a good day he says he brings in over $100.  On a bad day $15. 

If you want to check out some of Bill’s music, you can find him on MySpace.  The site is outdated and doesn’t look like it has been updated in a few years.  I asked Bill if he had family and he mentioned 7 brothers and sisters.  On the MySpace page you will also find what looks to be a blog post by Bill in 2007 asking for help finding his two children that he apparently has lost touch with.  Sad.  He is such a nice guy.

So I asked Bill what he was going to do with the money and he said it would go to food and utilities.  I get the feeling he is not paying rent right now and tries to give as much as possible to his roommate, a fellow musician. 

Bill pulled his guitar out and tuned it.  His fingertips tell the whole story; the hardened skin from years of sliding his fingers up and down the guitar.  He plays a couple tunes and even breaks into some vocals as well.  It would have been a beautifully serene moment had it not been for a certifiably crazy man screaming on the next bench over.

Before I left I asked Bill what his all-time favorite song was…Moonlight Serenade.  For those who live/work/play near Dupont Circle, keep an eye out for Bill and say hello.

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