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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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