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Archive for the ‘Savings’ Category

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

I found my teens today on St. Kitts!  Our ship arrived around 11am and we disembarked an hour later.  I didn’t have an excursion today so I ended up taking a so-so tour of the island by taxi, which ended at Frigate Bay, a rock black sand beach.  I took a half-hearted dip and dried out at the bar where I had a Ting (similar to Seven Up) and a chicken roti.

I was served by an ex-pat who had left America with her husband six years ago.  She was originally from New York.  She and her husband lived on a boat for three years.  Then they decided to settle on St. Kitts, but she doesn’t think they’ll stay there forever.  She’s written a book about their adventures which is supposed to be published by McGraw Hill in May of 2012.  You never know who you’re going to meet, do you?!

She said St. Kitts was very expensive, and several times referred to financial worries.  Her husband was working construction on a nearby hotel, which afforded him health insurance.  But she had none.  She seemed like a good person to give ten dollars.  So I explained the whole deal to her, and she happily accepted the ten dollars.  Just then a few people came up to buy some beers.  While they were finishing their order, it dawned on me I had not left myself enough money to get a taxi back to the ship!

Good grief, the embarrassment!  Here I am a Year of Giving Ambassador and I had to ask for my money back!  She was good natured about it, though, and as it turned out it seemed to be for the best.

When I got back to port I hoofed it on to the boat, unloaded my stuff and grabbed a ten from the safe in our room.  Then I hoofed it back out to the port’s shopping plaza.  Someone walked by with a huge waffle bowl of ice cream.  I asked where she got it and she pointed down a certain street.  I walked in that direction when suddenly, just up ahead, I spied five teenagers walking away from me.  Perfect!

They seemed relaxed as they chatted and ambled on some distance ahead of me, so I increased my pace to catch up with them.

“Excuse me,” I blurted to their backs, “Can I talk to you for a minute?”

They all turned to look at me with surprise.  They were willing to listen as I explained to them my mission.  When I’d finished, I said I could give one of them the ten, if they wanted, or I could split it five ways.  They were fine with receiving the money split five ways.

One reason I was interested in giving to teenagers is that teens are still so idealistic and inspired.  I thought for sure they would be supportive of the Year of Giving philosophy.  Several of them commented something along the lines that what I was doing should happen more often.  So I think I was on the mark, and made sure to write down the website address for them.

I used my slightly battered digital camera to briefly film each one of them.  It was a lot of fun playing junior documentarian.  Unfortunately when I played it back later I couldn’t understand much of what they said because background noises garbled their speech.  So what you’re about to read is mostly true, some part best guess and one, and a bit pure invention.

This much is true.  All five of them are sixteen.   They all belong to the fifth form, which I took to be roughly analogous to our senior high.  They were all excited to be graduating to sixth form in two months which would allow them to move on to college or other goals.  The mix was three boys and two girls, and they all seemed to be good friends.  They were excited because their school had won the St. Kitts interschool championship for sports.  Tomorrow would be a school holiday to celebrate and there would be a “motorcade,” as one boy described it, “with lots of cars honking and people cheering.”  

I didn’t get this boy’s name.  However, I did find out he is a cheerleader and the school mascot.  The mascot is a cheeto…a large, orange cheeto.  He’s a tall, handsome boy so I’m sure he makes a very dignified cheeto.  The others in the group described him as a “natural born salesmen” and deferred to him as the leader of the group.  He responded modestly to their praise, but I could tell he was an ambitious young man.  He told me he hoped to major in electrical engineering, and was planning on saving his two dollar jackpot for the time being.  Since school is free in St. Kitts, he won’t need to save it to pay off a hefty education debt, thank goodness!

Chez, whose name I did get correctly, wants to major in IT.  I assured him that was a good choice because it was lucrative.  He agreed with a big smile. He planned on buying a soda with his two dollars “because it’s hot!” He’s a practical sort, I think.

Hasia (I think that’s his name but not certain) is going to major in economics.  He seemed the most excited about getting the money, and was clearly the spiritual one of the group.  When I started to hand out the money he said, “We have received a blessing from God!”  Later, when I gathered them as a group to take a picture, he said, “We should all be smiling because God has given us a gift!  We should have a big smile on our faces!”  He’s also the one who suggested they all shout “Ten Dollars!” when I snapped the photo, a variation on saying “Cheese.”  He planned on saving his windfall.  I have a hunch he might give it to his church or a charity.  Just a hunch.

Tahira, the smaller of the two girls, was the only one of the group who didn’t have plans to go onto college.  Well, that may be true of Tamika too.  She was too shy to be interviewed.  We all decided as a group she was speechless with joy over the two dollar boon.  Tahira, however, wants to get a job after school.  She’s interested in being a pilot because she likes to travel and would like to go to Africa.  Another career possibility is the spy business.  She sees them on TV sit-drams and thinks their lives look very exciting.  She didn’t know yet what she wanted to do with her double sawbucks.  She’s the imaginative one of the group, so I suspect she needed time to ponder the many possibilities available to her.

I asked them how it felt to receive money from a stranger for no reason at all.  They all thought it was “weird,” a word I found to be just about right, since the root of the word comes from the word “wyrd,” which means “fate” or “destiny.” And you never know what chance encounter may change your fate or destiny.

I wouldn’t be surprised if they would try to change someone’s fate or destiny for the better through the Year of Giving, or in some other way.  If I could roll these five bright kids into one, I bet I would come up with an ambitious, practical kid full of faith, hope, gratitude and imagination.  This kind soul would be speechless with joy at the way life can surprise you with grace.  What kid like that wouldn’t go out of his or her way to make someone else’s day a little brighter?

This kid would be like my cruise-mate Carol who a few minutes later treated me to a delicious waffle bowl of sour soup ice-cream.  I told her I’d pay her back on the ship, to which she replied, “No worries.  I’m good.”

They would also be like Chuck, a man on my cruise whom I’d never met before, who a half hour later saw that I didn’t have the money I needed to buy the perfect souvenir for my mother which had finally manifested at the last possible second—a coconut shell carved into the shape of a pig with ears that actually moved (no accounting for taste)— and bought it for me.

They might be like the tall, lanky fellow with waist-length dreadlocks who heaped adorable monkeys on my shoulders as I raced back to the ship moments before it was leaving and when I told him, “I’m so sorry!  I’ve absolutely no cash left on me,” insisted on taking a few pictures anyway, even though he knew with the end of the cruising season next week his opportunities to make money were about to dwindle sharply.

And I know they would be like Hasia, who tossed a “God bless you” over his shoulder to me in a lovely West Indies lilt as we parted ways.   And God—who is not outdone in generosity—did.

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

I created an intention this morning ~ Today, I am open!

I wrote up a certificate that said “I value you & your story” to give to today’s recipient. I eagerly left my house ready to meet my $10 recipient.  I went to the bank with 4 $20 bills and asked for 8 $10 bills.  Seven bills were for my YOGI’s (Year of Giving Investment) this week and one bill was left over for me. :)

While I was at the bank, I overheard the teller next to me tell the young woman that she was in the negative.  I had been there before and bounced a check, so her situation hit home for me.  I wanted to hand her the $10 but she was with the teller, had a cell phone call on hold and her mom was waiting for her in the car.  Honestly, the scenario to give her the money at that moment didn’t seem like an open opportunity so I left the bank and ventured off.

I went to Panera for lunch, thinking this was a perfect place to meet a YOGI, but the place seemed crowded, busy and sadly the people felt closed off to making connections with a stranger.  I left and later set out to Whole Foods.  I was aware that it still seemed difficult to even make eye contact with people.  Everyone seemed to be in a hurry.  The customers seemed to be looking in their wallets, talking on their cell phones or focusing on where they were going next.

I did approach a woman shopping with her 4 year old child, and to my surprise she was not open to talk with me at all.  She quickly raced away saying, “My child is with me.”

I was let down for a moment and felt she really wanted to protect her child. I have always promoted Kindness in schools and enjoy connecting with children.  People tell me I have a natural gift for this, but I didn’t realize how challenging it is to connect with people I don’t know who are going about their everyday routines and schedules.

Feeling like I may fail myself and not find someone to connect with, I looked over at the last register and watched a middle-aged woman tap a man on the shoulder and point to a bill on the ground.  I believe it was only a dollar bill, but I observed this woman’s kind gesture.  The man was not even aware that he dropped money, but picked it up and graciously thanked the woman.  After the woman paid for her salad, I approached her smiling and gave her the $10.  I said I observed her gesture and that I would like to give her $10 as part of the Year of Giving.  She was shocked and surprised, so I started our conversation by explaining just what YOG was.

Cheryl F. accepted the $10 and told me she is the mother of four teenage girls ages 12, 14, 16 and 18. She said the hardest thing about being a mother was how close in ages her girls are and wished daily responsibilities did not get in the way of her spending more time with them. Cheryl works as a Home Health Aide and helps serve the elderly.  She shared how our elderly are a lot like children – needing lots of care and attention, too.  She said she enjoys her job and helping other people out.

When I asked how she will use the money, Cheryl said, “I will hold on to it and then pay it forward!”  She wanted to tell her daughters about what happened today.  I thanked Cheryl for sharing her story and for being so kind.  Cheryl was warm, friendly and cares about her daughters and the elderly!

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Blog post by Maria D., a Kindness Investor from Washington, DC.

A 6 foot 2, mid-forties man walks around the living room, adorned in tattered army fatigues and tennis shoes.  He looks tired and antsy as his eyes quickly jet around the room.  He just finished sweeping the floor and talks to the staff person on duty.  “Yeah, okay. I’ll take out the trash.”
It’s Sunday and chore time for all the residents (about a dozen) at this house – an adult home for the mentally ill in Pacthogue on Long Island, New York.  I wanted to help, but got the feeling chores are part of the structure and not to disturb it.  I later found out that “John” (he declined to provide his name or be photographed) is a Gulf War I veteran from NY who had a breakdown and never recovered.  His parents live nearby and visit him fairly often, which isn’t always the case in the adult home.  Some residents only have each other as friends and family.
I wasn’t going to be there long, so I decided to just go for it and ask John if he’d accept the $10 for the Year of Giving project.  “Well, I dunno,” was his initial response.  But upon assurance from the staff person Rita, John agreed to accept the money. When asked what he plans to do with the money, he was reluctant.  “Well, I’m not sure yet, why, what does it matter?  Well, I might save it, might give it to my mom.”  It seemed like a lot of money to him and he didn’t want to blow it all at once.
In terms of what he needs or what people could give him, John didn’t feel comfortable with that.  So I guess what I would offer is that you don’t dismiss people right away if they seem a little different – you never know their story.  A little tolerance can go a long way.  And if you are so inclined, there are many adult homes around the states who are underfunded and in need of volunteers, not to mention various veterans’ causes.

And thanks, it’s been an interesting experience being a Kindness Investor!

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Blog post by Maria D., a Kindness Investor from Washington, DC.

 

Say hello to the ambitious and thrifty Griffin!  He’s a young New Yorker who has called Long Island his home for eleven years of life. I got the chance to meet him while down at my Aunt’s local library and decided, why not give the $10 to a young person. Children are our future, right?? So with his mom’s approval, of course, I told Griffin about Reed’s Year of Giving, what it stands for and asked him if he’d be my recipient of the day.
Right off the bat it was clear that Griffin has a value for money and that it is important to him to save for a rainy day.  His parents have a family owned business that he hopes to be part of in the future.  As such, he decided to save the money by putting it into the bank.  “It’s important to me to put the money away so I can have money for the future.”
Griffin’s family also engages in philanthropic activities and fundraising is another value that has been instilled in him.  “When we’re making money, then we can help other people too.  That’s something my parents tell me is important to do.”
And there you have it, folks – he’s young, wise, and looking to do good in his adult years.  Good luck Griffin!

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Day 40 – Dine

-Blog post by Traci, a Kindness Investor traveling in Southeast Asia.


Dine (pronounced DNA) is a tour guide in Siem Reap. He is a coordinator for Globe Aware Volunteer Vacations and host to its participants. Dine worked his way through Tour Guide University, is married and has two children. But being a tour guide is much more than just a job for Dine. He has dreams for not only himself and his own family, but also for the people and the country he loves. One of his dreams to make a better living involves buying a jeep. If he owns a jeep, he can not only be a guide but also a driver and work for an EcoTourism company. The money I gave Dine will be used towards the purchase of his jeep. There is no doubt in my mind, that increased income to Dine will aid him in his philanthropic ways. Even without money, he gives freely of his time to many different causes including orphans, the disabled and the poor. He has hope and he has drive.

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

Brittany at Lavish Salon.

Having a bad hair day, I made an appointment at Lavish, a salon in Webster referred by my sister, Susan.  I didn’t plan to give my $10 kindness investment to anyone there, but after talking to colorist Brittany F., I felt she was “the one.”  When she asked what she could do for me today, I told her I wanted long hair like hers and I wanted to be as thin as she was.  “Sorry, can’t help with either of those requests,” she laughed, “but I promise to make your color look great!”  Sounded good to me.

I told Brittany about Reed’s Year of Giving projects and about being an unemployed Kindness Investor.  She was very interested and thought it was a cool idea.  She happily accepted my $10 investment and started work on my hair.

Brittany is 20 years old and originally from Canada.  Her father’s job brought the family to Texas; first Corpus Christi, then to Friendswood, just south of Houston.  It turns out Brittany attended the same high school in Friendswood that my nieces Lauren and Allison attended, though they had graduated by the time she entered high school.

Following graduation, she was deciding between college and cosmetology and opted to attend cosmetology school.  “It was only a year-long course and I figured if I didn’t like it, I could go back to school later.” Turns out she loved her career choice and plans to continue to hone her skills. She was hired by Lavish upon graduation and has been extremely happy there.  “We’re like a close family here.  We all get along really well, travel together, hang out together. I work with a great group of people – makes a big difference coming to work every day.”

If not cosmetology, Brittany was considering oceanography or marine biology. She’s always loved the ocean, is an avid swimmer and snorkeler and plans to scuba dive in the future.  “I love everything about the ocean,” she said as she layered on more color.  “Except for sharks.  I swam with dolphins at Atlantis in the Bahamas and snorkeled in Thailand. It was very cool. I just don’t want to meet up with any sharks.”

In her spare time, Brittany loves to travel and swim.  She and her boyfriend, Kevin, met in high school and have been dating about six years.  She has three dogs; a golden retriever named Harley, a brittany spaniel named Cricket and a little “weiner” (dachshund) she calls Weezi.

A few Favorites include:

Book: A Piece of Cake

Quote:  Live like there’s no tomorrow.

Movie: The Hangover (“I could watch that every day. Hilarious! And they’re making a sequel!”)

She plans to put the $10 in her savings account.  “I just bought my first new car, a Volkswagen Beetle. Red with a black top.”

“Cute car,” I said.  “You look like a VW Beetle owner, Brittany.”  Check out her picture – she does!

I told her about the Lend a Hand section on Reed’s Year of Giving website.  After she thought for a bit, she decided her one wish would be help paying off her student loans. “It would be awesome to be debt free!” she said.

You and me both, Brittany!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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[Tonight] I am announcing that the American combat mission in Iraq has ended.  Operation Iraqi Freedom is over, and the Iraqi people now have lead responsibility for the security of their country.” – President Barack Obama, Aug. 31, 2010

In March of 2003 President Bush ordered US troops to invade Iraq in what was called Operation Iraqi Freedom.  About the size of California, Iraq has about 31 million people.  Since 2003, many citizens of Iraq have been killed, displaced, or listed as missing.  I met up with two young Iraqi women on Day 262.  Meet Rusol and Iman.

Fountain at Dupont Circle (photo: Reed)

Sitting on the edge of the fountain at Dupont Circle the girls talk and laugh with one another like any other 21-year-old girls in the US.  But I learn that these girls have lived a very different life than many of their peers here in DC.

Both originally from Baghdad, Rusol has been in the US for one year and Iman two years.  Iman, a Sunni, came here because her father, a former officer in the Iraqi military, started receiving threats from terrorists.  Rusol, a Shiite who lives with her mother and sister, also moved here in search of a more safe and stable society.  “There are no more beautiful places in Baghdad,” they said.  They have all been destroyed.  Life is very different than what they remember before the war.  “It used to be very safe there.”  Despite all of this, they are both quite unhappy here in the US.  “Living here is a little like jail,” Iman says.  “People just work all the time.  Before I came here I thought the US was very fun and lots of parties, but it has only been work, even on weekends, and no parties.”  Rusol agreed, “It’s not like what we would see on TV.”

Although they are both working now, it took some time.  “It’s hard to find a job here since we are still learning English,” Rusol says.  On this day they had both just finished their shift at their nearby job at a restaurant.  Rusol, an attorney back in Iraq, says that she would never tell her friends back in Iraq that she is working as a waitress.

People of Iraq

Day 262 was September 2nd which is in the middle of Ramadan, the ninth month of the Islamic calendar. It is the Islamic month of fasting in which participating Muslims refrain from eating, drinking and sexual relations from dawn until sunset.  This month-long commitment is intended to teach Muslims about patience, humility, and spirituality.  I could tell the girls missed celebrating Ramadan like they would in Iraq.  They told me that when the sun sets during Ramadan, nobody is on the streets.  Everyone is inside.  “It’s a good time for dating,” they say.

I was curious about how dating was different for young Iraqis.  “Dating is not public,” Iman tells me referring to the fact that although quite common it is generally not welcomed by parents.  “My mom used to tell me that if I wanted a boyfriend that I should marry him.”  In spite of this, they told me that most young people do date.  They, however, said they were in the minority and didn’t have boyfriends.

I asked them what they are going to do with their five dollars.  

“I’m going to keep it,” Iman said.  Rusol didn’t know yet what she would do with it.  They said that although the Year of Giving would not be something that you would probably find people doing in Iraq, it could happen.  “Especially after the war. Nothing is strange now, you can see anything,” Iman told me.

Something that really struck me was that both girls said that notwithstanding the insecurity and potential dangers of returning to Iraq, they preferred to move back.  This made me so sad.  They have not integrated into society here and made friends.  Sometimes I think it is really hard to make friends here in the US.  Especially for adults. 

As we come to a pivotal point in the future of Iraq I wonder if things are any better there today than seven and a half years ago.  Although I have the utmost respect for all the military service men (US, Iraqi and other nationalities) that have served their respective countries there, it doesn’t sound like things are “better.”  So many lives have been lost.  Almost 5,000 US soldiers and hundreds of thousands of Iraqis.  I have heard numbers from 151,000 to over a million.  The girls estimate was closer to a million.  My cousin made two tours in Iraq and thankfully he is safely back home in Tennessee now, however, I am sure his service there came at a cost to him.  

What do you think?  Are things better there today?  I would love to hear from some people in Iraq.

If there are any Iraqi women in the DC area that have went through this difficult period that Rusol and Iman are going through and would like to reach out to them, let me know and I can try to connect you.

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I started my new job on Day 210!  It was my 285th day without work.  It felt so good to get up early and go to “my job!”  I know, most of you are vomiting right now hearing me say how happy I am to go to work on a Monday morning, but it was really true.  So far, I have been really impressed with the WWF and the people that are a part of the organization.  

Eric looks a lot like Abe Lincoln. Am I that short? Look at the angle of this photo (photo: Reed)

 

After work that day I headed over to meet an old colleague Derek at 18th and M Street.  From there we headed over to 14K Lounge for our friend Jen’s birthday party.  On our way over there we came face to face with our 16th president of the United States. 

Ok, so it wasn’t really Abraham Lincoln, although he does bear a tremendous resemblance to the tallest American president.  And he is about the same height.  Derek is 6”4” and he looked a smidgen taller than Eric (without his hat). 

Eric is a telecom engineer who has been out of work for a year.  He was staging a personal protest of sorts that afternoon against the powerful K Street lobbyist firms.  He is sickened by the amount of money that changes hands on this street in exchange for favorable consideration on governmental issues.  

As a result of him being out of work for so long he became homeless in May.  Since then he has managed by couch surfing and staying at shelters.  If your firm is looking for an engineer experienced in XML, telephony and Linux, give Eric a chance.     

He chose to save the money. 

Derek and I said goodbye and headed to the birthday party.  We didn’t mention to Eric that Derek technically is a lobbyist, but I hope that he wouldn’t dislike Derek just for that.  Because in fact Derek has a PhD in genetics and works tirelessly to educate our lawmakers in the area of preventative medicine as it relates to obesity, personalized medicine and tobacco. Hey, somebody’s got to protect us from the tobacco lobby! 

By the way, Eric does occasionally do some work as a Lincoln impersonator…I can connect you with him for that as well if you are interested.

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Day 202 – John W.

John at his job at Home Depot (photo: Reed)

As you remember from yesterday’s post, I was out in Manassas helping my friend Tom remodel his bathroom.  We took several trips to home improvement stores.  On Day 201 we went to Lowe’s, where I met George.  Well, on Day 202 we went to the Home Depot in Manassas and I met John.

He was behind the counter dressed in a striped shirt, a black Home Depot hat that covered a bandana on his head and a the standard issue orange apron.  Across the front of his apron the name John was written in black permanent marker. 

Prior to coming to Home Depot five years ago he and his wife worked on horse farms down in Georgia.  He seems to like his job but I get the sense that work has taken over his life.  “Sometimes I feel like I just come to work, go home, eat dinner, go to sleep, get up and come back here and do it all over again,” he says.  And I bet you could pretty much work every day at a place that only closes on Thanksgiving and Christmas. 

John is the type of guy I need to find when I go to Home Depot.  He grew up helping his father with projects and doing mechanic work since he was eight so he has good experience with home projects and is comfortable working with tools, etc.  I am getting better, but let’s just say that I have a long way to go.

Some of John's 140 tattoos. (photo: Reed)

His short sleeves reveal two fully tattooed arms.  “I started getting tattoos in 1992.  I’ve got 140 total.”  I learned that he hasn’t gotten any tattoos though in about ten years.  So 140 tattoos in eight years comes out to be one about every three weeks.  Wow…that’s intense!  So how much would that cost?  John estimates that he has invested between $6-10,000 in body art over the years.  “I’ll probably still get another one some day,” he admits.  He says the most painful one was a tattoo that he got on his left inner thigh.  I took a look at his arms.  Many of them depict Native American scenes inspired by his Sioux Indian heritage. 

He shared with me that when he started at Home Depot that the big question was if he was going to have to wear long sleeve shirts in order to cover his tattoos.  “After about a week they decided that it was OK because there was nothing offensive about the tattoos and they couldn’t really discriminate against me just because I had tattoos.”  Reminds me a little of when I was in high school I got a job a clothing store at the mall called Chess King.  Bill the manager asked me in the interview if there was anything that might prohibit me from performing the job.  “Well, I am color-blind,” I told him.  Bill looked pretty dumbfounded and said that he wasn’t sure they could hire me because of that.  But they did.  Apparently they were a little concerned about potential discrimination claims.  I did ok there.  Everything goes with jeans!

John (photo: Reed)

I looked down at the $10 and asked him what he planned on doing with it.  He thought about it for a little bit and decided to deposit it into his money market account.  He is saving money to hopefully retire in 15 years at 65.

John and his wife live with his 83-year-old father whose activities have been significantly curtailed after he suffered a broken hip.  He says that in the next month or two the doctors will determine if they can fix his father’s hip.  He paused as he told me this next part and his eyes went to the ground and then back up to me.  If they are unable to fix his father’s hip John will have to stop working in order to stay home and take care of his father.  “That’s OK, we’ll figure something out.  My dad raised me and I owe it to him to take care of him.  He did it for me.”

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My father, Manny (blog follower), and Sammy (Day 113) at the WWDoG DC Get-Together (Photo: Ryan Sandridge)

Thanks to all of you who participated in the Worldwide Day of Giving!  It was amazing.  So many great stories from all over…pictures and even video from some people!  I received a lot of emails from people who said that they tried, but just couldn’t do it.  It was too far out of their comfort zone.  That’s ok.  You tried.  Keep trying. 

I also received lots of emails from people who want to continue doing this every 15th of the month…what a great idea.  Feel free to continue to post your stories here or on Facebook WHENEVER you pay it forward.  I will remind everyone on July 15th for those who want to give it another try!

A lot of you have asked how the DC Meet-Up went.  I was so happy to see so many former recipients, followers of the blog, people I only knew from their comments, and even people who had received $10 from someone on the Worldwide Day of Giving that then joined us at the happy hour.  All the local news stations were also there.  I will try to get links for all the media from that day, including the two earlier interviews I did that day on News Channel 8 and CNN.

I am excited to write about my recipients for today’s post.  As my trip was winding down in Manizales, I started to get sad as the trip was coming to an end.  The day before I left I was in the Guacas area where I was staying getting ready for a barbecue that Roberto Gonzalo was organizing.  About 10 minutes up (literarily up the mountain) there is a small store that has some billiard tables and a TV for neighborhood people to come together.  Roberto Gonzalo and I had stopped by there on a few occasions and bought items we needed or enjoyed a beer at the end of the day.  This night I thought I would go and get to know them and see what they would do with my $10.

I left the gated area of the plantation and started to ascend up the mountain.  I can’t convey to you how steep this hill is.  The store is only about 200-250 yards away, but it is a workout to get there.  Pinto the dog escaped and was at my side as I lift one leg in front of the other.  My heart starts to pound and sweat is rolling off my forehead.  I stop for about a minute to catch my breath.  The altitude adds another level of complexity at 7,000 feet.  Pinto knows the way and he runs on ahead of me as I crest the incline and see the store off to the left.. 

Adriana, Augusto, and Pamela

The store is owned by Adriana and Augusto who live upstairs with their seven-year-old daughter.  I had seen them a few times while I was on my trip.  Augusto was always out front working on something; cutting wood on the lathe, welding some metal, working on a car, etc.  Adriana tends to the store and their daughter. 

It is a holiday weekend and many people have traveled leaving the store void of the usually two or three locals chatting about the election or the upcoming World Cup.  I find Augusto leaning over a table that has a large metal door laying flat on top of it.  Clad with goggles he wields a welding torch with his right hand along one of the edges of the metal door.  He gives me a wave and I walk toward Adriana who is sitting outside at a table with her daughter. 

View from Augusto/Adriana's store (Photo: Reed)

By this time Augusto had retired the blow torch and had walked over to the table.  We made some small talk and then I told them about my project.    I sat down and shared with them the journey that has become my passion over the past six months.

Adriana, who is 28, tells me that the store has been there for as long as she can remember.  It has been in the family for years.  She manages the store and also makes homemade morcilla which she sells in the city.  Morcilla is a type of sausage that is made by cooking blood from pigs, cows, goats, etc then adding a filler such as rice until it is thick enough to congeal when cooled.  I was introduced to morcilla when I lived in Valladolid, Spain.  Although it is quite tasty, I usually try not to think about what goes into it.

Augusto is the Colombia version of MacGyver.  Every time I would see him he was fixing something.  He is an industrial mechanic by trade, but he is a skilled woodworker, metalworker, carpenter, plumber, auto mechanic, etc.  He even likes to do car detailing.  The 32-year-old builds more in a week than I have in my entire life.  I asked him what the door was for and he said that the local prison had contracted him to make 12 doors for them.  I would think they would contract those sort of things with large companies, but “MacGyver” has a good reputation and the work flows his way.

A former police officer, he made the career change after being sent to the tension stricken border area between neighboring Ecuador.  “It was too dangerous for me,” he states “and I like to work with my hands.”

Adriana said something to her daughter and she disappeared into the store.  Pamela had been sitting patiently at the table the entire time that we spoke.  She reappeared minutes later and walked over to me and placed a cold bottle of the local beer, Poker, on the table next to me.  That is just the kind of hospitality that people grow up with here.  She smiled and went back to her chair.

I wanted to find out more about how Adriana and Auguto met.  Adriana told me about how they had actually known each other almost all their lives.  In fact, they even dated when they were teenagers, but later separated.  They reconnected years later and married.

Augusto had several questions about the Year of Giving.  We talked about how it got started, my family, and some of the other people I have met along the way.  I explained that they could look up the blog online, but they didn’t have internet access.  There is another small store about 100 yards away that has a computer where you can pay to surf the web.  I mentioned that they could go and look it up there.  Maybe they will do that.

I offered them either dollars or pesos.  Augusto said he would prefer dollars.  “For now I think I’ll  keep it as a reminder of us meeting each other.”  I only had one ten dollar bill with me and it was really beat up.  I placed it in his hand and told him that I would stop by the next day on my way to the airport and give him one in a little better shape.  He nodded as if to say that was ok, but not necessary. 

We wrapped up our conversation.  I paid for the beer and bought a few more to take to the barbecue.  As I headed down the driveway and turned onto the dirt road to make the journey down the mountain, Pinto appeared out of nowhere.  I had completely forgotten that he had accompanied me on the journey.  It was now pitch dark out and the lack of street lighting makes the walk down the mountain slightly challenging, although I’ll take walking down the mountain in the dark over walking up the mountain any day.  Especially with Pinto by my side, he knows the way.

The next day as we left for the airport, I hopped out of the jeep to make good on my word about exchanging the ten dollar bill.  Augusto and his family were sitting at a table eating lunch.   “I have been thinking a lot about your project today” he said.  “It’s really amazing.”  We switched the $10 and said “until the next time.”

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Just two days until the Worldwide Day of Giving

If anyone is located in an area affected by the oil spill or knows someone who is, please drop me a note.

Today’s recipient has a very special treat for you so I hope that you have a way to watch the videos that are posted on here.

Giovanni at work at the Batuta Foundation (Photo: Reed)

While I was in Manizales, I met Giovanni, a 31-year-old talented musician.  Although born in the nation’s capital of Bogotá, he originally came to Manizales to play the bass for the city’s orchestra.  He continues to perform in Manizales and cities throughout the region in addition to teaching music at the renown Batuta National Institute; a national system of youth orchestras that aims to foster social development through music.

He says he really likes life in Manizales.  I got a rather first hand view of his life as I was Giovanni’s neighbor for the 12 days I spent in Manizales.  He was living in the area of Guacas where Roberto Gonzalo lives and has his coffee plantation.  To go to work, he regularly makes the exhausting 30 minute walk up the mountain to grab a bus that goes down into the city.  It’s at least an hour or more to get into the city.  I know that because I did that several times while I was there!  

Giovanni invited me into his home.  It’s simply decorated with the essentials.  I can not help but notice the large bass leaning against the wall.  I was hoping he would play it for me.

We speak a mixture of Spanish and English.  He is very comfortable talking to me and even starts to prepare some dinner.  Dressed in a t-shirt, pants, flip-flops, he moves around his kitchen.  I asked him what he was cooking.  “I am kind of inventing right now.” I tend to do the same thing.

Before I know it he had made some coffee and served me a cup.

This is what was on Giovanni's music stand (Photo:Reed)

He says that he personally likes jazz, symphonies, and chamber music.  With a music degree from the Technological University of Pereira, he has a solid appreciation of many music genres.  If Pereira sounds familiar to you, it’s probably because that is the airport where I arrived.  Giovanni added that it is also where his parents live. 

Since I have been here during the election period, I also asked Giovanni who he felt would be the best leader to continue Colombia’s positive development that it has experienced over the past several years.  He gave me that slightly uncomfortable look that many people do when you move the conversation to political views.  He says that he has the most faith in Antanas Mockus from the Green Party.  “But I think Juan Manuel will win,” he says referring to Juan Manuel Santos who leads the poles.  

Like Viviana from Day 164, he opted to receive $10 instead of 20,000 pesos and also said he planned to keep the money as a memory of this experience.  That is touching that he would want to keep it to remember our meeting.

I asked Giovanni if he would play for me and he obliged.  Take a listen to this.  It’s beautiful.

Giovanni had some questions for me as well.  When I told him that I grew up in Pennsylvania, he told me that he had been there and that he travelled there regularly to perform.  His grin told me something was not as it appeared though as he divulged that he was referring to Pensilvania, another city in the state of Caldas.  Somehow I think that William Penn had no idea that years later there would be a city in Colombia that would share the name of the US state that was named after the colonial leader.

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Version en español sigue abajo. 

Today’s story is going to move you.  I have been thinking about Alirio since I met him. 

On my third day in Manizales I participated in a very interesting event.  The Centro Colombo-Americano in Manizales invited the youth choir from Colegio San Agustín to sing at an inauguration of the recently renovated and rededicated Centro Colombo-Americano’s cultural center and John F. Kennedy library.  This event was attended by Manizales Mayor Juan Manuel Llano Uribe, Caldas Governor Mario Aristizábal Muñoz, and US Ambassador to Colombia William Brownfield.  The children performed beautifully and Ambassador Brownfield was very gracious in taking time to shake their hands and share a few words with each of them. 

Later in the day I attended a meeting at the Manizales Normal School with the representatives of the 12 schools that the Secretary of Education has selected to concentrate their efforts on for the Manizales Bilingüe project.  After the meeting Roberto and I walked about a block to where his car was parked.  A few feet away from the car was Alirio, a 33-year-old parking attendant.  The local system is to put a slip of paper on the window for each hour that the car is parked.  We had three slips of paper on our window. 

Reed talking with Alirio and his son Cristian (Photo: Roberto Ceballos)

In theory this job is simple.  Accurately account for the time that each car is parked there, go and collect payment from the vehicle’s driver when they return, and report the totals to the city’s Department of Transportation.  But this job presents unique challenges for Alirio who is paralyzed from the waist down and confined to a wheelchair.  I contemplated asking him about how he became paralyzed and took a risk and politely asked him.  I was not prepared for the horrific story that accompanied the explanation. 

Alirio’s family had owned three coffee plantations in the 1990s.  At one point some paramilitary forces tried to extort money from him and his family for protection from the FARC guerrillas.  They always refused. 

The threats began to intensify and culminated in a bloody massacre which resulted in the murder of his parents.  He was shot twice. A bullet that entered his neck and exited under his arm left him paralyzed.  Three years later the harassing continued and his sister and her boyfriend were also murdered in a roadside attack. 

Click below to hear Alirio speaking about the loss of his family members as well as what he plans to do with the $10. 

I listened to his tragic story.  My attention 100% focused on every painful detail.  

His life was forever changed.  With his son Cristian by his side, he does what he can to get by.  His dream is to drive a car again.  “I still own a car and would really like to be able to drive again some day but for that I would need a special adaptation for the car so that the foot pedals can be controlled by hand.”  This is out of Alirio’s economic grasp.  I have added this to the Lend a Hand section.  Perhaps a company who learns about Alirio’s tragic story will graciously modify his car at no cost so that he can once again experience the freedom of being able to drive himself places. 

As for the $10, Alirio will add it to his savings.  He has worked since an early age and has always been a person that saves so that he can hopefully retire at an early age. 

Spanish Version 

La historia de hoy te va a conmover. He estado pensando en Alirio desde que lo conocí. 

Después de tres días in Manizales participe en un evento muy interesante.
El Centro Colombo-Americano en Manizales invitó el coro juvenil del colegio San Agustín para cantar en la inauguración de la recientemente renovada y re-dedicado Centro Cultural Colombo-Americano y la librería de John f. Kennedy. En este evento participo el alcalde de Manizales Juan Manuel Llano Uribe, el gobernador de Caldas Mario Aristizabal Muñoz y el embajador de E.U en Colombia William Brownfield.  Los niños hicieron una actuación muy linda y el Embajador Brownfield fue lo suficientemente grato en tomarse su tiempo para darle la mano a cada uno de estos niños y compartir unas cuantas palabras con cada uno de ellos.(vea el video arriba) 

Mas tarde en día participé en una reunión en la Escuela Normal de Manizales con los representantes de las 12 escuelas que el secretariado de educación ha escogido para concentrar sus esfuerzos en el proyecto bilingüe de Manizales.  Después de la reunión Roberto y yo caminaos una cuadra en donde estaba su vehículo estacionado. A unos pies de distancia de donde estaba el carro estacionado, se encontraba Alirio, un empleado de parqueo de carros de 33 años. El sistema local es poner un papel en la ventana de cada carro por cada hora que un vehículo está estacionado. Nosotros teníamos 3 papelitos en la ventana de nuestro automóvil. 

Parking lot tickets (Photo: Reed)

Teóricamente este trabajo es simple. Un conteo actualizado por el tiempo que cada auto permanece estacionado, ir a colectar el pago del chofer del vehículo cuando regresan a sus carros y reportar el total colectado al departamento de Transportación de la ciudad. Pero este empleo presenta retos únicos para Alirio que está paralizado de la cintura para abajo y confinado a una silla de ruedas. 

Contemplé en preguntarle acerca de como él fue paralizado y me cogí el riesgo y le pregunté. Yo no estaba preparado para la horrible historia que acompañaba su explicación. La familia de Alirio eran los dueños de tres siembras de  cafetales en los años 1990.  Hubo un tiempo en que algunas fuerzas paramilitares trataban de extorsionar dinero de Alirio y su familia para protegerlos de las guerrillas del FARC. Alirio y su familia los rechazaban. 

Las amenazas empezaron a intensificarse y culminaron en una sangrienta masacre que resultó en el asesinato a sus padres. A él lo abalearon dos veces, una bala que penetro en su cuello y salió por debajo de su brazo lo dejó paralitico. Tres años más tarde las amenazas continuaron y su hermana y el novio de su hermana también fueron asesinados en un ataque de carretera. Haga un click en el video mostrado arriba de Alirio hablando sobre la perdida de los miembros de su familia y de lo que él piensa hacer con los $10.00 dólares.
 
Escuché su trágica historia. Concentre mi 100% de atención a cada doloroso detalle. Su vida cambio para siempre. Con su hijo Cristian a su lado el hace lo que puede para seguir adelante. su sueño es poder volver a manejar un auto otra vez. “Aun tengo mi carro y me gustaría muchísimo en realidad poder volver  manejarlo algún día, pero para eso necesitaría una adaptación especial  en mi carro para que los pedales del carro puedan ser controlados con las manos.”  Esto está fuera del alcance económico de Alirio. He incluido esta historia en la sección del “Lend a Hand“( Prestar una mano). Quizás, una compañía que descubra la trágica historia de Alirio podría gratuitamente modificar su auto sin costo alguno para que el pueda una vez más vivir la experiencia de poder movilizarse libremente. 

En referente a los $10.00 dólares, Alirio lo va a añadir a sus ahorros. El ha trabajado desde muy temprana edad y siempre ha sido una persona que ahorra para poderse retirar a temprana edad.
 
Esta traducción ha sido gratuitamente traducida por Jeannette Pérez de Miami.

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View from my open living room on the coffee plantation (Photo: Reed)

My second day in Manizales was wonderful.  My main contact for the project I am doing here is Roberto who works for the Secretary of Education for the city of Manizales.  Roberto owns a coffee plantation where my accommodations have been graciously arranged for during my stay.  Although Cielo was right about it being hilly, it is not ugly here.  It is beautiful.  And as far as being cold, coming from Washington, DC I don’t find it cold but it does get a little chilly in the evening.  If she had told me it was the city of rain, I might have agreed with her.  It has rained a lot but then again it is the rainy season.

Colombia has taken on a very aggressive mission to become a bilingual country by 2019.  To do this, every state, or department as they call them, and city has made action plans for how to reach this goal.  One of the unique ways that this can be achieved is by leveraging the interest that students have in the arts to assist in language acquisition.  Part of my involvement here is to work with an amazing non-profit organization focused on the arts, the Rafael Pombo Foundation.  This is an excellent organization with a 25 year history of giving the community a place to explore the finer arts.  Their Bilingual Performing Arts School can play an integral part in the efforts to improve the English proficiency in Manizales and even accelerate language acquisition rates.  

On Thursday I visited the San Agustín Elementary School, a primary school that serves a severely impoverished area of the city.  We worked with a wonderful group of students who were chosen to sing at a ceremony the following day for the governor, the mayor, and the US ambassador.  Roberto and I, along with the school’s music teacher, Camilo, rehearsed two English songs with them.

Rain drops drip inside the Pombo Foundation soaking the 75-year-old floors (Photo: Reed)

Later that afternoon I stopped by the Rafael Pombo Foundation.  I met the small staff and took a tour of the facility.  The building is an impressive old European style mansion that is owned by the city of Manizales.  Unfortunately, the city has completely neglected the upkeep of this historic landmark.  From chairs that need reupholstered to holes in the roof that allow water to flood the building to overgrown landscaping.  The facility is in dire needs of some funding so that it can make the needed repairs and continue to be a cultural epicenter in the city for the arts.

While I was there I met Viviana, the coordinator for the foundation.  Viviana is 27 and lives in the Belen area of Manizales.  With a degree in art education, she fits right in at the Pombo Foundation.  In addition to her role as a coordinator, she also teaches some of the art classes.   Her interest is in abstract painting and she credits local artist Margoth Márquez as an inspiration and mentor.  

When she is not helping to run the Pombo Foundation, she is running her own foundation, Manizales Florece, an environmental group focused on issues in the Caldas state.  

Viviana opted to receive ten dollars instead of 20,000 pesos and plans to keep it as a rememberence of our meeting and the Year of Giving project.  Here is a short video in Spanish of her talking about her impression of the Year of Giving.

You will certainly hear more in the next two weeks about the Rafael Pombo Foundation, the Manizales Bilingüe Project, and the children of the San Agustín school.

SPANISH VERSION

Mi día segundo en Manizales fue maravilloso.  El contacto mayor para el proyecto que estoy haciendo es Roberto, quien trabaja para la Secretaria de Educación para la Cuidad de Manizales.  Roberto también es el dueño de una finca de cafe donde mi alojamiento se han organizado durante mi estancia.

Aunque Cielo fue correcta que el área es falduda, no esta feo aquí.  Llegando de Washington D.C., el frío no me molesta pero los noches siento algo fresco.  Si mi ha dicho que Manizales fue una ciudad de lluvias, de acuerdo.  Ha llovido mucho así es el tiempo de las lluvias.

Colombia ha tomado una misión muy agresiva que hacer un país bilingüe por 2019.  A hacerlo, cualquier estado – digo departamentos como se llaman – y ciudad han hecho planes como hacer este meta.

Una de las maneras que pueden hacerlo es aprovechando el interés de que los alumnos tienen en las artes para ayudar en la adquisición del lenguaje.  Parte de mi participación aquí es trabajar con un organización sorprendente sin fines de lucro con un foco de las artes se llaman Fundación Rafael Pombo.  Es un organización excelente con una historia de 25 anos dando a la comunidad un lugar para explorar las artes fines.  Su Performing Arts School bilingüe puede hacer un parte integral en sus deseos a aprovechar fluencia en Ingles en Manizales aun acelerar sus niveles de adquisición.

Students of Colegio San Agustin (Photo: Reed)

Jueves pasado fui a visitar La Escuela Primaria San Agustín que sirve los gravemente pobres de la ciudad. Trabajemos con un grupo de alumnos escogidos a cantar al una ceremonia el día siguiente para el gobernador, el alcalde y el embajador del EEUU.  Yo y Roberto con el profesor de música, Camilo, ensayemos dos cantos de Ingles con los alumnos.

Más tarde esa tarde dejé por la Fundación de Rafael Pombo.  Me reuní con la reducida cantidad de personal y tuvo un recorrido por las instalaciones.  El edificio es una antigua mansión de estilo Europeo e impresionante que es propiedad de la ciudad de Manizales.  Por desgracia, la ciudad completamente ha descuidado el mantenimiento de este sitio histórico.  Desde sillas que necesitan reparación hasta agujeros en el techo que permiten agua inundar y un jardín descuidado. La facilidad es en terribles necesidades de algunos fondos para que pueda hacer las reparaciones necesarias y seguirá siendo un epicentro cultural en la ciudad de las artes.

Mientras estuve allí conocí a Viviana, la Coordinadora de la Fundación.  Viviana tiene 27 anos y vive en el área de Belén de Manizales.  Con una licenciatura en educación de arte, ella encaja justo en la Fundación de Pombo.  Además de su papel como coordinadora, ella también enseña algunas de las clases de arte.   Su interés está en la pintura abstracta y ella menciona la artista local Margoth Márquez como una inspiración y mentor. 

Cuando ella no está ayudando a realizar la Fundación Pombo, ella está ejecutando su propia Fundación, Manizales Florece ~ un grupo ambiental centrado en cuestiones en el estado de Caldas.  Decidí Viviana a recibir diez dólares en lugar de veinte mil pesos y tiene planes a guardarlo como una memoria de conocernos y el proyecto Un Ano De Dar. Arriba tiene un video corto de ella dando su impresión del Un Ano de Dar.

Seguramente vas a escuchar más en los próximos dos semanas sobre la Fundación Rafael Pombo, el proyecto Manizales Bilingüe, y los chicos del colegio San Agustín.

Esta entrada del blog se tradujo amablemente por Penny Pérez.

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I had to run over to Home Depot to get some things and as I was driving home I saw Alfonso pushing his ice-cream cart up the slight incline of Patrick Henry Drive to where it intersects with Arlington Blvd.

Alfonso and his ice-cream cart (Photo: Reed)

I past him and then double backed, parked the car, and waited for him to reach my car.  The sound of the tires rolling over loose gravel was mostly muffled by the cheerful bells that rang with every movement of the cart.  

Alfonso has a kind face and smiles naturally, although his mustache covers up most of it.  He said that the company he works offered people the opportunity to come to Arlington, VA for the summer months to sell Mexican style ice-cream.  So Alfonso came here from Dallas, TX.  He didn’t know a soul in the area.  Now he interacts with hundreds of people every day.

Photo: Reed

He pushes his cart filled with a large block of ice and about 200 hundred ice-creams up Patrick Henry Drive from Route 7 to past Arlington Blvd into the neighborhoods behind the shopping center where the Target is.  Back and forth he travels under the burning sun.  He usually sells about 100-150 ice creams.  On a good day he might sell 200; coconut is the best seller.  I asked if I could take a peak inside the cooler.    

Having lived most of his life in Palm Springs, CA, six years ago Alfonso moved to Dallas searching for his 28-year-old son that he didn’t know.  He knew he was living somewhere in the state, but that doesn’t help much when you are searching in the second largest state in the country that boasts more than 268,000 square miles.  Luckily for Alfonso, his son was also trying to find him.  He found him in Austin, TX.

“We are friends now.  I will never be his father to him.”  He is hopeful that they can have a relationship, but it is hard after so many years and so much pain.  “You see, I was living in California and was lost on drugs and alcohol.  Then 15 years ago I received Jesus Christ as my savior.”

Photo: Reed

He is also not in touch with his ex-wife any more.  The last he knew she lived in Monterrey, Mexico.  Maybe I could try to find her like I am trying to find Victor’s mother from Day 139. 

He seems happy to be here.  “Arlington is nicer than Dallas,” he says.  “There is less crime here.” 

Despite a nice relaxing conversation, I could feel that he needed to get on his way.  He needed to earn his daily wages and the ice-cream would not stay cold forever.  I asked him what he would do with the $10 and he softly replied that he would save it. 

We exchanged telephone numbers and I got back in my car.  Alfonso returned to his position behind the cart and started to push it the remaining 30 yards to the intersection.  The bells began to sing again.

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Filter, 1726 20th St., NW, DC

On Sunday I checked out a new coffee house in Dupont called Filter.  It’s well located, tucked behind Connecticut Avenue on the more laid back 20th Street.  I descended a few stairs and walked into the cozy, hip coffee joint an ordered an espresso.  The prices seemed slightly higher than Starbucks and Cosi, both of which are right around the corner.  Overall I liked the place, despite a guy who was working there complaining that a nearby restaurant manager sent about 10 or 15 of her staff over to get espresso so that they understood what a good espresso tasted like.  He didn’t like that they got it to go and one person reached for a cup before it was ready, etc.  Anyway, when you work in an open atmosphere you need to be cognizant that others can hear your conversation.  As a new location, I would have been thrilled to have 15 customers.

While I was there I met Mark, a graduating senior studying economics at the George Washington University here in DC.  He graduates on May 17th and is frantically wrapping up his final papers and studying for his last exams.  I remember my last week of college.  It was a great feeling to be “finished.”  Little did I know that I was only finished with another segment of life and that new challenges and tests were just over the horizon. 

Mark is from the DC area.  He grew up in Montgomery County and graduated from Magruder High School.  

He and I have something in common related to the $10.  Well, in a round about way.  So Mark has a plan to go to Prudhoe Bay, Alaska and embark on a bicycling journey all the way to Ushuaia, Argentina.  I asked him how far this was and he said, “I don’t know exactly…several thousand miles.”  Well, I did a little checking and I calculated that it will be at least 11,000 miles!  That is like going across the continental US from ocean to ocean 3.5 times!  Along the way he plans to give people $10 and a self-addressed stamped envelope.  He will ask that they send him photos, stories, poems, etc. to him as well as a note explaining how they used the money.  He sees it as a way to get to know the individuals as well as study the marginal propensity to save (or to consume) in different cultures.

Anyway, watch the video and you will learn a little more about Mark’s interest in cycling, his cycling trip around Spain and France as well as his plans for his upcoming trip from Alaska to Argentina.  I also included a small piece where he talks about volunteering to help an adult read better.  

As you might expect, Mark put the $10 toward his savings needed to make the trip.

I asked Mark if we could help him with anything on the Lend a Hand page.  He said he needs funds to help him make his journey to Argentina.  He applied for a grant from the University but was denied.  I think there is a way to make this happen with corporate and individual donations.  Furthermore, he needs to find a house/apartment in DC for the summer.  He is looking for a place in DC that he will share with three other friends with a monthly rent of less than $3,000/month.  Mark is also looking for a summer job, possibly in economic development but he is also open to other ideas.  He seems like a great guy and would be a good addition to any business.  

Reed and Mark

Before we said goodbye, Mark asked if I would consider being on the finish line in Argentina when he gets there.  I would love that!  We agreed to meet in a couple of weeks and do a bike ride after I get my bike out and get into shape a little.  I was so inspired after our conversation, that I went home, got my bike in working order and took it for a short ride that evening.  Thanks Mark!

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Happy Earth Day!  It’s a shame that many people only think about caring for our planet once a year, but I guess that is better than nothing.  I will be posting Day 126 later today about a man who has dedicated his life to saving our country and planet.  His story tonight.

Many people ask how they can help me.  This week I received a check from a friend of mine and four gift certificates from a follower named Tawanna.  A few weeks ago a man from California sent me a donation via PayPal to sponsor ten days of giving.  Although all of these efforts are greatly appreciated, I would encourage you to think about how you can help those on the Lend a Hand page or individuals and organizations in your local community.  I promise to put the donations that I receive to good use, although, I can not accept money for my $10 daily commitment.  I made the $3,650 commitment myself and I don’t feel that it is fair to accept donations for my own personal commitment.  I am in the process of studying the possibility of creating a nonprofit that would help manage and distribute funds that I receive in a responsible manner.  I hope you don’t take this the wrong way.  Call me stubborn!  Larry and Kelly from California told me yesterday that, “to be a great giver, you also have to be a good receiver.”  What do you think?

Gravett playing the EWI4000s (Photo: Reed)

On Day 125 I was walking by Starbucks at Dupont Circle and saw a man playing a clarinet-like instrument inside the coffee shop.  I had seen him playing there before, but didn’t have time to stop.  I went inside and saw that the instrument is connected to a small electronic device that connects to earphones.  He was deep in concentration.  I nervously walked around pretending to be interested in anything but him.  Finally I just bit the bullet and walked up to him and asked if I could talk to him for a minute.

AKAI EWI4000s

That minute turned into two hours.  Gravett is a musician who is practicing on a EWI4000s.  It’s an electronic saxophone.  I used to play saxophone.  My band instructor, Mr. Snyder, I am sure would agree that the saxophone was not my calling in life.

The real benefit of the EWI4000s is that it has an internal sound module that stores the sounds/tones that the instrument produces rather than relying on an external modulator.  This allows Gravett to not have to carry around bulky equipment to hear the sound he is producing.  Pretty cool.

I asked him how he makes a living and he said he played the saxophone and worked as a pedicab driver in DC.  Pedicabs are bicycle powered cabs.  Very timely that I should write about him and his pedicab on Earth Day.  Gravett has returned to Washington DC last year after spending time living in Mexico City, the Czech Republic, and Jamaica.  I told him that I had given $10 to another saxophone player on Day 100 (Bill).  He nodded his head and said he knew him.  “Bill is really talented” he said.

Benjamin Banneker (1731-1806)

I asked Gravett what he thought he would use the $10 for and he said he was going to save it for his next stint overseas.  “I have been thinking about going back to Mexico City.  I really like it there … or maybe Guatemala.”  Although Gravett said he likes Washington quite a bit, he prefers to live outside of the United States.  He feels that he doesn’t necessarily know or share in the history of the city and prefers to be somewhere that this is not expected of him.  In his work operating the pedicab he gets asked questions about the city quite a bit.  He impressed me though when he told me the story of Benjamin Banneker.  Banneker worked closely with Andrew Ellicott on finalizing the city plans for the District of Columbia.  I always thought it was the Frenchman Pierre Le’Enfant who was responsible for the entire plans, but George Washington supposedly dismissed Le’Enfant and left

Ellicott and Banneker to salvage the plans.

By the way, for those of you in Maryland, Ellicott and his two brothers established Ellicott Mills, later renamed Ellicott City.

Gravett is someone who lives in the present.  He believes that communication is only real when it is live and spoken.  Sounds are only real when they are produced live from their original source.  We spoke philosophically about these and many items.  Some things we agreed upon.  Others we did not.  But that is ok.  In the spirit of the legendary newscaster Ron Burgundy, we agreed to disagree.  I enjoyed chatting with him so much that soon we were being asked to leave as the coffee shop was closing.  

We gathered our things and headed to the West entrance that boarders Connecticut Avenue.  We said our goodbyes as he put a helmet on and got on his scooter (his legs are probably tired from all the pedaling!)  As I started to leave he said something that I have found myself telling others.  “Thanks for sharing.”

Because that is what we were really doing.  We were both sharing; sharing our time, our ideas, our questions, etc.  Had I not been doing this project, I don’t think I would have ever stopped to talk to Gravett.  I probably would have lived the rest of my life never knowing about Benjamin Banneker.  

Gravett did tell me something that you could help him with.  He would like information on living in Guatemala.  In particular, he is interested in extremely low-cost housing information as well as general safety issues.  He hopes to move there this summer.  If you have information or know where he can research this better, please leave a comment.

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Last Monday was absolutely beautiful.  I met up with a journalist who wanted to follow me around while I gave out my $10.

We met at Union Station and walked over to the Capitol.  I answered questions on camera while we walked around the Capitol grounds.  As we were walking I saw a woman about 50 yards off the path who had an easel set up and was drawing the dome of the Capitol Rotunda.  I made my way across the grass and introduced myself to Janet.

Janet sketching the Capitol (Photo: Reed)

David, the journalist, stayed about 30 yards away and filmed the interaction.  

Janet welcomed me with her calm voice.  I explained what I was doing and she agreed to participate.  She is extremely talented and passionate about her work.

Janet started her artistic career doing pottery.  She took up drawing and painting about nine years ago while living in Israel due to the minimal equipment needed to draw and paint compared to sculpting.  Janet and her husband lived in Israel for about five years and in Italy for a year. 

She said she would love to go back to live in Jerusalem.  It tops her list of cities to live in.  New York and Rome make up second and third respectively.  Originally from Houston, Janet clearly enjoys traveling and visiting new places and cultures.

She and her husband are no strangers to giving.  From helping refugees in Gaza to donating items for women imprisoned in Juarez, Mexico, they have made a clear choice to help others.  Janet also went into areas of Sri Lanka where media were not even given access and provided art supplies to orphans of their civil war.

Photo: Reed

The sun’s position in the sky was changing.  Janet was studying how the light and shadows fall upon the marble and white slathered limestone of the Capitol walls.  She was gracious and polite; however, I tried to wrap up things quickly.

I took some pictures and came back to the question of what she was going to do with the $10.  She told me that she had recently found $20 on the street and her husband decided to put it in an olive oil jar.  So she said that she would add the $10 to the jar.  I asked her what she intended to use the money for in the end and she said that she didn’t know yet.  “My husband says he will break it open some day though.”  Well, maybe she will remember me when that day comes and drop me a note about what they do with it.

David and I walked to a near-by bench and sat down and talked some more.  It wasn’t five minutes after we had sat down before another person walked up the grassy knoll and started up a conversation with Janet.  Despite all the interruptions she is certain to have, she manages to create beautiful work

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Aftermath of the 1998 Nairobi embassy bombingOn the morning of August 7, 1998, Sammy woke up, did his chores, and went about his day like any other day.  Unfortunately, August 7th was not just another day.  Not if you lived in Nairobi, Kenya or Dar es Saleem, Tanzania.  

Between 10:30 am and 10:40 am local time, suicide bombers in trucks laden with explosives parked outside the US embassies in both cities and almost simultaneously detonated their payloads.  In Nairobi, more than 200 people were killed, and an estimated 4,000 wounded; in Dar es Salaam, there were 11 killed and almost 100 wounded.  Despite being targeted at Americans, the victims were largely local citizens.  Only 12 Americans were killed.  Osama bin Laden is said to be responsible for the attacks.

Sammy working at 18th and M in DC (Photo: Reed)

Unfortunately Sammy was in the wrong place at the wrong time.  He ended up under the rubble in Nairobi for three days.  He survived with only two broken legs and some other minor injuries.  Sadly he lost three business associates that morning.

In 2001 Sammy came to the US to testify in the trials against the alleged perpetrators of the horrible massacre.  He then came back in 2007 to attend a conference but ended up staying due to the violence that erupted in his home country after incumbent President Mwai Kibaki was declared the winner of the presidential election held on December 27, 2007.

Now homeless, he has been here since then selling the Street Sense paper.  You can usually find him around the intersection where Connecticut, M, and 18th Streets come together.  His goal is to return to Kenya by the end of the year and start a street paper similar to Street Sense.  “There are almost no homeless in Kenya” he told me.  People may stay with family or in what might be considered substandard housing from a US perspective, but they don’t have hardly anyone he said that you would find sleeping on the streets of Nairobi. 

Sammy let me ask him a few questions on camera.

As you saw, Sammy plans to save my $10 and put it toward his street paper venture in Kenya when he returns next year.  If you have any interest in helping Sammy start his paper, he is actively looking to work with partners and individuals.  Drop me a note and I can connect you with him.

Despite the terrible events of August 1998, Sammy manages to keep an optimistic spirit and maintains hope for a better tomorrow.

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If you drive east from Mechanicsburg, PA on the turnpike for about an hour you will arrive in Adamstown, PA and be greeted by Stoudt’s Brewery, a high quality regional craft brewery.  How could I not stop in and sample some of their beers? 

Carol Stoudt (Photo: Reed)

 

While there I gave my $10 to Carol Stoudt, the founder and President of Stoudt’s Brewing Company.  Carol started the brewery in 1987.  They are not the biggest brewery or the most known, in fact their beer is available in less than a third of the states in the US.  Carol and her husband Ed run the brewery in a very simple way: make quality tasty beer. 

But I noticed, they do more than that.  You will see in the video that they have a restaurant and make several other products.   “We are fortunate to have a business centered around several things that we love: family, friends, beer, food, wine, bread, cheese…”  

In addition, they are very focused on sustainable practices; from reusing their water to converting brewing byproducts such as residue hops into fertilizer for farms to recycling clothes into company gear.  They don’t waste much. 

Check out some of my interview with Carol. 

 I asked Carol what she was going to do with the $10 and she said that she was going to tuck it away in her purse and use it when she got in a pinch and didn’t have cash on her.     

Thanks to Carol for her time and I hope she and her family keep up the good work!

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Day 34 – Aminta

Today was one of those days that I waited until the end of the day to give away my $10.  I got home from my theatre rehearsal and headed out around 10:15pm to find someone.

I saw many people, but didn’t feel compelled to give anyone the money.  I don’t know why.  I am often asked to explain how I pick people.  There is really no secret formula.  It is more spontaneous than thought-out.  Some people think that I only look for homeless individuals.  That is not the case.  In fact, I think it is just as interesting to learn what someone who makes a six-figure salary is going to do with the money as it is someone who is homeless.  Granted, I feel better about giving the money when I know that it gets used for something that has value to someone else. 

Tonight I found Aminta sitting alone on a bench at a bus stop waiting for the D6 bus.  She was eating a slice of pizza from a big slice pizza joint.  I felt bad interrupting her, but I figured if she had time to eat a slice of pizza she probably had time to chat with me for a few minutes.  I explained what I was doing to the 27-year-old and she accepted my $10.  Usually the people I approach, especially late at night, appear a bit nervous or uncomfortable but she was very calm and relaxed. 

Originally from Puerto Rico, Aminta works at Target and has been in DC for about three months.  Her mother, who was living here in DC, got the swine flu and she moved her to take care of her.  In a weird twist of events, she arrived here on her two-year wedding anniversary and ended up separating from her husband on precisely that day.  “We are still great friends,” she told me.

I asked her what she planned to do with the $10.  She said, “I am going to save it for one year and then we can get together and figure out what to do with it then.”  Interesting answer.  I scribble my John Hancock on the bill and date it in some attempt to mark the bill as the one that I gave her. 

I see the D6 pulling up and tell her that I think her bus has arrived.  She gathers her things, accidentally dropping her to go box of pizza on the ground.  Thankfully, the pizza stayed inside the box.  We shook hands and went our separate ways into the night.

It would be interesting to meet up with the recipients at the end of the year.  Maybe we can throw a little party or something?  Would be interesting to see who would come.  Perhaps some people who have followed the blog would come as well as some recipients.  I will keep that idea in mind.

By the way, I have not forgotten about Mark from Day 29!  I am going to follow up with him tonight to see what he has decided to do with the $10.

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