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Archive for the ‘Something for others’ Category

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

I decided to go do my “reverse panhandling” at Starbucks in River Forest as it is a favorite haunt for both my husband John and myself.  In the evenings it quiets down, making it a nice place to read or write.  Tonight I found out it’s also a nice place for a gathering of women who share a common hobby:  knitting.

This Starbucks has a cozy corner tucked in the back away from the fray.  A coffee table sits on a worn Persian rug and is surrounded by three burnt orange wingback chairs.  Most people covet this prime real estate, myself being one of them.  When I arrived, I headed back there immediately, only to find one chair taken by a studious young man reading a Bible.  A silver-haired woman sits knitting in another.  The third chair holds a wicker basket stuffed with yarn.
I eyed the chair and the woman eyes me.  These are the words in the cartoon balloons floating over our heads.

“You’re not taking that chair!”

“I don’t want that chair!”

“Yes you do, and you can’t have it!”

I really don’t want the chair, and besides, it’s pretty obvious she’s holding it for someone.  What I am thinking is,“Hmmm, is she the one?  I don’t know.  She’s guarding that chair like a pit bull.”  She really is a bit intimidating.  Maybe I better approach the Bible reader instead.  I mean, what could go wrong there?  A Bible reader is bound to be interested in the YOG project.

Trying to make up my mind, I once again eye the Bible reader, the chair, and the woman.

The woman eyes me back.  I think I detect a certain fierceness in the click of her knitting needles.  Suitably daunted and uncertain about bothering the young man, I decide to wander the length of Starbucks looking for someone else to draw my attention.  But I don’t want to leave my Asus unattended, so I return to home base—a table just outside the coveted cozy corner.

Well, I have two reasons for finally deciding to approach the silver-haired knitter.  One, I could’ve wasted all night looking for the right recipient.  Two, I’m overcome with an unreasonable need to reassure her I don’t want her chair!  I don’t steal parking spots either!

“Hello, excuse me,” I begin timidly, “is someone sitting here?”

“No, but they will be in less than fifteen minutes,”comes her firm reply.

“Oh, that’s ok, I don’t want the chair,” I swear, barely resisting the temptation to finish with “cross my heart and hope to die.”  She explains she meets here weekly with a group of women friends numbering from six to fifteen.  They gathered to knit, share knitting patterns and shoot the breeze.

Then I ask her if she’d be willing to hear about a project that might interest her.  I’m starting to think that’s not the best pick-up line because it seems to arouse suspicion when my goal is to inspire generosity.  I would probably feel the same way.  Whoever approaches somebody with the sole purpose of giving away money?  My assumption would be this project is probably going to cost me something.

She is gracious, though, and allows me to tell her about Reed and the Year of Giving blog.  When I finish, she tells me she’s struck by the notion anyone would be interested in what she was going to do with the money.  It seems odd to her.  She’s also adamant she doesn’t want to be involved in something she has to perpetuate, as if it were a “living chain letter” of sorts.  I assure her this is not the case.

She’s clearly ambivalent, and I don’t want her to feel pressured.  I’m on the verge of trying to find a graceful way to bow out when another member of the group shows up.

“Glenyss!  We have a project to consider,” she says, gesturing to me.  “This is right up your alley.”

Glenyss pulls up a chair and listens while I explained it again.  The silver-haired knitter is right.  It is right up her alley.

“Oh sure, we can take the money.  We can find a charitable knitting project and use the ten to buy the yarn for it.”
I actually have a friend who is involved in “competitive knitting” but I’d never heard the phrase “charitable knitting.”  I ask Glenyss to tell me more and she explained she’s been involved in a number of charitable knitting projects, both personally and through her church.  For instance, in 2008 Iowa was flooded for the entire month of June.  Her church knitted caps and mittens because, “no-one was thinking about winter coming, when they’d discovered they’d lost the caps and mittens in the flood.”  So this way, they would be prepared.  How wonderful it must have been for those families to have one less thing to worry about during that difficult time!

A few more women show up, including Marion, for whom the chair had been reserved (she tells me with a pat to the bum “I have no padding so I need a soft chair”).  The other is Lori.  Lori wants to hear about the project too.  The project brought a big smile to her face, and I sense I have finally made the sale (boy, whoever thought you’d have to go to so much effort to SELL ten dollars?).

“So, shall I give you the ten dollars,” I ask the group of four knitters.

“Sure, we’ll take it,” Glenyss speaks for the group, reaching her hand out for the money.

The silver-haired knitter—whose name I finally learned was Debbie—doesn’t want her picture on the web, so I suggest they display their knitting projects and I will take a picture of their work.

What you’re looking at here is beautiful sweater for a young child, a gorgeous woman’s white cardigan and the start of a knapsack.  Debbie is making it.  It brought back a bittersweet memory for me.  My grandmother had once made me a knitted knapsack that I adored.  I loved it because it was cool and reminded me of her.  Then, my apartment was robbed and only two items were taken—a ring which cost five dollars, and the knapsack.  It’s been over twenty years and I still miss it!

Thanking them for their time, I return to my little writing post.  The group has grown from four to nine while I write this.  I overhear conversations about knitting quickly give way to more personal stories interspersed with jokes, laughter and the occasional display of a project for the generous admiration of all.  Their words knit one, pearl two a soft, warm shawl of goodwill and friendship around them which spills out to wrap around me as well.

As the evening draws to a close the women start to leave, one by one.  A few wish me goodnight and good luck with my project and I’m tempted to say, “It’s your project, too.”  But that’s not for me to decide.  They have the ten-dollar bill.  What they do with it is up to them.  Still, I’d like to think it has added a unique stitch to their evening.  I hope it won’t get dropped. 

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

Hi, my name is Rose and I am this week’s Kindness Investor.  I am underemployed this year.  However, I had an opportunity to take a cruise recently to the British Virgin Islands as a Teaching Assistant to Donna Eden, by whom I am trained as an Eden Energy Medicine Clinical Practitioner.  So my first four opportunities to give away ten dollars a day began on the cruise.

I started my week of giving early here on the island of Tortola.  I spent the morning on a nature hike in the Sage Mountain National Park.  Then we went to some touristy beach the name of which I do not recall.  No, it was Cane Something.  Well, anyway.   It has a centuries old rum distillery on it that is still operating.  Samples were wasted on me since I don’t drink, but the distillery itself was fascinating and beautiful to photograph.

We had about an hour on the beach which was a bit crowded.  The pelicans here are to the locals what seagulls are to American beach-goers.  No, they don’t beg from you, but they are very tolerant of people and float in the water very close to shore.  I was lucky enough to get a shot of one flying up into the air.  However, I couldn’t get a reverse shot of any diving into the water to grab a fish.  It was fun watching them swallow their meals.  Just like in the cartoons, you can see the little lumps wiggling down their pouchy gullets.

When we finally got back to the area near the boat, I did some shopping.  There were two areas which sold “local crafts.”  The first area sold mostly cheap junk.  I didn’t even bother looking for anything here.  I just made off for the other area.  It was very close to the same.  However, I found one gem there.  An artist who is a fourth generation Tortolan had a little hut full of his artwork.  His ancestors came from West Africa, and art has been in their blood.  His dad, he said, was also a painter like him.  “But, when my parents divorced, I didn’t divorce the tradition.  So I kept on painting.”

I bought a small painting of slaves cutting sugar cane which touched me deeply with its sense of peace despite hardship.  Then, upon his recommendation, I headed down the street to Bamboushay, a coffee shop which also sold locally made pottery.

When I walked in there was an Asian woman—very pregnant—typing on her laptop, a Caucasian woman with long blonde hair I pegged for an ex-pat, and a beautiful slender black woman behind the counter.  A small array of cookies and muffins was on display, and—much to my relief—a long list of coffee specialties were available.

At first I ordered a large decaf iced latte.  Then I spied Chai latte on the board.  So I said, “Wait a sec, how’s your Chai tea?  Is it really, really good?”

I asked that because I don’t think Starbuck’s Chai is all that good, and I wanted a really good one.  She cut a smirky glance at her ex-Pat friend that looked just a little eye roll-ish, if you know what I mean.  Then, without looking at me, she said, “Yes, it’s really, really good.”  Her friend giggled a wry giggle.  The whole encounter made me feel a bit self-conscious, even though I knew I’d set myself up for it.  What was she going to say, after all?  “No, we make lousy Chai?”

“Well, I’ll take your word for it,” I said.  “I’ll take a large.”

Trying to adopt a sweeter attitude, she asked me to wait a few moments while she finished her friend’s order.  But I sensed she was feeling irritated and maybe sad.   I wondered if it was because she took me for a rich, white American girl out Island-hopping.  I wanted to protest my innocence, but what was the point?  In comparison to her world, I was exactly that.

Wandering around the shop I took the time to admire the local pottery.  Some of it was exquisite.  I would have bought something if it wasn’t such a fragile souvenir.  Eventually she finished making my chai.  Perhaps feeling a little bit of a need to please, I asked if the cookies and muffins in the case were fresh, and where did they come from.
“They are home-made,” she replied (in a lovely, soft BVI accent), adding, “I make them in my home.”

Well, I was sold.  So I also bought a small, whole wheat, carrot muffin.  The total bill was $6.95.   I handed her a twenty.  She started to make change when it hit me.  I could begin my week of giving with her!  Why not?

She handed me three dollars, a nickel and a ten.  I said thank you, and then I dove right in.  My explanation of the project was a little bumbling as I wasn’t prepared in the least.  I wish you could have seen the look on her face when I first told her I wanted to give her ten dollars, no strings attached.  It was a look of pure surprise.  Who was this weird stranger offering her money for nothing?  In fact, at first she thought I was describing a sort of “chain letter.”  I would give her ten dollars, and then she would be required to find seven other people to give ten dollars.  No wonder her look of surprise quickly changed to one of wariness.

I explained it again.  By that time a worker had come out from the back to find out what was going on.   They both got the gist of it finally.  I wished the worker had been out there earlier because I would have offered both of them $5, rather than $10 to just one of them.  It took her a few minutes to make up her mind, but she finally agreed and I handed her the ten.

The smiles that broke out on our faces at that moment were like two simultaneous sunrises peeking over the Caribbean horizon.

She told me her name was Susan (pronounced Suzanne) R.  She wasn’t the owner of the coffee shop, but its manager—and apparently its baker (the muffin was delicious, by the way).  When I asked her what she would do with the money, she hesitated for a long moment.  I sensed she was expected to do something altruistic with it.  So I offered, “Listen, you can drink a bottle of $10 rum with it if you want.”  That got a laugh from both of them.

Finally she said she thought she might by some all-natural juice for her daughter, Enya.  I asked if she was named for the singer, and she said yes.  This was another small moment of connection for us as Enya is one of my husband John’s all-time favorite musicians.  I told her so, and we both agreed it was a shame she hadn’t put out anything new lately.

We chatted for a few minutes more.  Susan told me Enya is five years old and is in the First Level of school.  I didn’t know what that meant, so she explained to me it would be analogous to our kindergarten.  Then she wanted to know if it would be possible for her to do this as well.  Only, she thought it would have to be for less than ten a day.  She couldn’t afford that much.  I was deeply touched by that.  I could see she had a big heart, and it would be in her nature to want to give more than receive.

It also brought to mind one of my favorite sayings:  God cannot be outdone in generosity, and it occurred to me I had already received much more than I had just given.

Finally, although she had protested earlier, she allowed me to take a picture of her.  I thought it caught something breathtaking about her, something I noticed earlier despite her slightly churlish mood.  It was a defiance and pride that made me like her instantly.  If I lived in Tortola, I would have to have known her better.  I think she’d make an inspiring friend.

Just about then an older couple came in, presumably looking to escape the heat as I had earlier.  I made my goodbyes quickly, making sure to leave the website address, my name and email.  At the door I turned and looked over my shoulder for one more glance.   Her mood was entirely different from when I had entered twenty minutes earlier.  It suddenly dawned on me then the real gift was not the ten dollar bill.

Bambooshay is a festive Virgin Islands dance performed to invoke good luck.  I hoped she would remember this day as one in which good luck danced her way.

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

Two days in a row, to waking up with more snow on the ground!  I know, I live in New England so I should expect it.  I do expect it, but to expect it and to like it are two very different things.  I am not complaining though.  After going to school in upstate New York (Oswego) and seeing snow fall for eighteen straight days one year, I am definitely not complaining.  Besides, pitchers and catchers show up for spring training in a little over a month.  I didn’t ask today’s recipient, AJ if he was a baseball fan, but you’ll see, at least his heart was in the right place.

A senior from Newington High School, A.J. works part-time in Goodwill Industries Store and Distribution Center in Newington, Connecticut.  He’s been there since the beginning of the summer and he likes his job.  He’s 18, a generally quiet guy and likes to be honest with everyone.  He’s learning how to be a diesel mechanic at Newington High and will hopefully work in a garage somewhere. He says he loves cars and likes being around them.  When he’s working, he works in both the Goodwill Store and the Distribution Center.  He doesn’t really prefer one to the other, but he was in the Distribution Center today.  There’s what looks like a garage door and a little car port for the people driving up and donating their goods.  People drive up, unload their donations and then AJ and others in the center, divide them up into good stuff and trash.  I asked him about that, thinking maybe a manager or higher level employee would decide what was trash or not, but no, he made that decision.

There were a lot of very large blue bins which were all stacked up waiting for donations to be put in them and three other bins that were marked trash.   Those had mainly pieces of cardboard, some clothes hangers and miscellaneous trash in them.  When I asked him how he got into the business, he mentioned his buddy was already working there and thought it was a decent job.   He sees all kinds of donations and what he called the “crazy stuff”.  What makes it crazy I was wondering and he said he saw a lot of antiques, people cleaning out their houses and donating it instead of just throwing it away.  I did see a very large rimmed bright purple hat with some flowering around it which made me think of something out of a 1970’s movie involving pimps and did I mention it was the color of bright purple?  That was my definition of crazy stuff.  AJ said one item that came in recently was an old-fashioned electric razor, which could have been the one of the first ones ever!  I was there really by chance as I was on my way to somewhere else, saw the Goodwill sign which made me think I needed to go through a lot of stuff of my own and decided to just stop in and see the place.  I’m glad I did or I wouldn’t have met AJ.

He preferred not to have his picture taken, but when asked what he was going to do with the $10, he mentioned his girlfriend’s birthday was coming up quickly and he wanted to get her a necklace she had seen at Claire’s.  The necklace apparently had little elephants on it and she was a fan of elephants.  I just saw a movie trailer for Water for Elephants recently (a really good book) and wonder if he’ll take her to see it?  I took a couple of pictures of the place and was on my way.

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This blog post is by Petra, a Kindness Investor from Seattle, WA.

Solana in front of wooden wall art carving.

It’s a bit intimidating writing a story about a professional story-teller. But the truth is, as soon as Solana has her baby girl – which is any day now – and is back doing what she loves to do, I will be front and center, mesmerized by her gift of telling tales that are grand and important.

Daybreak Star Indian Cultural Center occupies 20 acres on an extraordinary location in Seattle’s largest park – Discovery Park – located in the neighborhood of Magnolia just north of the city.  The structure itself was built in 1977 and hosts a wealth of original Northwest Native American art.  The center is part of the United Indians of All Tribes Foundation and is a major gathering place for cultural activities and events from business meetings to powwows to weddings. This borough within a park within a city has a dramatic view of Puget Sound and the Olympic Mountains. And Solana enjoys that perk whenever she has a moment to look up from her job as the center’s go-to person for all things regarding prenatal/Headstart programs and Operations. It even says so on her business card.

This exquisite 30-year-old woman, whose own Native American Indian ancestry is both Lushoolsled and Kostalish, has been an integral part of Daybreak for 10 years.  She began as a lead teacher and then spread her wings into other education related horizons – and of course – storytelling. The center’s Headstart program embraces 108 children – 42 are Native American. The other 66 kids complete the tapestry, coming from an eclectic, precious mixture of cultural backgrounds: East African, Spanish, Caucasian, Black, Asian and more. Suddenly I wanted to be a kid in the Headstart program at Daybreak!

Painting at Daybreak Star Indian Cultural Center

Solana is already a mother of two girls – one is old enough to understand the value of becoming positively involved in the lives of those less fortunate. They spend holidays and other occasions helping those in need at various locations throughout the city where homeless people gather. It’s something Solana knows all too well. She was homeless for two of her teenage years.

Then, immediately out of high school, Solana began her storytelling career which she now weaves into curriculum for schools and programs to enhance mental health. Currently she is devoting much of her own education to Chief Dan George who she reports is a major influence in her life and also paramount in her mother’s lineage. I suspect Chief Dan George will also occupy prime real estate in Solana’s storytelling nation.

As for the big question: What is the baby’s name? Oh, no. That was my question. As for the other big question – what will she do with her $10?

Artwork of Native American leaders at Daybreak Star Indian Cultural Center

“I don’t know yet. I find that I am constantly giving. I keep small packages of food in my car in case we meet someone who is hungry. I have change for those who need some money.”

“I’m going to hang on to it until the moment is right. I’ll know. My daughter and I will know when it’s the right time to pass this gift on to someone who could really use it.”

“You know this giving thing is contagious!”

I LOL’d and exclaimed “That’s what I keep saying!”

Solana has a Website which houses the details of her work and the importance of keeping the oral history of Native American Indians of all Tribes alive. Although it’s “down” for the moment, she hopes that after her baby girl is born, she’ll have time to tend to it again – it and the million other selfless acts of love which Solana demonstrates every day.

View of Puget Sound from the Daybreak Star Indian Cultural Center

Spring is around the corner and Daybreak is around the bend. Me thinks I’ll be spending more time with my new friend and mentor when she returns to Daybreak Star with her girls in tow. What fun it will be to sit on the grass, watch the birds, water, and mountains – just like Native American Indians of the great Pacific Northwest have done for centuries.

..and then she’ll tell me a story!

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Kindness Investor: Petra from Seattle, WA

Curran made me so happy. After we’d chatted and I gave him $10 I couldn’t help but tell one of his co-workers in the grocery store, that he made me so happy (even though poor Elle had no idea what was going on).

I’d paid for my modest purchase and couldn’t resist. I walked over to the register where Curran was now helping other customers and gave him a huge hug and a kiss on the cheek. “You have made me so happy!  Thank you.”

Frankly, I don’t think I actually embarrassed him – although I may have. Curran instantly understood what being a Kindness Investor is all about. So, I think he just took my public demonstration of gratitude in stride and smiled, and went back to work. However, my bet is that his smile – both inside and out –has remained with him as long as mine has with me.

Curran is an associate at Trader Joe’s Grocery. Although I had $10 in my pocket, ready to give to someone, I didn’t expect it to be an employee where I was buying my food. But there he was. He just walked up to me. It was kismet.  After briefly explaining the project and extending $10 to him, he was quick to grasp the concept.

“That’s really cool! It’s like paying it forward,” he stated matter-of-factly. I couldn’t help but think I was actually trying to catch-up, karmically. The past few years have been very difficult for me but my own family and friends Kindness Investors have helped me through so many of the extremely rough patches.

Curran grew up in the Portland, Oregon area and moved to Seattle about seven years ago; he’s now 28. He’s been a crew member of this store since it opened two years ago. One thing I know after today’s encounter, if I were in need of any kind of crew member, I’d want it to be someone like Curran.

“I got engaged on December 22nd,” he proudly announced. “We are hoping for a November wedding in Hawaii. We want a small ceremony and it’s really exciting.”

He and his fiancé have a three-year-old girl named Hayden (OMG, I can only imagine how lovely they both are). “It’s an amazing feeling.”

“What is?” I inquired.

“Settling down. Everything. All things are just lining up. I must’ve done something right.” He was beaming. Proud. Excited. Grounded.

Although he has no pets (you know I had to ask!), he loves dogs and hopes to add one to their family when they can.

As far as what he plans to do with the $10? He didn’t miss a beat when I asked. “I think I’m going to buy bouquets of flowers to keep the random act of kindness going. Won’t that be cool to make people smile with a beautiful arrangement of flowers? I’ll just hand them to people like you gave this $10 to me.”

Earlier when I was taking Curran’s picture, Elle had stopped by to get the string of beads which he had been wearing. Evidently the person donning the au natural necklace indicates to customers that s/he is available to assist and answer questions. Later when I ran into Elle said that Curran had briefly told her about our exchange and the money.

“I wonder what he’s going to do with it?” she asked.

“I don’t know…I guess you’ll have to wait and see,” I replied with a smile.

Who would think that three minutes and $10 with Curran (or any of those with whom I’ve spent time as a Kindness Investor) would make me so very happy?

Oh, I mentioned that, didn’t I?

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I love my new job. I have been dreaming about this for years. Seriously. I’ve so often thought how wonderful it would be to head out the door with a hand full of cash-and just walk up to someone and say “Here, have some money. Please, take it.” And walk away.

Dreams do to come true.

Except in my reality (as I discovered today), the joy was not only in the giving, but in the fellowship of two unknown people thrown together by – what? Fate? A Spirit nudge? An angel? Coincidence?

As I began to run errands on my first day as a Kindness Investor, forecasters were threatening snow in Seattle so I paid close attention to whom I was drawn to; who was the intended recipient of my crisp ten-dollar bill? Several people caught my eye but none spoke to me, if you will.

She was on the right hand side of the street making her way toward a small bridge which crosses over freight trains and their many tracks. It can be a dicey, if not dangerous area for anyone making their way over this small viaduct. But there she was and now I had to figure out how to get her attention without scaring her; she was somehow calling me to be the recipient of my first Kindness Investor’s random act. And so it was.

I slowed down and let several cars pass me as I approached this quintessential Seattleite riding her bike. I gently beeped my horn and rolled down the window on the passenger side of my car.

“Excuse me; can I talk to you for a moment?” As if she had a choice; I felt like I had practically run her into the parking area which we both approached. I pulled up in front of her and popped out of my car. It was cold.  Frozen snow drops had begun to fly through the frigid air.

Once I was close enough to see her beautiful face, I understood why she was wearing a flowing, flowery, silky skirt over what I hoped were very warm leggings.  The skirt said so much to me: Kindness, an independent spirit, fun!

As I began explaining to her why I tracked her down, I described the project…etc., etc., etc., and asked if she would please accept ten dollars from me. I handed it to her. She smiled in delightful surprise.

As we talked, I learned that Nora is a student who is now studying to be a pre-school teacher. In the meantime, she also works in upholstery and ceramics. I knew it. Between the bike, scarves, and skirt, she had “eclectic” and “artistic” written all over her.

While Nora lives in Seattle’s Central District, her parents live in Ballard. Via bike, a hike, a bus, or car, this is not an easy journey. Seattle’s many hills and waterways create challenges for anyone trying to get from point A to B, much less point A to point K. But there she was-our Nora peddling the trails and streets and yes, train tracks of Seattle!

As I explained that Reed in Washington, DC had begun this most wonderful journey of Kindness Investing more than a year ago, I added that giving away money has been my own dream job for some time.  And there I was – with Nora – my first “client” on the first day of my new job.  Together we were shivering on the outside but both compassionate on the inside – kindness can warm up the mood of nearly any spirit. It can also be very contagious.

“I’ll have to start my own year of giving,” she stated, smiling as she again looked at the ten dollars.

When I asked what she thought she might do with the money, her first notion was to buy the book “Finding Your North Star” by Martha Beck. Nora had read it and felt a friend could benefit from the uplifting messages within the books’ pages.

“My friend has been struggling with darker feelings…maybe the book – and your story – can be a catalyst for her; it’s about being fearless and following your passions. I think this should cover the cost of the book.”

I wanted to spend more time with Nora-she was clearly kind and considerate.  And for some lucky Seattle toddlers, they would soon know a teacher and friend who would soon be encouraging them to nurture their own desires and creative passions. Besides, who in pre-school doesn’t like a pretty teacher?

When Nora asked what I did, I explained that I was unemployed, but when I connected with Reed and we discussed the yearofgiving.org project, I knew I had to participate.  It is my own North Star. My own passion. From where ten, twenty, fifty, a hundred dollars a day will come, I do not know. But this I do know: I think my new job is a great fit. I have faith that the money will appear so I can pass it on to the Nora’s of my world who in turn will use the blessing to help their friends and perhaps others in need. And when that friend is inspired, she too, will continue to invest in kindness.

This is addicting. And very, very fun.

Thank you, Reed.

Bless you, Nora.

-Petra from Seattle, WA

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Today I went to downtown Dayton again attempting to find Pappy from Day 7.  I thought I was in luck a man walking toward the corner where I met Pappy at with a coat that resembled his.  I ran across the street and ran under the bridge area yelling “Hey Pappy”.

The man turned around and I said, “Oh, you’re not Pappy”.

“No, I’m Ted,” he replied,”can I help you.”

Hmmm, well yes you can.  I told Ted about the project I was working on and that today I wanted to give him $10.  “Are you serious,” Ted replied, “you don’t know what this means to me.”

When asked what he was going to do with the money Ted replied, “look over there at the BP, do you see the girl walking with the purple pants on.  That’s my girl, I’m going to go buy her and I some food.”  He then said, “maybe tomorrow you will meet her and give her $10.”  Ted made me laugh with that reply.  “You never know,” I replied.

Ted told me that Pappy had left for the day and he was leaving as well, “The cops give us tickets after 3:30 you know.”

As we walked back toward the streets Ted told me he was young and dumb and it really messed his life up.  He’s been on the streets for 8 years now and doesn’t see being off of the streets anytime soon.

“You’re a real gem,” he said.  “Most young girls would never be brave enough to confront people like me and you were very willing to talk to me, that shows you are a real genuine person.”

Thanks Ted!

-Melinda T. from Xenia, OH | Dec. 24, 2010

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Melinda met Nick while he panhandled at an exit ramp. (photo: Melinda T.)

Today I met a man named Nick.  Nick was standing near the exit ramp.  I felt drawn to give the $10 to him so I parked nearby and walked across the way.

Nick has been on and off the streets for a year now.  Nick was extremely skeptical to speak with me at first because he thought I was with the police and quickly pulled out his panhandlers permit to show it to me.  Perhaps I was just as skeptical as this was the first time I had ever approached a person standing on the streets panhandling.  I assured him I wasn’t with the police and he accepted that and then shared his life with me.

At the beginning of the video you see a quick shot of an ID.  This is Nicks ID showing that he is homeless, I never knew there was such an ID available.  He shared with me the views of inside the homeless shelter where he has spent a few nights and said the conditions there are awful and not a place for anyone to be but it keeps him out of the elements.  He invited me to take a visit with him to the homeless shelter however I declined that offer.

Nick said today was his first day out on the streets and he was there trying to collect money so he could purchase Christmas gifts for his children.  He was addicted to pain pills at one point and his life had went downhill since then.  He’s currently not addicted to anything and is trying to get his life back on track by getting a job so he can pay for a place to live and not have to sleep at the homeless shelter or jump from home to home sleeping on people’s couches.

I would have liked to speak with Nick a bit longer but the temperatures today were extremely cold and the wind we were encountering didn’t help.

-Melinda T. from Xenia, OH

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Today marks the first day of giving for our newest Kindness Investor from Seattle: Petra.   I spoke to another future Kindness Investor earlier this week.  His name is Michael B. from Connecticut and he will start his week of kindness investing on January 5th.  Slowly I am getting people to join this movement; a seven-day, seventy dollar investment that has the power to change an unemployed person’s perspective on life through kindness.  If you or someone you know are out of work and want an opportunity of a lifetime, drop me a line.

Today’s recipient is one whose story touched me tremendously.  I was in Manassas, VA visiting my good friends Thomas and Tressa.  It was their beautiful baby girl Tegan’s first birthday.  Well, I guess she already had a birthday last year…a real birth day…anyway she turned one!  While I was there I met a friend of theirs named Jen who teaches at the same school where Tressa teaches.  I decided to give her my $10.

Our conversation was quite typical at first.  We talked about her job as a high school biology teacher.  I learned about her experience volunteering in Ghana with an ophthalmologist.  “I did eye exams and distributed glasses to local communities,” she explained.  “It completely inspired me!”  It inspired her to pursue other dreams and that is why next year this 30-year-old Pittston, PA native will leave her lesson plans on photosynthesis and Mendel’s heredity research for a new career in medicine.

It’s not a surprise that Jen is going back to school when you learn that she is the faculty member that overseas homecoming, student council, prom, quiz team, etc.  Yep, she’s definitely an overachiever.  My friends tell me that she is a karaoke wiz too!  “I know the lyrics to just about any song from the late 80s and early 90s,” she says beaming.

Then I asked a question that completely changed our carefree conversation, “Are you married, do you have kids?” I asked.  There was a brief silence and she responded that she was a widow.  I offered my condolences and she explained that her husband, Army 1st Lt. Todd J. Bryant, was killed on October 31st of 2003 in Fallujah, Iraq when an improvised explosive device (IED) hit his Humvee.  The 23-year-old was assigned to Company C, 1st Battalion, 34th Armor Regiment, 1st Infantry Division at Fort Riley, Kansas.  A graduate of West Point Military Academy, Todd’s death came just 52 days after being deployed or as Jen put it to a journalist once, “55 letters later.”  “And we were married just ten days before he deployed,” she told me managing to keep her composure.

She shared with me the moment that she learned the news.  “I was teaching at my school,” she began to say, “when I was visited by an Army general and chaplain…”

I was speechless.  I just wanted to give her a big hug.  In a matter of minutes I felt like I knew Jen for years rather than the handful of minutes we had actually spent talking to each other.  And although I never met Todd, I can assure you that he was nothing less than extraordinary.

I have to be honest I couldn’t stop thinking about Todd when I got home later that evening.  I had so many questions and turned to the Internet to find out more.  He quickly becomes more than a casualty of war but a bright young man who liked In-n-Out burgers and making people laugh, who dreamed of raising a family with his soul mate and pursuing a career in government where he could effect real change in our country.  He was a husband, a son, a brother and a friend.  He would have been my friend.

There were also comments from those who never knew Todd but reached out to pay their respects to a family that understood the meaning of  service.  Todd’s parents were former military officers and his brother Tim is currently a Lt. Col in the U.S. Marine Corps serving in the Marine Expeditionary Unit  and sister Tiffany, a 2000 graduate of West Point herself, served as a Captain in the Army before becoming a teacher.

You’ll even find a hard to put down book entitled In the Time of War by Bill Murphy, Jr. that focuses on Todd and his fellow graduating class from West Point.  I got the book and have read several chapters already.   It has several heartfelt excerpts of letters that Jen wrote to her husband and Todd’s farewell letter to Jen.  I can’t remember the last time I cried from reading a book.

It was fitting I thought that she decided to use the ten dollars to buy items for a care package that the student council members at her school were preparing to send to troops stationed overseas for the holidays.

Todd J. Bryant 1/14/80 - 10/31/03

We live far away from places like Fallujah, Iraq and Helmand Province, Afghanistan and sometimes we take for granted the sacrifices our brothers and sisters in uniform make for us.  I dedicate this blog post to the memory of Todd Bryant and encourage you to take a moment of silence right now and pay your respects to Todd and all of those who have lost their lives serving their respective countries.

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It’s Christmas eve and I am in Mechanicsburg, Pennsylvania.  I spent most of the day in the kitchen cooking and baking.  From a chocolate chess pie to cranberry chutney to marinated mushroom crescents…it was a food-centric day.  I might have also started a new tradition of mojitos on Christmas Eve.  They were crowd pleaser.

By the way, I have found a few Kindness Investors for this year already, but I am still looking for unemployed people to give away $10 for a week.  If you or someone you know wants to give it a try, send me a message.  Keep a look out by the end of next week for blogs coming from Melinda from Ohio, the first Kindness Investor for 2011.

I found my recipient on Day 356 around 11:00pm after I dropped off an electric blanket that  Michelle from North Carolina sent for Bill M. of Day 330.  He was very appreciative and even worried about using the electricity from the bank where he sleeps without checking with them first.  I left and trudged out in the cold windy night looking for a new recipient of my ten dollars.

I first found Sean who was running east on Pennsylvania Avenue to his car which was parked on Pennsylvania.  He was probably running because it was below 30 degrees and he wasn’t wearing a coat.  “I’m a giving person and I just couldn’t take your money,” the tall twenty-something guy told me.  So, I scanned the dark silent streets for someone else until I spotted Alberto crossing 20th Street toward me.

Alberto holding his ten dollars.

Originally from South Africa, he’s been here for two months and works for a large NGO.  “I like DC,” he says as my bare hand stiffens up from the December air as I scribble in my Moleskine notebook.  “I’ve enjoyed it here.  I have even been to a Redskins game; they lost though.”  Well that is no surprise.

We didn’t talk much.  The frigid temperature made it tempting to us both to wrap things up quickly.  I did manage to ask him a couple quick questions; one of which led to a surprising response from the South African.  I asked him if there was anything unique about him.  “Well,” the 31-year-old said pausing slightly, “I like to wear a heart monitor when I’m having sex.”  I didn’t quite no what to say.  “It makes sex kind of kinky,” he shared.  I got to tell you that I had a million questions racing through my mind when I heard this.  Forget the obvious of questions of why someone would do this, but what about how you would explain this to your partner.  “I usually introduce this when I come home from the gym,” Alberto says.  “Then it seems like it is just kind of a spontaneous thing that happens.”  I wonder if he leaves the beeping noise on?  And if you were wondering, yes, sometimes he convinces his partner to wear one too…then there would be lots of beeping going on.

Well, this was certainly an interesting meeting.  If you asked me to name 10,000 things that tonight’s recipient might tell me I can guarantee you that “wearing a heart monitor during sex” would not have been one of them.  This guy should be a sponsor for Polar or Timex.

His $10 didn’t go toward a new heart monitor.  Instead he said he would use the ten spot to buy someone else some coffee this coming week.  I’m sure that will be greatly appreciated now that the temperature is venturing less and less above the freezing point.  We said goodbye and I hurried across the avenue and practically dove into my refrigerated car.

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View from Tabaq of the Washington Monument keeping watch over DC.

On day 352 I headed over to Tabaq Bistro, the venue for my year-end celebration, to meet up with my friend Patricia who managed the entire event.  She’s a rock star and knows how to run events.  We went over a bunch of logistical issues about things you’d never dream of (i.e. will they have waiters or a buffet table, what kind of connection cables does their sound system use (1/4 inch if you were wondering), does the price quoted include serving plates and napkins, and the list goes on.  After an exhausting review of items, my head was sufficiently cloudy and we decided to get some food upstairs and figure out what we had forgotten.

We maneuvered our way up the two flights of dimly lit stairs to the upper level of Tabaq which has one of the best views in DC if you haven’t been there.  Its wall to wall glass gives sweeping views toward the downtown, the monuments and beyond.  We grabbed some space at the rather empty bar area and ordered a drink and began perusing the dinner menu.  Muhammara, that sounds interesting.  It’s a roasted red pepper and walnut puree.  We got one of those and chicken breast stuffed with spinach, cheese and peppers that glistened with thin layer of port wine sauce.  My mind swirled like the cocktails the bartender was serving up.  There were a myriad of things that had to still get done that day.  One of which was to deliver my $10 to some unsuspecting individual.

Rachel chatting with Patricia.

Our bartender was a young woman named Rachel.  Why not give it to her?  She was very friendly and frankly had the time since at the time we were her only customers.  The Connecticut native had been working there for about a month.  She recently graduated from American University with a degree in graphic design and photography.  My friend Patricia also went to American University here in DC and actually knew exactly where Rachel lived in Connecticut.  Small world…almost freaky.

Rachel mixes up the perfect martini.

The world is in fact small for Rachel.  She loves to travel.  Maybe it’s because her father is originally from New Zealand and she has always had the international bug.  Her father grew up in Auckland.  “I’d like to move to New Zealand some day,” Rachel says.  “Maybe try sailing or just hang out for a while,” she added.

At some point the conversation turned very technical focusing on the specific fonts she used to develop her website – which you can find here!  “I used universe font,” she started to say, “I tried to avoid gil sans and helvetica.”  Fonts…hmm, I can barely choose between wearing brown or black shoes in the morning much less what kind of font I am going to use on my website and documents.  Patricia and Rachel debated the finer points of fonts – the conversation gliding far above my comprehension.  I drifted in and out of the conversation while shifting my attention to the hearty portion of Muhammara that was still in front of us.

A cherry blossom photograph that Rachel made. For more of her work, click on the photo to visit her website.

Rachel stood close enough to get us something should we need it but not too close to make us feel uncomfortable as we ate.  “So what do you think you will use the ten dollars for,” I asked the camera shy bartender.  She paused for a moment and told me that she would probably use it to pay for the Metro or maybe put it toward a dinner she planned to make that week for a really good friend of hers.  “I’m thinking about making chicken picatta,” she said.

 

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Tomorrow is the big day!  I am sadly not going to be caught up with my blog posts by Tuesday, Day 365.  At one point I thought I could do it, but I have to let that idea go.

I am still looking for people who are out of work and would be willing to do what I have been doing; giving away $10 a day and then sharing the experience.  You don’t need to do it for a year, just 7 days.  If you are interested, send me an email to reed@yearofgiving.org.

Day 347 was the day after Thanksgiving.  I woke up that morning still sufficiently full from all the turkey and stuffing I consumed the day before.  I had agreed to go to Yuengling Brewery that day with my friend Laurie whose parents live about 15 minutes away in Camp Hill.  There was no specific reason to go other than I enjoy beer and used to brew my own and we had nothing to do that day. 

It was no more than an hour and thirty minutes from Mechanicsburg.  The last 10-15 miles of it is a very pretty drive through the winding hills of central Pennsylvania.  Pottsville, where the brewery is located, is a picturesque little town that reminded me of several other towns in Pennsylvania and Ohio.  I parked the car in front of the brewery and started digging for quarters in my pocket to feed the meter.  Thankfully it was only twenty-five cents for each hour.  In DC it costs about twenty-five cents for every seven minutes! 

Filling cans of Yuengling lager beer.

As we walked up to the building bearing the name “D.G. Yuengling & Son” on it I mentioned to Laurie that one of the brewers was the uncle of a good friend of mine.  I had met him once or twice and once even completely confused him with my friend’s father.  In my defense they do look quite a bit alike.  Anyway, it would be nice to see him again if he was there.

Just inside we were greeted by a woman who said we needed to wear a wristband.  While we were waiting for the tour I asked her, “Do you know James Buehler?  He’s a brewer for Yuengling.”  Perplexed she looked at me and said, “Yes…he’s my husband!”  I introduced myself to Cindy and explained how I knew her husband.  She informed me that he had the day off.  I guess there is a decent chance that I had met her before too, but neither of us seemed to remember.  As we were taking the tour, we were asked to go and wait in the gift shop for them to call for us.  Afterwards I thought I would look for Cindy and give her my $10 for the day but I couldn’t find her.

We then headed down the hill to Roma’s to grab something to eat.  It’s a good place that looks like it once was just a small walk-in pizza joint that had expanded to having a dinning room with sit down service.  I thought about giving the $10 to the waitress, but in the end decided to walk around Pottsville and find somebody.

Stacie protects Kylie from the strange man handing out money.

I saw a young woman and little girl skipping down road.  It reminded me of that scene in the Wizard of Oz when Judy Garland (Dorothy), Ray Bolger (Scarecrow), Jack Haley (Tin Man), and Bert Lahr (Cowardly Lion) all go singing and skipping down the Yellow Brick Road.  I stopped them and asked Stacie to accept my $10.  She did.

Stacie, 19, and Kylie, 4, were heading home to Orwigsburg which apparently is not far from Pottsville.  Although Kylie is her boyfriend’s daughter, Stacie seemed so natural with her.  Like most small children that get close to me, Kylie shied away as I approached her.  She clutched the drawing of a bear that she had colored earlier that day and ducked behind Stacie’s leg seeking protection from big scary Reed.  Thankfully she didn’t start bawling, usually they do.

Stacie is taking online classes right now to get her Associate’s Degree in Childhood Development.  “Someday I hope to have my own day care,” she said smiling at little Kylie.  She seems to have a knack with children and will probably be great working in that field. 

She told me that the $10 was going to go toward Christmas.  “It’ll probably end up going for something for her,” nodding her head toward cute little Kylie.

We said goodbye and Stacie carefully loaded her precious cargo into the car-seat in the back of her SUV and they drove off.  I walked up Market Street a little more and took some photographs of the town before heading back to Mechanicsburg.

The other day I got an email from Stacie.

I just wanted to e-mail you and tell you that my $10 is in fact going towards Christmas gifts for Kylie.  I bought her [books] (ended up being 20 books and a pack of flashcards!) for her Tag reader (you know those electronic pens that read the words in books out loud?  I got her one of those for her 4th birthday this summer and ever since then she’s loved reading.)  In my mind your $10 paid for a Super Speller book for her so thank you for helping my ‘stepdaughter’ (I hope one day she legitimately is) learn and to help support her love of reading.  I’m sure after this project you really understand just how important things like reading skills are. “

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This post is a little out of order, but I will get caught up on the ones I skipped by this weekend.  I am getting behind doing my day jobs, planning for the Year of Giving Celebration next Tuesday, giving my daily $10 away and planning the next year’s commitment!  Trying to sleep now and then too!

Over Thanksgiving weekend, I took my father to see a Hershey Bears hockey match.  I would often go to the games as a child with my Boy Scout troop.  I used to enjoy them, but this time I didn’t really enjoy it.  Partly I think because the people that sat around us were loud and obnoxious the entire game.  The other factor was that it became pretty clear that the fans showed up more for the fights than they did the hockey. 

The Bears easily won 4-0.  The nearly 10,000 fans packed into the Giant Center Arena would celebrate after each goal however if you really wanted to see cheering all you had to do was wait until somebody started punching his opponent in the face.  “I want to see somebody bleeding on the ice,” a fan who was behind us said casually. 

I’ve been to many Washington Capitals games and have not felt this same blood and guts mentality.  Anyway, it left a bad taste in my mouth.

After the game I suggested to my dad that we hang out inside the arena for a while since getting out of the parking lot was sure to be an abysmal experience.  He and I walked down a little bit to the area where wheel chairs are allowed and saw two older men chatting away.  At the first opportunity I inserted myself into the conversation and explained my mission.

George, a man probably in his late 60s or early 70s with cotton-like flowing beard, told me he wouldn’t accept the ten dollars.  “I don’t know why,” he started “just because.”  I turned to his friend Melvin and asked him the same question and got this response, “Well, I don’t know either, but if that is what you want to do than I guess I’m OK with it.”

It was incredibly hard to hear Melvin.  The acoustics were funky where we were standing and he was a bit of a soft talker so I feel like I got about 70% of the story.  The 73-year-old from nearby Campbelltown, PA told me that he’s retired from the transportation business.  “I loaded and unloaded the trucks,” he said just loud enough that I could hear him.  He also was a volunteer fireman for many years.

Giant Center Arena

To his left there was a metallic cane that leaned against the railing.  “I broke my pelvic bone,” Melvin shared.  “I did it right after a game here come to think about it.”  I wouldn’t be surprised if he fell trying to get through the aisles.  The aisles are so thin that you can barely squeeze in and out of the aisles.  I nearly dropped a platter of chicken tenders, french fries, ketchup and beer all over the row in front of me because I could barely get by some women in our row.  Not to mention that I too probably would have landed on their heads.  It’s possibly the most poorly designed, not to mention dangerous, seating area that I have ever seen.

Anyway, Melvin said he was doing better now and that this was the first hockey game he had made this year. 

I asked him what he planned to do with the money and he didn’t know for sure.  “I’ll probably use it to take my wife out to breakfast in the morning,” he said after pondering it for a moment. 

A man who looked to be in his 40s walked up the aisle and stopped to talk to Melvin.  It turned out to be one of his three children.  They got to talking and I figured it was time to go and said goodbye.

Melvin preferred not having his photograph taken and didn’t leave me any contact information, so I will probably never know if he reads this or get any more details on the whereabouts of that ten-dollar bill.  I wouldn’t have gotten a good picture anyway; the arena wouldn’t let me bring my camera in.  They have a strict no detachable lens camera policy which I think is silly.  “We do this to prohibit professional photographers from taking photographs at the game,” I was told by a security guard.  I was surprised since I always take my camera to NHL games and have never had a problem.  This was the second time in two weeks that I have been turned away at the gate of a sporting event for carrying something that was not allowed in the stadium.  Maybe I ought to just stay away from stadiums.

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Today’s recipients were very memorable.  After reading this I think that you will agree.

Supporters of the Pittsburgh Steelers know that in almost every city across the United States, and even in some overseas cities, there is a “Steeler bar.”  One of these such locations is the Pour House, a no frills multi-level pub near Capitol Hill.  My friend Kimon, a former Pittsburgh resident, and I headed over there to watch the Steelers take on the Bengals on Monday Night Football. 

We got there about 30 minutes prior to kick-off, but there were virtually no seats left.  We headed down a well-traveled staircase into a basement bar that took me back to my college years.  It was also full, however, there was a small nook that was open at the far end of the space.  It was as if it was contaminated with something awful as no one was sitting there.  Our newly claimed land was rather subdued compared to the rest of the joint which was standing room only, not to mention that nearly everyone had on a Steeler jersey, except us. 

I am not sure what they are signing, it is close to the sign for "I love you." Hopefully it doesn't mean "Go away!" :)

I decided to take a walk around the bar before halftime.  I made my way back up the old wooden staircase and plowed my way through the crowd like a running back determined to get a first down.  With less than two minutes left in the half, the Steelers were threatening.  They scored right before halftime and the crowd went into a frenzy.  The deafening cries from jubilant fans were soothing to my soul and detrimental to my ears.

During all of this madness I saw a couple that looked to be completely unaffected by the chaos.  Only after I made my way around some stools and got closer to them did I see that they were speaking in sign language. 

A million things, ok probably not a million, but a lot, were going through my head at this point.  How the hell am I going to explain to them what the Year of Giving is about?  Will they be able to read my lips?  Can they speak back to me?  Will this be a disaster?

I didn’t really know of any other way than to just go for it.  I interrupted them and told them my name.  Bryan very quickly responded to me that they were deaf.  “Can you read lips,” I asked.  He nodded yes.   I think he might have been able to hear a little bit as he was using a hearing device.

I tried to explain to them what I was doing.  Despite me being nervous approaching them, it was quite a funny scene.  I spoke mostly through Bryan since he was able to speak back to me.  So I would speak to him and he would sign what I said to his girlfriend Allison.  I can only imagine what Bryan was really signing…it probably went something like this.

Me: Hi, my name is Reed and I would like to give you $10.  It’s part of a year-long commitment to giving that I have made.

Bryan signing to Allison: This guy is either really drunk or completely crazy.  He says that he wants to give us $10.

Well you can imagine how the rest goes.

The irony of it all too is that I could barely hear what Bryan was telling me.  The bar was still noisy after the Steeler touchdown.  But to them, not being able to hear the other person was second nature…for me it was a struggle.

We managed though.  I learned that they had been dating for the past three years and were planning on getting married.  Bryan said something to me and pointed to Allison but I didn’t hear.  I looked at Allison and she made a motion with her hand close to her tummy that even I knew meant that she was pregnant.  I congratulated them and asked if they knew the sex yet.  They both shook their head no.  “Surprise,” Bryan said.  

They met at Gallaudet University.  According to the school’s website, Gallaudet is the only university in the world that offers all programs and services specifically designed to accommodate deaf and hard of hearing students.  It was founded in 1864 by an Act of Congress and their charted was signed by none other than President Abraham Lincoln.  They currently have just shy of 2,000 students enrolled.

I understood that Allison was originally from Puerto Rico.  As a Spanish speaker,   I wondered if she could read lips in both English and Spanish.  She was born deaf, whereas Bryan lost his hearing at age two he explained.  I am not sure how he lost his hearing.  I sent him a follow-up email thanking them for taking time to speak with me and asking a few clarifying questions, but it appears that I might have either taken down the email address incorrectly or they gave me a fake address – that happens fairly often.

Here is a little video from that night.  You will see Pittsburgh scoring a touchdown, the bar celebrating and then a special message in sign language from Bryan and Allison to you!

I think what they said is that they will put the $10 toward something for the baby.  “It’s expensive,” Bryan told me referring to having a child.

This was a very special experience for me.  I was really nervous approaching them.  I didn’t want them to feel uncomfortable, but I think they were.  I wish we would have met some place else, where it was quiet (although again, that probably would have only benefited me) and we could have taken our time to get to know one another.  Maybe some other time…it’s a small world, you never know.

The Steelers went on to triumph over the Bengals 27-21.  For those of you who only found this post because you are obsessed Steeler fans and you read everything that has something to do with Steeler Nation, you already knew that!

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If you are in DC this morning, get off your computer and run down to the mall and check out the Help the Homeless Walkathon sponsored by Fannie Mae.  If you can’t get out there and still want to help, you can donate by clicking here and selecting your favorite local organization.  I didn’t see Street Sense on the list, which many of you know I support.  They are a small organization that uses their funds wisely and are in need of support…click here to directly donate to DC’s only homeless newspaper.

Today’s recipient I found at Dupont Circle around 8pm on a Sunday night.  Sandra is from La Puente, California.  La Puente is just east of Los Angeles and north of Anaheim.  After attending mass at St. Matthews, her sister Aida went searching for a Whole Foods while Sandra waited for her on a picturesque park bench in earshot of the soothing fountain at Dupont Circle.  “She’s a health nut,” Sandra said referring to Aida.  Then they were planning to go watch Trick or Treaters.  Yeah, I know what you are thinking, “Reed is really behind on posting his blogs.”  You would be correct.  This is from October 31st!

I asked Sandra what brought her to DC.  “I’m in town because she is attending a conference here, the NCURA or something like that!”  It turns out she remembered correctly, it’s the National Council of University Research Administrators

Our Metro system here in DC is pretty good – when it is working!  They had arrived the day before and took the Metro from Reagan National Airport to Dupont.  Well, it turned into an awful ride because they arrived while the hundreds of thousands of rally-goers were trying to get downtown to see Jon Stewart at the Rally to Restore Sanity.  “People were mean,” she said.  “It was a big mistake.”  

Our attention was occasionally side tracked by someone walking by in costume.  There were a lot of people dressed up as bananas?  What the hell is that all about?

Anyway, Sandra is one of the 14.8 million people who are unemployed in the United States.  After her mother passed away in May of 2009, she found herself a little lost and unsure what she wanted to do.  She ended up quitting her job last February to go and live with her father.  “He’s much better now,” she told me. 

“I was doing procurement work and I am not sure that is what I want to do now although I have a lot of experience doing that.  I’m kind of reevaluating my life right now I guess.”  I encouraged her to make the leap and try something she is passionate about.  “I just don’t know what that is though right now,” she said.  I think that is pretty common.  I am very fortunate right now to have two jobs that are mentally and emotionally rewarding.  It’s not worth it in the long run just to go in to work every day just to get a paycheck, although sometimes we find ourselves having to do that to keep the electricity on or to feed our family.

She told me she was going to use the money to help someone else out.  I’m hoping she will update us here on what happened to it.

Sometimes when I approach people at night, especially women, they are intimidated.  You have to be careful.  She made me laugh when I asked her if she was intimidated when I approached her.  “No, not really.”  Hmm…it’s a good thing I didn’t choose bank robbing or something like that for a profession.

The temperature was dropping and I was sure Sandra was chilly being from Southern California.  She was well dressed though; she had on a dark coat and gloves.  Aida arrived and we chatted briefly before I excused myself.  Sandra didn’t want her picture to be taken…so no photo for you today.

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Amanda enjoys a perfect fall day in DC. (photo: Reed)

As I walked through Dupont Circle the other day I saw Amanda sitting on a bench eating her lunch.  “I normally go to the Greek deli on 19th and M but today I went to Moby Dick’s and got the gyro platter,” she told me.  The spot where she was sitting was ideally located in a shady part of the circle.  It was one of those beautiful fall days that are warm enough that you don’t need a coat during the day. 

Dupont Circle (photo: Reed)

“I’m half Jewish half Mexican,” she tells me.  “And I grew up in an all black neighborhood in Chicago.  She and her husband moved here from the Windy City for her husband’s job in government.  She now works for a non-profit that focuses on assisting Hispanics pursue higher education.  Although she likes DC her dream is to live in New York City.  “And own a doggie day-care!” she said adding that they had a rescue Boxer-Pit Bull mix.

I was really touched by something she shared.  Amanda said that her mother was disowned by her family when she married her father, a then illegal immigrant from Mexico.  Now separated from her father, her family still has not accepted her mother even after 25 years!  That just seems crazy to me.  Family is family and you should be able to count on them unless you’re killing people or something like that.

Amanda rescued a dog and dreams of one day opening a doggie-daycare. (photo: Reed)

Would you believe that I am not sure what happened to her $10!  I know, I’m slipping.  Almost three weeks have passed since I met Amanda so my recollection is fuzzy.  I know she said she was thinking about buying flowers for her office…but I don’t know if that is what she settled on, so hopefully she will fill us in! 

Help me out Amanda!

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I gave my $10 away on Michigan Ave between Randolph and Lake (photo: Reed)

So today I broke a 293 day streak.  It was Monday, October 4th, 2010 and I failed to give away my $10.  Well, sort of.  I gave it away a few minutes after midnight.

As you might remember I got to Chicago on Day 293.  On Day 294 I was in meetings all day and then went to a work related dinner.  By the time dinner was over and I said goodbye to my colleague, it was almost midnight.  I had just a few minutes to find someone.  I headed east on Washington Street toward Millenium Park.  I was about five blocks away so I hustled down there.  On the way I saw a woman walking by herself. I tried to give my $10 her but she refused.  It’s particularly difficult to give to women by themselves during the middle of the night.  

I got to Michigan Avenue and decided to walk north.  The cold wind off the lake made it feel like it was in the 30s.  I later saw that the low that night was 45, so I probably wasn’t far off.  I was glad I had brought a light jacket along on my trip.  I checked my watch and saw that it was now about 12:15am.  Dammit, I failed to give it away before midnight.  I slowed down now and took my time.  The streets were a far contrast to the bustling foot and car traffic that filled them during the work day.  Taxi cab headlights lit up the shadowy office complexes that surrounded me. 

Alexander captures one of Phaze's pieces (photo: Reed)

Between Randolph and Lake I saw two guys sitting on empty milk crates playing chess.  I slowly approached them.  They ignored me…talking trash trying to distract the other’s next move.

Alexander finally noticed me and I said hello.  I wasn’t sure what to think.  All of a sudden I started realizing that it was probably not a good idea to just be venturing out in a city that I am not familiar with after midnight.  Although I go to plenty of unsafe areas of DC, I usually know where I am, have someone with me, and know exactly what I am going to do if I get into trouble.  Here I found myself not really knowing where I was and not knowing what to expect with these two guys.

Behind them were several cans of 16 ounce Steel Reserve 211 beer, some plastic grocery bags and a bicycle with a hooded sweatshirt draped over it.

Alexander told me that he was released from prison on August 18th.  “I’ve been in and out of prisons and correctional facilities since I was 13,” the 55-year-old told me.  Although he seemed harmless, there was something a little unnerving about reaching into my pocket and taking out my wallet in front of a life long criminal…but I did it anyway.  I gave each guy $5.00.

I started to take some notes and they both got very suspicious.  I mentioned I wanted to take some photographs too and they became even more skeptical.  “You are a cop, man.” Phaze told me.  He was convinced that I was with the police.  I showed them my DC driver’s license, but that didn’t help, now they thought I was with a federal agency.  You’ll love this though.  Alexander chimed in, “No, no, no.  He ain’t no cop.  You know what he looks like.  He’s a sorry ass public defender, that’s what he is.  And I should know, I’ve known a few of them.”  I loved that.

They stopped talking with me and redirected their attention to the match at hand.  

Alexander showing me his picture and poetry in StreetWise. (photo: Reed)

“You ought to buy one of his magazines,” Phaze, the 29-year-old chess challenger said to me breaking the silence.  Alexander reached over into one of the plastic bags and pulled out a copy of StreetWise, a street magazine similar to the Street Sense newspaper we have in DC.  These papers/magazines are designed to give employment opportunities to the homeless and poverty-stricken as well as provide valuable insight into the challenges they and others in their situation face today.  I am a big fan of Street Sense so when I saw that he was a vendor for StreetWise, I had to buy a magazine.  “They’re two dollars,” Alexander said. 

While I was searching for a few bucks Phaze shouted over for me to look at the last page.  “Check out whose picture is in there next to their poetry,” he told me.  It turned out to be a photograph of Alexander next to three poems that he had written.  When I get caught up with my blog posts you will meet a Street Sense vendor named David on Day 304 who is a former convicted felon who also took up writing and poetry while in prison.

Phaze before he started to spit. (photo: Reed)

In my wallet I had two $5 bills and a ten.  I gave him five knowing that there would be no change.  He tucked the money away and went back to the game.  Phaze knew his moves were numbered.  “He is really good,” Phaze said about Alexander’s chess ability.  “He usually beats me.” 

I am not really sure what Phaze does.  His passion is spitting or spoken word poetry.  It’s a cocktail of poetry, hip-hop and rap all mixed together.  After being defeated at chess, he asks me to buy one of his CDs.  He keeps trying to get me to buy the CD for $5.  In an effort to convince me to buy it, he gives me a sample of it.  On this video you can see Phaze, whose full name according to him is Phaze Da King, spitting.  At the end he gets a little bothered by my videotaping and hits the camera out of my hand.  It’s all on video.  Check it out!

I was ok and so was my camera.  After getting him to settle down some, I gave him $5 for his CD.  It doesn’t play in my CD player so I need to take it to a computer that has a CD tray so that I can listen to it.  

Spitting was not Phaze's only means of expression. (photo: Reed)

So what do you think these two guys told me that they were going to do with their respective five dollars?  Well, Alexander told me that he was probably going to use it to buy some more magazines to sell.  “Or I might use it to buy me some food before that…or a toupee!” he said letting out a deep laugh.  I looked over at Phaze and asked the same question.  “I’m gonna hold on to it and give it to my son who is supposed to be born on January 1, 2011,” he said.

It was now about 1:00am.  I was tired and had to get up early in the morning for more meetings.  But my night was not nearly over.  As I was leaving I met another guy named Michael who met Alexander while they were in prison.  As it was now after midnight, I decided to make him the recipient of Day 295 and will share his incredible story with you tomorrow!

Here is a short video of Alexander.

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On the last day of the Nationals season, I decided to buy some cheap tickets and catch the final nine innings before the team hibernated for the winter.  Although the Nats lost 7-1 to the Phillies, there was something magical about the game.  Watching dads hold the tiny hands of their children as they took one last look at the field until next spring.  Teary-eyed fans hugging stadium staff as they left.  It reminded me of a quote by legendary baseball slugger Rogers Hornsby who once said, “People ask me what I do in winter when there’s no baseball. I’ll tell you what I do. I stare out the window and wait for spring.”

Martha has been an usher for the Nats for three seasons. (photo: Reed)

Martha, a lower level usher, was no exception.  Fan after fan said goodbye and wished her well until they met again the following season.  I decided she should be my $10 recipient of the day!

This is Martha’s third year ushering for the Nats.  In fact it is a family affair.  Her husband and son also work at the stadium.  In an email that she sent me later Martha told me, “My son is a special education graduate, and loves his job there.  The Nationals are by far the best employer he has ever had.”  Wow, that says a lot about the Nationals organization.  Bravo to them!

It was a bit of a challenge to speak with Martha because there were so many fans who wanted to say goodbye.  On top of that, Martha was coordinating a picnic for stadium staff and she was supposed to make some final plans with other colleagues…but that didn’t happen she later told me in her email.  My $10 came in handy though as she put it toward the food that she was preparing for the picnic.  “You’re providing the ingredients to make a multitude of my famous brownies,” she wrote.

I honestly think I was the last person in the stadium. They'd turned all the lights off and there was not a soul in sight. I thought about doing a lap around the bases, but I just found an open exit and got out before I got locked in there!

Before she had to run, she did mention that her family was going through some uncertain times.  Her husband is transitioning between a steady paycheck as a teacher to a commission based arrangement providing financial services and planning for special needs families.  Special needs families have unique financial challenges that if not thought out properly can create tremendous financial burdens and stress on the family.  I applaud his courage to make this transition and help other families plan for the future.

Martha had to run…but as I mentioned earlier, she did send me a very kind email.  She mentioned that in addition to her husband and son, there was a woman who carpooled with them to and from the stadium.  She shared this at the end of her email.  “Our cohort in the carpool immediately said she had heard of you, read an article about your “Year of Giving”, now it’s my turn.”

I hope to see Martha and her family at my year-end celebration and then again at the Nats home opener on March 31st against the Braves!  Let’s go Nats!

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Last night I stayed up to watch the first few miners get rescued from the Chilean mine where they have been trapped 629 meters below ground for almost 70 days!

That is such a long time!  I try to keep that in mind when I remember that there are only about 70 days, less actually, to go until the end of my year-long journey.  Time has gone by so fast!  I am still interviewing potential venue locations for the year-end celebration.  It is exciting…there are so many creative possibilities for the culmination of this amazing year.  I will keep you posted!

Team Rockstar Lifestyle trying to get out of a tough inning. That's Johnny from WAKA in the bottom left hand corner of the photo. (photo: Reed)

It was beautiful the other night and I decided to go for a long walk and find someone to give my $10 to.  I came across a sports field called Marie Reed Park.  Good name!  There were people gathering and I knew something was going to happen.  It seemed that I was the only one not wearing a uniform of some sort.  I grabbed a little real estate on the bleachers and waited to see what unfolded.

It turns out I was at a kickball game.  I was literally the only one who was not playing…except for two guys with some red jerseys who were talking with a woman in a white blouse.  More about those guys later.

"Your not going to believe this, but I was just thinking about you two days ago!" Eric told me when I introduced myself. (photo: Reed)

I finally got the courage to go over to a guy who was sitting an inning out.  I didn’t want to bother someone while they were trying to win a game, but I forced myself to go meet someone.  His name was Eric.  As soon as I explained what I was doing he told me that he had heard about the Year of Giving!  “You’re not going to believe this but I was just thinking about you two days ago!” he told me.   That’s pretty cool….the word is spreading thanks to all of you!

This is Eric’s second season playing kickball in Washington’s chapter of the World Adult Kickball League (WAKA).  In fact, he plays on two teams.  The night I met him he was playing for a team called the Rockstar Lifestyle who was playing against the Ball Busters.  The cool thing about kickball is that just about everyone can play.  Having said that, it was clear that many of the players meant business.

Eric used his $10 to buy a pitcher of beer for him and his team to celebrate their victory. (photo: Reed)

Eric tells me that although he likes kickball, his true passion is in running marathons.  The 28-year-old has run nine marathons already!  He’s preparing for his next one right now which will be the New York City Marathon in just 25 days.  He says that he has seen some crazy things while running.  “One time I was running a marathon with my sister in LA and we saw people selling drugs along the side of the road.”

Eric took care of things in left field to help his team win. (photo: Reed)

The game was close and the coach tapped Eric to hit the field.  Before heading out to left field, Eric told me that if I wanted to know more about the entire WAKA league that one of the founders of the organization was standing to my right wearing a red jersey.  While Eric tried to help the Rockstars edge out the Ballbusters I went over to introduce myself to Johnny LeHane.  He helped found the kickball league back in 1998 in hopes to create a social activity that everyone could participate in.  “We wanted something that would have an almost fraternity feel,” Johnny told me.  I actually think I met Johnny back in 1998 at Kelly’s Irish Times, an Irish pub that was the first sponsor of WAKA.  I say that because Johnny worked at AOL and so did my brother and a bunch of friends back then and I recall that I went to a kickball happy hour in 1998 or 1999.  I keep forgetting to ask my brother who he knew from WAKA back then, maybe he remembers.  Anyway, in case you are shrugging your shoulders at the idea of organized kickball, be advised that they currently over 3,000 teams in over 300 leagues nation wide and employ a staff of 30.  It was cool to meet Johnny, who was in town from NYC where he lives and continues to work as part of the management team for WAKA.

Rockstar Lifestyle won 5-4! (photo: Reed)

Eric trotted back in to join his team as they had one last opportunity to win the game.  It was close, but he and his team managed to pull out a 5-4 win over the Ball Busters!  I was great to watch him and his team celebrate the victory.  He said they were going to a bar called Town where he would buy a pitcher of beer for the team with the $10.  Cheers!

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What are the chances that I choose a guy named Reed (or Read as today’s recipient spells his name) to receive my $10?  It appears to be 1/280!

Garrett making music at Conn. Ave and Q Street in NW DC. (photo: Reed)

It was a beautiful night and I took a walk over to Dupont Circle to see who I would find.  On the way over there I saw Garrett shaking his tambourine and singing gospels.  He seemed happy to see me and showed me his toothless smile.  I told him I had some more clothes for him that Meghan from Pennsylvania and Rachel from Florida had sent.  I asked if he was going to be there for a while, because if so, I would go back home and get the clothes and bring them to him.  Now you got to understand that Garrett’s track record for being where he says he is going to be is mediocre at best.  “Oh, I will definitely be here tonight until 10:00pm,” Garrett told me as I checked my watch.  This time he was good to his word and was still there when I got back around 8:00pm.

He seemed very happy to get all the items.  Combined Meghan and Rachedl sent him a pair of jeans, a hat, three shirts, two pants, a belt and a sweatshirt – everything was brand new!  Meghan and Rachel, you both rock!  I’m going to post a video of him receiving the items and singing a special song for Meghan and Rachel on the Year of Giving’s Facebook page later tonight.

Read was having a coffee and sending a message on his phone when I found him. (photo: Reed)

I left Garrett and walked over to Dupont Circle.  It was a beautiful evening and there were lots of people sitting around the picturesque fountain.  The soft sound of tumbling water blanketed the park.  I saw Read sitting on a bench thumbing away on his phone. 

When I asked if he would accept my $10, he replied, “Yeah, let me just finish sending this message and then we can talk.”  He finished and chatted for about 30 minutes or so.  “I don’t know what I will do with it,” Read said.  “I am lucky to be in a position to not have to worry too much about money.”

Read is no stranger to helping others out. (photo: Reed)

Read is a former AmeriCorps member who has been practicing giving for some time.  His AmeriCorps service took him to Jacksonville, FL where he worked on securing healthcare coverage for children who came from families who earned slightly above the cut-off to qualify for Medicare.   He also told me about some volunteer work he has done with half-way houses.

Originally from northeast Texas, Read completed his Master’s degree in Public Health at Boston University.  He has been here in DC for about 18 months.  “DC and Jacksonville have some things in common believe it or not,” Read related to me.  “Both have strong dichotomies when it comes to the rich and poor.”  Furthermore he astutely points out the transient nature of DC, “Nobody’s here long enough to pay attention to the local issues.”

Read is currently working with communities here in DC.  One project has to do with a local junior high school baseball team which is underfunded.  He plans to volunteer his time in order to help the team stay alive and hopefully grow.   “Maybe I’ll use this $10 toward helping them,” he said. 

Something Read pointed out about the $10 was interesting.  “I hardly ever use paper money,” he says explaining that he prefers to use credit and bank cards.  He posed an interesting question.  “I wonder how the responses of the people you meet would differ if you direct deposited  the money into their accounts instead of giving them cash.”  I have never thought about that but Read’s got a point.  People would probably use it differently.  He assured me that he would not put this $10 in his account, that it would get passed on.

Read's name is also a family name. It was his father's middle name and the maiden name of his great-great aunt. (photo: Reed)

Just a little side note about the pictures I took of Read.  While I was shooting the photos, a guy nearby overheard my disgust in not being able to get the correct lighting for the shot.  Sven, originally from Sweden, kindly came over and leant me a hand getting my aperture and shutter speed set better to accommodate the dwindling light.  Thanks Sven…that’s what it’s all about – helping one another!

By the way, I walked back by where Garrett was supposed to be until 10:00pm a good hour before that time and he was already gone.  :)

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On Day 276 I had some company with me as I searched for a recipient.  A news crew from Spain’s television network CUATRO were following me around for a story they were doing on my Year of Giving.  We met at Illy Café and chatted for a short while before heading to a nearby park where I tried to give my $10 to a man sitting in the park.  He refused.

We then started heading north on 21st Street I think.  It had been drizzling all day but the rain started to pick up a little bit and we sought shelter under an awning that extended over the sidewalk for a few minutes.  I then spotted a young guy walking two dogs across the street and I thought I would approach him.

I ran over to Jake with the news crew chasing after me.

Jake was helping his girlfriend out by walking her dogs. They were cute dogs. I remember the dog on the right is named Georgia. (photo: Reed)

Jake is a local to the Greater DC area.  He grew up in Alexandria, VA and graduated from T.C. Williams High School.  Now, 29, Jake is studying psychology at George Washington University.

On this specific day he was taking his girlfriend’s dogs for a walk.  He said that he would probably use the $10 to sponsor a day of dog walking for her some day.  “Her dog walker charges $10 for a walk, so this will help her out for at least one day,” he told me.

Jake is 29 so he is not your traditional undergraduate college student.  I asked what he had chosen to do after graduating high school and his answer surprised me.  “Well, I came to GW and studied for a couple years but then I was drafted by the San Francisco Giants to play baseball in the 2002 draft.”  Wow…I guess I should tell you that I used to dream of playing professional baseball for the New York Mets so I was pretty excited to meet a professional baseball player.  No, I didn’t grow up dreaming about being laid off my job and giving $10 away…that just sort of happened.

Jake making a double play look easy. (photo: Matt Thornton)

He played for nine years in the minor league organization of the Giants.  He spent most that time playing 2nd base and shortstop for their AA and AAA farm teams.  “It was a great experience,” he shared with me.  “You learn a lot.  You are consistently setting a goal to get better, always working to get to where it is you want to go.”  He went on to say that the fact that he was playing for half the year and then off for the other half made it really hard to stay focused on those goals. 

Jake talking to the Spanish news reporter. (photo: Reed)

“People would always tell me that my baseball career was going to help me so much in my professional life after baseball,” Jake said.  “I’m sure it will…using what I learned about setting goals, the drive that I have.”  I have no doubt.  Professional sports are highly competitive and only the best like Jake can survive for extended periods of time.  When I used to hire sales people I loved candidates who were runners or disciplined in some athletic area.  They understand commitment and know that you will have to go through considerable pain sometimes to achieve their goal.  They don’t quit.

I did some searching on Jake and found this interesting clip.  Apparently it is not live footage from a game rather a commercial that was taped for Gatorade.  The announcer lists the Fresno left fielder as Jake and although he didn’t play outfield much, I have a feeling it is him since he played for Fresno.  I tried to confirm this with him but I must have written his email down incorrectly.  If you know Jake, please put me in touch with him.  Anyway, have a look, it’s a cool clip.

By the way, you may remember that I happened to give $10 to another professional baseball player in May, Anthony on Day 158.  It’s either a small world or I got to too many baseball games.

We said goodbye and Jake continued on his way with the dogs. (photo: Reed)

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This was a sports weekend. NASCAR yesterday then the Redskins game on Sunday. I almost tried to go to the Nationals’ afternoon game on Sunday just to be able to say that I have been to a NASCAR race, a MLB game and a NFL game within 24 hours! It would have been crazy.

The ‘Skins were playing the Cowboys so it was one of those games where there is a lot of trash talking. Some of it was happening right in front of us. There was a guy wearing a jersey of the newly acquired Redskins’ quarterback Donovan McNabb sitting directly in front of us who was dishing it out to some Cowboys fans sitting to our left. It seemed friendly, but there was lots of ribbing going back and forth.

James dishes it out at the Redskins home opener. (photo: Reed)

The Cowboys fans got a good laugh when “McNabb” was booted from his seat by some other fans who apparently had tickets for those seats. Realizing that he had been busted, “McNabb” swaggered down the steps but not before some final words for the Cowboys fans in the section. He disappeared inside the stadium.

I saw him reappear in the section next to ours a little while later and went to try to catch up to him. I went down and over a section and found the man wearing number 5 in a corridor that connects the seating area to the concession stand area.

This father of four turned 37 on September 14th. (photo: Reed)

When James is not boasting about the Redskins, he is working at Walter Reed Medical Center working with the Wounded Warrior program. [This is the second time I have crossed paths with the Wounded Warrior program during my Year of Giving. The first time was with Manni from Day 131.] He is also the father of four, two boys and two girls. “You know what I’m gonna do with this $10,” he asked. “I’m gonna get my one-year-old son some Pampers!”

I met James two days before his 37th birthday. “I’ve been a Redskins fan since I was four years old!” James proudly told me. He claims Santana Moss as his favorite player. The team is coming off a very disappointing year and I asked him how he felt about this year’s season under new leadership from coach Mike Shanahan and quarterback Donovan McNabb. He told me that he thought the team would go 12-4. He added, “I feel a Superbowl this year!”
He is certainly enthusiastic. You can get a feel for the energy I am talking about by watching this short video.

As a longtime fan, James attends every home game and is part of a group called the Redskins Diesel 44 Bus. He invited me to visit the tailgating bus some time, “It’s a pimped out bus that’s got good food!”

The home team went on to squeeze by the Cowboys 13-7. Despite their opening day win, they have not been so successful in their two most recent outings bringing their record to 1-2. Could this be a repeat of 2009?

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American flags welcome the cars as they come around for the start of the race. (photo: Reed)

In the US, NASCAR is second only to the NFL in terms of televised audience for sporting events.  It claims 75 million fans who purchase over $3 billion in annual licensed product sales making it one of the most brand-loyal organizations in the world.  So when my friends Tom and Tressa invited me to go to the Sprint Cup Series NASCAR event in Richmond on September 11th, I couldn’t say no.

Here is something I found amazing.  Compare Football to NASCAR.  When my buddy Chris invites me to a Washington Redskins game I feel like owner Dan Snyder is always trying to get more money out of me some way.  As if the $75 ticket I paid wasn’t enough.  Ok, I’ll be honest.  I don’t think my Chris, who has season tickets to the Redskins, has ever accepted a dime for the tickets he gives me, however, I am sure he’s paying Mr. Snyder.  They charge $50 and up for parking, beers are $8, a sandwich is $10, there’s even been talk about making fans pay to tailgate!  In contrast, NASCAR, which was started by Bill France in 1948 and still family owned, has a different approach.  Perhaps this is what makes their fans so loyal.  When we arrived at the Richmond International Raceway in Henrico County, VA, parking was free!  What’s more, you were allowed to bring your own food and beverages into the stadium.  Heck, the only other thing you really need to buy while you are there are earplugs.  And those are provided at the track by the Boy Scouts in exchange for a donation.  

From left to right, Josh, Roger, John, Turner and Jim (photo: Reed)

Anyway, speaking of food and beverages, we decided to do a little cookout prior to the race.  A few cars away I spotted a group of five guys enjoying a few beers and laughs and wandered over there to find a recipient for my $10.

Instead of splitting the $10 five ways they choose for Roger, the president of a commercial real estate construction company in West Virginia, to receive the money.  I later found out that the five men didn’t know each other before the race.  Roger was there with a colleague of his, Josh.  The two of them met John and Turner there tailgating.  Jim wandered by at some point and made friends as well.  It’s amazing what a little Budweiser and 45 cars speeding around in a circle can do to bring grown men together.

Roger said he was rooting for the #88 car, Dale Earnhardt Jr.  Turner favored the FedEx car driven by Denny Hamlin.  Jim worked for Ford for many years but said he was a fan of Chevrolet’s cars.  None of them appeared to be die-hard fans of any one particular driver, just fans of NASCAR.

Roger told me some crazy stories about him having a condition he called “sleep terror.”  I looked it up and found it to be more commonly called night terror, or pavor nocturnus, which according to Wikipedia is a parasomnia disorder that causes people to wake up abruptly from their sleep.  This is often accompanied by gasping, moaning or screaming while they are waking.  It is often nearly impossible to fully awaken a person experiencing a night terror so most individuals end up settling back into deep sleep and have no recollection of the episode.

Roger told me about a time when he was 17 and his parents finally woke him up in the middle of the night after they heard noises coming from the kitchen and found him there alone with a kitchen knife.  “I thought I had a tick,” he told me.  “I was trying to get it out.”  Luckily his parents were able to wake him up and nobody was injured.  Think this sounds crazy, check out two other stories Roger shared with me.  I also included a short scene from the race…its hard to appreciate the speed and noise on video, but trust me they’re moving fast and it’s deafening!

Now it sounds to me like some of his sleep terror could be a result of the 12-packs of beer that are involved.  Who knows? :)

I asked Roger what he was going to do with the $10 and he said he was going get something for his kids.  “I’ve got one that is eight and the other is ten,” he told me as he tucked the bill away in his wallet. 

Before leaving he told me that he thought of something that I could put on the Lend a Hand section.  “I’d like my friend Josh here to get a chance at singing country music,” he said of his colleague who had joined him for the race.  Josh enjoys singing but was a little shy at the moment to belt out some tunes in the middle of the beer drenched field.

Roger's favorite, Dale Earnhardt Jr., finished 34th at Richmond. (photo: Reed)

It was getting close to race time so we said our goodbyes and headed over to the track.  I admit that I don’t know the first thing about NASCAR or any motor racing sport for that matter.  I mean it took me a while to realize that former football coach Jimmy Johnson wasn’t driving the #48 car.  That would be Jimmie Johnson, a difference of about 30 years and 50 pounds.  It would have been impressive though had it been him.  And hey, you can’t fault me too much thinking that with all the talk about Joe Gibbs’ racing team.  Speaking of which, the Gibbs team went on to take first and second place in that night’s race.  First place went to Turner’s pick, Denny Hamlin in the #11 car.  His teammate, Kyle Busch, finished second in the #18 car.  As for Roger’s hopeful, Dale Jr., he finished a disappointing 34th.

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9/11 memorial

It’s hard to believe that it’s been 9 years since the 9/11 tragedy.  I remember where I was; just under a mile from the Pentagon.  I remember seeing the crash on TV at my eye doctor’s office and then walking over to my office in Rosslyn, VA and hearing the crash at the Pentagon.   2,996 lives were lost that morning.  To give you an idea of how many people that is.  If we were to honor one person each day, it would have taken until Nov. 26, 2009 – more than eight years – to honor all those who lost their lives.    

Remember Tommy from Day 155?  Well, I delivered some items from Meghan in Pennsylvania and took some video.  Check it out here.  By the way, he needs some items for winter, check out the Lend a Hand section.  

Before I introduce you to today’s recipient, I must apologize for a mix up on my side.  Yesterday I posted Day 256 with pictures of today’s recipient, Lisa, but with the story and notes that pertain to Jessica who was the recipient on Day 257.  Sorry…I think I got it all cleaned up now.  With 365 posts this year I was bound to mess this up at some point! 

Lisa proudly displays her $10

Embarrassingly Lisa saw the mix up and wrote to me to point it out.  Thankfully she was understanding and assured her that I would get it taken care of today.  Thanks Lisa, I’m sorry about that. 

Anyway, I met Lisa at a going away party for Sarah, the person who I replaced at the WWF.  The 26-year-old owns her own graphic design business here in Washington, DC.  After growing up here in the DC area, she went to Pittsburgh to study at Carnegie Mellon University.  Today most of her family is split between Boston and Buffalo. 

Owning your own business seems to have its advantages for this world traveler.  “I try to set aside a month or two each year for travel,” she says.  “My next trip is going to be the western part of South America or India.  She told me about another trip where she went hang gliding over Rio de Janeiro.  When I lived in Brazil I went to Rio regularly for business and often stayed at the Intercontinental Hotel.  From the hotel you can see the hang gliders taking off from Sao Conrado and riding the thermals high above.  Who knows, maybe Lisa was one of those hang gliders that I have seen! 

We talked a little bit about why people give.  “I’m pretty busy and so I often give money instead of my time.”  Lisa went on to say that she does give of her time to her family and close friends.  “I’m pretty artistic, so sometimes I will do a painting for friends.  I’ve also done a friend’s wedding invitations.”  Speaking of giving, the $10 in her hand ended up being used to buy her good friend Sarah some beers.  

photo: Reed

I asked Lisa if there was anything that someone else could give to her that would be helpful.  “I’d really like it if someone could donate five or six hours at a printing shop.  That would be amazing!”  

If anyone is in need of a graphic designer, let me know and I can connect you with Lisa!

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After a woman refused to be my recipient, I spotted a father and his son riding bikes together at Dupont Circle.  They seemed like perfect recipients. 

Jim and Addison next to the fountain at Dupont Circle. (photo: Reed)

 

I approached them and asked if they had a second.  “I probably won’t be able to help you though,” Jim said.  I get this often because most people think that I am going to ask them for money.  When I told him that I wanted to give him and his son, Addison, my ten spot of the day, his eye brows perked up. 

As it turns out, Jim is a former office manager / loan officer of a brokerage firm here in DC.  Unfortunately the banking crisis left him in the same boat that I was in earlier this year; out of a job.  “It’s been about a year and a half,” Jim says.  I told him that I was out of work for 285 days and I think he could tell that I understand some of what he is going through.  

At one point, Jim laughed at something I said and he grabbed his right side of his abdomen.  “Don’t make me laugh, I’ve got a hernia.”  Without insurance he has put surgery on hold which is not a good thing.  Left untreated they can lead to severe complications.  Would some doctor in the DC help Jim out and operate on his hernia for free?  Come on DC doctors, step up!   

Jim and Addison toured the entire city by bike. (photo: Reed)

 

They said that they were probably going to use the $10 for some groceries, but I later found out Jim was at a convenience store when a woman attempted to purchase a candy bar with her credit card. She was informed that there was a minimum amount required in order to pay by credit card, so she just put the candy bar back.  Jim stopped her and offered to buy it for her, which she gratefully accepted.  He also told her about the Year of Giving and the ten dollars that he had received.  The rest of their ten dollars was spent on some groceries and a $1 lottery ticket which I assume didn’t win, or they would have told me. 

I asked both Jim and Addison if there was anything they needed or wanted for the Lend a Hand project.  Jim quickly said that he would love to land a new job (see the Lend a Hand section for details on what he is looking for).  “Oh, and someone to operate on my hernia,” Jim added.  Addison had three requests, “I’d like to meet President Obama, Ellen Degeneres, or Dwyane Wade of the Miami Heat.”   

I have an idea, what if one of Addison’s idols offered to sponsor his dad’s surgery?  Maybe we could kill two birds with one stone.  

Jim was thinking about Addison’s “wishes” and added, “You know what I would also love to do, is have dinner and drinks with Bill Maher, he’s hilarious.”  He started to laugh a little but his smile quickly gave way to a grimace of pain as he grabbed his abdomen again. 

Some other little bits of trivia… Jim has become a bit of an amateur genealogist and has traced his family back some 40+ generations.  Along the way he discovered that he has connections to President Bush, Frankish leader Charles Martel and Charlamagne, King of the Franks and Emperor of the Romans.  I know my dad would be excited about the Roman ancestry part – he is so into Roman history these days. 

Anyway, I let father and son continue on their bike ride.  After all, it was a gorgeous afternoon – just perfect for exploring the city on a bicycle.

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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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The NRIs with Melanie on violin (photo: Reed)

On Day 242 I made my way over to the Black Cat to see my friend Melanie’s band, the NRIs.  You might recall that Melanie is also in a band called Machines on Vacation (see Day 80 and 128).  I had not seen the NRIs before so I was excited to check them out and they didn’t disappoint.  My friend Melanie, who plays the violin, is a great addition to the band giving some of the songs a very genuine sound. 

Before going in to see the show, I spotted some people having a cigarette outside.  I thought I would see if one of them would be my 242nd recipient.  After a brief discussion they agreed that Gabrielle should be one. 

Chris and Gabrielle outside the Black Cat (photo: Reed)

“Today I live in Virginia…I guess,” she tells me as I collect some basic information from her.  It turns out this 28-year-old left Seattle a week earlier and drove 2,800 miles with her boyfriend Chris to Washington, DC.  “It was a long drive.  It was a hot drive,” she told me. 

Gabrielle moved her for a job in the video gaming field as an environmental graphic designer.  She’s the one that puts the trees and landscapes in your favorite games!  You’re welcome!  She likes working on next generation games and wants to make cool monsters (I think that is what my notes say…my writing is particularly bad this day.)  She recently completed some work on the racing simulator Forza Motorsport 3. 

As I recall she initially was staying outside of DC in Virginia as a house-sitter for some people who her father met in Idaho!  Totally random I know. 

 “Wow, that’s cool,” she says as I hand her the $10.  “I need it, I’m pretty much out of money.”  She thought for a while about what she was going to do with it and finally said that it would probably get spent on two beers that evening: one for her and one for Chris.  

Here is a short video of Gabrielle talking about the highs and lows of her trip back east as well as her initial impressions of Washington, DC.  Take a look:

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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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This made me laugh today.  Apparently I have made the top 10 list of weirdest hobbies!  My daily gifting landed me in third place behind a guy who takes photos of himself pretending to be dead and another guy who tries to get in the background of various newscasts.  Here’s the part that shocked me though, I managed to beat the 84-year-old English woman who knits woolen boobs.  Now that is really something!

Paul holding Kiko who turns one year old next Wednesday! (photo: Reed)

Anyway, after four days of dog sitting you would think that I had my fill of dogs, but it seems that was not the case as I gave my $10 to a guy with a dog on Day 238.

I walked by the Cosi on the corner of Connecticut Avenue and R Street in DC and saw Paul sitting at a table outside with Kiko, a black mixed lab.  It turns out that he was just waiting there for his girlfriend, Kristen, who had gone into Five Guys to get their dinner.  “Their burgers are good, not as good as Ray’s Hellburger over in Rosslyn, but they’re good.”  He also said he likes the Vietnamese Pho 75 that is next to Ray’s.  I have to agree, I like both of those spots too.

Kiko, whose name was inspired by the Kikkoman brand of soy sauce, is a rambunctious young pup.  They found her abandoned on the side of the road in Fayette County, West Virginia.  Although they don’t know exactly how old Kiko is, they guess that she is about a year.  In fact they have made September 1 her birthday so she will be celebrating her first birthday next week!  As she was a rescue dog Paul said that she came with some challenging habits to break.  “She’s a cross between a piranha and a beaver – I mean other than a Kevlar vest, she will chew up just about anything.”

Paul picked Kiko up and posed for some photos.  The 35 pound dog hammed it up pretty good and even later showed off some things she has learned to do.  Unfortunately my camera kind of spooked her so I didn’t get to see the complete repertoire of tricks.

Kiko politely shakes Kristen's hand. (photo: Reed)

Speaking of tricks, Paul had a trick of his own that he showed me.  He has the unique ability to snap his fingers with his pinky fingers.  I have never seen anyone do that.  “Neither have I,” said the 29-year-old Dupont resident, “I even listed it on my application for Georgetown where they asked about special talents.”  Paul ended up getting accepted to Georgetown so for any of you prospective college students, start practicing now so that you can add this to your admission application.  It apparently works!

I asked him if there was anything he could think of that I could list on the Lend a Hand section of the website.  He light-heartedly said, “A healthy supply of Belgian beers would be nice.”  All you Belgian and Belgian style brewers out there, please send Paul a six pack of you best beer.

Paul said that his ten dollars would somehow go to Kiko.  “Maybe a toy or some treats,” he told me.  I later got this in an email from him:

Instead of being put toward a new toy or a bag of treats for her, your “donation” covered 5/8 of the $16 fee charged by our dogwalker for her 30 minute session with Kiko today. Not cheap, right? If you want to reap windfall profits, dogwalking is where it’s at…”

Thanks for the update Paul!

So before I left, I got to meet his girlfriend Kristen.  She was very nice and we chatted for a while.  I felt bad though as their delicious burgers were getting cold so I said goodbye and walked home.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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