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Archive for the ‘Something for themself’ Category

Back in 2010, at the midway point of my yearlong journey of giving away $10 a day to strangers while I was unemployed, I named June 15th the Worldwide Day of Giving. It’s a day I encourage others to try what I did day in and day out for my Year of Giving: give a stranger ten bucks! Now, I later broadened the scope of the day to include making a $10 donation to a nonprofit or volunteering for part of the day. Some people just aren’t comfortable going up to strangers and giving them money – much less taking a little time to get to know them.

William Jeffrey's Tavern. Photo: arlnow.com

William Jeffrey’s Tavern. Photo: arlnow.com

Well today I found myself over off of Columbia Pike in Arlington. I was having lunch with my friend Patricia. You may remember Patricia was the rock star who put my year-end celebration together on December 14th, 2010. It was an amazing night where I brought as many of the $10 recipients and followers of the blog together to celebrate the 365 day journey. Everything that night ran so smoothly thanks to Patricia who managed all the logistics.

So…back to the sunny sidewalks of Arlington. Patricia and I walked up to William Jeffrey’s Tavern for lunch. On the way up there, we passed an adorable young boy out playing in front of his house. The scene took me back to my own childhood and I was jealous of his day of playing with Transformers on the cool shaded front steps of what I assumed was his home.

JRS-2013-0615-003.jpg

Patricia, Alfonso, his son Aaron and me.

After lunch we walked up to the Columbia Pike Blues Festival. When we got there we ran into Alfonso Lopez, a charming and charismatic 42-year-old who I learn is running for reelection as the Representative of the 49th District of the Virginia House of Delegates. We chat a bit and I shared with him that today was the Worldwide Day of Giving and explained a bit about the Year of Giving. “You’re THAT guy?” he blurted out. “I totally remember your story!” He then grabs the attention of the other half-dozen people who were nearby working the Democrat tent at the fair, “Hey guys, this is the guy who was unemployed and went around every day giving strangers ten dollars, remember him?” I wish I had a photograph of his colleagues and the quizzical looks that came over them. It was as if Alfonso had just spoke to them in Klingon. One guy looked down a bit and murmured sheepishly something like he was sorry that he didn’t know what he was talking about. The others, frozen in the confusion, kind of shrugged and then went back to their conversations. It’s no big deal…I don’t expect people to have heard of my project. But it is fun when they do!

At about this time his son Aaron shows up. It was the same youngster I had seen earlier that day playing. Something just seemed right at that moment and I handed Alfonso my ten spot for the day. “I’ll put five toward my campaign and give the other five to the democratic party of Virginia to help other delegates,” he said. I thought it was pretty cool that he wanted part of the money to go to help someone other than himself.

Alfonso was in high demand at the event. A constituent had stopped by to speak to him about an issue and I didn’t want to take more of his time. He gave me a firm handshake and shot me a smile and thanked me again. “Move to my district,” he said half kidding but half serious as we walked away. Let me tell you, if I moved to Virgina I’d be honored to have Alfonso represent me. Good luck in the election this fall!

If you also participated in the Worldwide Day of Giving today – go to the Facebook Page and share your story.

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

I just spent the better part of an hour being treated to a stream of consciousness as only a nonmedicated schizophrenic can dish it out.

Today is my last day in my first week as a Kindness Investor (yes, I’m hooked.  I’ll be back again in May).  I had originally intended to try my husband’s idea and go down to the McDonald’s in the nearby Wal-Mart to find a recipient.
But first I had to make a deposit in the bank two blocks from my house.  Actually, it’s across the street from the McDonalds where I met Michael B. (Day 68).  When I left the bank I saw this gentleman sitting on a park bench.  I needed to run home and get my ten.  I decided if he was still there when I got back, he would be my recipient.

Well, he was gone.  I played a hunch he hadn’t been waiting for the bus, so I decided to walk east on Madison towards a little public square where sometimes the homeless tend to congregate.  Sure enough, he was sitting there.

“Are you the man I just saw sitting up the block about a half hour ago? Across from the bank?”

“Yes,” he answered.

“Oh good.  Can I talk to you for a minute?”

“Yes.”

I plopped down, careful to keep his bag of newspaper scraps and black canvas backpack tied together with several belts between us.  I asked him point-blank if it would be ok to give him a ten-dollar bill.

“Well sure,” he said.  “It’s always ok to give me ten dollars.  Do you want me to do something for it?”  

It was the perfect opening.  I started to explain about Reed and the Year of Giving blog.  However, after about three seconds he interrupted me.

“I do mostly art.  It’s my gift.  It gives me peace.”   He had taken out a scrap of paper.  It looked like the back of a checkbook, with the calendar year printed on one side.  He folded it in half and taking a pen from his backpack, started to draw on it.

“All the power is from God.  Life is an adventure.  Basically I get my peace from the artwork.  God gave me this gift to give me peace.  I’m a multimedia artist.  Do you know Julie Bell?  Frisette?  Bell does science fiction.  They’re good. They’re some of my favorites.”

I didn’t interrupt.  Probably what I had to say wasn’t going to make much sense to him anyway.  Instead, I paid attention to what he was drawing.  I saw a few sweeps of what looked like long hair, so I thought perhaps he was drawing me as a way to impress me.

Finally he held it up.  “Judas Iscariot,” he pronounced.  Well, I’ve been called worse.

“Is that who you were…”

“No, John the Baptist,” he corrected himself.  “See?”  He pointed out the fierce gaze in the eyes on the paper, which contrasted oddly with the artist’s own deep brown eyes.  His weathered face appeared to be about sixty as his hand went back to drawing, and his mouth back to talking.  “John the Baptist.  Always telling the truth.  That’s what he did.  So tell me your story?  What were you saying?”

I got another three seconds into the saga of YOG when he broke in again.  He’d added a helmet with a flag and horn, and a pointy beard.  “Kubla Khan.  Fu Man Chu.  Or maybe a Knight.  I draw like this.  It’s called layering.  You know about layering?”

This was basically the rhythm of our conversation.  He would free associate off of some word I’d just said, eventually coming back to asking me to finish my story.  Finally I started asking him questions.  I figured he was a vet.  He told me he was in special forces and was in Desert Storm.  Before he got out of the military he was doing peacekeeping work in Afghanistan.  I’m telling you the short version.  There was a lot of meandering around the inner terrain, if you get my drift, but I suspected those two bits of information had some validity.

He’s from Chicago, although he claims to have lived all over the country, gone to countless high-end schools, graduated from top art institutes.  He not only draws.  He writes, takes pictures and is a percussionist.  He has a very high IQ.  How high?  Nobody would tell him.  But he went to Montessori, he told me, as if that were proof in itself.  He stuttered and stumbled over his words, and sometimes sounded to me like a child at play, boasting in imagined exploits.

I started to feel a little motherly towards him.  Who knew where he was?  Who was reaching out to him?  He has children he claims he sees now and again.

“How do they find you?”

“Oh, they just do.”  A lot of his answers were like that.  Vague and mysterious.

“Do you ever go over to Hines?”  Hines VA Hospital is just a few miles from my house.

“I’ve been over there.  I’ll go back sometime,” he said nonchalantly.  But I doubt it.  I don’t think he’d take well to anyone offering solutions so unmanageable to a man in his condition as a roof over his head, medications he’d have to take daily, a pension that would make him a target for robbery.  He looked very fit to me, and handsome in a rugged sort of way.  He probably manages street life as well as can be expected.

“So what are you going to do with the ten I gave you?”

“I’m going to buy art supplies.  Paper and crayons.”  He pulled some crayons from his backpack.  “See these here?  They’re cheap, but I’m going to use them to add texture to this picture.”  He started applying shades of gold and green.
“He has a very warm aura, doesn’t he,” I commented.  I was beginning to think he was drawing a self-portrait, because he seemed to me warm and likeable, despite his mental illness.

“Yes!  You can see it, can’t you?  What do you think that is there,” he said, pointing to the throat.

“It looks like water to me.”

“He’s rising from the water.  He was probably an Aquarius.  I like white water rafting.”

We shared an unexpected moment of silence.  Then…

“Life’s an adventure.  I like parasailing too.  Hang-gliding.  Gliding in planes.  The planes, gliders you know, have no engines.  They glide over the mountains and it’s quiet and I sang to my girlfriend up there.”

I took his picture holding the drawing, because he didn’t want people to see his broken teeth and uneven beard.  He handed me the drawing as a gift with a message written on the back.  It reads:

Rose,

My bibliogenetic is God’s Tool engraven image Artisian, Well of Faith and Brush of Great Gift to myself, to others.  Visual Applause.

Johnny Flash

I walked home thinking of him singing to his girlfriend in the wild quiet above the world.  I wondered what he sang to her.  I hope she remembers him.  I know I will.

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

This was my very favorite give, although I took a little bit of liberty with Reed’s “rules” about the $10.

This is the woman I bought the skirt for.

On my last day in Cambodia, we visited a village to give the people there our gently used clothing. They get to go shopping maybe once a year for the Khmer New Year. Making a fashion statement does not seem to be a part of their culture. From what I could see, if you’ve got a pair of pants and a shirt you’re dressed, regardless of if they match or not. Coordinated outfits are only important on special occasions.

When we arrived, an old woman came out to meet us. As our guide told her why we were there, her face lit up. She took me by the hand and led me to her best chair. She then went inside for a few minutes returning with a pot and cups. I thought she had made tea but instead was offering me the best she had…boiled water.

After gathering the village people and disbursing the clothing we began making our farewells. The old woman approached me and touched her skirt saying something in Khmer. My guide told me she had said, “The next time you come back, bring me a skirt.”

Upon returning to my hotel, I had a few hours to kill before my flight. So I walked into town to a market and began shopping. For $11.00 I was able to buy her a lovely “brand new” skirt and matching top. Since the guide was going to be returning to the village the next day, I asked him to deliver my gift…

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

The Sustainable Organization for Community Peasant Laborer Student Development and Orphans (SOCPLSDO),  a non-profit, non-governmental, non-political organization, was established in 2006 by Mr Pong Sena.  The SOCPLSDO established the Chres Village School and Orphanage in the same year for the regional orphans, students, laborers and peasants from the villages in and around the district of Bakong of the Siem Reap Province, Cambodia.

The aim of the SOCPLSDO is to alleviate the poverty and difficulties of the orphans and children of poor families in the Bakong district providing support of their basic needs such as food, clothing, education, accommodation, health services and school supplies.

More than 50% of the Cambodian population is less than 21 years old. The population lacks education and productive skills, particularly in the poverty-ridden countryside, which suffers from an almost total lack of basic infrastructure.

I went over my $10 today, but it was my pleasure to give my temporary English students the help they needed for each of them to buy school supplies, toothbrushes and toothpaste.

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

Today I gave my $10 to the students at the Buddhism Association School.

The Buddhist monks here offer free English classes to adults.   Tourism is a growing industry in Cambodia and the ability to speak English greatly enhances ones abilities to work, grow their income and improve their lives. While having the opportunity to be a substitute English teacher, I gave the students a donation which they used for school supplies (paper, pencils, pens, etc.) to aid them in their efforts.

Tomorrow I’m visiting an orphanage!

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

When I read Reed’s invitation to share in his daily $10 give on 29Gifts.org, I knew immediately I would be an investor. When I told my mom what I was going to do and suggested she participate, she thought I was nuts.

After reminding me that I’ve been unemployed for two years, my husband and I are in debt, and that my husband won’t be too happy about me giving away $70 to strangers, she added, “We taught you kids to never talk to strangers and now you want me to AND give them money?  Are you crazy?”

Maybe.  But I’m in good company.

I was drawn to my first Kindness Investment, Patricia M., while standing in a very long line at the Post Office.  She was wearing a pink baseball cap, food-stained Donna Karan NY sweatshirt, jeans, and a fanny pack around her waist.  She had near her two fully stuffed backpacks and held an old, scuffed up handheld radio with the earbuds in her ears. She counted her change several times before deciding which services she could afford to add to her shipment.  My first impressions were that she was very well-spoken, very tall, friendly, possibly homeless and had an eye problem, as she leaned in closely to where the clerk’s finger pointed, showing where to sign on the delivery confirmation slip.

After her transaction ended, she turned around several times, asking question after question of the clerk already serving other customers.

“Oh, another question – How do I get a P.O. Box?”  “I’m sorry, one more question. How much does it cost?”  “May I have the forms to get one?”  “Thank you!”  “Bless You!”  The clerk appeared more than happy and patient to answer her. The long line of customers was drawn to her, as well, as we pitched in to answer more questions.  “How much is this?,” she asked aloud to no one in particular.  I told her the shipping box she held was $3.75. Another customer said she gets them for half that at Walmart, so she thanked them and put the box back on the counter.

As she turned to collect her backpacks, I introduced myself.  “Hello, I’m Mary. I have a project I’m working on I think you can help me with.  If you’re not busy for the next 15 minutes or so, I’d love to tell you about it.”   Without hesitation or hint of suspicion, she said, “I’m Patricia.  Yes, I’ll help you.  My bike is in the front lobby with my other things.  I’ll wait there for you.”

After adding the shipping box (the one that Patricia decided not to buy) to my purchase I found out it was half-price!  I approached Patricia in the lobby, told her about Reed’s Year of Giving project and asked if she would accept my $10 kindness investment for the day.  “YES!  God Bless You. I will gratefully accept!  You don’t know what this means to me!  I ABSOLUTELY accept your $10! Thank you!”

“I also saw you needed a box, so I got one for you.”

“Praise the Lord! Thank you!  Oh my God, this is unbelievable”, she said.

I invited 55-year-old Patricia for pizza next to the Post Office and offered to help carry her bags, which were heavier than I thought possible. I could barely carry one and she carried several while riding her bike.   It turns out Patricia is legally blind -  legally blind, toting heavy bags and riding a bike! “This is going to be a very interesting meeting,” I thought.

Patricia is an African American born and raised in Austin, Texas.  A straight-A honor student, she loved learning and reading.  She transferred to Houston in 1978 with her job at the time and has been here ever since.

Things took a downward spiral in 1987-88 after her mother died.  “I lost control of life and reality.  I locked myself away and started destroying myself”, she shared, using the cuff of her sweatshirt to wipe away the tears.  “I was around 38 years old, five months pregnant with a broken foot, the father had abandoned me and I got arrested for probation violation.  Then God intervened.”

During time in jail, she read the entire bible in 60 nights, from sundown to sun-up.  “God planted seeds in me back then and now they’re sprouting”, she said smiling.

Back in court, the judge had just sentenced her to 15 years in jail when she went into false labor.  Seeing she was pregnant, he threw out the sentence and sent her to a rehabilitation center called The Shoulders, a home for pregnant women in trouble.  It was there her daughter was born and “everything became new.”

She and her now 17-year-old daughter were evicted from their apartment last year and have been living in hotels. She has two sons, but didn’t say where they lived. She receives Social Security Disability Income, after losing her sight last year during a routine eye exam to treat what the doctor diagnosed as glaucoma.  Patricia believes she has cataracts and that the glaucoma medicine is what blinded her, so she stopped using the prescribed drops.

“Have you ever been in a burning house filled with smoke?” she asked me.

“No, I haven’t.”

“Well you’re lucky”, she laughed, hinting that she may have.  “That’s what I see – outlines of things, but the details are very dark and smoky.”

“But you ride a bike,” I said in astonishment.  “Do you ever fall or run into anything?”

“Of course!  I’ve even been hit by a car.  You’re gonna fall and roll around in ditches, just like in life. But you get up and keep going.”  Patricia doesn’t see her blindness as a curse, nor is she afraid to die.  Her favorite quote is, “To be absent from the body is to be present with God.”  She believes her purpose in life is to share God’s word, because her life is testament to His promises.

“When you find your life’s purpose, you can live fully and lack nothing, regardless of what’s going on around you.”  After a lifetime of struggling, Patricia knew she was in the presence of God when she finally found rest amidst the turmoil and chaos and blindness.  “You may see me as homeless, but I have everything I need.  I’m in submission!” She’s not sad about being blind.  Her doctors told her she could wake up totally blind any day, but that doesn’t bother her, either.  “The evil that took my eyesight isn’t going to break me.  God gave me other senses.”

Patricia is going to use the $10 towards credit on her bus fare card, as she takes her bike, backpacks and computer with her everywhere she goes.  “I know this sounds crazy, but I’ve been assigned a mission from God and I’m going to fulfill it.  They said Moses and Noah were crazy, too. No one believed them, either,” she laughed.

Her mission to bring attention to government and social service corruption began in 2006.  She needed the box to start shipping legal documents she’s been collecting as evidence.  “I’ve carried this burden long enough.  Literally!  Those bags are HEAVY,” she laughed.  “It’s time to let go and let someone else carry on that part of the mission. God’s got more for me to do.”

Her greatest wish is to find a way for her and her daughter to make a home in San Diego, California.  She wants her daughter to experience more of the world and see that “the sun doesn’t shine any differently on Oprah or Michelle Obama.”  She’d also like to find her long lost older brother, another moment that brought great sadness, as well as rekindle a relationship with her estranged younger brother, who lives just outside of Houston.

Patricia has a presence about her; a pure sense of purpose that pours from her soul.  I felt I was in the presence of courage and greatness and I was very inspired by our meeting.

Her current mission is to make a change.  She loves our country and wonders if Americans really know what the words to our national anthem or pledge of allegiance really mean.  She asked me if I knew the words to The Star-spangled Banner. “Yes, I think I do,” I replied.  “Let’s hear it then.  Start singing.”  So there we were in the front lobby of Pizza Hut singing The Star-spangled Banner at the top of our lungs.  “I love and believe in this country, but we need to fix it.  We can’t keep trusting someone else to do it for us”, she said.

“I want to go to Washington and touch President Obama and he will look around and say, ‘Somebody touched me; who touched me?’  I’m going to draw from his power to make positive change,” she said.  “I’m going to make a change in this country.  God told me to.”

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

It occurred to me that when I first agreed to be a Kindness Investor, I should have some kind of a plan going in to my week of giving.  Who would I give to?  How would I choose?  Would I get it right?  How was my pre-rehearsed speech going to sound?  After much thought, probably too much thought, I thought I’d follow Reed’s lead and just go with my gut.  And it’s worked out for me so far!

In the beginning of this project for me, the week itself was a bit out of sorts.  It started on a Wednesday after all.  What week starts on a Wednesday?  Mondays had always started my work week for 22+ years, but hey, I’m flexible.  Of course since I’ve been unemployed, it’s more or less the same thing, except now Mondays are usually good “interview days”.  The interviewer is usually a little more alert then the rest of the week and I’m a bit more on my “A” game.  I’ll bet someone has done studies on this somewhere.

Cromwell Library

But as I didn’t have an interview today, I was able to spend a little more time in the library. I almost forgot how useful and resourceful libraries are!  My local one has been a tremendous help in my unemployed days.  I could work on my computer at home (and do), but in the library, there’s more chance of getting work done.  And the librarians are extremely helpful as well.  This library day was a good day for me, as it was where I met Pamela, the recipient of today’s $10.

Pamela is an unemployed nurse, or rather a nurse that just happens to be unemployed.  She’s from Middletown, CT and has been a nurse for 29 years, most recently working for the State of New York in the disability area she said.  I was in the Cromwell Library on a computer and she was in the next seat over.  However, I was busy perfecting a cover letter while I was there and didn’t get the chance to talk to her.  It seemed to be a busy day in the library as no sooner did she get up and leave, someone else sat right down and started doing their own internet surfing.  My time was up on the computer (they give you an hour) and I was done with the cover letter, so it was time to find my recipient of the day.  I headed over to where the newspapers were and there Pamela was to my surprise, with many forms in front of her.  She had very light blond hair which stood out to me, and I knew, or I hoped, she was the one for today.

She looked very busy, but when I asked her if I could talk to her, and told her I would be brief, she graciously said okay.  She lost her job with the state of New York nine days ago and she was working like a mad woman to make sure she wouldn’t be out of work much longer.  She had all kinds of applications and forms in front of her to fill out, and she continued to do so as I spoke.  She had been a nurse for 29 years and had seen quite a bit through those years.  She mentioned that when the State of New York started to issue mandatory furlough days, she knew her time there was coming to an end. She said she worked all different shifts as a nurse and I wanted to ask more, but her mind was definitely on filling out those forms.

I asked if she could do it all over again, would she still be a nurse? Her answer was “Yes, that’s what I know how to do.”  But after thinking a little more, she said, “Maybe an X-Ray technician or something else in the medical field.”

When I asked her what she would do with the $10, she said it will help paying for sending more forms out!  She was headed to Kinko’s next, to fax all the forms to an office in Boston where I’m guessing she was applying.  Faxing is a $1.50 a page at Kinko’s, so that adds up she said.  We discussed what a profit Kinko’s was making on that, but as I was speaking I saw Pamela not lift her head up once and I had that feeling of she wants to be left alone to finish her work!

I asked to take her picture, but she preferred not to have it taken.  I did get to tell her why I chose her, telling her I saw her at the computer and felt this was a woman with a purpose.  I guess I was interrupting that purpose, so we said our goodbyes and I left her and her forms.

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

To describe Latora, my recipient of the $10 for today, what I would say in one word, is radiant.   Her demeanor, her speaking, her vibe she was giving off, all just had that warm glow.

I woke up to about 7 inches of fresh snow on the ground and the knowing I was going out in it to give away the $10.  Always the multitasker, I was thinking I’d take a few pictures of this winter wonderland around as well and immediately thought of a favorite spot for doing just that.  The Connecticut River runs through the state and makes for many wonderful photo opportunities, especially after a fresh snowfall.  So I headed out to a local boat ramp in Rocky Hill where the CT River ferry also is located.  The ferry doesn’t run and the boat ramp is closed in the winter, but it’s still a great place to park and get out a bit and take some pictures.  Surely I’d find someone there to take the $10.   No luck on finding someone though, so it was off to Plan B, another great place for pics, the Middletown Harbor.  There’s always someone there.  Again, no such luck, and so it was onto another option.  I was heading to Office Depot to pick up something and there’s a Starbucks close by for a quick cup of coffee and hopefully I would find a willing person in either of those two places.

I spotted Latora in Starbuck’s who was making sure her hair looked its finest in her compact mirror.  She spotted me as well looking at her and smiles broke out on both our faces.  I mentioned to her that she looked fabulous and she said that was a good confirmation. We started chatting and she said yes, she would accept the $10.  A self-proclaimed journal freak, she said she would take the $10 and either buy another journal, or “sow the seed into someone else’s life.”  A very creative and expressive person, Latora is a dancer, a poet and a current student at the Connecticut Center for Massage Therapy.  She just started at the school, but loves it already.  She is very involved in her church, the Grace Worship Center Church in Hartford where she performs “liturgical dancing” or praise dancing. I had never heard of that form of dance so I asked her what it was.  It’s an act of worship for her and incorporates some jazz and ballet influences.  She is a poet as well and as I said to her, she is not only a child of God, she is a Child of the Arts!  It seemed to me, whatever she did, she went in 100%, not holding anything back. Keeping a journal was important to her as a journal is “an inventory where you are in the thought process,” and you never know when the “idea of brilliance” will come. I love that!  We continued our conversation for a little while longer, touching on the topics of giving (sowing the seeds and reaping the harvest), poetry (every word you say is speaking into someone’s life!), and music, (singer Melissa Etheridge! -she liked her voice and the lyrics of her songs.)

Latora gave me this flyer for her church.

I gave her my Kindness Investor card; we hugged and said we would connect again.  I have left each recipient so far with a very nice feeling, but with Latora and her infectious effervescence, I found I couldn’t stop smiling for quite awhile afterwards.

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Day 2 – Trey B.

This week's Kindness Investor, Melinda, discovered the Year of Giving from an article in the Dayton Daily News.

It is funny how each day you try to find the perfect person to give $10 to.  Today I was driving and saw Trey B. jumping through drifts of snow and I knew right then, that’s the man I’m going to give $10 to today.  I turned around went to the next intersection and parked and waited on him to catch up.

At first Trey wasn’t too sure about me and kept his distance but quickly warmed up to me realizing I was no threat.  When giving him the $10 he was overwhelmed and said God will bless you and everyone else who participates in this project.

What an awesome feeling knowing I made his day just as much as he made mine.  Trey had recently moved to Ohio from Alabama to be closer to his family.   He said he was probably going to use the money toward something for his new house.

I didn’t keep Trey too long as it was so cold outside and it was clear he was on a mission to get home where it was warm.

-By Melinda T. from Xenia, OH


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The Year of Giving made AOL’s Top 10 Good News Stories of 2010!  Wow!  I can’t believe it.  Check the link above to read all ten amazing stories!

I was over in Southwest picking up the autographed baseball that the Nats donated for the fundraising auction when I decided to find somebody in the neighborhood to give my $10 to.  I first approached a female crossing guard who was braving the cold to make sure the intersection at First and M Streets was safe for school children.  Although she said she really liked the idea of the Year of Giving, she politely declined saying that as a city employee she could not accept any money.

Charmaine suffers from various illnesses and alcohol dependency.

I drove south on First Street a few blocks and found Charmaine walking down an ally near First and O Streets.  Dressed in sweat suit, covered by a white robe and black leather trench coat, Charmaine was walking west down an empty alley holding a plastic supermarket bag.

The 55-year-old told me that she was originally from Baton Rouge, Louisiana.  She has a son and a daughter and five grandchildren.

I get Supplemental Security Income in the form of disability.  “I suffer from pancreatitis, hepatitis c, high blood pressure and a chronic breathing disorder,” she told me.  “I also am battling depression and suicidal tendencies; I have schizoaffective disorder.”

It was about 3pm and I enquired about where she was going since she was still dressed in her robe.  “I just ran up to the corner store (I later found out that she went to the Friendly Food Market that didn’t look so friendly) to get me some more beer; you can probably smell it on my breath,” she said admitting that she probably shouldn’t be drinking because of the pancreatitis, but she struggles with alcohol dependency.  “I get two Keystones for $1.25,” she told me pointing to the white plastic sack she was clutching in her right hand.  I had a feeling she was going to tell me that she was going to use the ten dollars for beer too, but she had another answer.  “I’m gonna get me some food, soap and toilet paper; I don’t got no toilet paper to wipe my ass with,” she said showing me her toothless smile.

We were interrupted by a guy who was getting belligerent with us.  He had seen my SLR camera and took an unwanted interest in us.  I quickly tucked the camera back in my bag and barked back at him to leave us alone.  He kept on taunting us for a few minutes and then walked away.  “You gotta be careful,” Charmaine admonished, “a young boy was shot and killed just one street over earlier this week.”  I got the message loud and clear.  I gave Charmaine a quick hug, said goodbye and bee-lined it back to my car and got out of there.

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Merry Christmas!

Today is a day that we easily associate with giving; a day that we give gifts to our family members and friends as a symbol of our love and friendship.  As we approach a new year, let’s all make a commitment to think more about ways in which we can give to our family, friends and community.

Richard (left) and Paul (day 335) brave the cold to smoke a cigarette.

On Day 357 I was walking north on Connecticut Avenue when I passed a guy who looked just like Paul from Day 335.  Paul was the bike messenger who I met and then couldn’t find any of my notes from meeting him; not even his email or phone number.  Well, would you believe it, it was him!  Yes!  I found him.

He was standing outside a custom framing shop with his buddy Richard who works there.  The three of us chatted for a while and then I decided to give my $10 for the day to Richard.  He proved to be an interesting character!

“I like to make films,” he tells me taking a drag off of a cigarette in the subzero December afternoon.  “I’m doing a commercial for a record label now, but I’ve done some shorts and music videos too,” he adds.  He’s even recently bought an 8mm camera which he was eager to tell me about.

Now I’ve got to tell you that after yesterday’s recipient told me about his fetish to use heart monitors during sex I thought I had to ask Richard if there was anything interesting or unique about him.  I mean, after you hear about the heart monitor thing you can’t pass up the opportunity to top it.

Well, Richard’s answer doesn’t disappoint!  “I’ve been arrested twice within a five-day period in two different cities,” he says.  It turns out that he was traveling through Oklahoma City when he found himself in a supermarket and was arrested for shoplifting.  “I had some tea in my pocket which was actually mine, but they thought that I had stolen it,” Richard says.  He goes on to tell me that he had some cheese in his pocket as well.  “I’m not sure about the cheese though,” he confesses.  “That might not have been mine.”  As a result he was charged with larceny, got to spend 24 hours in an Oklahoma City jail and wear a bright-colored jump suit!  “All in all I probably spent $500 on that tea and cheese!”  Incidentally he said it was probably about a dollar’s worth of cheese.

Three days later Richard was leaving the South by Southwest Conference and Festival and driving through Brenham, TX when an officer of the law pulled the van over that he and his friends were traveling in.  “He pulled us over for a broken tail light,” he says, “but we ended up being detained for two hours while they searched the car and found a joint on one of the other guys.  So they brought us all down to the station.”  Well, the officer didn’t finish the paperwork and they had to spend the night in the jail.  “We somehow ended up in there for 36 hours.”    He smiled and said, “It’s bad man when you’re getting booked by some 18-year-old cop who is bitching and moaning about his prom.”  That being said, the Texas facility was apparently a lot better than the jail in Oklahoma City.  Their bail bondsman even brought them pizza when they got out of jail.

“So a few months later,” Richard goes on to tell me, “I traveled back down to Brenham to appear in court but at the last minute it was decided that we didn’t even have to appear!”

Richard said he was going to hold on to the $10 for now.  I thought he might be saving it for future bail money, but he advised me that it would be put toward some studio recording fees.  “I play the guitar and bass and am planning to get into the studio in January.”

I said goodbye to Richard and Paul and told them about the Year of Giving Anniversary Celebration.  They said they would try to make it but I didn’t see them there unfortunately.

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I am not a huge music fan.  I don’t have libraries of music or walk around with earphones attached to my head, but I do enjoy live music.  It’s a little like sports.  I couldn’t care too much if I watch a game on television, but I really enjoy going to a game.  The energy that you feel when you are at a concert or a sporting event is simply not recreated in your living room. 

The other night I headed over to see my friend Michael play a little jazz gig.  They were playing at the Imani Temple on Capitol Hill.  Attendance was sparse but that didn’t affect the show.  They performed as if there was standing room only.  They had a special guest that evening, Denyse Pearson.

Denyse sang about seven or eight songs.  She has a beautiful melodic voice and I was really surprised to learn that she hadn’t been performing in years.  After the show I approached her and asked if she would accept my $10.  She agreed and even took some time to talk with me.

Denyse with her husband Lawrence who is also a talented musician.

Denyse started singing when she was five years old.  “My earliest recollection of me singing is sitting on my grandmother’s steps baby scatting,” she said breaking a smile and drifting off to her childhood.  “I used to sing as I slid down those steps.”  Her father was also a strong influence on her.  A Nat King Cole fan, he was also a gifted singer but “he never went as far as he could have,” she said.    

She followed her passion and her father’s footsteps and developed a singing career until she stepped aside in the 1990s.  “It just got little dangerous,” she explained, “going in and out of clubs late at night.”  She is hoping to get back into performing more now.  In fact, she said she was putting my $10 toward future recording costs.  

I will ask Denyse to update this post with upcoming concerts that she has scheduled so that those of you in the area can check her out for yourself.  In the mean time, you can take a listen to one of the tunes she did when I saw her.  By the way, that’s my friend Michael on piano…he’s also terrific.

And if you live far away and want to hear more of Denyse, why not order her CD?  I bought one and if you would like to get one, drop me a note and I’ll get you in touch with her.

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Did you participate in Pay it Forward Day yesterday?  I did…I gave $10 to Rachel, a 22-year-old who just graduated from American University with a degree in graphic design and photography.  Here story coming on Day 352!

Today…we travel south to the picturesque town of Charlottesville, VA.  The town of 50,000 is located smack in the center of the Commonwealth of Virginia along the Rivanna River, a tributary of the James River.  It’s about 120 miles from Washington, but somehow we took the most backward way possible and spent 3+ hours getting there.  

So my brother, sister-in-law and I were going to meet up with my cousin Doug and his daughter Chelsea…what does that make us, cousins once removed, second cousins, anyway.  My dad also drove down from Pennsylvania.  Chelsea is a graduating high school senior and is scouting out colleges which landed them in at the University of Virginia in Charlottesville.  They live in Colorado so we don’t get to see them that often, although come to think of it I have seen Doug three times this year, but anyway, you get the point.  They come in to town and we all thought it would be a good idea to meet up.  And my cousin Dianne was driving in the next day too.  It was fun spending time with family.

Anyway I found a family having a picnic lunch – it was a perfect afternoon for that – right on campus before the football game. 

Tyler is a freshman at UVA and his family is down visiting him from Northern Virginia…close to DC.  He grew up in Herndon, VA…I also lived in Herndon for a while.  Small world.

The 18-year-old economics major says that my cousin should choose UVA.  “It’s great here,” he said as he helped himself to some potato chips, “freedom is the best part!”  I can’t think of a more beautiful place to explore that freedom.  The campus is stunning.  The town is quaint and charming.  “And we’re in the top 5 in the country for soccer,” Tyler adds.

I felt a little like I just crashed their family picnic…which I did, so I tried not to stay too long.  I gave Tyler the money and he said he was going to buy some music with it.  “Probably some punk music.  My favorite band is Sonic Youth.”  

Tyler and his family enjoying their picnic.

Before I left he did have something for me to add to the Lend a Hand initiative.  “I could use an internship in the DC area for the summer.”   Hopefully somebody will see this and give this promising young man a chance.

On Tuesday I got this update from him via email:

I ended up ordering one of my favorite albums- “Psychocandy” by The Jesus and Mary Chain. I’d never gotten around to buying a physical copy of it before.” – Tyler S.

He won’t be able to make the Year End Celebration because he has a final exam that day.  Although we’ll miss him, it’s probably a wise decision.

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Connie holds a sign showing William Thomas, the co-founder of the Peace Vigil. (photo: Reed)

193 days ago I shared with you the story of Start Loving who I met in front of the White House.  He fills in tending to the Peace Vigil that Concepcion Picciotto started with William Thomas in 1981.  The vigil can never be left unattended and they must not sleep while there.  It is remarkable to think that she has been there every day, with a few exceptions, since I was seven years old! 

The other day I wandered over to Lafayette Park which is in front of the White House and saw Connie, as she is often referred to, talking to some tourists.  I waited patiently and then approached her.  Our conversation lasted about 45 minutes and weaved back and forth from English to Spanish.

"I've learned a lot about inequalities in our society." - Concepcion Picciotto (photo: Reed)

Originally from Vigo, Spain (on the west coast just north of the border with Portugal), she came to the US in the early 60s.  Although she told me that she lost count of the years when I asked her how old she was, some sources online claim that she is 65.  

She has an amazing story.  In addition to the $10, I gave her $15 for a book that she sells to help support her efforts.  Almost all the information in the book you can find here online.  It is worth checking out.  It spans her immigration to the US, troubled marriage, the adoption and loss of her daughter, etc.  

The part about her daughter really touched me.  She couldn’t have children so they ended up in Argentina trying to buy a baby from a variety of doctors.  It sounded a little shady; doctors showing up in cars with newborns in their arms.  The short story is that in 1973 she finally made it back into the US with a baby girl, Olga.  But ended up losing her 20 months later when her husband gave her away while Connie was being kept in a hospital.  To my knowledge the two have never been reunited.  You can listen to a heartfelt letter she has written for Olga.

Picture courtesy of Connie's website.

Connie said she was going to use the $10 to help either print more books or possibly come out with a new book with additional material.

I believe that Connie has suffered a great deal in her life and my heart goes out to her.  She told me stories of her being beat, subject to harmful chemicals and tortured.  “I lost my teeth because of chemicals they have used on me,” she says referring to the government and military.  “I now have the teeth in a jar.”

I caught up with Nature Boy during his "office hours" in Lafayette Park.

I really enjoyed meeting her. I gave her a hug when I left and cut through the park where I ran into my friend Elijah Alfred Nature Boy Alexander Jr. from Day 185…check out this picture.  I love it!  And if you look closely at his legs you will see hundreds of scratches from squirrels that were climbing on him!

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photo: Reed

I live nearby a cozy wine bar called Veritas at the corner of Connecticut and Florida.  The other night I was meeting a friend there for a drink.  We grabbed a table in the outside terrace and were greeted by our personal sommelier Fred. 

Now I am a bit of an accent junkie.  I love trying to figure out where people are from based on their accents.  On top of that I have a bizarre condition that makes me want to imitate the accent of the people with whom I am speaking.  Ok, it’s not really a condition, but we seem to make everything else a condition or disease, so why not this, right? 

Fred moved the US from England about 10 years ago. (photo: Reed)

Anyway, Fred had an interesting accent.  Sometimes I thought he was British other times I thought he was Africa or maybe he was from the States…who knows? I was perplexed.  It turns out he is originally from the United Kingdom.  “I’m guessing you’re a Manchester United fan,” I told him.  “He grinned widely and said, “Absolutely.”  As for the accent he says, “The more I drink or the more I watch football (and he’s not talking NFL), the more the English accent comes out.”

The Royal Palace...this is possibly where the $10 ended up. (photo: Reed)

He brought us our bottle of wine and I asked him if he would accept my $10.  He readily agreed.  I asked him how he was going to use it and he said, “You see that place across the street?”  I turned all the way around to see the Royal Palace, a questionable looking “gentlemen’s club” that from the outside oddly resembles a Chinese take out joint.  “It’s going right there!”

He laughed a little and disappeared back inside.  I couldn’t tell if he was serious or joking.  A while later we went to pay.  We couldn’t find Fred and it seemed as if he had left for the night.  Or maybe he seriously took off across the street to the Royal Palace!  What category would I put that in?  “Something for themself” or “Gave the money to someone else?”  Hmmm…I’m guessing the latter.

Fred apparently cut himself pretty bad. (photo: Reed)

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The knights parading into the arena. Our knight, the Yellow Knight, didn't do so well and was defeated early on. (photo: Reed)

The day after my father’s birthday we took him up to Medieval Times at Arundel Mills mall in Hanover, MD.  It’s a unique place that feels like an 11th century dinner theatre with some carny overtones.  It’s cool to see a dozen horses or so galloping around inside of a mall.  Oh, and it’s a money-making machine!  From the time you arrive until you leave there are opportunities to buy things!

Ashanti has been working at Medieval Times for a couple of months. (photo: Reed)

Once seated in the dimly lit arena, we were greeted by Ashanti who explained that he would be taking care of us that evening.  I decided that he would be a good recipient of my $10.

I asked him what his official title was and he said he was a serf.  “What’s above a serf?” I asked him.  “Just about everything,” Ashanti told me disappearing to go and bring more food out.

He came back out with our entrees which were pretty hearty portions of chicken and ribs.  I asked him how he planned on using the $10.  The 19-year-old said he would probably put it toward the purchase of some video games.  “My favorite game used to be World of Warcraft…now I don’t know.  I guess I don’t really have one,” Ashanti told me.

Ashanti at work. (photo: Reed)

At one point in the show I noticed that Ashanti was down in the middle of the arena with the knights!  Actually if you could blow up that photo of the arena you would see him at the very back of the parade.  But his job isn’t all fun.  He told me, “Someone threw up on me once.”  There was a silence and we both just kind of looked at each other.  

All in all it was a fun “knight!”

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David is one of the most interesting and talented individuals I have met this year. (photo: Reed)

You know that I love the Street Sense organization.  Not only do I love what the paper and the organization stand for but I also have got to know many of their vendors and am honored today to call many of them my friends.

So when I heard about the Silent Auction benefit that Street Sense held to raise money for their organization, I made sure I was able to go.  It was a great event and they raised a record amount, but what I will remember most is meeting David.

He was asked to share some of his spoken word poetry at the event.  It was powerful.  David is so talented and brought the house down.  I knew he was my recipient of the day.  Here is one of the poem’s he shared with the attendees of the Silent Auction.

After he was done I approached him while he was by himself having a bite to eat from the delicious food that was generously donated by Fresh Start, a venture created by Day 225’s Robert Egger and the DC Central Kitchen.  David was so excited that I wanted to give him my $10 of the day that he started telling people around him.  His enthusiasm was beautiful.

David shared that he was released from ADX Florence, a level-5 Supermax prison in Colorado about 18 months ago.  “I shot a few people and threw them out of a window,” David told me picking at some fresh grapes on his plate.  “I had to serve my sentence there because of the violent nature of the crimes,” he went on to explain.  It was an odd juxtaposition.  In front of me stood this kind smiling man with a deep warm laugh who was sharing this information that didn’t seem to jive with the gentle giant in front of me.  He seems to be on the right track now; focusing on the positive.

Going through old photos I realized I had seen David once before. Here is a picture I took of him at the David Pike Awards. That's David on the left with Sam Ford of ABC7/WJLA-TV (phot:Reed)

David was homeless before serving his sentence and is homeless again.  One good thing is that he just was able to rent a storage locker.  “That’s a problem when you don’t have anywhere to keep your stuff safe,” says David.  He explained that he needed to go buy a proper lock for it.  “It costs $11, so I’m going to put this $10 toward the purchase of that lock!”  I happily reached in my pocket and handed him one more dollar to fully cover the cost.  He gave me a $100 smile.

David told me a story that I haven’t forgot.  While in prison he befriended another inmate who was illiterate.  Since David was good with words, this other inmate would have David write letters to his lady friend.  David would read the letters that she would write and tell him what she said and then write back to her.  “I was getting pretty interested in her,” he told me.  Here he was vicariously falling for another guy’s girl all because some guy couldn’t read or write… that’s movie material!  And a message for the kids, stay in school so other guys don’t steal your women while you are incarcerated!

I want you to watch David perform two of his other poems.  They’re powerful and deal with heavy subjects. 

David could use your help.  He would like to find additional employment.  “I’ve been cooking for years,” he said, but he would like to find something where he has more community engagement.  I was very impressed with this man.  He is one of the most interesting and talented people that I have met this year.  Although he is not always at the same location, often times you can find him selling the Street Sense at 13th and Pennsylvania in northwest DC.  Go visit him and tell him I sent you!

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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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This is Maggie who received my $10 on 10-10-10...her story coming soon on Day 300! (photo: Reed)

Hopefully you participated in the 10-10-10 Give a Stranger 10 Bucks Day yesterday…if not, why not go ahead and do it today.  It is a three-day weekend after all for many folks, so I’ll let it slide!

Today’s recipient ranks up there with one of the more memorable people that I have met. 

You might remember back on Day 245 I came across a rather odd individual walking around making extremely loud cat meowing noises.  On that day he was walking around with a crazed look in his eyes as he meowed.  Really loud!  Occasionally he would turn 180 degrees from his slow sloth-like walk and bark something like, “Can’t you find the mice?”

So exactly 40 days later I am walking around town when I hear this loud banging noise.  I couldn’t quite place it but it sounded like someone was banging a wrench or something against a bunch of steel pipes.  Not seeing where the noise was coming from, I went along my business and went into a café to pick up some dinner for that evening.  When I left I walked across the street and found “Crazy Cat Man” sitting on the sidewalk with a series of bottles in front of him. 

Illi sits playing tunes on a variety of bottles in front of a DC Starbucks. (photo: Reed)

Although he definitely made me uncomfortable the first time I encountered him, I felt a little better this time since he was in front of Starbucks and there were several people who were nearby “enjoying” his free concert. 

I asked him what his name was and he replied something that sounded like “Illi Lixsis.”  I asked him to spell it and he said that there was “not a proper spelling in our language.”  So he grabbed my pen and notebook and began to write his name.  To me it resembles something closer to a hieroglyphic than a name.  He even included a short written narrative of the composition of the name.  In the photograph below you can see the symbol he drew and the explanation he included around it.  I’m going to call him Illi.

Illi said he enjoyed playing beautiful music on the bottles.  He pointed to his “snare drum” which was an aluminum can.  He also had a rattle, made of an empty Nestle water bottle with coins inside, a Perrier bottle, and a variety of beer and wine bottles.  “This is the magical wand of Jehovah,” he explained pointing to metal rod. 

New England Statesman Daniel Webster (1782-1852)

Our conversation took a path of its own.  Illi’s thought process sometimes was erratic but I just went with the flow.  “What you are doing is kind of like Daniel Webster – only with words,” Illi suggests.  “But Webster was into bestiality.”  How does he know that I’m not into bestiality?  That was a joke!  Seriously, I didn’t know how to respond so I just stayed quiet.

 Illi changed the subject.  “I grew up in New Hampshire.  My 6th grade teacher, Mr. Courier, had been in the CIA during the Carter administration.  He was originally a nuclear physicist, but as an agent he was forced to learn all kinds of things.  He spoke several languages and …”  I am not sure what else he said about Mr. Courier but he related to me at some point how he, I mean Illi now, was into linguistics, computers, visual arts, electrical engineering, etc.

He had a particular interest in necromancy.  He described it as an ability that allowed the dead to pass on to the next servitude of life.  “Anything you do,” he said, “is then used by your ancestors as a means to get into the next life…but many people get captured.”  I probed a little more about what he was referring to but didn’t understand his response.  He did show me his birth certificate though during this exchange.  I didn’t catch his last name, but his birth given first name is Mark.

Photo of Illi's rendition of his name. He wrote this in my notebook. (photo: Reed)

Illi is well educated, he certainly knows a lot about certain subjects.  His way of communicating it is unique and proved challenging for me to follow.  He talked about palindromes, his intense fear of many things in the world and his dislike of Stephen King novels.  He also is a big fan of animation.  His favorite TV show, a 90s MTV show called Æon Flux, and favorite movie, Jim Henson’s 1982 Dark Crystal, are both animated. 

Another random factoid he shared was that his brother Dave sold his 26,000 issue comic book collection to pay for his college.  Interestingly enough, Illi said he memorized every title that his brother owned.  Sounds a little like Joey’s savantism.

As for the $10, the 35-year-old said he was going to “take a break.”  Take some time off from his government job.  Oh yeah, and he didn’t want me to take his photograph because of his government work.  “Photos are stupid anyway,” he said.  I had taken one photograph from a distance before I walked up to him that I have included here.  You can not see his face and the photo came out quite blurry due to low light and my sub-par photographic skills.

Like I said earlier Illi, or Mark as it may be, seems to be highly intelligent in some areas.  He’s socially awkward though and either is homeless or doesn’t maintain generally accepted hygiene.  He sat the entire time in a yoga-like stance with his bare feet folded up like a pretzel.  I’m glad I stopped, but I am not sure that I connected with him.  I would love to hear his perspective of our encounter.

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Every Labor Day they hold the Granger's Fair.

I decided to drive up to my father’s house and spend the Labor Day weekend with him.  On Saturday I made the two-hour drive from Washington, DC to Mechanicsburg, PA.  Having grown up there and returned home countless times, I am very familiar with the route.  I made my way through Dillsburg and then turned left onto York Rd. and drove about a mile.  Then a right onto Williams Grove Rd.  It’s only about 5 miles from there to my dad’s house.  I hadn’t gone even a half mile when I saw a sea of farm equipment sprawled out over a field to my left.  A little further I saw a sign that said “Welcome to Steam Engine Hill.”  I decided to pull in and see what was going on.

“Dad, I’m going to be a little late for dinner, I’ve stopped up here at William’s Grove Park at a tractor exhibition or something,” I told my father on the phone.  I paid $3 to park and got out of my car and started to walk around.

photo: Reed

There were hundreds of tractors.  Sometimes you would look down an aisle and not see the end.  There were all kinds too: large, small, new, old, shiny, rusty, diesel, gas, kerosene, etc.  They had a parade at sunset and all the tractors were lining up getting ready to do a lap around the fairgrounds.  I came across a guy atop a tractor that was waiting to get into the parade and I decided to introduce myself.  We talked for a little while but he was reluctant to accept my $10.  “I’m actually not the owner of this tractor,” he told me.  That didn’t really matter to me, but he said he would rather pass on the opportunity.  I walked a short distance away and saw a large old tractor that was inching its way forward in the parade.  

Dave's parents paid $75 for the tractor in 1972. (photo: Reed)

Dave was at the wheel of a 1928 Farmall Regular, a four thousand pound American made tractor.  I yelled up to him and asked if he had a few minutes to talk and he said, “Sure come on up.”  I climbed up onto the tractor and tried to find a secure place to stand.  Dave recommended that I sit down on the side of the tractor to ensure that I didn’t fall off.  Probably a wise call.

 “Hang on,” he hollered over at me.  “I’ve got it floored.”  Thankfully maximum speed on one of these guys is only three or four miles an hour. 

photo: Reed

A mechanical engineer, Dave works as a project manager for a firm near his home in Millersburg, PA.  “As a mechanical engineer this stuff really impresses me,” Dave says looking over at dozens of parked tractors.  

I asked the 51-year-old how old he was and smiled and said, “Old enough to know better, too young to resist.”  He is married and has three grown daughters.  His passion for these vintage tractors and interest in engineering was not been passed on to his girls it seems.  “I thought my oldest was going to be an engineer, but she turned out to be mathematically challenged,” Dave tells me with a grin.  Although his daughters weren’t at the fair, his parents, wife and brother were all there.  In fact I saw his father and brother driving some of the other tractors they own.  That’s right, Dave owns several tractors, but I get the feeling that this Farmall is special.

He said he would probably put the $10 toward parts and supplies for his tractor.  “It’s getting harder and harder to find parts for it.”

Dave allowed me to go through the parade with him.  It was a great honor.  I got literally a front row seat to the entire parade!  We drove by main part of the parade and they announced Dave’s name and the tractor’s make, model and year.  “There’s no judges, no prizes,” Dave says.  “We do this because we love it.”

We made our way to the end of the parade and dismounted the classic row farming tractor.  He points out that the original wheels were steel and although it runs on gasoline now it originally ran on kerosene.  

Dave's brother Justin gives him a ride on a Wheel Horse tractor. "That was the first thing with a steering wheel that I ever drove." -Dave (photo: Reed)

Dave’s brother Justin came over and said hello.  I took some more photographs of them and their tractors.  They drove away on a small Wheel Horse tractor.  Justin drove while Dave hitched a ride in trailer that it was pulling.  I waved goodbye and headed on my way to my dad’s house.

I was really late by this time…thankfully he wasn’t upset.  He was just happy to see me.  Gotta love my dad!

Here is great video of me talking with Dave as we rode in the parade.

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"Generations to come will scarce believe that such a one as this walked the earth in flesh and blood" - Albert Einstein on Gandhi

In a few weeks many people throughout the world will celebrate the International Day of Nonviolence.  It is celebrated on October 2nd, the birthday of Mahatma Gandhi who is widely credited as the father of satyagraha – the philosophy and practice of nonviolent resistance.    

I often walk by the Indian Embassy here in Washington, DC.  In front there is a small triangular park with a bronze statue of Gandhi.  Although it’s been 52 years since his death, his wisdom lives on.  Here is a great quote:

Whenever you are in doubt or when the self becomes too much with you, apply the following test: Recall the face of the poorest and the weakest man whom you may have seen and ask yourself if the step you contemplate is going to be of any use to him. Will he gain anything by it? Will it restore him to control over his own life and destiny? In other words, will it lead to Swaraj for hungry and spiritually starving millions? Then you will find your doubts and yourself melting away.

Harriet next to the monument to Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi (photo: Reed)

I was walking by the statue the other day and saw a couple who appeared to be reading the inscription on the base of the statue.  I approached the couple and explained the Year of Giving to them.  The man was very skeptical of my intentions, but his wife, Harriet, was more receptive saying, “I’ve heard about you!  I think I read something in the Washington Post about what you are doing.”

“So, will you accept my $10?” I asked.

The coupled discussed it briefly.  Harriet’s husband continued to be a little suspicious and declined.  She on the other hand seemed willing to take part.  “I’ll do it!” she said with a smile.

Harriet, a 71-year-old resident of the state of Maryland, said that she was going to use the $10 for something she would not normally buy for herself.  “The last time I found some money I bought a wooden sheet music holder that was carved in the shape of a g clef.”

Now retired, Harriet spends her time doing what she loves.  Here in Washington she stays active by taking classes and going to her gym.  Harriet also seems to enjoy visiting far away places.  She spends lots of time visiting her children and seven grandchildren.  She talked about visiting her son in Scotland as well as another trip to.  The couple also lived in Israel for some time.  “I was actually a cow girl while we were living there.  I would spend eight hours a day riding but I had to stop when I got pregnant.”      

 “What time is it?” Harriet asked.  Her husband glanced at his wrist watch and said, “I think we ought to get going.”  Although I didn’t ask specifically, I believe they were attending an event at the Indian Embassy.  

Photo by Reed

Before saying goodbye to the couple I asked Harriet if there was anything that she wanted me to add to the Lend a Hand section.  “Well, there is one thing.  I’d love to find some relatives that live in Wales.  Their last name is Targovnik and they used to live in the city of Cardiff.”  If anyone can find the Targovniks, leave a comment here and maybe Harriet will see it.

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Railroad tracks run through picturesque downtown Manassas (photo: Reed)

I’ve enjoyed taking care of my friends’ dog Sweetie.  She really likes going for walks.

While in Manassas I thought I would go and relax a little at a local coffee shop so I looked online for a good place and found some good reviews for a place called Jess Presso.  It was over off of Liberia Ave. and I looked all over for it but couldn’t find it.  I double checked the address and found that there was another business operating where it used to be.  There was a Starbucks in the same plaza so I thought that I would head over there and maybe do a little writing or see who I would find there to give my $10 to.

Starbucks on Liberia Ave. where I met Joshua (photo: Reed)

As I waited for my dopio espresso, the perky cashier explained to me that the place I was looking for had closed.  “It wasn’t that good actually in my opinion – my friend worked there,” she said.  Well, at least I didn’t miss anything.  I got my espresso, added a packet of Splenda and stirred the murky water while I scanned the shop.  There was a guy sitting in a comfy chair working on his computer who caught my eye. 

Originally from Oklahoma, Joshua moved here two weeks ago after spending the last three years living with his wife at the home of his in-laws in Hawaii. 

Joshua spent nine years in the navy as a submarine sonar technician before leaving the military back in May.  Then he spent two months combing the internet for a job.  Being out of work for an extended time will “make your eyes bleed,” Joshua states shaking his head.  He is thankful for the job opportunity he received despite having to leave his wife in Hawaii for a while.  Pregnant with their first child, they decided that she would stay back in Hawaii with her family until after the arrival of the baby in January. 

Joshua doesn't have internet access at his apartment yet, so he often visits Starbucks to connect. (photo: Reed)

From politics to foreign cultures to immigration laws to the economy; we talked for nearly two hours.  He told me that before joining the navy he worked for a small lending company in Oklahoma.  He used to go in person to do the collections and had so many sad stories of people getting into situations that they were unable to easily get themselves out of.  He says that he felt bad for many of the people that he had to go and pressure to make payments.  He says that they weren’t like the aggressive maniacs you see on TV, but their goal was to recover the borrowed money.  “I definitely learned one thing; never co-sign anything unless you’re prepared to be solely responsible for it.” 

Despite being submerged for up to 45 days at a time sometimes, he said that he really enjoyed his time in the navy.  “A difficult part that a lot of guys don’t know before they enlist is that even when they are at port they have to “stand duty” one out of every four nights.”  That means staying aboard the ship away from family and standing guard.  As he and his wife start their own family they felt that a civilian life would allow them to spend more time together.

Joshua is living in an apartment for the time being but hopes to purchase a house.  On this clip he talks to me a little bit about the importance of home ownership in the US and how cultural backgrounds play a big role in shaping our views of what type of living arrangements we choose.

When I asked him what he was going to do with the $10 he replied that he was going to “get some stuff for the apartment.”  He smiled and said, “Today I bought a microwave, but that is about all I got, well that and an inflatable bed and two camping chairs, but that’s it.”

After almost two hours of talking I realized I completely hijacked his time there and we both packed up and left – I think Starbucks was closing anyway.  As we got to our cars, I thanked him for his service to our country and for the enjoyable conversation that evening and said “Goodbye.”

UPDATE Aug. 23, 2010: I got an email from Joshua today letting me know that the $10 went toward a futon which is already being used by a friend from his Navy training days who is visiting!

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Carlton sometimes does as many as 10 paintings a day (photo: Reed)

Carlton is sprawled out on the sidewalk in front of Bank of America along Dupont Circle, his feet extending over the edge of the curb and into traffic.  His right hand, covered with paint, swiftly dances over the canvas of a landscape of a far off mountain accompanied by some trees in the foreground.  He pops up and talks to a man who approaches him.  He displays another painting that he has next to him to the man.  They talk for a few minutes and then the man takes his wallet out and pulls a twenty from it and places it in Carlton’s hand.  In exchange he hands him the painting.

I decided to go up to Carlton and ask if he would accept my $10.  He was genuinely curious about what I was doing.  We chatted about his past, the present and the future.  It was a pretty memorable evening.

photo: Reed

At 45 Carlton has been through a lot.  But painting here at Dupont Circle brings his story full circle.  You see it was here about 10 years ago that he used to sleep in the park and panhandle in front of the CVS.  He was a homeless out-of-work drug user.  One evening he went into the park and shot up with some dirty needles.  He suspects it was that specific night that he contracted the HIV virus.  He knew it wasn’t a good idea, but the addiction had blurred his judgment.  It reminds me of Rob from Day 117 who said, “The thing about addiction is that people continue these behaviors in spite of catastrophic consequences.”  Anyway, he went years without knowing he was infected until he started to get quite ill and lost a considerable amount of weight.  He went to the hospital and found out that he was HIV positive.  He says that his health is good these days thanks to three little pills that he takes every day.  He says he knocked his drug addiction although still drinks alcohol which I could smell on his breath.

It was only about a year and a half ago that Carlton started painting.  “I didn’t want to panhandle no more” he said.  He got started when a woman left him some paint by the bench where he was sleeping.  He decided to give it a try.  “God taught me,” he answers when I ask if he was self-taught.  The reason he chooses to paint at Dupont Circle is that he hopes that some of the same people who used to see him strung out years ago will see him today and realize that he has talent and that he has improved his situation.  He talks to me about why he likes to paint landscapes, how he has deals with being HIV positive and being homeless:

With the money that I gave him he said he was going to buy some colored paints.

Here is another few minutes of my conversation with Carlton. I asked him how others can help him and I thought his answer was beautiful.

I really enjoyed talking with him.  As it got late and he finished his last painting he said that he needed to catch the Metro.  “Hey, why don’t you take this painting” he offers as he pushes the painting you see in these pictures toward me.  I told him that I couldn’t receive anything in return for the $10 but I did appreciate the gesture.

 
If you would like to find Carlton, he is often at Dupont Circle in front of the Bank of America during the afternoons.  And sometimes he is there at night, like today.  His paintings range from $20 and up, depending on the size and type.

UPDATE: I ran into Carlton on June 1, 2011 and visited with him for a while.  You can read about my latest encounter with him by clicking here.

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Gwin selling the Street Sense (photo: Reed)

Gwin was selling the Street Sense newspaper at the South edge of Dupont Circle in between 19th Street and Connecticut Avenue. I was walking through the circle when I spotted the bright yellow vest that identifies her as a Street Sense vendor.

Gwin has an interesting story. Originally from Salisbury, NC, she told me about the early days of her life when she lived near Elizabeth Dole’s home. I can’t remember now which, but either she or Mrs. Dole lived on Ellis Street, which was named for Governor Ellis who died in office in 1861.

She talks a little bit about her background and what she would like to do professionally on this video clip.

It’s hard to imagine that an educated person who goes to law school and becomes an attorney can end up homeless, but Gwin is proof of that. Although not homeless now, she says that she has been homeless in at least a half-dozen cities across the country. “Homelessness is many things,” she tells me. “There are good parts and bad parts to being homeless.” Among the good parts she lists: meeting people, celebrations with friends, traveling, seeing people help one another, and even special occasions like a holiday party she recalls that was put on for the homeless in Boston where they served steak and lobster. Of course she shares plenty of negatives too: moral despair, being looked down upon, realizing your dreams will not materialize, etc.

Gwin kept her same calm demeanor the entire time and seemed very comfortable talking about a variety of different subjects. We talked about all kinds of things; from the Obama administration to circular migration to the legalization of marijuana. She also mentioned that she was a poet and that I could find her works on the Internet. I have not been able to locate them yet, but when I do I will share them here. She enjoys writing a lot and would even like to write a book on homelessness some day.

Before I left I asked her about the $10 and she said that will be used to buy her some soap and a few other toiletries that she says she needs to get this week.
I asked her what dreams she still has for herself. “It’s too late to think about dreams. Now it’s retire, work part-time and be able to help others.” Maybe that is in fact her dream. I asked her where she wants to retire and she said either Chicago or some place further west. “I would like to find a place to live where I could get a part-time job and eventually collect a pension.”

Gwin (photo: Reed)

Before leaving I asked if I could take a few photos of her selling the paper.  She made me laugh a little because she kept hiding behind the newspapers for most of them.  She had been so comfortable with the camera when I took pictures of her sitting down and also used my video camera, but for some reason she got a little shy when she was working.  I asked her if she could move the papers a little so that I could see her face and she nodded her head yes with a sheepish smile, but didn’t move them too much.  I managed to get a couple of shots though.

For those in the downtown area, keep an eye out for Gwin, especially near the Dupont Circle SOUTH Metro entrance near the Krispy Kreme.

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Today I put on my Brazil jersey on and went to watch the match versus The Netherlands.  Although Brazil didn’t win, I am not sure that the Netherlands won it.  Neither team played a great game, but The Netherlands missed a few opportunities to make the game 3-1 or even 4-1.  I remember being in Sao Paulo, Brazil four years and a day ago when France beat Brazil 1-0.  The pub where I watched the match was completely silent after the game…the streets where empty.  The country went to sleep to wash away a nasty hangover.  I imagine that today is a somewhat similar day. 

I will wash my sorrows away with a blog post about an inspiring man named Charles who I met as he washed windows along Connecticut Avenue. 

Photo: Reed

 

Charles is 52 years old and was born and raised here in Washington, DC.  “I was born just over there in Georgetown,” he says as he points west toward the popular historic neighborhood.  “I used to play drums over here at Dupont Circle when I was young.” 

He attended Francis Junior High School just a few blocks from where we were standing.  He grins as he tells me that he still gets together every July 17th with his friends from Junior High. 

Now he lives down near the Waterfront with his mother who he helps take care of.  His father, who died some years ago, worked at the Navy Yard making weapons.  “His picture is on the wall there,” he says proudly.  He tells me that he and his father were almost identical looking. 

Charles' cart (photo: Reed)

 

After 12 years delivering the Congressional Record, the official record of the proceedings and debates of the United States Congress, Charles’ boss retired and he decided to start a new chapter in his life as well.  His boss let him keep some small carts that he used to use to deliver the report and he thought he could put a milk crate on it and make a good cart to carry supplies.  He had often seen people cleaning windows in DC but they were always carrying all the supplies and it was cumbersome to have to gather everything up every time they moved on to the next location.  He put two and two together and launched his own window washing business. 

So seven years and 400 customers later, Charles is doing pretty well.  He is a very simple man, but he understands business very well.  You build your business one customer at a time.  And if you take care of them, they will take care of you.  As an example, one of his clients even lets him keep his supplies in their back room so that he doesn’t have to haul it back and forth from his home. 

“I take care of most of these businesses,” he tells me as he points up and down Connecticut as far as I can see.  Each place is different.  Different size windows, different service (inside, outside, or both).  He chuckles as he tells me that one of his clients is a sex toy shop with lots of erotic toys, etc. in the window.  It definitely helps break up any potential monotony in his work! 

His favorite place though is an old school with lots of windows.  Although the building is special, what he likes most about it is how friendly everyone there is.  Even the kids say hello to him when he is there. “They say hi Mr. Charles when they see me.”  

In general his services cost between $5 and $25, depending on the customer’s specific needs.  Residential service can be quite a bit more if you have to deal with screens for example.  

Charles finished the storefront he was working on and it looked great.  I asked him if he had any trade secrets he would share with me.  He gave me three: 

  1. Use newspaper instead of cloth or paper towels
  2. Add a small amount of rubbing alcohol in the winter to avoid freezing
  3. Use dishwashing detergent instead of window cleaner, it’s a lot cheaper (he buys  a bottle at the Dollar Store)

It’s not all work and no play though.  When Charles is not working, he enjoys visiting the Smithsonian’s Air and Space Museum.  

Charles at work (Photo: Reed)

 

Note: If anyone would like to contact Charles about window washing services, let me know. 

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It’s day 69 of the oil spill and day 6 of me sans computer. No solution has worked for either the spill or my computer, not that they are anywhere close to being on equal levels of importance. By the way, I have put this Donate option up on the right side of the screen here last week to add donations to what we raised at the DC Get-Together and not a single person has donated to help those out of work in the Gulf. I am surprised given that so many people offer to directly help me or help the recipients whose stories are here. Please help, I want to send the money down there asap.  Imagine if half of the readers of the blog would give $10…that would be amazing!

As for my computer issues…I mentioned a guy who volunteered his time to help me, however, he went MIA on Saturday and he has not answered my emails or voice mails. I hope he is OK.  My brother Ryan was nice enough to help me run hours of tests and try different solutions, but still no luck. So no pictures or video for a while. Sorry. For now I am using an old Acer computer that my sister-in-law let me borrow. It is a very basic machine that can’t handle large files and doesn’t have Windows or Microsoft Office, etc. It runs on Linux. On a positive note, it is good to get some experience using a different operating system. I bought a new hard drive today thinking that that was the problem. I installed it and still no change, so I am back to square one. Anyway…back to meeting the amazing people from my journey!

Day 183 was the Worldwide Day of Giving. I did some media interviews that day. In the morning I was on News Channel 8′s Let’s Talk Live and then in the afternoon I was on CNN with Ali Velshi. Both went well. My dad went with me to CNN’s studios. I think he enjoyed that. On our way home he gave away his $10 for the day to a nice guy named Tony. His story is on Facebook here.

Later I went to the DC Get-Together for the Worldwide Day of Giving. A lot of people were able to come and we had a great time. Several TV stations came to cover the event. A nice surprise was seeing Jay Korff and Mark Bautista from ABC and Kate Michael from KstreetKate.net. They have shared my story with their viewers over the last couple months. Some past recipients who attended were: Anthony, Tommy, Sammy, Danny, Molly, Ashley, Mark to name a few.

So, as the celebration began to wind down, I headed over to the bar area and found Mark chatting with a friend at the bar. About the same time I realized that with all the excitement of the day, I had not given away my $10 yet! I didn’t recognize the guy Mark was talking to so I thought, let’s see if he is willing to accept my $10!

It turns out that Alan is actually staying on Mark’s couch this week. They met through www.couchsurfing.org, a worldwide network for making connections between travelers and the local communities they visit. Originally from Reading, England, Alan came over here for his brother’s wedding in Denver and plans to stay for a bit and open a subsidiary office for the geothermal energy company he works for back in England. Then he plans to go to Ushuaia, Argentina and bike 11,000 miles to the US. If such a journey sounds familiar, you might recall that an earlier recipient was planning to make almost the exact trip only in reverse from Prudhoe Bay, Alaska to Ushuaia, Argentina. Here is the wild part of this story. That previous recipient was Mark! That’s right, without knowing it, Alan ended up staying on Mark’s couch, neither of them previously knowing that the other one was planning to make a very similar journey. Not only do they share this same dream, Alan has already made a similar trip that is absolutely incredible. He bicycled 13,000 miles from London, England to Cape Town, South Africa. It took him only 348 days to complete the journey. That is a hell of a trip! Check out the details here.

I place a beat-up $10 bill in Alan’s hand and he readily tells me what he will use it for. “I need a new chain for my bike and ten bucks will buy a decent chain.”

We spoke very casually for some time. I enjoyed learning more about Alan and his cycling. He was also interested in my project and I learned that he is no stranger to giving and charitable ventures. During his London-Capetown trip he raised 10,000 British pounds for an organization called Child Reach International. He also says that biking has served as a catalyst for giving as well. “Cycling people are really friendly and people are always giving. You get so much from others while you are cycling that you save up and then help someone else out in the future.”

Alan told me about a website that I had never heard of too: www.warmshowers.org. “It’s a website that shows you where you can get free warm showers.” He takes a sip of his beer and fires laughs as he says, “That’s rather important when you are cycling for months!”

The English are known for their beer so I thought I would ask him if he had a favorite English beer. He didn’t show any strong favoritism to any one in particular but offered up Newcastle Brown.

Other tidbits about Alan that I found interesting are that he has met the Queen of England, thinks Philadelphia is the best city in the US that he has visited and thinks that newly elected Prime Minister, David Cameron, looks like the twin of the new Deputy Prime Minister, Nick Clegg.

I took some video of Alan which I hope to post when I get my computer problems resolved. We said goodbye and parted ways. He was leaving in two days to go to New York. I just found out on his blog that he has had to return to England to get the proper visa to stay here and work to help set up the subsidiary office for his employer.

Note: Here is a blog entry that Alan posted which includes our encounter where he received the $10.

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Versión en español sigue abajo.

Tomorrow is the big day.  Have you been thinking about who you might give your $10 to?  Don’t over think it.  Follow your heart.  Tell them what you are doing.  Explain to them quickly what the Year of Giving is about.  If you are at a loss on how to start the conversation, maybe this example that I sent to some friends will help. 

Hi…I was wondering if you could help me on a personal project that I am doing…well, let me explain to you what the project is and you can decide for yourself. I am participating in the Worldwide Day of Giving, a day that celebrates altruistic giving and community engagement. The project is simple….I find one person who I don’t know and give them $10, no strings attached. I would love for you to be the recipient of my $10.” 

If they say yes, you can ask other questions and learn more about them….etc. If they are still unsure, explain that if they say no, then you will simply have to find someone else. If they say they are not worthy of the $10, tell them they do not have to keep it and that they can do anything they want to with it. If they say that they prefer that you give it to someone who needs it, remind them that they can also do that. Sometimes you get a few objections….but hang in there and you will find the right person. 

Then submit your stories here

Changing subject a little, I didn’t get any takers to meet up and use my $100 game card at the ESPN Zone.  They were not very flexible in letting me use the credit for anything else (like food at their restaurant, etc) so I gave my card to some school kids there on a class trip.  They were ecstatic. 

I wish I had captured Doña Myriam smiling in this picture, but she had her serious artist look going on (Photo: Reed)

 

Today I have a beautiful story to share with you.  While I was in Manizales, I spent a good amount of time at the Rafael Pombo Foundation.  One day there was an adult art class taking place.  I was taking some photos of them painting when the work of 85-year-old Doña Myriam caught my eye.  We started to talk and I knew I had found my recipient for the day! 

Doña Myriam gave me so much energy.  She has so much passion to learn new things and live an active life.  She has taken up painting and if you take a look at the video, you will see that she is quite talented.  

She raised 10 children.  Sadly her one son, an electrician, has passed away.  I think back to the recent death of my cousin Ricky and how hard it was on my aunt.  My heart always goes out to parents who lose a child.  There is just nothing that prepares us for that.  She also lost her husband who died in 1976.  

Our conversation turned to happier times, like her childhood.  She shares that at 12-years-old she wanted to join the communist party.  By 15 she had changed her mind.  But this interest in politics and government led her to want to pursue a career in law.  “But times were different then.  My father forbid me to go study at the university.”  Well, she is making up for lost time now as she follows her passions. 

Photo: Reed

 

I asked her how she planned to use her 20,000 pesos.  There was an electricity in her voice when she answered me.  She smiled and placed her hand on top of mine and said, “I am going to buy some more painting supplies so that I can do more painting!”  She has been making paintings for each of her children.  Maybe with the additional funds she can start making paintings for all those grandchildren! 

This woman had something special.  She warmed my heart and I was sad when I left.  It was like I was saying goodbye to my own grandmother.  I gave her a hug and we exchanged phone numbers.  I have uploaded some of the video from our conversation.  It is in Spanish, but even those of you who don’t understand Spanish might enjoy seeing her paint and just watching her expressions.  She’s beautiful.

VERSIÓN ESPAÑOL

Mañana es el gran día.   ¿Has pensado a quien te gustaría darle tus $10?  No lo pienses tanto, sigue tu corazón.  Mi consejo es que les cuentes lo que estás haciendo, explícales rápidamente que significa el “Año del Dar”.  Si no sabes cómo iniciar la conversación, quizá este ejemplo te sirva. 

“Hola.. quería saber si me puedes ayudar en un proyecto personal.  Déjame te explico mi proyecto para que decidas si me quieres ayudar.  Estoy participando en el día mundial del Año del Dar, un día que celebra el dar sin condiciones y el compromiso de la comunidad.  El proyecto es muy simple… yo encuentro a una persona que no conozco y le doy $10 sin ninguna condición. Me encantaría que tú seas la persona que recibe mis $10 el día de hoy. 

Si la persona te dice que sí, ahora puedes hacer más preguntas y aprender más sobre él/ella.  Si no está seguro, explícale que si dice que no, simplemente tendrás que ir a buscar a otra persona.  Si dice que no vale los $10, dile que no se los tiene que quedar, que puede hacer lo que quiera con el dinero.  Si dice que prefiere que tú se lo des a otra persona que lo necesite, recuérdale que él también puede hacerlo.  Algunas veces recibes algunos rechazos… pero sigue intentando para que encuentres a la persona correcta. 

Después, comparte con nosotros tus historias aquí! 

Cambiando de tema, no pude encontrar a nadie para reunirnos y usar mi tarjeta con $100 para jugar en la Zona de ESPN.  La gente de ESPN no fue muy flexible y no pude usar el dinero como crédito para otro gasto (como comida en el restaurante, etc).  Acabé dando la tarjeta a unos niños que estaban de paseo con su clase de la escuela.  Los niños quedaron encantados. 

La profesora de la clase de arte (Photo: Reed)

Hoy tengo una historia muy linda para compartir.  Ahora que estuve de visita en Manizales, pase un buen tiempo con la Fundación Rafael Pombo.  En una de mis visitas, tuve la oportunidad de entrar a tomar fotos en la clase de arte para adultos.  Estaba tomando fotos de los alumnos y de sus pinturas cuando de repente encontré el trabajo de Doña Myriam, una señora de 85 años.  Comenzamos a platicar y supe que había encontrado a la persona que le daría los 20,000 pesos de ese día.  

Doña Myriam me dio mucha energía.  Ella tiene muchas ganas – y mucha pasión – de aprender cosas nuevas y vivir una vida activa.  Ahora está tomando clases de pintura y si ves el video, veras que tiene talento.  

Doña Myriam crió diez niños.  Desafortunadamente, un hijo hombre, un electricista, murió.  Esto me hizo pensar en la muerte reciente de mi primo Ricky y lo difícil que fue para mi tía.  Mi compasión siempre va para los padres que han perdido un hijo.  No existe nada que lo prepare a uno para eso.  Doña Myriam también perdió a su esposo que murió en 1976. 

Nuestra conversación cambio y comenzamos a hablar de los buenos tiempos, como su niñez.  Me comentó que a los 12 años, quiso unirse al partido comunista.  A los 15 ya había cambiado de parecer, pero siguió teniendo mucho interés en temas políticos y de gobierno por lo que decidió estudiar la carrera de derecho. “Pero los tiempos eran diferentes, mi padre me prohibió ir a la universidad.”  Ahora trata de recuperar el tiempo perdido y de seguir sus pasiones. 

Photo: Reed

Le pregunté cómo planeaba utilizar sus 20,000 pesos.  Hubo electricidad en su voz cuando me contestó.  Sonrió y  puso su mano sobre la mía y me dijo, “Voy a comprar más provisiones de pintura para poder pintar más!”  Ella ha estado pintando cuadros para cada uno de sus hijos.  Quizá, con las nuevas provisiones de pintura, Doña Myriam podrá comenzar a hacer pinturas para cada uno de sus nietos! 

Esta mujer tiene algo especial.  Me sentí  triste cuando me fui.  Fue como si le dijera adiós a mi propia abuela.  Le di un abrazo e intercambiamos números de teléfono.  Subí un video en español de nuestra conversación.  Es muy linda. 

Este blog fue traducido generosamente por Carla Tena en Washington, DC.

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Version en Español sigue abajo

We are three days away from the Worldwide Day of Giving!  Check here for more details.

 Also for those of you in DC, many of us are getting together on Tuesday at The Dupont Hotel.  There will be former recipients of the Year of Giving, blog followers, and a special appearance from my Dad!  Come out and join us from 6-8pm…the hotel will have some free appetizers and reduced drink menu for Year of Giving followers!  Also, I will be organizing some grass-roots relief for those out of work in the Gulf region due to the oil spill.

On Day 168 I didn’t have any meetings scheduled in the morning so I decided to find an internet café in Manizales where I could get caught up on my blog.  I found a place in the heart of the city and logged a few hours of work there.  It was really cheap too!  About 65 cents per hour.  And the connection speed was fast!

After I finished, I wandered down to the small plaza and fountain in front of city hall.  It was there that I saw Jorge just sitting in the center of the plaza.

An out of work telecom technician by trade, Jorge is actively looking for work.  Something I could identify with.  The feelings one has and the challenges one faces while being unemployed are not so different in another culture.  Being out of work triggers similar emotions and responses regardless of the language that is spoken or the geography of the locale.

Realistically Jorge doesn’t even have that much of an option to consider moving from Manizales to other areas in search of work such as Medellín, Cali, or Bogotá.  He was born and raised in Manizales…in the Barrio Caribe area.  He is separated now, but has a 14-year-old daughter.  So this makes his situation a bit more complicated.

I asked Jorge what he would ideally like to do professionally.  “Unfortunately due to the complexity of the current economic situation you got to do what comes your way” he laments.  I thought I would see what Jorge’s political views were given the correlation to the economy.  “It’s too bad Uribe had to go…I think things here have been pretty good,” he says about Colombia’s current president who managed to change the law in order to serve two terms but was not successful in further change so that he could continue in power. 

Despite his general content with Uribe’s time in office, he chose yesterday to vote for a candidate from a different party.  He gave Antanas Mockus from the newly formed Green Party his vote.  “Juan Manuel is too aggressive militarily and he never asked for forgiveness,” he said about current President Uribe’s Minister of Defense, Juan Manuel Santos, who leads the poles and is a member of the current administration’s U Party.  His comment about never asking for forgiveness most likely refers to the “False Positives” scandal where the Colombian military, under Juan Manuel Santos, has admitted to murdering civilians and dressing them up in guerrilla or paramilitary garb so that they could claim to have caught and executed members of these radical cells.

I shifted the conversation away from politics and toward what he planned on doing with the 20,000 pesos.  “I’m going to buy some resume paper,” he told me.  

I was able to shoot a short video with Jorge where he talks about two dreams that he has: be an ecological volunteer and skydive.   This video is in Spanish.

VERSIÓN ESPAÑOL

Estamos solo a tres días del Día Mundial de Dar! (Revise aquí para mas detalles)

Además para aquellos de ustedes en DC, muchos de nosotros nos reuniremos el martes en Hotel Dupont.  Ahí estarán algunos recipientes del Año de Dar, seguidores de blogs y una presencia especial de mi padre!  Vengan a unirse a nosotros de 6 a 8 PM… el hotel tendrá algunas picaderas gratis y un menú de bebidas reducidas para los seguidores del Año de Dar!  Además , estaré organizando alivio de raíces para aquellos que se quedaron sin empleo en la región del golfo debido al derrame del aceite.

En el día de dar numero 168, no tenía reuniones pendientes en la mañana, entonces decidí buscar un Internet-café en Manizales en donde podría ponerme al día con mi blog. Encontré un lugar en el corazón  de la ciudad y allí me conecte por un par de horas de trabajo.  Además fue bastante barato!, acerca de 65 centavos por hora y la conexión era muy veloz!

Después que terminé, vine a parar en una pequeña plaza y una fuente en el frente de la Alcaldía. Fue allí en donde vi a Jorge, sentado en el centro de la plaza.

Un técnico de telecom fuera de empleo, Jorge esta activamente buscando empleo, algo con lo que yo me podría identificar.  Los sentimientos que uno tiene y los desafíos que uno enfrenta mientras se esta sin empleo no son tan diferentes en otras culturas. Permanecer sin empleo desata emociones  y respuestas similares  a pesar del lenguaje que se hable o la geografía del local.

Manizales (Photo: Reed)

Realísticamente Jorge ni si quiera tiene mucha opción para considerar mudarse de Manizales a otra áreas en busca de un empleo, tales como Medellín, Cali o Bogota. El nació y creció en Manizales…en el área del Barrio del Caribe. El se encuentra separado, pero tiene una hija de 14 años y esto hace que la situación sea un poco más complicada.

Le pregunte a Jorge que es lo que idealmente le gustaría hacer profesionalmente. “Desafortunadamente, debido  a la complejidad de la actual situación económica, uno tiene que hacer lo que venga” se lamenta. Yo pensé en ver lo que Jorge opina políticamente debido a la correlación de la economía. “Esta muy mal que Uribe se tuvo que ir..pienso que las cosas  estan mucho mejor,” el dijo sobre el Presidente actual de Colombia que se las ingenio para cambiar la ley para así poder servir dos términos pero no obtuvo el éxito en dichos cambios para poder permanecer en el poder.

A pesar de su contentamiento general con el tiempo de Uribe en el mandato, él decidió ayer votar por un candidato de otro partido. Le dió su voto a Antanas Mockus del recientemente formado partido “Verde.”  “Juan Manuel es muy agresivo militarmente y nunca pidió perdón” dijo él acerca del Ministro actual de defensa del Presidente Uribe, Juan Manuel Santos, quien lleva la ventaja en los polos y quien es miembro de la administración actual del partido U.  Sus comentarios acerca de no haber pedido perdón seguramente se debe al escándalo de los “Falsos Positivos” donde se encontraba la militaría de Colombia bajo  Juan Manuel Santos asesinando civiles y de haberlos vestido con atuendos de guerrilla o atuendos de paramilitares para luego poder reclamar haber capturado y ejecutado miembros de células radicales.

Cambié la conversación fuera de la política y hacia lo que el planificaba hacer con los 20.000 pesos que le di, me dijo  “Me voy a comprar hojas de vida (papel de currícula).”  Tuve la oportunidad de hacer un corto video donde Jorge habla acerca de sus dos sueños, ser un voluntario ecológico y paracaidismo. El video que se encuentra arriba, esta en Español.

Esta traducción fue hecha gratuitamente por Jeannette Pérez.

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Versión español sigue abajo.

For those of you who have not seen the video I posted yesterday about my life on the plantation in Colombia, check it out.  Although totally different than my life here in DC, life there on the plantation was excellent.

 Are you ready for the Worldwide Day of Giving?  It’s this Tuesday.  It’s your chance to do what I do for one day and then share your story with the world.  I want to collect as many experiences from around the world about giving that day and share them here…let’s make something beautiful happen.  I need your help though to get as many people involved as possible.

For those of you in DC, I am looking forward to actually meeting up on Tuesday evening with those who are interested.  I am currently working out the final details with a local venue (Dupont Circle) and hope to host the event there.  In addition to celebrating the Year of Giving and the Worldwide Day of Giving, we will do something to help those who are out of work in the Gulf region due to the oil spill.  I hope you can join me!

Sunday the 30th was election day in Colombia.  I was excited to see how the election process took place in another country.  Roberto Gonzalo’s sister was working at a polling place.  He was voting at another place.  It was pretty much like it is here.  Voting levels are about the same as here I think, somewhere around 50% of the population voted.  As I mentioned yesterday, the election resulted in two candidates going to a run-off election on June 20th.  It’s widely believed that the Juan Manuel Santos will prevail.

While I waited for Roberto Gonzalo to vote, I met Giliante.  Giliante works for the El Gran Cafeteiro company and sells coffee on the street.  Dressed in somewhat of a space suit, he walks the street with a metallic canister on his back filled with piping hot coffee.  He then has a hand control that he dispenses coffee out of for about 25 cents per cup (he makes about six cents per cup).  Check out Giliante in action preparing a coffee for me.

The 34-year-old Manizales native has been doing this for nine months.  It beats the construction jobs he was doing before.  He enjoys the fact that he meets a lot of different people every day.

I asked him what he would do with my 20,000 pesos and he said he would use it to buy some medicine he needed: flouxetina (prozac) and acido valproico (valproic acid).  I had never heard of flouxetina and acido valproico so I asked what they were for.  The educated and well spoken mobile coffee barista looked at me and said, “They are medicines to help me not get depressed, because when I get depressed I have a problem with cutting myself…with self mutilation.”  It was then that I started to notice small scars on his hands and on the right side of his neck.  He must have noticed me staring at them and said, “I have hundreds more…most of them on my arms and stomach.”  He lifted his shirt up and I was stunned.  His chest and stomach were completely covered with crisscrossed lines.  It was impossible to look away from the center of his chest where a fresh-cut was present and maybe a half-dozen stitches protruded through the skin.

Giliante (Photo: Reed)

Giliante was so calm and mild-mannered, I could not envision him doing this to himself.  He said that when he does not take his medicine, he gets depressed and feels the need to cut himself.  The latest cut happened about a week ago he told me.

I asked to take a picture of his chest, but he got very shy and said he would prefer not to.  I respected that and we said goodbye. 

Roberto Gonzalo then asked me what his answer was to my question about what other people might be able to help him with.  I had not asked him that question though.  I scanned the crowd, but he had dissolved into the sea of anxious voters.

As we walked back toward our car, I hoped we would see Giliante again so that I could ask him how people could help him.  Would you believe that about a half hour later we saw him five blocks from where I originally saw him.  I got his attention and asked my question.  He didn’t hesitate, “I would like to find a surgeon who would remove some of my scars for me.  They are painful reminders.”  I vowed to try to find a surgeon who would help him with that and also offered to try to get the medicine that he needs.  He was so thankful.  If anyone can help Giliante or has suggestions on ways to help him, please let me know. 

I couldn’t stop thinking about him for days.

Gilante talks about his job and the elections…

Spanish Version

Para aquellos de ustedes que no han visto el video que publique ayer acerca de mi vida en las fincas en Colombia, échenle un vistazo. Aunque totalmente diferente a mi vida en DC, la vida allí en la finca fue excelente.

 ¿Estás listo para  el Día Mundial del dar? Es este martes. Es tu oportunidad de hacer lo que yo hago por un día y luego compartir su historia con el resto del mundo. Quiero reunir la mayor cantidad de experiencias de todo el mundo de tratar de dar en ese día y compartirlas  aquí… hagamos que algo hermoso suceda. Necesito su ayuda para conseguir el mayor número de personas que participan como sea posible.

Para aquellos de ustedes en Washington DC, estoy deseando una reunión en la noche del martes con los que están interesados. Actualmente estoy trabajando en los detalles finales con una sede local (Dupont Circle) y espero poder realizar el evento allí. Además de celebrar el Año de Dar y el Día Mundial del dar, vamos a hacer algo para ayudar a quienes están sin trabajo en la región del Golfo debido al derrame de petróleo. Espero que pueda unirse a mí!

El Domingo 30 fue el día de elección  en Colombia. Me emocioné al ver cómo el proceso electoral se llevó a cabo en otro país. La hermana de Roberto Gonzalo estaba trabajando en un centro de  votación. Él estaba votando en otro lugar. Fue más o menos como aquí. Los niveles de votación son casi lo mismo que aquí, creo que alrededor del 50% de la población votó. Como dije ayer, la elección dio lugar a dos candidatos a una segunda vuelta el 20 de Junio. En general se creía que Juan Manuel Santos seria el determinante.

Mientras esperaba que  Roberto Gonzalo votara, me encontré con Giliante. Giliante trabaja para la compañía El Gran Cafeteiro y vende café en la calle. Vestido el algo como un traje espacial, camina por la calle con un bote metálico en la espalda llena de café humeante. Luego el tiene un control de mano que le dispensa el café por unos 25 centavos por taza.

El nativo de Manizales de 34 años de edad, ha estado haciendo esto durante nueve meses. De acuerdo a el es mejor que los trabajos de construcción que estaba haciendo antes. Le gusta el hecho de que se encuentra con un montón de gente diferente cada día.

Le pregunté qué iba a hacer con mi 20.000 pesos y me dijo que lo utilizaría para comprar unas medicinas que necesitaba: flouxetina (Prozac) y ácido valproico (ácido valproico). Yo nunca había oído hablar de acido valproico y flouxetina así que le pregunté qué eran. El educado y bien hablado barrista móvil de café me miró y dijo: “Son medicamentos que me ayudan a que no me deprima, porque cuando me deprimo tengo un problema con cortarme mí mismo… con la automutilación.” Fue entonces que empecé a notar pequeñas cicatrices en las manos y en el lado derecho del cuello. Él debió de haber notado mi mirada fija en ellos y dijo: “Tengo muchas más… la mayoría de ellos en mis brazos y el estomago.” Él se levantó la camiseta y me quedé atónito. Su pecho y estómago estaban cubiertos completamente con líneas cruzadas. Era imposible apartar la vista del centro de su pecho, donde un nuevo corte estaba presente y tal vez una media docena de puntos sobresalían a través de la piel.

Giliante estaba tan tranquilo y apacible, no podía imaginar que él hacia esto a sí mismo. Dijo que cuando él no toma su medicina, se deprime y siente la necesidad de cortarse. El último corte sucedió hace aproximadamente una semana, me dijo.

Le pedí que me dejara tomar una foto de su pecho, pero él se puso muy tímido y me dijo que preferiría que no. Yo respete eso y nos despedimos.

Roberto Gonzalo  me preguntó cual fue su respuesta a mi pregunta sobre lo que otra gente puede ser de ayudarlo a él. No le había hecho esa pregunta. Lo busque entre la multitud, pero él se había disuelto entre la aglomeración de votantes ansiosos.

Mientras caminábamos hacia el coche, yo esperaba ver a  Giliante de nuevo para que yo pudiera preguntarle cómo la gente podía ayudarle. ¿Creerían ustedes que alrededor de una media hora más tarde lo vimos cinco cuadras de donde originalmente lo vi. Llame su atención y le pregunté  mi pregunta. El no dudó: “Me gustaría encontrar un cirujano que eliminara algunas de las cicatrices en mi cuerpo. Ellos son un recordatorio doloroso. “Juré tratar de encontrar un cirujano que le ayudara con eso y también ofrecí tratar de obtener el medicamento que necesita. Estaba bastante agradecido. Si alguien puede ayudar a Giliante o tiene sugerencias sobre los medios para ayudarlo, por favor hágamelo saber. No podía dejar de pensar en él durante días.

Encima hay dos videos de Giliante grabado en español.

Este blog fue traducido generosamente por Nancy Alvarez en  Los Angeles.

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Manizales has been great…despite the almost constant drizzle and heavy fog.  This morning I visited one of the schools that the group I am consulting for is working with.  The kids were amazing.  It was sad, when I left they all gave me a massive group hug.  I am actually going to see them tomorrow too…but they don’t know that!  Check out this video of us working with some of the children who are in a bilingual choir in one of Manizales public schools.

I am still writing up blog entries from last week! 

Photo: Reed

So I told you in the previous blog posting about my trips to see the Mets vs. Nationals games last week.  After the game I was sifting through the crowds a the subway station platform trying to position myself so that I would make the next train.  I walked by Anthony who was leaning against a short wall that overlooked the lower level of the station where another train line runs.  As I walked by he leaned his head back as if to rest it against the wall, but there was not wall behind his head so his head went back further than he expected and his sunglasses fell from their resting position on top of his baseball hat and fell 20 feet onto the tracks below. 

“Did you just lose something,” I asked him as I saw him quickly look over the side of the wall.  Shaking his head back and forth he smiled and said, “Yeah…my sunglasses.”  We both peered over the wall to see if we could see them but they were gone.

“They were cheap.  I paid like $7 for them.”  He shrugged it off and I continued my way toward the other end of the station.

I wasn’t ten feet away when I realized he should be my $10 recipient for the day!  I rushed back to see if he was still there.  He was.

Anthony is a 40-year-old Caddie Master at a prestigious local country club.  He was born and raised in Maryland.  After a few minutes I realized that he was a Met’s fan as well!  Let’s go Mets!  We reminisced a little bit about the days of the 1986 Mets.  “People even used to say that I looked like Dr. K when I was younger,” he said referring to Dwight Gooden, the former star pitcher for New York.

It turns out that Anthony he himself is a former professional baseball player with the Texas Rangers’ farm team.  He spent two years with them from 1992-1994.  He also played on the USA national team and won a bronze medal in 1996.

Below there is a clip of us talking about Anthony’s attitude toward life and his experience with the Texas Rangers.  You might catch a glimpse of his father directly behind Anthony if you look close.  They had went to the game together.  I still like to go to games with my dad.  In fact, he and I went to see a game the last year that Shea Stadium was being used and then the first year of their new stadium, Citi Field.

Anthony is a really nice guy.  I love that I met him and it is sad to think that if I had not been doing this project, I might not have stopped and spoken with him.  With every person I meet through the Year of Giving, my life becomes much richer.  An interesting irony given the negative cash flow of my current situation.

Oh, I almost forgot.  You guessed it.  Anthony is going to buy some new sun glasses with the $10 I gave him.

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