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Reed Sabrina.jpg

Reed handing Sabrina $10 during Tuesday night’s performance of A Year of Giving.

So my unsuspecting $10 recipient on Tuesday night was Sabrina S. from Washington, DC. I picked her out of the crowd – about 5 rows deep. She was seated next to a woman who I later found out to be her mother, Patty.

Trained as an attorney, she told me that she only uses her legal prowess for good. She’s worked for a variety of international agencies and been stationed in places where most of us would think twice about accepting a post; Iraq for example. “I might be headed to Kabul later this year,” she said in the same tone as you might expect someone heading off to the beach for a long weekend.

“It’s like an early birthday gift she said,” referring that her birthday was the following day. “I’m not sure how I am going to use the $10, but I will promise you this, whatever I do with it it will get leveraged to do even more good.” – something she said she learned while working for USAID.

We snapped a photo and said our goodbyes. Happy birthday Sabrina.

Three remaining shows….

Friday July 20 7:00pm

Sunday July 22 3:00pm

Saturday July 28 6:00pm

Click here for ticket information

Also check out the reviews the show has received so far…

5/5 stars - “A Year of Giving is an extraordinary story and it makes for an extraordinary play.” – DC Metro Theatre Arts

4/5 stars - “A Year of Giving is a play you can’t not like or at least appreciate for its warm-hearted intention…This is the kind of show Oprah would love.”
-DC Theater Scene

“REAL.HONEST.TO.GOD.HUMAN.EMOTIONS.” – BrightestYoungThings.com

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Last night was the opening night of A Year of Giving - the theatrical version of my year-long journey of giving $10 away every day to strangers while unemployed back in 2010.

Holger 2012 07 14.jpg

Holger D. (left) was my $10 recipient on July 14th. Photo: Dave Levin

The nearly sold out show was a culmination of a lot of hard work. Melanie Papasian provided us with a terrific script. Pat Miller of Rockville Little Theatre produced the show and got the very talented Sasha Brätt to direct the production. We had some serious setbacks in the last two weeks….losing two actors to injuries (not related to the show…there’s no circus moves or acrobatics in the in the play – it is part of the Fringe Festival so you never know!), but we managed to combine those two roles into one and find the amazing Devon DuPay who took on the daunting challenge of learning the entire piece in one week. You would never believe that she hadn’t seen the script before last week! In addition to her, Pat Miller and Steve Langley were phenomenal.

Miller shines as he portrays DC Central Kitchen founder Robert Egger who I gave my $10 to on Day 225. Langley did an amazing job portraying Ivory, a Street Sense vendor who I met on Day 49. He also portrays Knox, my first $10 recipient, who by total coincidence was shinning shoes outside the theatre – a special treat for the audience and Langley who portrays Knox in the show.

Knox and Steve.jpg

The real Knox (left) from Day 1 poses for a photo with Steve Langley who portrays Knox in A Year of Giving. Photo: Reed Sandridge

For me, seeing Knox outside was amazing. I’ve seen him a few times since our first encounter on December 15, 2010, but to run into him on the day that the show opened, that made my day! I’ve invited him to be my guest at any of the forthcoming shows….but it seems theatre is not his thing. He says he may try to show up and shine shoes outside the theatre though to make a few extra bucks.

The other highlight was giving my $10 away to an audience member. Yep, you come see the show and you might just get ten bucks! Holger, originally from Germany, helps develop environmentally and financially sustainable transport solutions with the goal of improving the quality of life of city dwellers.  He wasn’t sure what he was going to do with the $10 – but promised to follow up with me once he decided.

Four more shows to go! If you’d like to attend you can purchase tickets for the following days:

Jul 17th 9:00 PM
Jul 20th 7:00 PM
Jul 22nd 3:00 PM
Jul 28th 6:00 PM

All shows are at the Goethe Institut – a block from the Gallery Place / Chinatown Metro stop.

For more information on the show, visit our Facebook Page.

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

As I clicked Jack’s leash to his collar for our walk around the park this morning, I decided to put my card with the $10 in my pocket, anticipating a potential kindness investment.  The weather is cool and sunny this week, so there would likely be a lot of walkers today working on their New Year’s resolutions.

Across the park, I could see a lone basketball player throwing hoops. “There’s someone with a story,” I said to Jack, as we headed over to get it.  Not in my wildest dreams did I expect a teenager who is friendly, caring, deep, a recycler, athletic, technical, methodical, ambitious, an animal lover, quick, honest, dramatic, and wise?  And very, very funny.

I told the young gentleman about Reed’s Year of Giving project and asked if he would like to receive my $10 Kindness Investment.  A huge smile flashed across his face and his eyes went wide. “OF COURSE?  I’d be CRAZY not to accept $10!” He’s friendly.

Then his smile turned to concern. “But you’re not working. Don’t you need it?”  He’s caring.

I explained that part of the idea behind the giving project is to help us realize that no matter how down and out we are, we always have something to give.  “That’s very cool”, he said. “And a good lesson for everyone throughout life.” He’s deep.

Marcos D. is 14 years old, much younger than I thought, so I’m leaving off some information because of his age.  I also asked him to get his parents’ permission for me to post his story on the Year of Giving.  I was delighted when he told me they said yes, as Marcos is a very interesting guy with a great story.

Marcos lives with his mom, step-dad and little sister, and speaks English and Spanish.  He’s in the 8th grade, but was quick to point out the school shirt he was wearing was from last year in the 7th grade.  “It’s still in great condition, so why waste money?  I re-use.” He recycles.

“You know,” he continued, “I’ve been very lucky with money lately.  I found a $100 dollar bill in front of the grocery store before New Year’s.  One thing about me is that I’m not a good saver. I have slippery fingers,” he said, waving his fingers through the air. “If I have it, I gotta spend it.”  He’s a teenager.

Marcos says he’s “somewhat of a mutt” when it comes to hobbies, because he likes outdoor sports, mainly basketball, as well as indoor gaming. “Most people like one or the other, but I like it all.”  He also likes building and dismantling things. He’s athletic, technical and methodical.

When he grows up, he thinks he’d like to go into technology, maybe developing computer games. He’s ambitious. I told him I would put him in touch with my nephew, John, who works for a gaming company in Austin.  “You never know, Marcos.  John may be able to help you figure out where you want to go.”  I promised him I would give him John’s contact info.

Marcos pets Mary's dog Jack.

“Hey, don’t pee on the jacket,” he said to Jack, directing my attention to my dog, who was sniffing around Marcos’ jacket bunched up on the ground. I laughed and called Jack over to sit by us while we talked.  He gave Jack a big, genuine hug.  He told me he’s also a huge dog person and misses his dog, Coco, named by his little sister.  Marcos got a little down when he told me they had to give Coco away, but he knows where she lives and sneaks her treats when he can. “I miss Coco.  She always made me happy with those big, chocolate eyes. I wish we didn’t have to give her away.” He loves animals.

“So, you got a girlfriend, wife, kids?”, I asked to lighten the mood.

“Nope, still a bachelor,” he said, making me laugh.  He’s quick.

I asked what he was going to do with the $10.  He thought for a minute and said he might give it to his mom, who could use if for groceries, then looked down at his hands and said, “But with these spending fingers, it may not make the trip home.”  He’s honest.

A few favorites:

Class:  “I’d have to say reading.  DEFINITELY not math.  I’m NOT a math person.  I’m going bald from all the stress!” he cried as he tugged at a head full of thick, wavy hair. He’s dramatic.

Book: “I like Gender Blender from the library.  A guy and girl switch bodies and they have to figure out everything, like going to the bathroom and stuff.  It’s ridiculously funny.”

Computer Game: “Metroid.  It’s good for the mind, too.  You have to collect data, figure out weak points, and stuff.  Plus it’s fast-paced action.”

And regarding Lend a Hand…. “Any wishes?” I asked.  “Too many to count.  I see trillions of doors in my brain right now,” he told me, “and I don’t know which one to open.”  He’s creative. “Obviously I could use help with math.” He’s wise. “But more than anything, I’d like my own computer to shoot my own video blog.”  He’s a teenager.

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Day 17 – Kristin

Who can resist a sale? Especially when it’s just days after Christmas? And on this particular day, it was the last day of 2010.  So, I rushed to the nearest PetCo in hopes of finding the (promised) toys for my critters, having explained for nearly a week that Santa was lost in the East Coast blizzard. It was time to make good on my promise.

As I perused the store, a woman pushing a toddler – and a lot of dog and cat food – kept catching my eye.  After finishing my own thoroughly vetted purchase, I boldly approached this young mother and asked her if she would help me with a project. We shifted the cart, child, and critter food out of the line so others could move forward.

“Sure, I guess,” she said hesitantly as I handed the $10 to her. What I remember most of all about Kristin was that she was either quite shy or a bit confused about the entire situation.  Perhaps it was a bit of both.

I asked her what she did for a living, besides raising a cute toddler. “I’m a Vet.”  Well, “dah,” I thought. What a great place to find a veterinarian, besides an actual animal clinic.

photo courtesy of http://www.lienanimal.com

“It’s over in West Seattle. The Lien Animal Clinic.  But I’m on maternity leave.  I have a new-born at home,” she explained.  And I think I have a handful with a small dog and an indoor cat to take care of! My heart went out to this woman, who was, by every measure, in every way, a caregiver. And a giver of tender loving care to so many, regardless of how many legs they have.

“My husband is also a Vet,” she continued.  Both attended veterinary school at the University of Wisconsin at Madison.  She graduated in 2005. “What do we say?” she asked her son. “Go Badgers!” he shouted as he punched his fist high in the air.

She is originally from Menasha, which is about two hours north of Milwaukee. After graduating, it was work that brought both she and her husband to the great Pacific Northwest. Kristin confesses that she misses the snow, but not the mosquitoes (okay, I prompted her about the mosquitoes because I hate mosquitoes).

Kristin needed to think about what she might do with her new $10 bill on this, the last day of the decade. As I took her picture and then thanked her for her time, I secretly hoped that an orphaned animal in need would be helped because of a chance encounter at a PetCo store on New Year’s Eve.

-Petra from Seattle, WA

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Today I found myself at Speedway Gas Station; I walked in and stood near the coffee station with clear view of the front door.  I had decided the next person who walked in the door I was going to give $10 to.

Marvin and Melinda

In walked Marvin G.  He was in there to get a Sugar Free Vanilla Latte for his wife and they were out of it so he was trying to figure something else to get her.  I approached him a told him about the project I was working on and he was amazed at the generosity.

When asked what he thought he would do with the $10 he asked if he could give it back to me.  I explained he could give it back to me but I would have to give it to someone else however if he wanted to give it to someone it was his to do with as he pleased.  He said he would figure out something to do with it.  When asked if there was anything he needed he said he didn’t need anything however it would be wonderful if his grandkids that lived in Phoenix, Arizona would come visit again because he really misses them.

-Melinda T. from Xenia, OH

 

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Day 338 – Sarah B.

I’m 10 days away from the 365th recipient.  It’s hard to believe.  I have met so many amazing individuals through my daily giving as well as through the blog.  Letters and comments have poured in day after day giving me telling me how my story has inspired them in some way and offering encouragement to me to make it to the end.  That day is now in sight and I find myself reflecting a lot upon the last 12 months.  For those of you in the DC area, I hope you will join me on December 14th at Tabaq Bistro which has been so generous in helping make the year-end celebration possible.  The festivities get started at 6:30pm.

Sarah was worried her bangs were too short. I told her they looked fine...then again I'm not exactly a fashion expert.

Today I thought I would share with you a second recipient: Sarah.  I met her walking up 20th Street in DC.  She said she also lived in Dupont and we shared the next eight blocks together.  “I got my hair cut today,” she told me beaming.  “I go to a guy named William who works at Ava Salon on Capitol Hill.”  She adjusted her blue scarf so as to keep herself a little warmer, “I left my coat at happy hour…I might have had one too many!”

Sarah is a third-year law student at George Washington University.  Her anticipated graduation date is May 11 and after that she said she would like to find a job with the US government.  “I had an interview recently with a judge in Alaska, but I turned that down – it’s just too far away.”  She said she really enjoyed contract law, “and the government has contracts for everything.”  Then her mind must have slipped back a few hours to happy hour, “maybe I could practice wine law?”  Sounds interesting.

She wasn’t sure what she was going to do with the money.  “If this was money I had earned through work,” she started to say, “I’d probably just use it on food , maybe buy lunch with it, but since this came in such a unique and unexpected way, I feel as if I should do something different with it.”  I followed up with her this week but haven’t heard from her yet.

I have some other notes that say something about blue grass music and fiddles…but like so many other times, I can’t read my scribbles weeks later when I write up the blogs!

That's the Brewmasters' Castle in the background.

Sarah was so nice.  She is one of so many people that I have met through the Year of Giving who I’d like to be able to call my friend.  And we’re practically neighbors.  She lives a block or two away.

Sarah will be missing the year-end celebration unless she changes her holiday travel plans.  She’s got a ticket to Houston, TX on the 13th.

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Great news!  I am so happy to finally announce that the Year-End Celebration will be on Tuesday December 14th from 6:30-9:00pm at the well-known Tabaq Bistro on U Street.  You are welcome to join me many of the 365 recipients for a night of celebration.  Your ticket in is a donation that you deem appropriate.  All funds collected will help pay for the event and go toward some awesome charities!  If we get a sponsor for the event, EVERYTHING goes to charity!

If you use Facebook and want to RSVP, click on the Facebook Event Page

Embassy Opticians, 1330 Connecticut Ave., NW, Wash. DC

I have spent a lot of time in front of a computer over the last 333 days and I am sure it hasn’t helped my eyes at all.  The other day I went to Embassy Opticians to get a new set of glasses and ended up giving $10 away.

This entire experience sometimes can get mind numbing.  First of all the whole idea of putting frames on to see how you look when you don’t have your glasses on to help you see is a bit of challenge.  But in the end I managed to find a pair of glasses that I liked for a reasonable price.

Armando has worked there for the past two years although he has been with the company at a different location for four more years.  He is very helpful and seems to have a good eye for what type of frame works well with your facial structure.  What I personally liked about him is that I didn’t feel rushed or pressured in any way.

Armando cleaning some lenses.

He’s a very out going individual, or at least it seems that way.  “I’m very extraverted at work, but introverted at home,” Armando told me.  “I’m out of control sometimes when I’m here and then I go home and I am really chill.”  Chill except for the time that he ended up in jail on his 26th birthday!  Yeah, don’t let the soft voice and innocent face fool you…this guy has done some hard time in the slammer.  Ok, I’m exaggerating.  He had a little too much to drink and passed out in the back of a taxi on his way home.  “I woke up to an officer pulling me out of the cab!”  It reminds me a little of the story that Tekele told me on Day 310 – maybe Armando passed out in Tekele’s cab!

Armando darts around the store looking for the perfect frames for me.  U2’s Beautiful Day is playing in the background as the drizzle moistens the pavement out front.  “I once melted a pair of my Mom’s glasses trying to bend them by heating them up with the stove,” he tells me placing a pair of glasses on my face.  I think it’s best they keep Armando out front with customers and not in the back adjusting frames!

I’ve tried to follow up with Armando to find out what he ended up doing with the $10 but haven’t gotten a response.  He’s either hard at work fitting people with new glasses or passed out in a cab some place in the city.  

Here I am yesterday wearing my new glasses. I'm organizing my notes about the day's $10 recipient in my Moleskine journal.

If you need new glasses, I highly recommend you check with Armando.  Not only did he fit me with a great new set of glasses, he worked with me to make it affordable as well.  What more can you ask for?

Oh, I almost forgot, today is Pay it Forward Day…it’s got almost 500,000 people committed to paying it forward in some way today!  That’s awesome.

Embassy Opticians are located at 1330 Connecticut Ave.  ½ block south of Dupont Circle.

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Day 331 – Freddy H.

I hope to announce the venue for the Year-End Celebration tomorrow!  It will be Tuesday, December 14th from 6:30-9:00pm here in DC.  If you will be coming and you use Facebook, you can RSVP here.  If you live thousands of miles away or are allergic to kindness and wont be able to go but still want to be a part of it, there is a chance I will have a live feed on Facebook….still working that out.  I will also be raising money for a few awesome charities during the event.  If you wont be able to attend but would like to contribute – I don’t know….$10 perhaps – you can click on the link at the top right of this page that says DONATE.

Freddy has been driving a cab in DC since I was three years old!

Today I present to you Freddy – a DC native who has been driving a cab since 1977.  A good cab driver can tell you as much about people and character as they can about how to get to the airport during rush hour and avoid all the traffic.  I love to talk to cabbies everywhere I go, especially foreign countries – as long as we both can find a language we share.  The worst was a Moscow taxi driver who spoke to me in Russian, which I made painfully clear I didn’t understand, and proceeded to speak to me for 30 minutes.  I just said “da” and “spasiba” a lot.

I flagged Freddy down over in Northeast, DC and headed over near Georgetown in Northwest.  We began talking and I enjoyed the banter and thought I would give him my $10 for the day.  He accepted it but said he had no idea what he was going to do with it yet.  I am going to try to follow up with him and see if he decided yet.

In the last 33 years he has seen everything and unfortunately I mean everything.  “In 1989,” he began to tell me, “I was shot four times and left to die.”  He said he picked up two passengers who asked to be taken to Takoma.  When he got close they pretended to not know exactly where they needed to go and finally asked him to pull over near a pay phone where they got out and conversed a little between themselves.  This is the point at which he should have left.

They got back in Freddy’s cab and asked to be taken over to Piney Branch.  On the way over one of them put a hand gun to his neck and demanded his money.  He handed it over and got out of the cab and was shot four times.  Once in the side, once in his hand, once in his thigh and once in his butt.  “The one that went in my butt is still there…they didn’t take that one out.” 

Fortunately he survived the horrific ordeal and continues to drive his cab.  “Most people are alright,” he optimistically said as I handed him the fare.  “It’s just a few of them who ruin it for the rest of us.”

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This photo is from the video below.

Hey, so some people have been nominating the Year of Giving for the Most Creative Social Good Campaign for the 4th Annual Mashable Awards.  If you would like to vote for the Year of Giving as well, click here!

After 323 days of giving, I naturally gravitate to things that are new or happen for the first time.  Like on Sunday I shared with you a story about me giving my $10 to my dentist – which by the way I got lots of feedback that people don’t like to see teeth on my website!  That was the first time I had given the money to someone in the medical field who saw me as a patient.  On Day 317 I gave my $10 MSNBC morning host Willie Geist.  It somehow mixes things up for me.  Well today I have another “first” as I like to call them. 

I was at a writing workshop that is put on a Borders Books at 18th and L Streets in DC.  For six weeks we would meet and practice our writing.  On this day, Trevor, an unemployed 32-year-old political campaign veteran showed up.  He was very talented.  At the end of the class the discussion turned toward my Year of Giving.  “I’m unemployed and haven’t had dinner yet…I’ll take your ten bucks,” he said to me.  I haven’t ever given to someone who has asked outright for it except for the homeless and street panhandlers.  But I thought sure, why not.

He put a creative spin on his current employment situation.  “I like to think of myself as between jobs…or funemployed…or maybe consulting or freelancing, or maybe I should just call myself an artist.”  Most recently he was working on political campaigns for the Democratic Party.  “I feel like my purpose is to write attack ads against Republicans.”

He’s got a plethora of work experience.  He’s worked in a pornographic book store, has done screen writing and started a nonprofit.  “That one gave me a nervous breakdown,” he said.  “And it job taught me the difference between having a job and a mission.  It’s not good to have a mission.”  I’m not sure I agree with that…maybe I misunderstood what he was getting at.

Currently he is supporting himself with some photography.  He lists Sally Mann of Virginia as a photographer that he appreciates.  She’s got a book called the Deep South that was sitting on the chair next to him.  Trevor offered to photograph the year-end celebration on December 14th…hopefully he’s willing to donate his services for that in the spirit of the project.  

Check out some excerpts from my conversation with him…

Some other random tidbits… Trevor told me that for his 18th birthday he bought himself a pair of custom leather pants.  In London he won $3,000, half of which he spent on a gold lamé suit.  He promised to send me a picture and tell me what he was going to do with the $10, but I haven’t received it yet…maybe he will update us all.  

All in all a pretty interesting guy and wickedly talented …unfortunately we didn’t see him at any more workshops.

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Barb in front of the laundromat in downtown Mechanicsburg, PA. (photo: Reed)

Day 266 was Labor Day. 

I spent all day here at my dad’s house.  I needed to go out and find someone to give my $10 to and he offered to join me.  We were going to walk down to the downtown area of Mechanicsburg, Pennsylvania, but his knee and back have been bothering him and he was not sure that walking down there would be a good idea.  So we hopped in the car and drove over there and then walked around. 

We parked in front of Dieners, a breakfast institution in this town. We walked east down Main Street, past Jo Jo’s Pizzeria, which incidentally has possibly the world’s best Italian sub, when I spotted a laundromat just past the Gingerbread Man.  There were two women talking and my dad and I decided to walk up a little further to see who we find.  We past the main square where Main and Market Streets come together and walked another block past Myer’s funeral home, where my mother’s funeral was held, until we arrived at Eckels Drug Store (trivia: this is where a scene from Girl Interrupted was filmed.)

Dad and I headed back toward the laundromat to give the $10 to someone there.  When we got there Barb was coming out with her dog Diva.

Barb's pooch (photo: Reed)

Barb was born in Harrisburg and then moved to Shiremanstown before moving to Mechanicsburg some 45 years ago where she graduated from Mechanicsburg High School.  She has three children and two step-children, 15 grandkids and one great-grandson who will be two soon.  We spent a lot of time talking about her kids.  In fact, she had just returned earlier that day from visiting her son down in Bel Air, Maryland.

She couldn’t decide what she was going to do with the ten dollars, but she did give me her address so I can follow up with her later and see what she decides on.  When I told her that I find one person every day and I chose her for this day she said, “Wow…that is really great.  It is really nice of you that you do this – not too many people would do it.”

“I love people,” the 62-year-old told me.  She lit a cigarette, exhaled and went on, “I don’t have a lot of money to do things for others, but I am always volunteering my services.”  She told me about a friend of hers who was going through a difficult time.  Her friend, who is battling cancer, has a son in prison out near Pittsburgh who got extremely ill and is now in a coma.  “I do what I can for her, sometimes just making some phone calls to let others know how she is doing.” 

Barb didn't make it to Jo Jo's before they closed because she took time to talk to me. (photo: Reed)

Main Street was quite dark now and I checked my watch.  It was 9pm.  She was going to try to get some food at Jo Jo’s so we walked toward the restaurant that is housed in an old fire station.  Unfortunately by the time we got there they had just locked the door.  “I guess I will head up toward the Chinese place,” Barb said.  I felt bad, had I not stopped to talk with her she would have made it in time to get her dinner at Jo Jo’s.  Well, at least she had a few extra dollars for her dinner.

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

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

Fountain at Dupont Circle (photo: Reed)

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

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

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

People of Iraq

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Every time I approach someone there is a crucial couple of seconds or minutes where I have to establish credibility and a rapport with the person that I speak with.  Here in Washington, we have lots of people who come up to strangers asking for things whether it be money or their support on a petition, etc.  So, many people get conditioned to just saying “no” to everyone who approaches them. 

A critical element of my success in getting so many people to hear me out is the fact that I have a business card that I give them.  It somehow gives me credibility and the impression that what I am doing is legitimate.  Well, I recently ran out of cards and thankfully the same company that helped me out with the original batch of cards came to my rescue again!  You may recall that when Zazzle.com heard about my project back in January they were so excited about it that they let me design my own card and then donated 500 of them to me to help me out.  It’s great to see companies that step up and help others out. 

I designed these cards and then Zazzle.com gave them to me for free! (photo: Reed)

If you like to design things (anything, from business cards to mugs to t-shirts) go online and you can design your products and then put your design in the public domain so that others can see your work.  Then if someone wants to purchase your design you get paid!  How cool is that?!  They are called “Skinny Cards” because of their smaller (3” x 1”) than normal size.  Here’s a link to my template.  People constantly comment on how much the love my cards.  Thanks Zazzle!!! 

Today’s giving story is a bit enigmatic.  I met Johnnie as he sat on a bench near the Dupont Metro North entrance/exit.  At first he said that he couldn’t accept the $10.  He liked the idea and said that he wouldn’t keep the money but he thought that I would probably do a better job of finding a person who “deserved it.”  Johnnie, who works for Metro, encouraged me to find someone else, but after I explained to him that if everyone did that my “reach” would only be as far as the area which I travel each day.  But since he and others live in different communities and travel to other parts of the city and world that he could broaden the pool of potential people that my project touches. 

We went back and forth on this for a while, maybe 20 minutes.  I figured I wasn’t going to convince the 46-year-old DC resident but finally he said, “You know what, give me that $10, I think I know what I am going to do with it.”  He said he had to go catch his bus and I didn’t have time to get a picture or anything of Johnnie.  I did get his phone number quickly as he left and have tried calling it the last two days but I get a message saying that the person is “not accepting phone calls at this time.”  Maybe he needs to use the $10 to pay his phone bill!

Hopefully I can reach him and then update this post.

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Chilean president Sebastián Piñera holds up a message from the trapped miners. (photo: Hector Retamal/AP)

Have you been following the 33 miners trapped in a mine in Chile.  Well, yesterday after 17 days trapped 4.5 miles inside the winding mine, rescuers received a note written in red paint that all 33 were alive!  VIVA CHILE!  That is awesome.  Now the challenge.  It will take up to four months to get them out…but they are able to send some supplies down to them.  Read more about this here.

This is the same shot I took the yesterday but at night (photo: Reed)

Back here in the US, I was on my third day in Manassas when I decided to go to the historic downtown and find my recipient of the day.  I had gone to dinner down in Springfield with some old work colleagues and then drove back and stopped downtown.  It’s a charming quaint looking place where you see the same police car driving around the town a couple of times during the same evening (either that or they were suspicious of the “guy from out of town walking around giving money away and taking pictures.”)  The flag lined streets are nestled with small shops, restaurants, bars, a hotel and even a barber shop.  It’s in front of the Royal Cuts Barber Shop on Center Street that I found Alex and Breanna sitting on a bench.

I am not sure how well they knew each other.  At first I figured they were a couple, but then it turned out that they were just friends, or maybe even acquaintances, who had attended the same high school.

Alex and Breanna chilling in front of Royal Cuts Barber Shop (photo: Reed)

I asked them what someone should see or do in Manassas and they said that they really didn’t have a good answer.  “There’s not much to do here except go around town and look at the plaques,” they said referring to the historical markers that are peppered around the city center.  Alex said to check out a place called Tommy’s.  “It’s pretty good and they got some pool tables,” he added.  I looked them up later on the internet and it seems to be an interesting place.  They describe the atmosphere as a “sports bar” that is also “family friendly” and welcomes cowboy hats! 

I asked them what they liked to do and they both said they enjoyed writing.  “I have a freakish imagination,” Alex says.  “I write short stories, sci-fi and fantasy but it’s not very good.”  Breanna says she also likes to write and is equally self-deprecating of her talent.  Alex also admitted to a severe music addiction saying that he likes all kinds of music, “80s, 90s up to today.”

We chat some more and before too long before a friend of Breanna’s who just got off work stopped by.  I’m going to take the liberty to change his name and call him Mike…I think you will understand once I explain more. Anyway, I had asked Alex and Breanna to share with me something interesting or funny about them so when Mike arrived I thought better yet, I’ll ask Mike to give me some funny story about the two.  Mike thinks for a second and then says, “Ok, well, I guess I could share this with you but it’s pretty embarrassing.”  Mike proceeds to tell me a story that had nothing to do with Alex and Breanna at all.  It was story about him that had to do with masturbation! 

I was looking at Breanna and Alex and they were looking at me and none of us knew quite what to say.  “I don’t think he understood your question,” Breanna said.  Yeah, I’d say that was a safe assumption.

Anyway, it was a bit awkward for a minute or two and then Breanna left with Mike and I stayed behind with Alex. 

Intersection of Main and Center Streets at night (photo: Reed)

I’m glad I decided to hang out a little longer and chat with Alex because he shared his own personal struggle getting a job.  That meant a lot to me given my own 285 day search for employment that I had gone through since being laid off last year. Alex didn’t graduate when he should have because he failed a civics class.  It started off ok but then the teacher had a stroke and they had a slew of substitute teachers in and out of the classroom and he just didn’t do well and ended up failing.  Until he finished the class and got his diploma it was really hard to find a job that would pay anything decent. 

Alex found himself graduating as the country slipped into a depression.  The job market turned south and he was left knocking on doors, literally.  “I walked door to door at one point looking for a job,” he told me.  I asked him if he could share the story on video and he agreed.  His heartfelt story shows how determination on a rainy day can lead to opportunity. Anyone who has thought about giving up on finding a job should watch this!

So, what the heck happened to the $10, right!  Well, I asked Alex what he was going to do with the money and we realized that Breanna had ended up with the money!  Somehow I must have missed that when she left.  Perhaps I was distracted by the masturbation story.  Anyway, I have emailed Breanna and hope to get an update on the $10 soon.

We said goodbye and I walked through the streets of Manassas passed dozens of dark storefronts until I arrived at my car.  I went back and took Sweetie for a walk before going to bed.

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Happy Fourth of July to you!  If you are reading this from outside the United States, it is just another day.  Here it is a day that we stop to celebrate our sovereignty that was established in 1776.  Enjoy!

Day 187 was a beautiful day in Washington, but it was hot.  As I walked through Dupont Circle I found Alana sitting on a bench close to the fountain listening to her iPod and reading a book while enjoying the sunshine.

A bartender for the last three years somewhere here in the DC-MD-VA area, Alana was a little reluctant to tell me too much about herself at first.  But I get her to open up some.  At one point she even said, “I have no secrets.” 

Originally from Toa Payoh in central Singapore, in 1993 Alana left Singapore to study marketing at the University of New Haven in Connecticut.  She shared a little about her initial impressions of the United States and how it was similar and different than Singapore.  “Singapore is modern but people still hold on to traditions.”

Alana didn't want to be photographed, but she did allow me to take a picture of her colorful toenails (Photo: Reed)

She tells me that she likes reading, watching TV and playing video games.  “I really like the fighting games,” she says with great enthusiasm.  “Do you mean like Mortal Kombat?” I asked.  “Well, that is pretty old school.  Nobody plays that now,” I learn.  Apparently a more hip game system is the Play Station 3.  “Once in a blue moon I play a role playing game when I’m bored killing people,” she says with quiet gentle tone.  I was amused by how calm she spoke about how much she enjoyed playing “killing games.”

I start to feel the sun burning my skin.  Alana offers me some of her sunscreen which I readily accept.

I used to tend bar as well and always thought I got an interesting view of the nation’s economic situation through my customers.  I found that people would tend to share their troubles with me, especially financial ones.  She thought about it and said, “I haven’t seen that much change, maybe a little.” 

“So what are you going to do with the $10,” I asked her.  She took a drink of her Starbucks iced tea and seemed to think about the question some before looking over at me and saying that she would probably give it back to me.  I tried to encourage her to do something else with it.  She said that she would try to give it to someone else.  We agreed that I would check back with her in a few days to see what happened to it.  With my computer out of commission, I got behind on following up and only reached out to her yesterday.  I will ask her to post what happened to it here.

I said goodbye and retreated to my air-conditioned living room a few blocks away.

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Tommy sells Street Sense and Alex panhandles in the background (Photo: Reed)

I have some bad news.  My laptop may have completely died.  I am going to make some last ditch efforts, but it doesn’t look good.

I am using a public computer right now and will try to continue posting when possible.  I will not have any pictures or videos until I get some things figured out. 

I came across Alex on a Saturday while I was delivering some donated items to Tommy from Day 155 (he was so thankful for all the love that has poured out for him).  Alex was sitting on a crate just a few feet away trying to find some relief from the sun’s sweltering rays. 

Alex (Photo: Reed)

Originally from Robertson County, North Carolina, Alex, or “Country” as some of his friends call him, moved to Washington, DC when he was 18.  Now 56, he has lived here ever since, with the exception of some time spent in federal correctional facilities in Petersburg, VA and Lorton, VA.    “It was crazy in there…I mean people would take lawn mower blades and use ‘ em as weapons.”   Anytime a recipient tells me that they have served time I am naturally curious as to what they were convicted of.  Country tells me that he broke into a Budweiser Warehouse and was caught…although he doesn’t specifically ever say that was the reason for his incarceration.  He also shares that he had a crack cocaine addiction which came between him and his wife and five children.  “My wife wouldn’t even talk to me on the phone no more.”

Alex's sign (Photo: Reed)

But this is all in the past.  Country seems to be doing ok now.  “I don’t got another run in me, not at this age,” he says pulling his lips tight together.  “I don’t do no drugs no more.  I ain’t gonna lie to you though, I have myself a beer or two in the evenings.”  He tells me that he is being extremely honest with me.  “People lose interest with ya when you lie to ‘em,” he says as he wipes the sweat beads that have formed above his brow.  It’s warm and the air is thick.  

Today he is back together with his wife living a very modest life in Southeast DC.  “At least I got a roof over my head.  It’s not ideal, but it’s something.  We don’t got furniture, or things like that.  The bed has bed bugs…I can’t seem to get rid of them. ”  

He talks about his life now compared to before.  “You get to a point where you need to find a higher power, whatever that is.”  Despite his efforts he says that he cannot find work and comes out to ask for money in front of the CVS at the corner of M Street and 29th Street in the affluent Georgetown neighborhood.  Country says that he would like to get a job doing construction, something he has done in the past.  “I need some tools though, nobody gonna hire you if you show up with nothing.”  He tells me that he needs a pair of size 10.5 wide steel toed work boot, carpenter’s tool belt, and a long steel claw hammer.  I told him that I would put that on my Lend a Hand section and see what we could do.

Country was going to use the $10 for bus fare.

Update July 7, 2010: I recovered some of the files and added pictures and the following video.  He has some great comments!

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Versión en español sigue abajo.

Last Wednesday I made the journey from Washington, DC to Manizales, Colombia.  I didn’t sleep the night before.  I had a lot to do to get ready for my trip and I had to leave for the airport at 3:45am, so it wasn’t really worth going to sleep.  Besides, I would have all day to sleep on the plane right?

On the leg from Washington to Panama I got a window seat and the two seats next to me were empty.  It was odd, since the flight was fairly full.

I arrived in Panama and had a few hours until my connection to Pereira, Colombia.  I have been through Panama before, so the airport was familiar to me and I walked around browsing some of the shops.  I picked up a few last-minute gifts to give to people along the way.

Cielo (Photo: Reed)

I boarded the plane around 11:30am.  Much to my surprise, my seat was in business class!  That was nice.  I was hoping to give my $10 to someone on the plane, but there was nobody seated next to me.  There was a woman in front of me whose cellular phone must have rung or made noises a dozen times before take-off and there was a woman sitting quietly across the aisle from me.  I thought I would ask her to participate, although I have to tell you that I was nervous about it.  I don’t know why, but giving my $10 away on the plane seemed very awkward!  On the positive side, the people can not go anywhere so I have a captured subject for the length of the flight.  On the flip side, if things go bad or if it is awkward I will be a captured subject and be forced to endure the awkwardness for the remainder of the flight.

The cabin was completely silent after take-off.  I waited until the seatbelt sign was removed and people started to move around the cabin.  Right as I was going to ask her they served us food.  I took the opportunity to tell her that I was doing a project and hoped that she would consider participating after she finished her meal.

Our trays were cleared and I invited Cielo to become my 163rd recipient.  She agreed with a sincere but reserved smile and we began to talk.  She was on her way back from Costa Rica where she had been visiting her sister who just had her third child. 

Cielo lives in the town of Armenia, the capital of the Colombian department (like our states) of Quindío.  Armenia is a mid-size city of about 370,000 that is situated between Colombia’s three largest cities: Bogotá, Medellín and Cali. 

Both Armenia and Manizales are part of the heart of the coffee region in Colombia.  It’s hard to talk about these areas without talking about how coffee and the coffee industry has shaped this region physically, socially, and economically. 

Scheduled to graduate in June, Cielo has spent the last seven years studying biology.  Although she had a job lined up to start after she graduates, she recently found out that she lost this opportunity as a result of her trip to Costa Rica.

Cielo says she is not sure what she is going to do with the 20,000 pesos yet…but agrees to let us know when she decides.  I have a feeling that it might get used in a giving way, given her story about helping the woman at the airport (see the video) and lessons about giving that she said she learned in the Girl Scouts as a young girl.

The following video is in Spanish.  Cielo shares a little bit about her thoughts on Manizales.  She is not a big fan…calling it the city of the three F’s: Fria (cold), Feia (Ugly), and Falduda (steep/hilly).  She also talks about an experience earlier that day helping a stranger out in the airport.

Our flight landed and we said goodbye to one another at the customs declaration area.  I found my ride to Manizales and embarked on a two-hour journey through the mountainous coffee region and finally arrived at the Finca (Farm) Loma Linda where I would be staying while in Manizales.  It is atop a very steep mountain with a stunning view of the town. 

Let the adventure begin!

SPANISH VERSION

El miércoles pasado hice el viaje desde Washington, DC a Manizales, Colombia. No dormí la noche anterior. Tenía mucho que hacer para prepararme para mi viaje y tenía que irme para el aeropuerto a las 3:45 de la mañana, así que no valía la pena dormir. Además, tendría todo el día para dormir en el avión, correcto?
 
En el tramo de Washington a Panamá me tocó un asiento de ventana y los dos asientos a mi lado estaban vacíos. Algo extraño, ya que el vuelo estaba casi lleno.
 
Llegué a Panamá y  tenía un par de horas antes de mi conexión a Pereira, Colombia. Había pasado por Panamá antes, por lo que el aeropuerto era familiar, así que camine alrededor viendo las tiendas. Cogí unos cuantos regalos de última hora para dar a la gente en el camino.
 
Abordé el avión alrededor de las 11:30 de la mañana. Para mi sorpresa, mi asiento estaba en clase de negocios! Eso estuvo bien. Tenía la esperanza de dar mis $10 a alguien en el avión, pero no había nadie sentado a mi lado. Había una mujer delante de mí, cuyo celular debe haber sonado o hecho ruidos más de una docena de veces antes de despegar y  había una mujer sentada en silencio del otro lado del pasillo frente a mí. Pensé en pedirle a ella que participara, aunque tengo que admitir que estaba nervioso por ello. No sé por qué, pero dar mis $10 en el avión parecía muy incómodo! En el lado positivo, la gente no puede ir a ningún lado así podría capturar un tema por la duración del vuelo. Por otro lado, si las cosas salen mal o si es difícil seré un tema capturado y estaré obligado a soportar la incomodidad para el resto del vuelo.
 
La cabina estaba completamente en silencio después del despegue. Esperé hasta que la señal del cinturón de seguridad fue retirada y la gente comenzó a moverse alrededor de la cabina. Justo cuando iba a preguntarle que participara nos sirvieron la comida. Aproveché la oportunidad para decirle que yo estaba haciendo un proyecto y esperaba que ella considerara participar después de que terminara su comida.
 
Nuestras bandejas fueron retiradas e invité a Cielo a convertirse en mi beneficiario numero 163. Ella acepto con una sonrisa sincera, pero reservada y empezamos a hablar. Ella estaba en su camino de regreso desde Costa Rica donde había estado visitando a su hermana que acaba de tener su tercer hijo.
 
Cielo vive en la ciudad de Armenia, la capital del departamento colombiano (como nuestros estados) de Quindío. Armenia es una ciudad de tamaño medio de alrededor de 370.000 habitantes, localizada entre las tres ciudades más grandes de Colombia: Bogotá, Medellín y Cali.
 
Tanto Armenia y Manizales forman parte del corazón de la región cafetalera de Colombia. Es difícil hablar de estas áreas sin hablar de cómo el café y la industria del café han dado forma a esta región física, social y económicamente.
 
Programado para graduarse en Junio, Cielo ha pasado los últimos siete años estudiando biología. A pesar de que tenía un trabajo en línea para comenzar después de que se graduara, recientemente se enteró de que había perdido esta oportunidad como resultado de su viaje a Costa Rica.
 
Cielo dice que no está segura de lo que se va a hacer con los 20.000 pesos… pero está de acuerdo a hacernos saber cuando ella lo decida. Tengo la sensación de que podrán ser utilizados en un forma caritativa, teniendo en cuenta su historia sobre cómo ayudo a una mujer en el aeropuerto (ver el video) y lecciones sobre lo que aprendió en las Girl Scouts cuando niña.
 
El siguiente video es en español. Cielo comparte un poco sobre sus pensamientos de Manizales. No es una gran fan… dice que es la ciudad de las tres “F: Fría, Fea, y Falduda (cerrado/montañosa). Ella también habla sobre una experiencia ese mismo día ayudando a un extraño en el aeropuerto.
 
Nuestro avión aterrizó y nos despedimos en la zona de declaración de aduanas. Encontré mi transporte a Manizales y me embarque en un viaje de dos horas a través de la región montañosa cafetalera y finalmente llegue a la Finca de Loma Linda,  donde me voy a quedar mientras en Manizales. Es la cima de una montaña muy empinada con una impresionante vista de la ciudad.
 
Que empiece la aventura!
 
Esta entrada del blog se tradujo amablemente por Nancy Alvarez

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I had two sightings of previous recipients this weekend.  Yesterday I saw Carlos from Day 118 about a block from my house and he let me know that he would donate the $10, along with additional funds, at the end of the year because then his employer will double the contribution. 

Today I saw Ron from Day 24.  He was sitting in the same spot where I originally met him in January.  I was going to get some lunch at Chipotle and asked if he wanted anything.  He took me up on the offer and I got him a garden burrito. 

Last Wednesday night I went to the Velvet Lounge to check out Machines on Vacation, a local DC band that mixes a string quartet, guitar, and vocals with electronic beats and sounds.  It’s hard to describe their genre…it’s unique and totally worth checking out.

The opening band was Deb Felz with a percussionist whose name I believe was Dan.  Dan plays the cajón, an Afro-Peruvian box drum that you sit on and slap to produce a wide range of rhythmic beats.  Deb plays guitar and sings.  They were quite good together…you can check their music out here.

Ethan and Machines on Vacation at the Velvet Lounge (Photo: Reed)

The main event, Machines on Vacation, took the stage around 10pm.  My friend Melanie plays violin for the group.  The other members are Ethan (vocals, guitar, and electronics), Amanda (cello), Kellie (viola), and Theresa (violin/viola).  I love that they have such a unique sound.  It’s really refreshing to hear somebody out there exploring new territory in music.  I particularly like Paralyzed Paradise, Oh No, and Light on My Doorstep.  You can find some of their music on their Facebook page.

While watching the group I decided to give my $10 to one of the band members that I didn’t know.  I approached Ethan after the show and introduced myself and asked if he would accept my $10.  He didn’t hesitate.

I asked Ethan how he would describe Machines on Vacation’s distinctive sound.  “I have no idea,” he said, getting a laugh from me.  Seriously he said that its hard to describe but he offered a couple suggestions: “A melody-focused band that thrives on either embracing or rejecting the tenets of minimalism, sometimes in the same moment of a song”, “The music of the 22nd century – which is oddly just a mix of music from the 18th, 19th, 20th, and 21st”, and “Pop music for nerds but not geeks.”  Check out this video for some of Ethan’s comments on musical influences and his obsession with asymptotes. 

Leading a group seems to come natural to Ethan.  When he is not being the front-man for Machines on Vacation, he is the CFO/COO for Elysian Energy, a DC/Baltimore energy efficiency firm that helps homeowners and businesses lower their energy bills and carbon footprint.  The company sounds like it provides a valuable service today as individuals and businesses grapple with energy efficiency strategies, sustainability, renewable technologies, and carbon impact reduction.

Ethan is a fellow Washington Capitals fan (Let’s go Caps!) – they play Montreal Monday night in what is hopefully the final game of that series.  He had already checked his phone I think Wednesday right after he finished playing to see if they had won, which they did that night. 

I asked him what he thought he would do with the $10.  “I feel like I should do something ‘good’ with it, instead of just using it to buy lunch tomorrow.” He and his wife have actually been discussing starting to give in a more organized manner.  He said he would think about it and get back to me, but that it would most likely get used to help a person or organization. 

Here is some video that I shot of the band playing Oh No at the Velvet Lounge.

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Tidal Basin (Photo: Reed)

Last Thursday was April Fool’s Day.  I decided to do the tourist thing here in DC and check out the cherry blossom mania down by the Tidal Basin.  I took my camera down there and pretended to know what I was doing.  I got a couple of shots…but I am still learning a lot about how to fully use my camera to take better photographs.

Photo courtesy of Donna and John

Anyway, as I was walking around I was asked to take a photo of a young couple, Donna and John.  I obliged and then asked them to accept my $10.  John’s reaction was amazing.  He was the first person who I have approached about receiving my $10 who actually knew about the Year of Giving.  He said he read about it I think on Yahoo! News.  Looking back on it I might have taken advantage of the April Fool’s date and said, “Hah!  I’m not that guy giving $10!  April Fools!”  But I wasn’t that quick-witted to deliver such a line.

Me with Donna and John (Photo: Kimon Kanelakis)

I’m glad I didn’t do that because then I wouldn’t have learned what a great couple they are.  John works for the government and Donna is studying hearing and speech science.  She wants to eventually work in audiology and do newborn hearing screenings.  In fact if anyone knows anyone else who is in this field in the DC area and might perhaps be a good contact for Donna, she would really appreciate your help.  She hopes to get an internship or job this summer doing newborn screening.

Check out this video of the cherry blossoms and a brief interview with Donna and John.  They have a great story about finding love amidst struggling economic times after the subprime mortgage crisis.  They are not sure what they will do with the $10 yet, but as you will see in the clip, they agreed to update us once they have decided.

On a separate note, I updated the Statistics page…sorry that was pretty outdated.  Average age has stayed pretty consistent and so did the number one answer for where the money will go: “Food & Beverage”.  “Gave the Money to Someone Else” has become the second most common response, replacing “Transportation.”

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Day 101 was last Thursday.  I was on my way to meet up with my brother, his wife, and my cousin for dinner in Georgetown.  I got down there early and had some extra time.  I spotted Brad sitting on a bench in front of Barnes & Noble.  There was something so calm and relaxed about him that I decided to see if I could give him my $10.

Brad in Georgetown (Photo: Reed)

He was waiting for a bus but said we could talk until the bus came.  Originally from New Jersey, Brad is somewhat new to the DC area where he works as an internet strategy consultant. 

Knowing that I had potentially very little time until his bus came, I got his email and asked if I could take a picture of him.  He said sure.  While I was taking pictures, I asked him what he was going to do with the $10.  He said, “I’d like to say that I am going to donate it, but it’s probably going to get used for dinner tonight.”

Right then his bus came and we parted ways.

Barnes & Noble Georgetown (Photo: Reed)

Later that night I ended up losing my small notebook that I take notes in, but luckily got it back when I retraced my steps and discovered that it had fallen out of my backpack outside of the Barnes & Noble and somebody had turned it in to the security guard at the bookstore.  

I got home that night and thought that I would just leave the blog entry for that day as it was…I didn’t get a lot of information about Brad, but such is life right.  However, I thought that maybe I would just Google Brad and see what I found.  I am so glad I did.  Had I not, I wouldn’t have discovered a much more beautiful story underneath the surface.

Before I go any further, I should let you know that when I found out what I am about to share with you I contacted Brad and asked permission to share this with the readers of my blog.

Brad’s mother, Joan Dancy, was diagnosed in 2002 with Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis (ALS) or Lou Gehrig’s Disease.  This is a disease that I have heard of all my life but I didn’t know much about it.  Here are some facts:

  • ALS can happen to anyone
  • ALS has no known cause
  • ALS is diagnosed in 14 people everyday
  • ALS affects 30,000 people in the US at any given time
  • ALS is always fatal 

 (source: http://www.joandancyandpals.com/facts.php)

Brad’s mother battled the fatal disease until 2006 when she passed away.  Later that year her fiancé, Terry Magovern (former personal assistant to Bruce Springsteen), founded The Joan Dancy & PALS Foundation.  The PALS stands for People with ALS.  Joan and her family and loved ones discovered that despite their urban location and proximity to numerous medical centers, there was a tremendous need for resources at the local level to help people afflicted with ALS.  Before she passed away she decided that somebody needed to change this.  Terry continued the work and in 2006 her dream became a reality when he launched the foundation which is committed to improving quality of life for ALS patients and their loved ones in the ways that matter most.  Sadly, Terry passed away unexpectedly in July of 2007 and the organization is now lead by Terry’s son Sean.  As an Advisory Board member, Brad is active in the organization and heads up some of the fundraising events that they do.

I spoke to Brad about what it was like dealing with this disease.  “It’s really tough because the disease moves very fast.  The body degenerates but the person’s mind knows exactly what’s going on.”  This was the case with his mother.  I can only imagine how difficult that must have been on Brad and his family..

Because there is no cure and because this disease is so hard on the individual and their family, groups like the Joan Dancy and PALS Foundation are extremely important.  According to Brad, the foundation holds support meetings once a month, about 40 people who meet to help one another improve the quality of life of those living with ALS.  

I was so touched by this story.  Maybe because I also lost my mother to a terrible disease…maybe because of the courage I felt from Brad in how he and others have managed to honor his mother so beautifully with the foundation.  I urge all of you to visit the website of this very special organization.  They survive through donations and proceeds from special events that they hold…hopefully I can make it to one of them this year so that I can personally experience the love that this group has for those living with ALS.

By the way, when I spoke to Brad this past Wednesday he said the $10 was still in his wallet!  I hope he will comment here and share with all of us how he uses the $10!

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Day 76 – Mike D.

Welcome to Mechanicsburg, PA, a suburb of the state capital of Harrisburg and a stone’s throw away form the Three Mile Island – the nuclear facility that suffered a partial core meltdown in a pressurized water reactor almost 31 years ago to the day.

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Mike on his laptop [Photo: Reed

I was walking in the downtown area of Mechanicsburg when I walked by Mike sitting on his front porch using his computer.  It was chilly out but he was enjoying the crisp air.  Mike is 50 years old, father of two girls, and the Executive Director of the Pennsylvania Patient Safety Authority.   They are an independent state agency charged with taking steps to reduce and eliminate medical errors by identifying problems and recommending solutions that promote patient safety.

When I asked Mike what he was going to do with the money, he originally said he didn’t know but that it wouldn’t be used for anything for him.  He later got a great idea that no one has mentioned to me yet.  He said he was going to involve his two daughters in the decision and discuss with them what would be appropriate to do with the $10.  I love this idea.  This is an excellent opportunity for Mike to talk with his children about giving.  What do they think about what I am doing?  What do they think they should do with the $10?  Do they do things for others in their daily lives?

Mike agreed to get back to me after he had a chance to discuss this with his girls.  In the meantime, check out some footage of Mike that I shot while we spoke.

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