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My Year of Giving was a life-changing event. I could have never in a million years imagined before I gave away my first ten-dollar bill on Dec. 15, 2009 how the journey would change my life. One of the amazing 365 people I met during that year was Anthony. Our lives crossed paths on Day 67.

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Anthony & Me on our first day of our project. (Photo: Reed Sandridge)

In two weeks it will be three years since I started the project. A lot has changed. I am now employed, I can’t walk around my neighborhood without seeing somebody I gave $10 to and I have an entirely new perspective on giving. Life is pretty good.

Many of you have encouraged me to put this story into a book. I’ve started that – well, I am trying to do this at least. It’s harder than it sounds to dedicate time to writing – especially when you are often tired from your day job. But I am committed to finishing the book. But I thought I would enlist some help. That’s when I turned to my friend.

Anthony has been homeless for nearly 10 years in our nation’s capital. One of the first Street Sense vendors, vendor number 5 to be exact, Anthony doesn’t let the fact that he can not afford housing get him down. He works Monday through Friday at the corner of 19th and M selling the paper. But his dream is to have his own apartment and I have wanted to help him achieve that goal for some time.

Anthony offered to help me stay on track with my writing. You know, sometimes you just need someone to be accountable to. In return I am trying to help him get housing. If this sounds simple – keep in mind that I don’t know anything about helping someone get off the streets and Anthony hasn’t a clue about what it takes to get a book published. But that hasn’t stopped us.

We are working to achieve our goal by the end of 2013 – and with a lot of hard work, collaboration between Anthony and me, and possibly your help too – we just might make it! If you would like to follow our journey – drop by and say hello at AthonyAndMe.com.

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You never know how big a small act of kindness can be.

That’s a line from the upcoming play A Year of Giving that is based on the true story of my journey of giving $10 a day to strangers for a year after losing my job in the fall of 2009.

If you live in the DC area – you should come see this play! There is a lot of talent involved – Melanie Papasian did a great job of crafting the script, Patrick Miller from Rockville Little Theatre agreed to produce it and got the very talented Sasha Bratt to direct the show. This, plus an outstanding cast which includes me playing myself (harder than you’d think!) make it a truly memorable evening.

There are five performances…Saturday July 14th is the premiere and it runs through July 28th.

Show Dates: 7/14 6:15PM, 7/17 9:00PM, 7/20 7:00PM, 7/22 3:00PM, 7/28 6:00PM

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Patrick Miller and Reed Sandridge at rehearsal for A Year of Giving. Photo: Sasha Bratt

All performances are at the Goethe Institut at 7th/I in DC (1 block from Gallery Place/Chinatown Metro). Please note that the show is not recommended for those under the age of 14.

For more information, check out the Facebook page or the review on DC Metro Theater Arts website.

Tickets are available through the Fringe Festival.

If you are coming to the show, please drop me a note…it would be great to catch up after the performance. And don’t forget, somebody will receive $10!

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One third of the year is already behind us. Mild weather in the DC area made winter merely a memory of last year. My blog posts have become intermittent at best as I spend the majority of my time on some new projects, but from time to time it is nice to give pause and revisit some of the remarkable people whose stories became woven into the Year of Giving.

Photo: Jonathan Capehart

This last weekend I ran into one of my better known $10 recipients – Willie Geist from Day 317. Saturday night had become Sunday morning and the scene at the Italian Embassy where MSNBC was hosting their White House Correspondents Dinner after party was still going strong. My friends often refer to me as their mini-celebrity friend due to my 15 seconds of Year of Giving fame, but this place was full of real celebrities – where the heck was TMZ?!? Woody Harrelson sipping on a beer by the bar as Dave Chappelle checks out the D.J. booth – or maybe he was just checking out the cute young lady spinning the tunes. Across the room stands the much-thinner-in-real-life Jimmy Kimmel, surrounded by an impressive entourage, relaxing a bit after roasting President Obama earlier in the evening at the dinner. The stunning Rosario Dawson sends a smile my way – or maybe it was intended for Modern Family’s Eric Stonestreet who was standing behind me. In any event, you get the idea.

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Willie Geist talking to Jimmy Kimmel.

At some point my eyes lock on Willie chatting Jimmy Kimmel. The popular television host of MSNBC’s Way Too Early with Willie Geist and Morning Joe is pretty tall – so I spotted him pretty quickly. I waited around trying not to look like a stalker until he finished his conversation. He greeted me with his infectious grin and said that he remembered me, or at least politely pretended that he did, and we chatted for a while. I can’t really say that I know him but he seems to be a really genuine guy. He said that he’s been busy since we met. After churning out two books in six months he said he was just “lying low” for a while. I smirked a bit – the idea of being on television every day and also laying low seem to be mutually exclusive in my book. In any event, it was great to catch up with him.

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Lindsay Czarniak, me, Craig Melvin

I also ran into Today Show correspondent Craig Melvin and his wife Lindsay Czarniak who is a reporter for ESPN. Craig, a very likeable guy in addition to being a great journalist, did a story on the Year of Giving back in 2010 when he was a news anchor for NBC4 here in DC – where he met Lindsay. They married last fall and have since moved to Connecticut.

Click here to visit the original posting for my $10 encounter with Willie Geist.

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It’s funny how fast time goes by. It seems like just yesterday that I was unemployed and embarking on my year-long journey of giving $10 away to strangers. For those of you who have followed this adventure in giving you know for me it wasn’t about the money. Sure I needed the money and it might have been foolish to give away $3,650 while being out of work, but it was about something larger. It was about community. It was about kindness. It was about hope. And it was about the stories – the stories of a community of strangers that allowed me into their lives.

But it was also about time and how we choose to spend it. I discovered that we control very few things in our hectic lives but in the end we have the most control over our time and how we spend it. Last year I chose to spend my time volunteering at least once per week with a different organization. You can read about this amazing year of service here.

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That’s me in the middle with my brother and sister-in-law at a recent volunteer outing for http://www.yachad-dc.org!

But what now? Many people have written to me asking what I will do for 2012. Well, there are lots of things in the works…most of them are much less public than the endeavors of the previous two years. Here’s a look at what is keeping me busy in 2012.

Spending time with loved ones – Life is too short. I know that sounds very cliché but it’s true. Don’t forget to stop your busy life to spend time with those you care about. In the end, that’s what it’s all about.

Giving away stuff – I have too much stuff. Others need stuff. There seems to be a simple solution to both of these problems and I will give away one item per day. I’m not writing about this journey – not yet at (more…)

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-Blog post by Reed Sandridge of Washington, D.C.

Merry Christmas everyone! It seemed rather appropriate to make a post today – on a day that many of us associate with the spirit of giving. So now that your family room looks like a tornado went through it and destroyed an entire city built of wrapping paper, take a moment to enjoy a little update some holiday kindness investing.

At the end of December 2010 I stopped my year-long journey of giving away $10 a day. Well, sorta. I’ve found myself on many occasions giving a ten-spot away this year, I just chose not to write up the stories every day like I did last year. But this last week I did a little extra kindness investing.

I went out to meet up with a former colleague of mine, Jess, for lunch. I laugh because she say’s that I am one of two “famous” people she knows – the other is her brother who is an elementary school principal who is also a local legend singer/song-writer in Rochester, MN. Anyway, on my way over to meet her I decided to go run a few errands and I bumped into Kenneth B. from Day 30.

Normally I find him pacing back and forth hawking the Street Sense paper but this day he sat deep in a folding chair barking his familiar cadence, “Street Sense! … Street Sense!” I was in a bit of a hurry and didn’t want to be late to my lunch meeting but I did want to stop and wish Kenneth a happy holiday and give him a few dollars. As I left, I placed a twenty in his hand – $10 from a Year of Giving supporter in Havertown, PA which I matched with a ten of my own.

I then hopped on the Metro and headed downtown. On the train I started thinking that maybe it would be fun to do a little extra giving and I decided that I would give $10 to each person I passed that day who was asking for money. How much money would that add up to? I mean there are days that I feel like I am surrounded by panhandlers in this town.

As I reached the top of the escalators at Metro Center I saw a man with a plastic cup extended toward those exiting the station. I reached into my wallet, found a ten-dollar bill and handed it to him. “Thank you very much!” he said quickly as he tucked it into his cup.

Photo: Reed

After lunch I headed over to Macy’s to look for a gift I still needed to get. I was sure that I would give $10 to the Salvation Army bell-ringer – but to my surprise there was no bell-ringer in sight. But I did pass plenty of other people and before the day had ended I had passed nine more. One of those was Tommy B. – a Street Sense vendor who ended up being my $10 recipient on Day 155. He was doing well and was planning to head down to South Carolina the next day to spend Christmas with his sister. Like Kenneth, I gave him $20. This time I paid forward a $10 donation I had received from Marcio from New Zealand matched with $10 of my own. He was thankful and gave me a warm hug when I said goodbye.

It was a bit nostalgic giving away ten-spots for the day. Somehow it felt right given the holiday season – but as I have said before, it’s not just the holidays that people need help. They need it even on sunny days in June. So as we approach a new year I hope you will take a moment to think about how you might be able to help others and make a plan, even if it is just in your head, about what you will do. Nobody else needs to know, but it will help you stick with it. Drop me a note if you need some help.

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-Blog post by Reed Sandridge of Washington, DC

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David's hometown is near Kenya's Lake Victoria

I woke up this morning with mixed emotions. On one side, I am so excited that David will soon be reunited with his family in Kenya. The series of events that have come together to make this happen is extraordinary. Having said that, I am not very good with “good-byes” and am sad to see him go.

My focus today though is on celebrating this pivotal moment in his life. We will gather tonight to laugh together and look forward to the future. We are far from my goal of raising the $1,000 to help cover the expenses of David’s travel – but perhaps some more online donations will still come in today. If you haven’t donated and feel that you could spare $10 to help someone else out I encourage you to click on the yellow Donate button.

If you live in D.C. please join us tonight between 5:30-8:00pm at One Lounge (1606 20th Street, NW) in DC. It’s right near the North entrance of the Dupont Circle Metro stop. Here’s a link to the invitation – don’t worry about the RSVP – just show up!

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David’s farewell party

-Blog post by Reed Sandridge of Washington, DC

I wanted to update you on the latest news about David Ger – the charismatic young man from Kenya that has touched the hearts of so many followers of the Year of Giving.

You can read a more detailed chronological narrative of the sequence of events leading up to now, but basically David was my $10 recipient on Day 258. Through getting to know him I discovered that he wanted to try to find a cousin of his who was last known to be living in Poland. I Googled his name and posted it on the Year of Giving hoping that someone would know him, but no luck.

I snapped this photo of David on a recent visit we took to the Kenyan Embassy to make arrangements for his travel.

But then six months later I got a call from David’s cousin in Poland! I connected him with David and now they are closer to being reunited. After months of discussions and raising money to help pay for the costs, the day has finally come where he will be flying back to his home near Lake Victoria. It’s been nearly 15 years and along with the excitement must come a lot of anxiety too.

I will be sad to see my friend leave, but I think this is an amazing opportunity for him. I am throwing a little going away party for David this Monday night at One Lounge (1606 20th Street, NW) in DC. It’s right near the Dupont Circle Metro stop. Please stop by between 5:30 and 8pm to meet David if you haven’t already met him and wish him luck on his journey. Here’s a link to the invitation. We will also be accepting donations if you would like to help cover some of the costs. I’m hoping to raise $1,000.  If you can’t attend but still want to donate – just click here!

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-Blog post by Reed Sandridge of Washington, D.C.

David on Day 258 in 2010 (photo: Reed Sandridge)

I want to update you on David G. who was one of my $10 recipients last year. I met David on the corner of Connecticut and Q in D.C. while he was selling the Street Sense newspaper. Homeless in DC for ten years, David hails from Kenya.

When I asked David if he needed anything that I could include in the Lend a Hand program he thought for a minute and then said that he would like to find his cousin and find out more about his father. So with the power of the Internet, I posted their names on the Year of Giving and asked that if anyone knew them to contact me.

Six months later…it happened! By an almost impossible series of events I was on the phone with David’s cousin Ben who was now living in Poland. Check out the update here to find out the latest news in this beautiful story.

You will read in the update that we need to raise a little bit of money to help David…so please consider clicking on the DONATE button on the upper right area of this page and contribute $10 to help reunite David with his family back in Kenya!

These kind of experiences are what it is all about!

To read the original blog post when I met David click here.

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Blog post by Reed Sandridge of Washington, DC.

Willie and I in October of 2010

A memorable moment for me last year during my 365 day journey was giving $10 to MSNBC morning host and author Willie Geist on Day 317.  He’s intelligent and witty.  His calm demeanor and intoxicating grin create a feeling like he’s a guy you’ve known all your life.

Now usually when I post an update, it’s because I have met up with the recipient and found out how they are doing.  Well, I have tried to follow up with Willie, but he’s a busy television personality and understandably doesn’t probably have time to reply, however, what I want to update you on today is an awkward moment that Willie suffered through this week on MSNBC’s Morning Joe.

TIME Magazine editor at large, Mark Halperin, has one of the weirdest moments on TV that I have seen in a while.  The exchange goes like this:

Joe Scarborough: Mark Halperin, What was the president’s strategy? We are coming up on a deadline and the president decided to please his base, push back against the Republicans. I guess the question is, we know a deal has to be done. Is this showmanship? A lot of times you go up there and both sides and they act tough so their base will be appeased, then they quietly work the deal behind the scenes.

Mark Halperin: Are we on the seven second delay?

Mika Brzezinski: Lordy.

Halperin: I wanted to characterize how the president behaved.

Scarborough: We have it. We can use it. Go for it. Let’s see what happens.

Brzezinski: We’re behind you, you fall down and we catch you.

Halperin: I thought he was a dick yesterday.

Scarborough: Delay that. Delay that. What are you doing? I can’t believe — I was joking. Don’t do that. Did we delay that?

Halperin: I said it. I hope it worked.

Scarborough: My mom is watching! We’ll know whether it worked or not.

All along Willie Geist is sitting very uncomfortably next to Halperin.  And it only gets worse.  They come back from commercial and Halperin apologizes while Willie looks on with a look of disappointment and awkwardness.  Check out the video below from the Daily Show where Jon Stewart takes this train wreck one step further and suggests that Willie should chaperon all broadcasted public apologies.

I felt bad for you Willie!  You’re the best!

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-Blog post by Reed Sandridge from Washington, DC

Tomorrow is the 2nd annual Worldwide Day of Giving.

Be a part of this grass-roots effort to inspire giving and volunteerism around the world.  There are three simple ways to support this kindness movement.

1. VOLUNTEERING

You can volunteer with any organization.  For those of you who are busy and can’t take off work, consider micro-volunteering on www.sparked.com.  This is one of the coolest websites I have seen.  You can volunteer in the time it takes to eat lunch.  So grab a sandwich and knock out a volunteer project!

2. GIVE A STRANGER $10

So you’re old school?  You want to celebrate the Worldwide Day of Giving by paying forward like Reed did for 365 days.  It’s easy.  Find a complete stranger. Approach them and tell them that you are participating in the Worldwide Day of Giving and would like to give them $10. The only rules are that you may not know the person and you may not receive anything in return for the $10 (aside from the rush of goodness you will feel).

Ideally you will take some time to speak with the recipient, find out what they will do with the $10 as well as a little bit about who they are. If you can take a picture or video, that would be even better – we would love to have you post that here or on the Year of Giving Facebook Page.

 

3. DONATE $10 TO THE YEAR OF GIVING

Your $10 will be used to help those listed on the Lend a Hand section of theYear of Giving website.  Donations accepted at http://www.yearofgiving.org.

I hope that you will share your experience on the Year of Giving Facebook Page

Then sit back and start to watch the phenomenon begin.  Stories trickling in from all around the world. Imagine the different reactions and stories that we will collectively have from Oconomowoc, Wisconsin to Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia to Raahe, Finland to Montevideo, Uruguay!

I encourage you to harness the power of social networking to help us get reach thousands of people.  We can do it!

Use #WDoG on Twitter.

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Blog post by Reed S. from Washington, DC.

Last year I introduced you to Carlton, a 45-year-old homeless man who took up painting a few years ago and discovered an untapped talent.

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Carlton working on a new painting on Wednesday. (photo: Reed)

Yesterday I was walking around the west side of the traffic circle at Dupont Circle where I found Carlton in the exact same location I found him last summer.  Sweat beading down his forehead, he greeted me with an upbeat hello.  “Everything is cheap.  Really cheap,” he told me.  I reminded him who I was and he claimed to remember meeting me although I am not sure.

He reminded me why he chose this location to do his paintings.  “I used to panhandle right here and now I want all those people who knew me then to see what I am doing now!”

Having not seen him much lately I asked if he had started painting someplace else.  He explained that he had been down in Norfolk,VA helping with his mother who is struggling with diabetes.

Sitting on the concrete sidewalk, just feet away from some leftover puddles from a mid-afternoon shower, Carlton started to work on a clean canvas.  “I painted a parrot today!” he blurted out.  “I’ve never painted animals before.”  I prefer his landscapes.

Carlton, who battles HIV, stays healthy by walking and biking throughout the city.  “I’m staying over near Gallaudet University now and ride my bike all the way over here.”  That’s about 30 blocks and in this heat it’s easier said than done.

He seems to turn into Bob Ross and starts painting happy bushes and trees.  “I ran out of black paint,” he told me as he used a piece of sponge to smear a terracotta colored horizon.

Always working the crowd, Carlton is keenly aware of when the eyes of passersby focus on his work.  “I’m Carlton, the homeless artist,” he says in his raspy voice.  “They’re all very inexpensive.”  She’s silent and he goes back to putting in some trees on his newest work.  “Talk to me,” he says grinning and hoping she will make an offer on one of the half-dozen paintings that surround him.

I shove a few dollars in his cup and shake his slippery hand.  “Now you tell your wife (I’m not married by the way) that you didn’t fall in the mud, you tell her you shook Carlton the homeless painter’s hand!”

You can see video of Carlton from my first visit by clicking here.

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Blog post by Reed S., a Kindness Investor from Washington, DC.

A year ago this week I met a charismatic young post-grad student from Georgetown University: Alex S.  His story is one of my favorites and one that I tell over and over because I love how he thought outside the box and was creative and thoughtful with how he used the $10.

Here it is…

Originally posted on April 12, 2010

So this morning I heard the NPR story by Liane Hansen…it was great!  If you missed it, check it out here.

So I was walking around my neighborhood one night looking for someone to give my $10 to.  People often ask me how I choose the recipients.  There really isn’t any scientific method, but more of an instinctive gut reaction that I have.  Something about the person makes them interesting to me.  Maybe they are dressed in an interesting way, maybe a pan-handler says something clever, or perhaps it’s just a nice bus driver.

Alex is sitting in a small park on a bench reading a book at about 9:00pm.  The dim light from a nearby street lamp is just enough for him to read his book: Negotiating Across Culture by Raymond Cohen.

Alex is dressed in a suit sans tie.  He looks comfortable and at ease with me approaching and sitting down next to him.  He is reading the textbook for his post-grad coursework at Georgetown.  In addition to his schoolwork, Alex also has a part-time job at a DC think tank.  As I explain to him my year-long commitment I learn that his birthday is December 15th (the day I started the Year of Giving).  Somehow I feel that I was meant to meet Alex.

When Alex isn’t studying, working at the think tank or taking in a night at local art galleries (that’s what he was doing this night) he gives his time.  He helps out at shelters and kitchens around DC.  He has volunteered several times atLoaves and Fishes, a ministry of St. Stephen and the Incarnation Episcopal Church that has been serving lunch to the hungry and homeless on Saturdays, Sundays and federal holidays since 1968.

Alex hopes to work in international development and policy in Africa.  This is no surprise given his vast international experience.  For a 24-year-old he has seen a lot of the world.  Check out the video where we talk a little about his experiences overseas.

The following is a letter that I received from Alex explaining how he used the $10.  Also, take note of the link to the study on kindness at the end…definitely worth a read.

Hey Reed,

I was really unexpected and nice meeting you the other night. I wanted to drop you a note to say that I really think your project is fantastic. I think it’s great that you have embraced the curiosity, generosity, and faith in other people that a lot of us aspire to. I too believe that there’s so many incredible and interesting people we encounter in our daily lives that we seldom take the time to stop and appreciate. I myself wish I did it more.

So, I told you I’d write you to tell you how I’d spend my money.  Basically, 10 bucks isn’t going to change what I can afford, or what some deserving NGO in the area could do if I gave the money to them.  But, what the gesture of yours can do is change something I do, particularly stopping to appreciate the people we see in our daily lives but maybe don’t stop to acknowledge or appreciate. So, what I decided to do was spend that money on some cookie supplies, bake some cookies and give them to people we don’t too often acknowledge – the guys who hand out the WaPo Express, the people who work at the Metro stations and the cleaning people and receptionist in my building on K Street.

Oh and I also thought you’d be interested in this article I came across on the kindness multiplier. Reminds you that an act of kindness has consequences you don’t see!

Cheers and best of luck,

Alex (109)

Thanks Alex.  What a thoughtful and creative use of the $10.  I would love to know how the people reacted!  If you haven’t already done it yet and can record it, it would be great to post here!  It was great to meet you…thanks for making this giving experience so special.

Update 4/9/2011

Alex attended the Year-End Celebration in December.  And he didn’t show up empty handed either.  Would you believe that he showed up with cookies to share?  What a thoughtful guy!

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