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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!

Happy Worldwide Day of Giving!!!

I spent the day at Nonprofit 2.0 unconference conference sharing ideas and strategies for nonprofits in a social networking world. On my way home I cut through Dupont Circle – one of my old haunts when I did my year-long commitment to giving ten dollars a day away in 2010.
I made a lap around the circle looking for my recipient and spotted Dave K. rooting through a garbage can. Although he never said it, I believe the 45-year-old former science teacher from New York is homeless right now. His faded pants and worn sneakers were putting in overtime. His missing teeth didn’t stop him from being really generous with his smile that was tucked away under a thick cotton-white beard.
“Nothing in particular…just looking,” he said when I asked him what he was looking for. I had seen him open up some food containers from the lunch-goers from nearby offices that pepper the grassy respite in Northwest DC. “I think I’ll get me some coffee from Starbucks,” he told me looking down at the $10 in his hand. “I’m gonna get a venti dark roast!”

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The sunlight shifted back and forth on his face as the leaves above waved in the wind. I asked him why he was no longer working and he placed his index finger over his pursed lips. “There are some things that I prefer not to talk about,” he said.
We chatted a bit more…from quantum physics to garbage. “I once found a hundred-dollar bill,” Dave said causing his eyebrows to come out from beneath the white Virgin Atlantic sunglasses he was sporting. “Yep, it was sitting right on top of a public garbage can in New York City.”
I could sense that he was satisfied with our talk and was ready to move on. I asked a guy walking by to snap our picture, invited him to small happy hour celebration for the Worldwide Day of Giving tonight at L’Enfant Cafe and Bar. He smiled again and we shook hands goodbye. He wandered over to another garbage can and leaned in to sift through the refuse.
It felt great to give away the $10. I still do it from time to time but I don’t write about it…so this was kind of special as I enjoy sharing the stories of the amazing people I meet.
Click here to check out other stories of people participating in the Worldwide Day of Giving.

The Worldwide Day of Giving is fast approaching us. Once again on June 15th you can join people all around the world in a simple act of kindness. There are 3 simple ways that you can take part in this event:

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. Many of the volunteer projects take 15-20 minutes. You can volunteer on your lunch break!

Day 296 $10 recipients Kyle (aka Kevin) on the left with his friend Chris. (photo: Reed)

2. GIVE A STRANGER $10
So you’re old school? You want to celebrate the Worldwide Day of Giving by paying forward like I 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.

3. DONATE $10
Give $10 today to your favorite charity. Don’t know who to give to? You can donate through the Year of Giving website to help some of the 365 recipients I gave $10 to in 2010. Click here to make a donation.

At the end of the day, share your giving stories on the Facebook Page and 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!

Please pass the word around!

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.

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 Continue Reading »

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

DSC_0170.jpgSeven years ago Winston Duncan started an amazing organization that would send bicycles to needy individuals in Africa. Now in and of itself this is a tremendous idea and a worthy endeavor, but what makes it extra special is Winston. You see he was only 10 years old when he started this organization. Seven years and four thousand bikes later, he continues on his mission.

I volunteered with Wheels to Africa on December 10th – the final outing of my Year of Volunteering. I arrived in the morning and volunteers were already hard at work receiving bicycles and making adjustments (removing pedals and rotating the handlebars 90 degrees) so that they would stack more efficiently.

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Dixie, Reed and Winston

A good bit taller than me, the 17-year-old is unassuming and quiet. He’s passionate not only about basketball and hanging out with his friends, but also about caring for individuals half way around the world who he has never met and probably never will.

Far outnumbering the adults, I was surprised at how many young people were volunteering. They seemed to have an almost magical feeling of empowerment. Nobody had to tell them what to do – they just stepped up and got the work done. Winston also had a little help from his mom, Dixie, who worked tirelessly on the project. I got to spend some time with her as we rode together up to Kensington, MD to pick up a U-Haul truck full of bikes and bring it back down to the main collection point in Virginia. From behind the wheel of her SUV she kept on working during the 35 minute drive; fielding phone calls from donors wanting information about drop off centers and making calls to volunteer leaders to make sure things were going OK at their respective locations.

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Volunteers put some muscle into getting the pedals off of a donated bike.

Few volunteer opportunities that I have been a part of this year have touched me as much as this one did. The way so many people came together to help Winston in his mission. We worked well into the night; loading bikes from collection centers on to trucks and then driving them to storage centers and unloading them. You gain a new respect for the kind of effort that is required to pull something of this magnitude off.

Exhausted and sore from the day’s work of loading and unloading bikes, Winston laughed and nodded his head when I asked him if he ever wished that he had started a “Harmonicas for Africa” organization instead – it sure would be a lot less heavy lifting and shipping would be a fraction of the cost, but then again I doubt that harmonicas would have as meaningful of an impact on people’s lives.

This year there was no collection point in the District of Columbia and I hope that next year I can help Winston and Dixie establish one. Maybe you will join me? I hope that you check out Wheels-to-Africa’s website and drop by and say hello at next year’s event. In the meantime, Wheels to Africa not only needs your bikes, but they also need your donations to help cover shipping and other related costs to get the bikes to those who need them. So consider making a tax-deductible donation and help Winston fulfill his dream.

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It's not just a guy thing either!

If you would like to see more photographs that I took while volunteering with Wheels to Africa, check out my Flickr account.

Also, I just checked and harmonicas-to-africa.org is still available so if you want to pursue that idea you better hurry!

One way that you can volunteer your time and expertise is to join your home-owners or community association. I spent the last two years as vice president of my condominium association.

This service typically takes a long-term commitment – at least a year. You get to be involved in a variety of activities. From shaping the rules that we all agree to live by to ensuring that the common facilities stays in good working order, you actively participate in the overall operation and management of the building. Meeting four times a year, and additionally as necessary, I got a first hand look at the finances of our association as well as the long-term planning that takes place to ensure that we have enough funds to cover large ticket items – such as replacing our roof.

Over a delicious espresso I recently shared with a friend that I was stepping down from my position on the board of directors. “Really,” she said, “I thought you enjoyed it.” While it is true that I enjoyed my service on the board, as well as getting to know my neighbors better, it was time for a break and I was very pleased to see some new faces on the board.

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