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Posts Tagged ‘family’

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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Mothers Day

Blog post by Reed from Washington, DC

Lenora "Ann" Reed Sandridge 10/17/43-12/15/06

A couple of days ago I sat down to brainstorm about the subject of my blog post for today.  As I have been focusing on volunteering with my posts, I thought I would highlight a national nonprofit that gave opportunities for mothers to volunteer.  To my surprise, I couldn’t find such an organization with the exception of very focused groups like Mothers Against Drunk Driving.  Then I thought I would focus on organizations that helped mothers.  I found lots of groups that help pregnant moms, new mothers, single parent mothers, etc.  But somehow I wasn’t finding anything that really grabbed me.

So I decided to dedicate today’s blog to my own mother who was one of my inspirations in creating the Year of Giving.

Born Lenora Ann Reed in 1943, my mother grew up in the sleepy coal-mining town of Richlands, Virginia.  It’s a beautiful part of the country.  I can remember driving down Route 460 as a child, well I wasn’t driving, but I was in the car, and seeing the breathtaking vistas of the Blue Ridge Mountains.

My mother's childhood house and shed. The outhouse she used is long gone, but it still looks more or less the same structurally - except the deck. (Photo: Reed)

The house she grew up in still stands on a steep slope overlooking the town.  Today nearly 6,000 people live in Richlands compared to about 4,800 when my mother was a child.  Not too much has changed in my mind.  The King Kone ice cream and hot dog stand still gets people lined up two or three deep.  Mom used to love their chili dogs.  I went back last year with my dad and got one.  They must have been better back in the day.

Graduation from Richlands High School, 1960

Mom graduated from Richlands High School in 1960.  She followed the footsteps of her older sisters and went to nursing school, however, nursing wasn’t for her and she ended up working for the federal government in Washington, DC.

She was living with my uncle Jack on the fourth floor of a crimson colored brick apartment complex in Arlington,VA. The place is still there today in fact.  In the summer of 1962 my dad was moving in across the hall.  “There were some girls who were whistling and giggling at me as I was carrying things in,” he told me smiling.  “They kept hiding though when I would try to see who it was.”  Well, the rest is history as they say.

Jerry and Lenora were married on January 23, 1964.  They packed up the car and drove to California, sold everything except what they could carry in some suitcases and started out on a trip around the world.  The first stop was Honolulu.  They figured they would work for a while there until they had enough money to move on to the South Pacific.  They never made it any further and five years later left the tropical paradise of Don Ho and moved to California where my brother and I were born.

My mother and brother playing with my Uncle Jack's dog Spike in 1973. (photo: Reed)

The next 20 years were spent raising us kids.  Although we had a baby sitter when we would get home from school, they rarely left us with a sitter to go out to dinner or those kinds of things.  They completely put their social lives on hold in order to spend time with us.  Our house was full of love and laughter and a few screams of my brother and me fighting.

Mom was extremely generous.  We didn’t have much money to give, but she was always thinking of others before herself.  She searched voraciously to find the perfect card to send to her friends and family.  She wrote beautiful kind letters.  She led by example; instilling in my brother and me virtues of kindness, sympathy and honesty.

When I was 16 I was selected to be a Rotary Youth Exchange Student and went to Guasave, Mexico for my 11th grade year of high school.  On the eve of my flight, we sat in a hotel outside of Baltimore, MD fearing the unknown of a year apart.  Tears were flowing and my mother took me for a short walk outside our hotel.  She told me something that I will never forget.

My brother Ryan, Mom, Dad, Me in Ireland

“All my life I have worked to help you become independent.  You’ve grown up so much and are setting out to write a new chapter of your life.  We shouldn’t be crying; we should be celebrating.  This is what your father and I have dreamed of ever since you were born is to see you mature and develop into your own person.”

I think we both knew that I still had a lot of growing up to do but as always she had a way with words to make the pain or the sadness go away.  I must have received at least 100 letters from her during my 11 months in Mexico.

Mom died on the morning of December 15th, 2006 from some complications from a by-pass surgery she underwent a few days earlier.  She had battled heart disease for more than two decades since having her first heart attack days before Christmas in 1984.  It’s somehow ironic that someone with such a big and loving heart would die of heart related illness.

Me and mom in Rio de Janeiro in 2003.

Today I remember her.  I remember her smile, her laughter, her listening, her dancing with my dad in the kitchen, her gentle touch, her love of books, her love for family, her fondness for her work and coworkers and most of all her hugs.  I celebrate her life and the beauty she brought to the lives of so many others.

If you are able to spend the day with your mother, make sure you tell her that you love her and appreciate all that she has done for you.  Hug her and hold her an extra moment while you remember all of those who have lost their mothers.

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Blog post by Sibyl W, a Kindness Investor from Brentwood, Tenn.

Today I met Jeannie, who is a total sweetheart.   I was just getting out of my car when I saw her and just knew she was the one to be today’s recipient.  Lucky for me she said yes.  I wasn’t even ready and had to ask her to wait just a moment to get the things I needed out of my car, including the $10 dollars.

I explained what the Year of Giving was about and asked if she would be willing to share a piece of her story with me.  Like a lot of others, she has a lot going on in her life right now.

“This week my aunt, who’s 85 years old, had open heart surgery.  She lives in Toledo, Ohio and we just got back. She’s my mom’s sister, they are the only two siblings left in that part of the family.  She’s the golden star patient and she’s doing phenomenal, better than everyone expected.  Her mind is good; everything else is good it was just her heart.  But it was miraculous.  God healed her.

“There’s just so much to say.  I was in an accident in January but all is well thank the Lord.  My Aunt, the one in the hospital, was going to give me her car but she’ll be able to get back out and drive, go back to church and enjoy the things she likes to do.  So my brother-in-law, he’s in Afghanistan, they loaned us one of their cars.  God is amazing; you just can’t stop giving Him the glory.

“And, my husband and I have been approved to be adoptive parents.  But, I just found out Monday the birth mom changed her mind.”

Worried about her disappointment I said, “Oh no.” But she responded, “Oh, that’s good, she’s going to keep her baby and my prayer is that God is going to give us our baby. We believe in adoption, there are a lot of adopted kids throughout our family.  We were doing an independent adoption over the summer, the mother was a family member, but when the baby was born she decided to keep it and that’s great too.  I always promote babies being with their natural mother.  So we’ve been dealing with this since January.”

In my opinion, Jeannie’s life consists of things that I would refer to as stressful, but I don’t think she saw it that way.  She was so positive and upbeat it totally brightened my day.  We hugged and I thanked her for sharing her story. I told Jeannie I had one more question, could I ask what she might do with the $10 dollars. She immediately replied, “Give it to somebody.  I’ll bless somebody.”

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Name:

Sibyl W.
Age?
59 (ouch!)
 
Where do you live?
Brentwood, Tenn.
 
Where were you born?
I was born in Asheville, NC
What’s the highest level of education you have completed?
Graduated high school and took some college courses (Business & Psychology)
Do you have a family?
I’m divorced, no children.  But years ago I had a little sister through the Big Brothers/Big Sisters program.  She’s now grown with two boys of her own.  Her oldest is my godson.
 
How did you hear about the Year of Giving?
I believe it was a story I saw online, possibly MSN but not sure.
 
How long have you been unemployed?
I’ve been unemployed a little over two years, but part of that time I went home to NC to take care of my mother who was very ill.
 
What happened?
I was working for an entertainment marketing company in LA when the recession hit and the company had to cut way back.  We had very well-known clients but even the big guys had to cut spending.
 
Do you currently volunteer?
I currently volunteer at Saddle Up!, it’s a therapeutic horseback riding program designed for physically and mentally challenged children.  I help out with three classes and love every minute of it.

Who have been your biggest influences?

My mother has been the biggest influence in life.  She experienced some tough hardships but the only thing she was ever afraid of… was missing out on the fun with her family.  Another is my brother.  He is such a good person and received all the patience in the family.
 
What is your favorite food?
Chicken Fajitas, love, love, love. Oh, and biscuits and gravy. But not in the same meal. :)
 
What is the most meaningful gift you have ever received?
My mother had five brothers and they were all in the service at the time of World War II.  My mother was a teenager at the time and they managed to bring her back an assortment of silver bangle bracelets.  When I was a little girl I loved playing with them.  Even though they were precious to her and she was afraid I would lose them, she gave them to me.  (I still have them.)
 
Describe your ideal job:
Having my own business helping others find what they are passionate about doing and then helping them find a way to accomplish it.

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Blog post by Stephanie, a Kindness Investor from Mt. Laurel, NJ.

Today’s Intention ~ Today, I Appreciate Joyful Living
I met birthday girl Liz at Border’s Bookstore.  She was working intently at her computer while listening to her iPod, the image of today’s college student.  I approached her as she was packing up and she was at first surprised and unsure about the Year of Giving.  She asked if I was going to ask her a bunch of “philosophical” questions about the meaning of life.  Being a deep thinker, I thought if we had more time I probably would have.  Instead I said I just wanted to learn a little bit more about her and her story.
Liz began sharing that she took a year off after highschool before she started community college.  She is currently undeclared, but she does harbor the idea of eventually going to law school.  She told me she would also like to take philosophy classes in college.
Liz went on to explain her passion for story telling.   She told me about a fictional love story she wrote in a blog a year ago.  She elaborated that she was contacted by a man who wants to turn the romance into a movie after Liz converts the blog into a script.  I now wonder if that is what she was working on before I approached her with the $10.  Liz also shared a ghost story with me about Ellicot City, Marlyand which I thought was funny because I have actually been there before.
Later in the conversation, I found out that it was Liz’s birthday and she was meeting up with a friend soon, but before she left I asked her what 3 things bring her joy in her life.  She said her Bichon Hagen, her family (Liz currently lives with her mom and her older brother just got married), and finally that one day she may be discovered! Hmmm, I wonder if that means joy that she will discover in herself or someone will discover her great talents as a writer.
Liz was a friendly young woman who I enjoyed speaking with!
I made an avatar of Liz because she didn’t want her picture taken.  Her hair was more blond with longer bangs, but I wanted to do something fun to honor the birthday girl/college student/writer who loves her dog and family!  Oh and she said the $10 will buy her coffee. She loves coffee and it keeps her going.  We both shared a good laugh that I was able to give her a surprise birthday gift!

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

Mr. Leng's tuk-tuk

A “tuk-tuk” is a motorcycle taxi. Mr. Leng was my tuk-tuk driver while I was in Cambodia. And a fine driver he is indeed; and not too shabby at snooker either. I believe the average monthly income of a tuk-tuk driver is about $60.00 USD a month. Mr. Leng will use the money I gave him to feed his family.

I also helped out some monks that I met this week.  The monks are an integral part of a Buddhist community by providing many services such as giving blessings and participating at weddings and funerals. Since the monks do not work for an income, it is customary to give Alms to them. I gave Alms to a monk in the form of rice, tea, coffee and a few other essentials. Poor village boys are allowed to live at this particular monastery. They go to public schools and learn the ways of the monks. At an older age they can choose to either become a monk or go back into the secular world.

One of the monks I helped.

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

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

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

Maybe.  But I’m in good company.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“No, I haven’t.”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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