Feeds:
Posts
Comments

Posts Tagged ‘favorites’

-Blog post by Reed Sandridge of Washington, DC

13236 Lake Victoria 0 583x388 Lake Victoria

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!

Read Full Post »

-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.

Read Full Post »

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!

Read Full Post »

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

This week was a very interesting week.  Thanks Reed.  The people I have met along the way in just 7 days are people I could have met sometime in my life, although it’s extremely unlikely I would have the type of conversations that I have had with them.  It was the taking of time, the interest in their lives, the one-on-one conversations are all what made it special to me.  I remember Reed saying something about, it’s not the $10 that he’ll remember, it was the quality time he spent with each individual he talked to.  I would agree wholeheartedly.  So thanks for the opportunity to do this.

I love it when I’m surprised by things in life.  If it’s a TV show or a movie, I love a plot twist that I didn’t see coming at all. It really makes me appreciate that show. Same thing for a book.  I love it when I’m surprised in life with people as well.

Today’s recipient, Joey, surprised me very much.  I was up and out the door earlier than normal this morning, as I was at Literacy Volunteers of Greater Hartford again.  Today was a big day as we were filming some students and tutors of the school to be put together for a video for the event in April (as I wrote in Day 23).

We were there at 8 am in Hartford, so it was almost like I was up and getting ready for work again!   We filmed and interviewed a few students and tutors which kept us pretty busy for the morning.  During that time, the first group came in and in the group were 2 males and a female.  They all come to Literacy Volunteers for different reasons; some to learn English from scratch, some to better their English and some study and prepare to take the GED.  Still others come to overcome a disability they may have when it comes to learning.  Joey fit into this category, but you would never know it.  When it was his turn to be interviewed, one question was asked and he proceeded to answer, but the words that came out of his mouth sounded anything like a person with a disability!

Manuel Joseph Arango (“Call me Joey”) is 68 years old, retired and now, a former student at Literacy Volunteers.  When I heard him speak, I knew he had to be my recipient of the $10 for today.  After his filming was done, I asked him if I could talk to him about something else, but knowing there was another group coming in to do filming, I asked him how long he could stick around.  He said he could hang out till noontime, and so when the filming was on a break, I went in search for Joey.

We connected and I proceeded to tell him about the Year of Giving.  “This is unbelievable,” he said as he agreed to accept the $10.  If I could describe Joey in one word, it would be eloquent.  He spoke very succinctly, but yet with passion.  He spoke with a reverence about him that made you want to hear more.  You could say he made an impression on me and he definitely surprised me.

He grew up in Hartford with parents that did not read or write, had his own learning disability and his language skills, as he put it, were deceiving.  He went to a Catholic school in Hartford and became involved in Hartford schools as a swimming instructor.  The federal government wanted to put him through a program at the University of Hartford, but due to the learning disability that he had hidden so far, he had to decline their offer.  He would have become too embarrassed if anyone were to find out!

He became a tractor-trailer driver for 35+ years among other things in his life, and retired recently.  He’s married to a woman who’s a bigger “giver” then he is, has three children, all successful and now he works part-time doing maintenance for Social Services of Manchester, CT.

He and his wife also offer cooking classes occasionally at Stonewall Kitchen in Evergreen Walk (a local shopping center) in South Windsor, CT.  Those classes fill up quickly he said as they’ve been doing them for a while and they don’t get the chance to do them that often.  I told him I hope to take his class one day!

We talked for quite a while on several topics and I wished everyone could hear him speak.  Almost all of the time though he would revert back to the Year of Giving and give a quote I just had to write down.  “The philosophy of this whole project, what we believe in life we can hold onto, there is good being done! There’s meaningful people walking right by you.” and “The element of emotion in what’s trying to be presented is larger than the element of finance”.

When asked what he would do with the $10, there was no hesitation; he said that he would pass it on.  “This is the first $10 in passing it on.  I want to commit myself to go even further.”  He said he would tell all of his recipients about the project as well as anyone else that wanted to hear.  He gets together with people from his church once a month in participating families’ homes and said he would share with them as well.  He then started naming off some friends or relatives of his that he couldn’t wait to tell about the project!

I knew I had to go back to the filming and it was time to say farewell.  He was anxious to read the blog and wanted to write about his experience as well, so Reed, I’m thinking he could be another Kindness Investor!   We said goodbye, and the last words were had by him, “You made my day.”   I couldn’t have asked for a better final recipient!

Thanks again for letting me be a Kindness Investor for a week.  It surely was a memorable one and I hope to have the ability to do it again at another time.  In the meantime, I would offer another blog called Things I’ve Learned Weekly to read.  It’s my own and I try to keep it updated every week or so with just as it sounds – things I’ve learned about, or even re-learned about, over the past week or so.  Hope you visit it!

Read Full Post »

My very first recipient: Knox

Happy New Year!

365 days ago I embarked on an amazing journey.  I didn’t know it at the time, but it would forever change my life.

When I started I had been out of work for 75 days, I was hungry for a job, at least that’s what I thought.  Looking back on it, I think I was searching for something even greater: purpose.

Sure, the first month without work is awesome.  I got loads of sleep, made it to the gym on a regular basis, read all the books that were on my list to read and made time to see friends and family.  But the second month brought with it changes.  I started waking up late and staying in bed watching television until midmorning.  Don’t get me wrong, not all of my skills were wearing away, oh no.  I was actually developing a rather impressive talent in guessing the showcase showdown price on The Price is Right!  By the way where do they get those people…I should be on this show.  Anyway, this need for a higher purpose in my life combined with my interest in philanthropy and the values my mother and father taught me as a child all collided.  I literally woke up one morning in early December with the idea of giving a different stranger a few dollars every day.

Writing the blog was a purely personal venture at first.  It quenched my thirst for a job-like activity.  Every day I would come home and write up the blog entry.  I had never blogged before and to be honest, hadn’t really followed anyone else’s either.  So I really had no idea what I was doing.

Me and mom in Rio de Janeiro in 2003.

I started on the three-year anniversary of my mother’s passing.  Possibly the kindest and most generous person I have ever known, she was a huge inspiration.  She guided me through all 365 days.

Every day was a unique adventure.  People always ask me who my favorite recipient was.  That’s like asking a parent to name their favorite child.  So many of them were special in their own way.  Whether it was someone’s personal story that touched my heart or their creative idea of what to do with the ten dollars, every person left their own unique footstep along this year’s path.  And at some point what was a personal project turned into a movement and you joined me on the journey.  That moment was magical.  I received over ten thousand emails and comments from people all around the world who said that they were inspired; whether it be by my personal commitment or by one of the stories of the year-long cast of characters I introduced them to.

December 14th always loomed deep in the distance but before I knew it the day had arrived.  I decided to host a celebration with the goal being to reunite as many of the recipients as possible and put them together in one room.  In addition to introducing them to one another, it was also an opportunity for those who had been following the journey on the blog to meet the recipients in person.

Darrold, recipient from Day 189, picks a winning raffle ticket. (photo: Michael Bonfigli)

It was bitter cold and windy on the 365th morning of the Year of Giving and my emotions were equally turbulent.  The excitement for the evening was met with a bit of sadness that this special year was coming to an end.  Sure I have some tremendous plans for 2011, but things would be different.   It’s like moving back to a place you once lived.  It’s never the same.  The magic isn’t easily created twice.

I spent all day on the 14th doing last-minute things for the event.  Thankfully my good friend Patricia Anderson had volunteered to take care of the brunt of the work and I was only left with a few minor tasks.  I ran a few errands and delegated a couple of jobs to my father.  The thing that took me the most time was editing the video that I wanted to show.  I have close to two hundred video files from the last year and I wanted to piece something together that would capture what this year meant to me.  I had never worked with video files before I started blogging and one thing that I learned is that it is a very time-consuming process.  A film editor once told me to benchmark one to two hours of work for every minute of final cut video.  I literally was editing until 10 minutes before I needed to be at Tabaq Bistro, the location of the event.  Miraculously I managed finish on time.  Click here to watch the video.

I was reunited with Knox, my very first recipient from Dec. 15, 2009. (photo: Michael Bonfigli)

I arrived and any plans I might have had for the evening were checked at the door. Events tend to just take over and you are then on autopilot for the most part.  It was very much like a wedding; lots of beautiful and emotional moments all blurred together.  Thankfully there are some great video clips by ABC-7 reporter Jay Korff and amazing photographs by Michael Bonfigli.  I encourage you to check out both of these links.

The year would not be complete however until I passed on the final installment in my $3,650 investment in kindness.  Who would it be?  There were several people at the celebration who I didn’t know, so they qualified.  But who?  People often ask me how I choose the recipients.  It’s not a science, it’s much more of an impulsive decision.  Then I remembered the dozen individuals who were volunteering their time to work the event.  I knew some of them, but there were a few unfamiliar faces.  One of them belonged to Alyson, a 25-year-old DC resident who was busy working when I pulled her aside and placed the ten-dollar bill in her hand.

The final $10 changed hands during the event when Alyson H. became recipient #365. (photo: Michael Bonfigli)

She works in congressional relations at the Peace Corps headquarters here in Washington, DC.

“I’m going to buy two raffle tickets,” Alyson told me.  Participants at the event could purchase raffle tickets for five dollars a piece for a chance to win some fantastic prizes from generous organizations and individuals (see list of sponsors) in the DC area.  All the money collected, about $2,200, is being donated to three amazing nonprofits: DC Central Kitchen, Street Sense and the Urban Philharmonic.  Each have played a special part in this year-long journey and it seemed fitting to mark this event with an act of giving back.

Unfortunately Alyson didn’t win anything in the raffle, but that wasn’t this Minnesota native’s real motivation.  She is just a giving person at heart.  In addition to her meaningful work with the Peace Corps, she takes time out of her busy schedule to do things for others.  In fact, she had recently volunteered at DC Central Kitchen.

So what now?  Well, for 2011 I have two big things planned.  First, the ten-dollar a day giving continues with other unemployed people signing up to be Kindness Investors and give a ten spot away every day for one week and then share their stories here.  It’s truly an amazing experience.  Later today you will start to get blog posts from Melinda from Xenia, OH, the first Kindness Investor for 2011.

Elijah (Day 185) made it to the event, still not wearing shirts or shoes...and it was cold! (photo: Michael Bonfigli)

The other big project I am planning is to personally volunteer once a week for the entire year.  After reflecting on the previous 12 months I realized that the most valuable part of this experience has been the interaction with others, the time I spent with the recipients.  That’s what matters, to really care about someone else and their story.  So, I am going to be volunteering my time with some great nonprofits over the coming year and sharing the stories here on the Year of Giving! I hope you will follow along and drop me a note about how you incorporate volunteering into your life.

In addition to my personal commitment, I am challenging all those who are out of work to volunteer at least one day of their time.  We currently have 15 million individuals who are out of work in the US.  If we take an arbitrary hourly salary for each of them of $20 and calculate the value of each of them spending an eight our day volunteering, it comes up to $2.4 billion.  Now the average person is unemployed for six months right now, so double that amount and you get the total potential for the US for a year.  $4.8 billion is a seismic amount.  To put that into perspective, that is more than the economy of Zimbabwe!  Or three times the economy of Belize!  And we haven’t even mentioned the benefits the individual gets from volunteering!

I also want to work with companies to get them to create programs that encourage their employees to volunteer.  Imagine what we could do if we got just 20% of the active workforce to volunteer one day a year!  Anyway, check back in the coming weeks for more on this exciting new project.

Pierre from Day 359

Everything that I have ever done that was meaningful was sad when it came to an end.  So too is this moment.  The Year of Giving is not an earth shattering idea.  As Pierre from Day 359 put it, “Probably many people have thought something similar, but the difference is that you took the initiative and did it!”  He’s right.  What is unique is the experience that I have had.  When I started this project I thought that I might potentially change the lives of a handful of people, but I never thought about how it would change me.  I am forever changed.  I look at giving differently now.  It’s contagious and it has seeped into all aspects of my life.  I look at the homeless man on the street through a new lens now.  I’ve learned that sometimes it’s more valuable to stop and ask their name and how they are doing than it is to drop a dollar into their bucket.

As I reflect on this experience, I can’t help but be reminded of some sage advice in Mitch Albom’s real-life story Tuesdays with Morrie. In the book, Morrie tells Mitch, The way you get meaning into your life is to devote yourself to loving others, devote yourself to your community around you, and devote yourself to creating something that gives you purpose and meaning.”  I did just that and today I have 365 new friends and a truly meaningful purpose in life.

It’s ironic that just when I thought I was reaching the end I’ve realized that in fact it is just the beginning!  It is truly a happy new year.  Stay tuned…

Read Full Post »

Today marks the first day of giving for our newest Kindness Investor from Seattle: Petra.   I spoke to another future Kindness Investor earlier this week.  His name is Michael B. from Connecticut and he will start his week of kindness investing on January 5th.  Slowly I am getting people to join this movement; a seven-day, seventy dollar investment that has the power to change an unemployed person’s perspective on life through kindness.  If you or someone you know are out of work and want an opportunity of a lifetime, drop me a line.

Today’s recipient is one whose story touched me tremendously.  I was in Manassas, VA visiting my good friends Thomas and Tressa.  It was their beautiful baby girl Tegan’s first birthday.  Well, I guess she already had a birthday last year…a real birth day…anyway she turned one!  While I was there I met a friend of theirs named Jen who teaches at the same school where Tressa teaches.  I decided to give her my $10.

Our conversation was quite typical at first.  We talked about her job as a high school biology teacher.  I learned about her experience volunteering in Ghana with an ophthalmologist.  “I did eye exams and distributed glasses to local communities,” she explained.  “It completely inspired me!”  It inspired her to pursue other dreams and that is why next year this 30-year-old Pittston, PA native will leave her lesson plans on photosynthesis and Mendel’s heredity research for a new career in medicine.

It’s not a surprise that Jen is going back to school when you learn that she is the faculty member that overseas homecoming, student council, prom, quiz team, etc.  Yep, she’s definitely an overachiever.  My friends tell me that she is a karaoke wiz too!  “I know the lyrics to just about any song from the late 80s and early 90s,” she says beaming.

Then I asked a question that completely changed our carefree conversation, “Are you married, do you have kids?” I asked.  There was a brief silence and she responded that she was a widow.  I offered my condolences and she explained that her husband, Army 1st Lt. Todd J. Bryant, was killed on October 31st of 2003 in Fallujah, Iraq when an improvised explosive device (IED) hit his Humvee.  The 23-year-old was assigned to Company C, 1st Battalion, 34th Armor Regiment, 1st Infantry Division at Fort Riley, Kansas.  A graduate of West Point Military Academy, Todd’s death came just 52 days after being deployed or as Jen put it to a journalist once, “55 letters later.”  “And we were married just ten days before he deployed,” she told me managing to keep her composure.

She shared with me the moment that she learned the news.  “I was teaching at my school,” she began to say, “when I was visited by an Army general and chaplain…”

I was speechless.  I just wanted to give her a big hug.  In a matter of minutes I felt like I knew Jen for years rather than the handful of minutes we had actually spent talking to each other.  And although I never met Todd, I can assure you that he was nothing less than extraordinary.

I have to be honest I couldn’t stop thinking about Todd when I got home later that evening.  I had so many questions and turned to the Internet to find out more.  He quickly becomes more than a casualty of war but a bright young man who liked In-n-Out burgers and making people laugh, who dreamed of raising a family with his soul mate and pursuing a career in government where he could effect real change in our country.  He was a husband, a son, a brother and a friend.  He would have been my friend.

There were also comments from those who never knew Todd but reached out to pay their respects to a family that understood the meaning of  service.  Todd’s parents were former military officers and his brother Tim is currently a Lt. Col in the U.S. Marine Corps serving in the Marine Expeditionary Unit  and sister Tiffany, a 2000 graduate of West Point herself, served as a Captain in the Army before becoming a teacher.

You’ll even find a hard to put down book entitled In the Time of War by Bill Murphy, Jr. that focuses on Todd and his fellow graduating class from West Point.  I got the book and have read several chapters already.   It has several heartfelt excerpts of letters that Jen wrote to her husband and Todd’s farewell letter to Jen.  I can’t remember the last time I cried from reading a book.

It was fitting I thought that she decided to use the ten dollars to buy items for a care package that the student council members at her school were preparing to send to troops stationed overseas for the holidays.

Todd J. Bryant 1/14/80 - 10/31/03

We live far away from places like Fallujah, Iraq and Helmand Province, Afghanistan and sometimes we take for granted the sacrifices our brothers and sisters in uniform make for us.  I dedicate this blog post to the memory of Todd Bryant and encourage you to take a moment of silence right now and pay your respects to Todd and all of those who have lost their lives serving their respective countries.

Read Full Post »

Jim has been homeless for more than three years.

So many of the 365 people that I have met have touched my soul.  They have made me think about things that I would have never had the perspective to ponder prior to taking this walk.  Jim, a 52-year-old homeless resident of Washington, DC, invited me into his world for a while.  Will you join me?

It was an abnormally warm November 30th.  Puddles filled the streets and sidewalks as water droplets still fell from rain covered tree branches from the late afternoon showers.  Tucked under a small awning in front of what used to be the Riggs Bank in DC – now PNC – was Jim.  His head didn’t move much at first when I called out to him, rather his eyes abandoned the crossword on his lap and found their way to mine.  He sat up a little bit, plucked the earphones away from his ears and offered me a dry piece of real estate next to him.

Mostly homeless since 2007 he credits not being able to find work as the cause of his current lack of regular indoor housing.  The biggest challenge he faces being homeless is not the cold or the danger, but finding a place to store his personal items.  “I lost all of my belongings…twice!”  He once tried to hide his things in Rock Creek Park only to find them gone when he came back.  “There needs to be some type of lockers downtown where to store things in,” he says, “I’d be happy to pay a reasonable fee for such a service.”

It’s a different paradigm living on the streets.  You become more in tune with some things.  “The saddest people out here are the schizophrenics,” Jim says.  “They don’t access all the resources that are available for them and they can’t keep schedules.”  We touched on a variety of levels of mental illness and I jotted down one of the things he said that caught my attention: “There is a certain charm that mildly psychotic people have.”

He told me about an “ex street boyfriend” he had.  “He once stole some ugly sunglasses and some eye cream; only a gay homeless guy steals eye cream!” he said appreciating the humor.

The air occasionally brought a chill with it and Jim slipped a blue knit hat over his head.  With the Express newspaper still in his lap he says, “If a crossword is too hard it gets to be like work and if it’s work, I expect to get paid!”  We laughed together.  Speaking of work, Jim did recently get a job at a Cosi for about a week.  “It was just not for me,” he said shaking his head slowly and watching some young people walk by probably on their way to a nearby coffee shop or bar.  “I felt like I had hundreds of managers telling me what to do.”

We must have sat there for about 90 minutes.  I shot some video that I have included here of Jim talking about where he is from, about being homeless, suffering from depression and finally he took me on a short field trip over to the Marvelous Market to do some dumpster diving.  His compassion and charisma impacted me a great deal. Check it out.

Jim plans to use my $10 to get some coffee and maybe a snack in the morning at Books-A-Million.  “I’ve been wanting to read God of Small Things,” he says about Arundhati Roy’s Booker Prize winning novel.  “It appears to be a rich fictional piece that I might just end up getting lost in.”

I asked someone walking by to take our photo.

Through my conversation with Jim I learned that he knows Bill C. and Tommy N. who I gave $10 to earlier in the year.  As a final note, I have stopped by and left some food for Jim when I have seen him sleeping at his spot.  He also joined me at the Year-End Celebration which meant a lot to me!  Do check out the Lend a Hand initiative to see a couple of very simple things that you could get to help Jim out.

Read Full Post »

I invited Bob to a coffee at a nearby coffee shop so Bob could sit down and rest his back. (photo: Reed)

I originally walked right by Bob who was holding himself up by leaning against a pole and supporting the rest of his weight with a walker at the corner of Connecticut Avenue and R Street.  I crossed the street but couldn’t stop thinking about what his story was.  I turned around and went back and placed ten dollars in his hand.

“I’ve got a bad lower back which is inoperable,” Bob shared.  “I fell down a flight of stairs in 1977…each year it gets worse.”  There was something special about Bob, I don’t know if I knew exactly what it was immediately but I did perceive something really unique.  I have to admit that when I first walked by him I assumed that he was panhandling to get some money to buy booze.  But I would soon find out that he has been sober for nearly 25 years.

Part of me doesn’t want to write anymore and just tell you to watch the video I shot of him.  It’s one of the most moving videos I have shot of any of the people that I have met.  Bob opens up to me about being adopted, an upbringing void of love, 30 years of addiction to alcohol and a slew of drugs, family hardships and 20 nervous breakdowns.  His vulnerability and genuine candor will touch you.  I have watched this video probably a dozen times and forced my dad to watch it this weekend.  He too was in awe.

Bob tells me that he has good days and bad days.  Sometimes he spends weeks at a time in a depressed state.  I definitely caught Bob on a good day.  No less than six people stopped by, I kid you not, and said hello to Bob while we chatted.  Two or three of them made a specific comment about how happy he looked.  I’d like to think I was a part of that, but he might just have been having a good day.  If you were curious how many people stopped to say hello to the guy who gives away $10 every day…that number would be zero!

Ruth is Bob's birth mother. Ann was the mother who raised him. Bob would like to know what happened to his birth mother Ruth Lucas (photo: Reed)

He goes into a lot of detail about drug induced binges he embarked on in the 60s and 70s.  “I just wanted to drink, shoot dope and have a little sex occasionally,” he told one psychologist in the early days of his recovery attempts.  After dozens of failed attempts at sobriety he finally succeeded with the help of others and will be celebrating 24 years of sobriety on October 16th of this year.  I asked him if I could see him on that day and he said that that would probably be OK.  “So what’s the secret to finally beating the addiction,” I asked.  Bob looked down for a second and then looked up and said, “Well, you just have to do two simple things: stop drinking and change your whole fucking life!”  He managed a smile and laughed softly despite him realizing the bitter and all too familiar truth of what he had just said.
At one point a stunningly beautiful young woman stopped by and said hello to Bob.  “Are you going to play piano tonight?” she asked referring to an open mic session at an outreach ministry based coffee-house.  She had hoped that maybe he would play some music that she was going to bring but Bob said he didn’t feel comfortable doing that.  “I just know a few notes,” he humbly offered.  “I was hoping to play a song tonight that I wrote.  It’s a love song I wrote to my daughter.  I love her so much.”  He went on to tell me more about his daughter and it was so clear how much he loves and cares for her.  He lives in the basement of her house but their relationship is clearly strained.  He says that she has an alcohol addiction.  “There is always hope, look at me.  It took me 30 years though.”

I spent almost two hours with Bob.  I learned so much and every topic we spoke about he had something interesting to contribute.  I am so impressed with his overall attitude toward life.  “Desire nothing and you will have everything,” he says referencing the teachings of St. John of the Cross.  “Buddha said something similar, ‘Human desires are the cause of all human sufferings.’”

I caught a rare smile. Bob will use my $10 to help pay his rent. (photo: Reed)

I hope that you took the time to watch the video above.  It’s worth it and if you know anyone who is struggling with an addiction or even well into recovery I think they will find it very insightful.  One thing he says about recovery at the end of the video clip that I think is priceless is, “It takes time and a lot of alcoholics don’t want to wait.  It takes time, it’s a process, recovery is a process.  They want what they want when they want it.  They want it right now. They want 15 years of recovery in a month.  It doesn’t work that way.  You got to be patient.”

As we said goodbye he left me with a single thought.  “Tell someone today that you love them.”  Invaluable advice.

Read Full Post »

I am so excited for you to meet today’s recipient.  Her name is Charlotte.  She is 93, born and raised in New Orleans, LA.  I had the pleasure of meeting her as she and her sister enjoyed a gorgeous afternoon view of the harbor in Annapolis, MD.

People always ask me how I select the people that I give to.  I wish I had some really good answer, but it’s much more of a spur of the moment decision than any type of scientific process.  On this day I could have given my $10 to several other people.  I could have given it to a struggling Naval Academy plebe that I had seen that day carry boxes…

At the Naval Academy the plebes were tirelessly carrying boxes all over campus. Some looked near exhaustion. (photo: Reed)

Or these young kids that were patrolling the harbor…

It wasn't until the boat got closer that I realized that they were kids and we were not being attacked. (photo: Reed)

I even tried to give the $10 to Alex Haley…

Me trying to give my $10 to Alex Haley, award-winning author of Roots. (photo: Reed)

Or this guy playing guitar…

A busker playing some music steps from the pier. (photo: Reed)

But in the end I chose the right person…

I hope that I have half of Charlotte's energy, humor and joie de vivre when I am 93! (photo: Reed)

I saw Charlotte sitting on a bench with Jewell, the youngest of her five siblings.  I immediately knew that I wanted to give her my $10 for the day.  She looked so happy and relaxed sitting there watching the sail boats glide by.  You would have never known that she had gotten up early and flown 1,100 miles from New Orleans earlier that day.

I introduced myself and Jewell, who lives nearby, told me that she had heard about the Year of Giving.  The ladies invited me to sit down and we chatted for probably 45 minutes.  The proud mother of ten children, Charlotte shared her entire family with me.  There was the ordained priest, the Jesuit brother, the daughter that lives on a boat, Tommy who moved to Houston many years ago, Charlotte who they call “Suzie”, the son who lived in Pohnpei in the SE Asian Caroline Islands, her 6th, 7th and 8th children who were all boys, and the youngest two who were girls.  Although her first five children didn’t have children the other five combined to have 12 grandchildren and seven great-grandchildren.  

Jewell, Reed, Charlotte (photo: M. Legrain)

Charlotte graduated high school at 16 and went to Normal school to become a teacher and began teaching in the New Orleans public school system in the mid thirties at the age of 18.  But it was one summer that she was studying at Loyola that she met the man who ended up being her husband.  “My friend Charlie introduced me to him.  He lived over on Bank Street.”  She told me how things were different back then and they used to go out more in groups as friends rather than couples.  “I had decided that I was going to start dating someone else, but then my husband asked me out for every Saturday night for the next year!”  That’s a pretty good strategy.  Unfortunately he died in 1978 after 40 years of marriage.

The sun began to lower in the sky slightly and I could feel my neck starting to get burned.  Charlotte seemed comfortable though.  She came prepared with a beautiful scarf that not only protected her skin from the sun but also matched her earrings and necklace.  The hot sun might have had a slight influence on her decision to get some ice cream with the $10.

Travel seemed to be something that she really enjoyed.  “I’ve been to France, Spain, Portugal, Mexico, Australia, New Zealand, Belize, Thailand, Hong Kong – come to think of it I left a bathing suit in Hong Kong,” she said making us all laugh.  She also made several trips to the Pacific to visit her son who lived in the Caroline Islands.  He had gone there initially as part of a mission and ended up running an agriculture school. 

Mmmmm...Central Grocery's Muffuletta

No matter where she has traveled, she always ends up back in New Orleans.  “You can get just about the best food in the world in Nawlins,” according to Charlotte.  I have to admit, some of my favorite meals have been there.  From the turtle soup at Commander’s Palace to fried green tomatoes from Jacques-Imo’s Café to the world’s best muffuletta sandwich at Central Grocery, it’s a food lover’s paradise.  By the way, how do you spell muffuletta…I have seen it this way and also muffulatta and muffalata…but it doesn’t seem consistent.  Anyway, even the coffee at Café du Monde is pretty extraordinary – or maybe it’s the side order of beignets that makes the coffee so delicious!  “Maspero’s Café also makes a good muffuletta sandwich,” according to Charlotte.  I will have to add that place to my list.

About this time Charlotte looked at me and said, “You know the more I think about this I think I have heard about what you are doing on the news in New Orleans.”  There was a short pause and she thought for a second, “But I remember thinking when I heard about it, ‘that’s never gonna happen to me!’” 

We laughed a lot. From L-R, Charlotte, Jewell and Jewell's husband. (photo: Reed)

Jewell’s husband arrived and took a seat next to his wife.  “I made ten dollars while you were gone,” Charlotte quipped. 

I had so many other questions in my head for Charlotte.  She was such a wonderful woman, but they needed to get going.  She doesn’t use email so she game me her home address.  I plan to send her a letter with this blog posting printed out.  I told her that I was going to look her up the next time I was in New Orleans.  She smiled and said that that would be nice.  She’s avid bridge player and I’m looking forward to having her as my bridge partner. 

The three turned their backs to the sail boats and the glimmering water and Charlotte steadied herself behind her walker.  I watched them fade toward the center of picturesque Annapolis. 

What amazing people I meet!

Read Full Post »

Rigatoni with “Sunday gravy” at Potenza. (Photo: Scott Suchman)

I recently had the chance to meet with some friends that were visiting from Toronto.  We decided to meet for dinner with another friend of ours who lives in DC at a relatively new Italian restaurant called Potenza that is just a block or two from the White House.  The food was good.  They are known for their oval pizzas, but none of us ordered pizza.

After dinner, I decided to walk around the neighborhood downtown and see if I could find a recipient for my $10.  I walked for about 20 minutes, not really seeing anyone that I felt was right, until I spotted Valerie.  And boy was I ever right.  This one is amazing, wait until you see the video!

It was about 10:30pm and Valerie was carrying three bags and walking with a pronounced limp north on 11th Street.  When she got to H Street I gathered the courage to stop her and ask her to accept my $10.  The 55-year-old mother of four, grandmother of 12, told me she liked what I was doing but preferred not to participate.  She put her bags down and we started to talk.  I wasn’t going to let her get away!

Washington, DC, April 5, 1968 (photo: unknown)

She told me that she was born here in the nation’s capital.  Valerie remembers the riots that erupted in Washington after the 1968 assassination of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.  “They burnt down this jewelry store over on H and 8th Streets in Northeast.  There was a black man walking around where the jewelry store used to be throwing diamonds up in the air!”  Things are better now though she says.

She talks to me about her 89-year-old mother.  “She moved here from Ohio and she’s still here.  Sharp and in good health.”  I bet she is a good woman because she certainly raised a good woman. 

Valerie was on her way home from work where she cleans offices.  “Where were you when I needed you…when I was broke!” she says.  Her laughter quickly subsides and she goes back to telling me that I should just give it to somebody else.  We go back and forth on this and she says, I could use it to take a cab home instead of a bus, but I can’t do that.  I asked her why not and she said, “I need [the ten dollars], but I don’t need that bad.” 

There was a point when I thought that I had convinced her to take the money.  Then she really started getting anxious, almost panicking a little bit.  Her eyes darted back and forth behind her large frame glasses sweeping the streets for someone to give it to.  She just wanted to get rid of it as fast as possible so she wasn’t tempted to use it on herself. 

Well, take a look at what happens when she finds who she is going to give it to and then gives it to them right before my eyes!  Her face lights up so much when she decides what to do with it, it’s great.  Check it out!

I waited with Valerie until her bus came.  The S2 pulled up and she got on and headed toward her home in Southeast.

Wow…what a great night.  I only wish she would have given me her contact information so that I could keep in touch with her and make sure she comes to the year-end celebration in December!  If anyone knows her, let me know.

Read Full Post »

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 322 other followers