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Posts Tagged ‘stories’

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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This blog post is by Petra, a Kindness Investor from Seattle, WA.

Solana in front of wooden wall art carving.

It’s a bit intimidating writing a story about a professional story-teller. But the truth is, as soon as Solana has her baby girl – which is any day now – and is back doing what she loves to do, I will be front and center, mesmerized by her gift of telling tales that are grand and important.

Daybreak Star Indian Cultural Center occupies 20 acres on an extraordinary location in Seattle’s largest park – Discovery Park – located in the neighborhood of Magnolia just north of the city.  The structure itself was built in 1977 and hosts a wealth of original Northwest Native American art.  The center is part of the United Indians of All Tribes Foundation and is a major gathering place for cultural activities and events from business meetings to powwows to weddings. This borough within a park within a city has a dramatic view of Puget Sound and the Olympic Mountains. And Solana enjoys that perk whenever she has a moment to look up from her job as the center’s go-to person for all things regarding prenatal/Headstart programs and Operations. It even says so on her business card.

This exquisite 30-year-old woman, whose own Native American Indian ancestry is both Lushoolsled and Kostalish, has been an integral part of Daybreak for 10 years.  She began as a lead teacher and then spread her wings into other education related horizons – and of course – storytelling. The center’s Headstart program embraces 108 children – 42 are Native American. The other 66 kids complete the tapestry, coming from an eclectic, precious mixture of cultural backgrounds: East African, Spanish, Caucasian, Black, Asian and more. Suddenly I wanted to be a kid in the Headstart program at Daybreak!

Painting at Daybreak Star Indian Cultural Center

Solana is already a mother of two girls – one is old enough to understand the value of becoming positively involved in the lives of those less fortunate. They spend holidays and other occasions helping those in need at various locations throughout the city where homeless people gather. It’s something Solana knows all too well. She was homeless for two of her teenage years.

Then, immediately out of high school, Solana began her storytelling career which she now weaves into curriculum for schools and programs to enhance mental health. Currently she is devoting much of her own education to Chief Dan George who she reports is a major influence in her life and also paramount in her mother’s lineage. I suspect Chief Dan George will also occupy prime real estate in Solana’s storytelling nation.

As for the big question: What is the baby’s name? Oh, no. That was my question. As for the other big question – what will she do with her $10?

Artwork of Native American leaders at Daybreak Star Indian Cultural Center

“I don’t know yet. I find that I am constantly giving. I keep small packages of food in my car in case we meet someone who is hungry. I have change for those who need some money.”

“I’m going to hang on to it until the moment is right. I’ll know. My daughter and I will know when it’s the right time to pass this gift on to someone who could really use it.”

“You know this giving thing is contagious!”

I LOL’d and exclaimed “That’s what I keep saying!”

Solana has a Website which houses the details of her work and the importance of keeping the oral history of Native American Indians of all Tribes alive. Although it’s “down” for the moment, she hopes that after her baby girl is born, she’ll have time to tend to it again – it and the million other selfless acts of love which Solana demonstrates every day.

View of Puget Sound from the Daybreak Star Indian Cultural Center

Spring is around the corner and Daybreak is around the bend. Me thinks I’ll be spending more time with my new friend and mentor when she returns to Daybreak Star with her girls in tow. What fun it will be to sit on the grass, watch the birds, water, and mountains – just like Native American Indians of the great Pacific Northwest have done for centuries.

..and then she’ll tell me a story!

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Merry Christmas!

Today is a day that we easily associate with giving; a day that we give gifts to our family members and friends as a symbol of our love and friendship.  As we approach a new year, let’s all make a commitment to think more about ways in which we can give to our family, friends and community.

Richard (left) and Paul (day 335) brave the cold to smoke a cigarette.

On Day 357 I was walking north on Connecticut Avenue when I passed a guy who looked just like Paul from Day 335.  Paul was the bike messenger who I met and then couldn’t find any of my notes from meeting him; not even his email or phone number.  Well, would you believe it, it was him!  Yes!  I found him.

He was standing outside a custom framing shop with his buddy Richard who works there.  The three of us chatted for a while and then I decided to give my $10 for the day to Richard.  He proved to be an interesting character!

“I like to make films,” he tells me taking a drag off of a cigarette in the subzero December afternoon.  “I’m doing a commercial for a record label now, but I’ve done some shorts and music videos too,” he adds.  He’s even recently bought an 8mm camera which he was eager to tell me about.

Now I’ve got to tell you that after yesterday’s recipient told me about his fetish to use heart monitors during sex I thought I had to ask Richard if there was anything interesting or unique about him.  I mean, after you hear about the heart monitor thing you can’t pass up the opportunity to top it.

Well, Richard’s answer doesn’t disappoint!  “I’ve been arrested twice within a five-day period in two different cities,” he says.  It turns out that he was traveling through Oklahoma City when he found himself in a supermarket and was arrested for shoplifting.  “I had some tea in my pocket which was actually mine, but they thought that I had stolen it,” Richard says.  He goes on to tell me that he had some cheese in his pocket as well.  “I’m not sure about the cheese though,” he confesses.  “That might not have been mine.”  As a result he was charged with larceny, got to spend 24 hours in an Oklahoma City jail and wear a bright-colored jump suit!  “All in all I probably spent $500 on that tea and cheese!”  Incidentally he said it was probably about a dollar’s worth of cheese.

Three days later Richard was leaving the South by Southwest Conference and Festival and driving through Brenham, TX when an officer of the law pulled the van over that he and his friends were traveling in.  “He pulled us over for a broken tail light,” he says, “but we ended up being detained for two hours while they searched the car and found a joint on one of the other guys.  So they brought us all down to the station.”  Well, the officer didn’t finish the paperwork and they had to spend the night in the jail.  “We somehow ended up in there for 36 hours.”    He smiled and said, “It’s bad man when you’re getting booked by some 18-year-old cop who is bitching and moaning about his prom.”  That being said, the Texas facility was apparently a lot better than the jail in Oklahoma City.  Their bail bondsman even brought them pizza when they got out of jail.

“So a few months later,” Richard goes on to tell me, “I traveled back down to Brenham to appear in court but at the last minute it was decided that we didn’t even have to appear!”

Richard said he was going to hold on to the $10 for now.  I thought he might be saving it for future bail money, but he advised me that it would be put toward some studio recording fees.  “I play the guitar and bass and am planning to get into the studio in January.”

I said goodbye to Richard and Paul and told them about the Year of Giving Anniversary Celebration.  They said they would try to make it but I didn’t see them there unfortunately.

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

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

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

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

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

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

Armando cleaning some lenses.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Rain drops on the metallic chairs on Love Cafe's patio. (photo: Reed)

I don’t know why I carried my umbrella over to U Street with me; I didn’t use it to ward off the drizzle that fell as I dodged puddles along the uneven sidewalk.  I ducked in to Cake Love’s Café on the corner of 15th and U Streets.  I think its actual name is Love Café…according to the young Latina behind the counter it opened seven years ago…a year after the original bakery opened in 2002.  It’s a cozy little place with a spectacular corner view perfect for people watching.

Gerald with the original Cake Love in the background. (photo: Reed)

I met Gerald there. When he came in he said, “That’s where I usually sit…it’s got a great view.”  Gerald tells me that he lives across the street which turns out to be the same building that Almena from Day 21 lived in.

This is one of those encounters that I don’t even know where to begin.  We spoke for hours.  Gerald is a character too.  Some of the stories sound too sensational to be true but he swears by them; from being born in Freedmen Hospital (forerunner to Howard University Hospital) in 1943 to looting liquor stores during the riots of 1968 to inheriting a million dollars from his step-father. 

Gerald grew up living on Columbia Road around 12th Street.  “There was only one white person on my entire block back then,” he said. 

7th Street post MLK Assassination riots in DC in 1968.

During the riots Gerald said he was working at the Post Office.  On the day the riots started he was taking a test at the Watergate building.  He got home and painted “Black Power” on the side of his 1961 Dodge Polaris and headed out into the city.  “I didn’t have any prior riot experience, so I didn’t exactly know what to do,” he said.  He decided to go over to the People’s Drug Store and crossed the line of National Guard soldiers and stepped through the broken glass of the front door.  The store had already been heavily looted but he remembers thinking about taking a watch he saw inside, but didn’t. 

Gerald displays his $10 purchase. (photo: Reed)

Armed with a .357 Magnum he went down to Central Liquors at 9th and F Streets and then headed over to another liquor store on U Street.  All in all he says he took more than 22 ½ gallon bottles of top shelf liquor.  “I had two years worth of liquor!” 

Years later he got a job with IBM.  Now to appreciate this you got to understand that he was making about $6,100 a year at the post office and then was offered a $15,000 salary plus bonus at IBM.  The next couple years he made a lot of money and bought lots of material goods…namely cars. 

At some point the good times ended.  He divorced.  He lost his job.  He lost several houses that he owned and said he was even homeless at one point.  Now he lives in a very modest low-income housing complex.

I wish there was some way to bottle the loquacious couple of hours we spoke and serve it up here, but you just had to be there.  Before I left I asked him one last time if he knew what he would do with the $10.  He decided to go next door to the picturesque Best DC Supermarket and purchase a bottle of Dogfish Head Brewery’s Miles Davis Bitches Brew.  I walked over with him and even spotted him an extra buck to pay for it.

We exchanged numbers and he walked back to his apartment and I went the opposite way toward my place.

So something funny is that he put my number in his phone but never added my name.  Over the next week he called me about six times thinking I was somebody else or maybe he was just hoping that I would be giving another $10 away!

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American flags welcome the cars as they come around for the start of the race. (photo: Reed)

In the US, NASCAR is second only to the NFL in terms of televised audience for sporting events.  It claims 75 million fans who purchase over $3 billion in annual licensed product sales making it one of the most brand-loyal organizations in the world.  So when my friends Tom and Tressa invited me to go to the Sprint Cup Series NASCAR event in Richmond on September 11th, I couldn’t say no.

Here is something I found amazing.  Compare Football to NASCAR.  When my buddy Chris invites me to a Washington Redskins game I feel like owner Dan Snyder is always trying to get more money out of me some way.  As if the $75 ticket I paid wasn’t enough.  Ok, I’ll be honest.  I don’t think my Chris, who has season tickets to the Redskins, has ever accepted a dime for the tickets he gives me, however, I am sure he’s paying Mr. Snyder.  They charge $50 and up for parking, beers are $8, a sandwich is $10, there’s even been talk about making fans pay to tailgate!  In contrast, NASCAR, which was started by Bill France in 1948 and still family owned, has a different approach.  Perhaps this is what makes their fans so loyal.  When we arrived at the Richmond International Raceway in Henrico County, VA, parking was free!  What’s more, you were allowed to bring your own food and beverages into the stadium.  Heck, the only other thing you really need to buy while you are there are earplugs.  And those are provided at the track by the Boy Scouts in exchange for a donation.  

From left to right, Josh, Roger, John, Turner and Jim (photo: Reed)

Anyway, speaking of food and beverages, we decided to do a little cookout prior to the race.  A few cars away I spotted a group of five guys enjoying a few beers and laughs and wandered over there to find a recipient for my $10.

Instead of splitting the $10 five ways they choose for Roger, the president of a commercial real estate construction company in West Virginia, to receive the money.  I later found out that the five men didn’t know each other before the race.  Roger was there with a colleague of his, Josh.  The two of them met John and Turner there tailgating.  Jim wandered by at some point and made friends as well.  It’s amazing what a little Budweiser and 45 cars speeding around in a circle can do to bring grown men together.

Roger said he was rooting for the #88 car, Dale Earnhardt Jr.  Turner favored the FedEx car driven by Denny Hamlin.  Jim worked for Ford for many years but said he was a fan of Chevrolet’s cars.  None of them appeared to be die-hard fans of any one particular driver, just fans of NASCAR.

Roger told me some crazy stories about him having a condition he called “sleep terror.”  I looked it up and found it to be more commonly called night terror, or pavor nocturnus, which according to Wikipedia is a parasomnia disorder that causes people to wake up abruptly from their sleep.  This is often accompanied by gasping, moaning or screaming while they are waking.  It is often nearly impossible to fully awaken a person experiencing a night terror so most individuals end up settling back into deep sleep and have no recollection of the episode.

Roger told me about a time when he was 17 and his parents finally woke him up in the middle of the night after they heard noises coming from the kitchen and found him there alone with a kitchen knife.  “I thought I had a tick,” he told me.  “I was trying to get it out.”  Luckily his parents were able to wake him up and nobody was injured.  Think this sounds crazy, check out two other stories Roger shared with me.  I also included a short scene from the race…its hard to appreciate the speed and noise on video, but trust me they’re moving fast and it’s deafening!

Now it sounds to me like some of his sleep terror could be a result of the 12-packs of beer that are involved.  Who knows? :)

I asked Roger what he was going to do with the $10 and he said he was going get something for his kids.  “I’ve got one that is eight and the other is ten,” he told me as he tucked the bill away in his wallet. 

Before leaving he told me that he thought of something that I could put on the Lend a Hand section.  “I’d like my friend Josh here to get a chance at singing country music,” he said of his colleague who had joined him for the race.  Josh enjoys singing but was a little shy at the moment to belt out some tunes in the middle of the beer drenched field.

Roger's favorite, Dale Earnhardt Jr., finished 34th at Richmond. (photo: Reed)

It was getting close to race time so we said our goodbyes and headed over to the track.  I admit that I don’t know the first thing about NASCAR or any motor racing sport for that matter.  I mean it took me a while to realize that former football coach Jimmy Johnson wasn’t driving the #48 car.  That would be Jimmie Johnson, a difference of about 30 years and 50 pounds.  It would have been impressive though had it been him.  And hey, you can’t fault me too much thinking that with all the talk about Joe Gibbs’ racing team.  Speaking of which, the Gibbs team went on to take first and second place in that night’s race.  First place went to Turner’s pick, Denny Hamlin in the #11 car.  His teammate, Kyle Busch, finished second in the #18 car.  As for Roger’s hopeful, Dale Jr., he finished a disappointing 34th.

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Today I met with Danny Harris, the talented journalist and photographer behind the blog People’s District

Keeping with the style and format of how Danny journals the stories of the people that he meets, today’s entry is composed of Danny’s own words transcribed from our conversation.

“People’s District started because I wanted to meet the people I saw every day, but never stopped to introduce myself to: the crossing guard I saw every morning, the homeless guy on my corner, my grocer, people like that. Oddly, approaching someone with a camera and dictaphone made asking, ‘So, what’s your story?’ somewhat less threatening than not having those tools. From there, it grew into a broader collection of stories about D.C. What I think makes People’s District unique is that you have people of all different wards, backgrounds, races, ages, and perspectives telling stories that take place in/around/about/because of our shared city. That brings in this familiarity, so no matter what neighborhood you live in, you can feel a connection.Maybe you have never been to that area, but it is only a few metro stops away from where you live. This city is only 68 square miles, which makes us all neighbors.”

“One of the hard parts is telling someone’s story in only three to six paragraphs. Some of my conversations with people last hours. I just do my best to capture the spirit of someone and share what they assess is the best/worst thing about the city. My goal is to simply add texture to the people and neighborhoods we see, or maybe don’t see, every day. In this city, you may spend more time seeing your bus driver or your dry cleaner than you see your parents and siblings. We see these people every day, we might as well ask what their name is, where they’re from, what their story is, how their day is going?” 

“Through People’s District, I have been fortunate to have some pretty incredible experiences. There was this one woman who I met on North Capitol Street. I told her what I was doing and she said, ‘Oh my God. This is amazing, I got a story that you will never believe.’  And she proceeded for an hour to tell me this story about how she was a hustler and a gambler and got shot on the streets because her twin sister was disrespected. It was all over a petty matter that resulted in guns being pulled and eventually this girl, Twin, getting shot about six times in Southeast. Every time I think the story is over, she says, ‘But that’s not even the craziest part. And then we went to the hospital and they don’t want to treat me. And then the cops come and they ask me who shot me and I didn’t tell them because of the street code.’  At the end of her story she said, ‘I’ve never told anyone about this story outside of my friends and family and for some reason, I just felt like telling you…like some reason the spirit moved me to tell you today.’ It was very powerful for me that this stranger opened up and told me this really personal and emotional story. I feel so privileged that I get to spend my days talking with incredible people across this city who have such amazing stories. Whether they are a politician or a dominatrix or a janitor, everyone has a unique perspective on this city. I hope that through sharing such stories, readers will be encouraged to approach those they see every day and ask, ‘So, what’s your story?'”

Watch the following video to find out more about People’s District and what Danny plans to do with the $10!

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