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Posts Tagged ‘work’

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

For over a year now,  I’ve often seen a gentleman with the lower right half of his leg missing asking for money, sitting on a triangular-shaped esplanade on a side street just off the freeway.  I’ve waved to him and said hello, but never have gift cards on me to give him.  I decided after I became a Kindness Investor, he would be one of my investments, but I haven’t seen him all week.

Today I got in the car – Jack in the passenger seat – and went to find him.  I had little hope, since it’s raining outside, but I had to give it another shot.

I have mixed feelings about giving handouts to people on the street.  They’re obviously in need of help on several levels, and I’m more than willing to help them out with food. In memory of my father, I give street people gift cards to nearby restaurants, so I know they’re getting one or two good meals and the money isn’t going to alcohol or drugs (if they don’t sell the cards).  But do our donations really help them?  Do the gift cards and loose change keep them on the street, hoping for more, instead of seeking permanent shelter and medical assistance?  I don’t want to be an enabler on any level.  Anyway…

As I turned off the feeder, the triangular esplanade was, once again, empty.  I felt relieved that the gentleman wasn’t sitting out there in the rain.  I parked in Starbuck’s parking lot to see if he was seeking shade somewhere in the little shopping strip, when I spotted three men huddled close together under an overhang in front of one of the shops.  My guy wasn’t among them, but I felt drawn to them nonetheless.

“What do you think, Jack, will one of these guys be my next investment?” Jack looked at me, licked his lips and gave me a big, happy, toothy grin, so I took that as a sign to “man up” and go meet them.  Please note that I never would have approached strangers in such a situation otherwise, but Jack is an excellent guard dog and his size generally keeps people at a distance anyway.

I drove up to where the three were standing, rolled down my window and asked if one of them was interested in helping me with a kindness project for $10.  They looked at each other and laughed, two of them pointing to one, pushing him towards the car.  They were speaking too quickly in Spanish for me to follow, but were apparently encouraging the third to talk to me.

The elected member walked towards me, looking around; more wary of me than I was of them.  “Yes, ma’am? You have a project?” he asked with a strong Spanish accent.

“Do you speak English?” I asked.  “Yes, ma’am.  Very good English,” he replied.

In a combination of Spanish and English, I told him about the Year of Giving project, my unemployment and my week as a Kindness Investor.   “Do you want this $10 bill as my kindness investment for today?”

He looked a little skeptical, turned to see where his companions were, then back to me.  “And what you want for this?”

“Tell me about yourself – whatever you want, where you’re from, about your family, the kind of work you do, what brought you here today.  How will you spend the $10 – will you save it, give it to someone, buy something?”  And, finally, “Do you have a wish you want someone to help you with?  Esta bien?”

“Si, si,” he nodded his head in agreement as I handed him my card with the $10 bill tied to it.  He briefly scanned the card and put it in his pocket.  I asked if he’d like to go to Starbuck’s to sit down and he said no, that he didn’t want to miss “the truck.”

He said his name is Edmund; “Mundo”, for short, and he is 20 years old.  He was at the strip center with his brother and cousin waiting for a truck to pick them up for a job.  I asked if he had other family here and he said his parents, brothers and sisters are in Nuevo Leon, Mexico.  “No wife, no children?” I asked.  “No,” he laughed.  “Too young.”   There is a girl in Mexico he likes, “but she doesn’t know it yet,” he added.  “Maybe one day I will take her on a date.”  In the meantime, he spends most of his days finding work with his brother and cousin, watching TV and practicing his English.  He goes to church if he’s not working, calls home often and misses his family very much.

Mundo said he will probably send then $10 to his family in Mexico.  He doesn’t have a computer, but knows someone who will help him look up the Year of Giving website, so he can see his story.  His greatest wish is to make enough money to take care of his family, and for prayers to keep the jobs coming.

About that time, someone in a white truck pulled up and honked the horn.  “Must go now. Thank you for your kindness loan,” he said smiling, as he waved his compadres over and sprinted towards the truck.

I didn’t ask if the three of them are in the US illegally, but I suspect they are.  Mundo did not want me to take his picture, so I just took one of the shopping center where they had been standing.  He told me he doesn’t have contact information and didn’t want to give me his address, but offered that he lives in an apartment in the area, “with others from Mexico.”

Mundo, if you get a chance to see this, I am praying for you and your family. I am very proud of you for learning English, which you speak and understand muy bien.  And I hope you decide to use the $10 for a date with the beautiful senorita back home, soon. If you are here illegally, I encourage you to return home and go through the immigration process to live and work in the US legally, just as my great-great-grandparents from Germany and Czechoslovakia did two centuries ago, and as my husband’s parents from the Netherlands Antilles did 52 years ago.  Secure borders are critical for our nation’s safety and I would hate to see you hurt or worse crossing the border illegally.

Que tengas buena suerte, mi amigo!  Good luck, my friend. Be safe.

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After 21 years with US Steel, drugs and alcohol have left Michael homeless. (photo: Reed)

In the early hours of October 5th I had just given my money to Alexander and Phaze.  I was talking to Alexander and getting my things together to leave because it was about 1:00am and I had to be at work in a few hours. Right then a guy pulled up on a Trek bicycle.  My initial thought was that the bike might have been stolen since it was missing the seat.  In a soft voice he approached me and said, “You want the real story?” He claimed that Alexander’s story was not representative of those facing real hardships on the streets.  “I don’t choose to be out here,” he said.  Although he was critical of Alexander’s choice to sell

StreetWise magazines, I support it.  I have seen how Street Sense here in DC has changed the lives of many individuals here in DC.  Michael was telling me that he was deserving of the $10 because of the hardships of his life.

So to give you an idea how this went down, I was filming Alexander and just let the camera running when Michael rolled up and started talking to me. Here is the raw unedited (with the exception of one part where we were interrupted) video from that conversation.

Michael said he goes daily to the labor lines in search of day work. “I get work probably once a week,” he told me.

Michael showed me the scars from where he was shot in Seattle. (photo: Reed)

He also told me that he survived a shooting in Seattle. Michael explained that it resulted from an incident where some other man pulled up the skirt of the woman he was with. He stood up for her and ended up getting shot six times. Michael pulled up his shirt to show me the wounds.

Michael's seatless bicycle (photo: Reed)

Before leaving Michael offered to give me the money back. I don’t really know why and I told him to keep it and he did. He said he was going to use it to buy food that week.
Right as I was packing up my stuff, another guy named Tim came by and also asked for money.  What is going on here?  Did someone tweet that a crazy guy was handing out money at Michigan and Randolph? Anyway, I politely told Tim no and headed home.

On my way home a filmed the following video debrief.

Tomorrow, it’s back to DC.

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The Clintons walk down Pennsylvania Avenue at the 1993 inauguration (photo courtesy of the Smithsonian Institute)

I left work and instead of walking home I thought that I would walk in the opposite direction and see if I could find a recipient of my daily ten-spot.  As I walked down 25th Street I passed Trader Joe’s on my left and arrived at Pennsylvania Avenue.  What a historic avenue!  This 36 mile stretch of road (about five of which are in DC) is most known for the 1.2 mile section that connects the White House to the Capitol.  I was standing about a mile west of the White House near where the avenue begins (or ends I guess) at the edge of Georgetown.  That is where I saw Rigoberto. 

I stopped Rigoberto on the sidewalk of Penn. Ave. as he left the bank on the way back to start his shift (photo: Reed)

Originally from Honduras, Rigoberto has been here for approximately ten years.  He lives in the District and works as a cook at a restaurant on the iconic Pennsylvania Avenue.  “Es una ciudad muy bonita,” he says as he talks fondly about Washington.  Although he has patiently waited nine years for his green card to be approved, he dreams of one day returning to Honduras.  “Toda mi familia está alla,” he tells me explaining that his wife and six children (ages 11-22) are there in a small town that is a two day bus trip west of the capital of Tegucigalpa. “It’s right on the border with El Salvador.” 

He looked down at the ten-dollar bill in his hand and said that he was going to send it to his daughter who is a university student in Honduras.  Every month he sends her $150.  This time he will send her $160.  It comes at a good time too.  He told me that she had just asked if he could send her some additional money this month for some other expenses she incurred. 

Rigoberto, who is legally here, has worked in the US for ten years in order to provide for his large family.  Moving thousands of miles away to a strange city with a different language would not be a choice some people would be able to do.  “This is how I support my family,” he tells me.  In his hometown, rent for a nice home for a family of his size costs about $105.  “And this includes someone to help with cooking the meals, cleaning the house and doing the laundry.”  He would not be able to make the kind of salary he has here if he were to be working there. 

Rigoberto (photo: Reed)

Rigoberto had just left the restaurant where he was working to run to the bank so I didn’t want to keep him too much longer.  The last thing I would want is for him to get in trouble for not being at work.  I told him that I would try to stop in some time and eat at the restaurant where he works.  “Well, that’s up to you,” he says with a big smile.  “It’s a pretty expensive place and I’m not that good of a cook!” 

I have listed on the Lend a Hand page two items that Rigoberto needs.  His refrigerator can not keep up with the heat and says that the freezer compartment does not work well enough to keep things frozen.  He also needs a new stove.

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I started my new job on Day 210!  It was my 285th day without work.  It felt so good to get up early and go to “my job!”  I know, most of you are vomiting right now hearing me say how happy I am to go to work on a Monday morning, but it was really true.  So far, I have been really impressed with the WWF and the people that are a part of the organization.  

Eric looks a lot like Abe Lincoln. Am I that short? Look at the angle of this photo (photo: Reed)

 

After work that day I headed over to meet an old colleague Derek at 18th and M Street.  From there we headed over to 14K Lounge for our friend Jen’s birthday party.  On our way over there we came face to face with our 16th president of the United States. 

Ok, so it wasn’t really Abraham Lincoln, although he does bear a tremendous resemblance to the tallest American president.  And he is about the same height.  Derek is 6”4” and he looked a smidgen taller than Eric (without his hat). 

Eric is a telecom engineer who has been out of work for a year.  He was staging a personal protest of sorts that afternoon against the powerful K Street lobbyist firms.  He is sickened by the amount of money that changes hands on this street in exchange for favorable consideration on governmental issues.  

As a result of him being out of work for so long he became homeless in May.  Since then he has managed by couch surfing and staying at shelters.  If your firm is looking for an engineer experienced in XML, telephony and Linux, give Eric a chance.     

He chose to save the money. 

Derek and I said goodbye and headed to the birthday party.  We didn’t mention to Eric that Derek technically is a lobbyist, but I hope that he wouldn’t dislike Derek just for that.  Because in fact Derek has a PhD in genetics and works tirelessly to educate our lawmakers in the area of preventative medicine as it relates to obesity, personalized medicine and tobacco. Hey, somebody’s got to protect us from the tobacco lobby! 

By the way, Eric does occasionally do some work as a Lincoln impersonator…I can connect you with him for that as well if you are interested.

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