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My Year of Giving was a life-changing event. I could have never in a million years imagined before I gave away my first ten-dollar bill on Dec. 15, 2009 how the journey would change my life. One of the amazing 365 people I met during that year was Anthony. Our lives crossed paths on Day 67.

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Anthony & Me on our first day of our project. (Photo: Reed Sandridge)

In two weeks it will be three years since I started the project. A lot has changed. I am now employed, I can’t walk around my neighborhood without seeing somebody I gave $10 to and I have an entirely new perspective on giving. Life is pretty good.

Many of you have encouraged me to put this story into a book. I’ve started that – well, I am trying to do this at least. It’s harder than it sounds to dedicate time to writing – especially when you are often tired from your day job. But I am committed to finishing the book. But I thought I would enlist some help. That’s when I turned to my friend.

Anthony has been homeless for nearly 10 years in our nation’s capital. One of the first Street Sense vendors, vendor number 5 to be exact, Anthony doesn’t let the fact that he can not afford housing get him down. He works Monday through Friday at the corner of 19th and M selling the paper. But his dream is to have his own apartment and I have wanted to help him achieve that goal for some time.

Anthony offered to help me stay on track with my writing. You know, sometimes you just need someone to be accountable to. In return I am trying to help him get housing. If this sounds simple – keep in mind that I don’t know anything about helping someone get off the streets and Anthony hasn’t a clue about what it takes to get a book published. But that hasn’t stopped us.

We are working to achieve our goal by the end of 2013 – and with a lot of hard work, collaboration between Anthony and me, and possibly your help too – we just might make it! If you would like to follow our journey – drop by and say hello at AthonyAndMe.com.

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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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This photo is from the video below.

Hey, so some people have been nominating the Year of Giving for the Most Creative Social Good Campaign for the 4th Annual Mashable Awards.  If you would like to vote for the Year of Giving as well, click here!

After 323 days of giving, I naturally gravitate to things that are new or happen for the first time.  Like on Sunday I shared with you a story about me giving my $10 to my dentist – which by the way I got lots of feedback that people don’t like to see teeth on my website!  That was the first time I had given the money to someone in the medical field who saw me as a patient.  On Day 317 I gave my $10 MSNBC morning host Willie Geist.  It somehow mixes things up for me.  Well today I have another “first” as I like to call them. 

I was at a writing workshop that is put on a Borders Books at 18th and L Streets in DC.  For six weeks we would meet and practice our writing.  On this day, Trevor, an unemployed 32-year-old political campaign veteran showed up.  He was very talented.  At the end of the class the discussion turned toward my Year of Giving.  “I’m unemployed and haven’t had dinner yet…I’ll take your ten bucks,” he said to me.  I haven’t ever given to someone who has asked outright for it except for the homeless and street panhandlers.  But I thought sure, why not.

He put a creative spin on his current employment situation.  “I like to think of myself as between jobs…or funemployed…or maybe consulting or freelancing, or maybe I should just call myself an artist.”  Most recently he was working on political campaigns for the Democratic Party.  “I feel like my purpose is to write attack ads against Republicans.”

He’s got a plethora of work experience.  He’s worked in a pornographic book store, has done screen writing and started a nonprofit.  “That one gave me a nervous breakdown,” he said.  “And it job taught me the difference between having a job and a mission.  It’s not good to have a mission.”  I’m not sure I agree with that…maybe I misunderstood what he was getting at.

Currently he is supporting himself with some photography.  He lists Sally Mann of Virginia as a photographer that he appreciates.  She’s got a book called the Deep South that was sitting on the chair next to him.  Trevor offered to photograph the year-end celebration on December 14th…hopefully he’s willing to donate his services for that in the spirit of the project.  

Check out some excerpts from my conversation with him…

Some other random tidbits… Trevor told me that for his 18th birthday he bought himself a pair of custom leather pants.  In London he won $3,000, half of which he spent on a gold lamé suit.  He promised to send me a picture and tell me what he was going to do with the $10, but I haven’t received it yet…maybe he will update us all.  

All in all a pretty interesting guy and wickedly talented …unfortunately we didn’t see him at any more workshops.

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In addition to her stage and television work, Bonnie has produced two radio shows. (photo: Reed)

I recently learned about a local writing workshop.  I thought, heck, I should have seen something like this 303 days ago!  When I started this I had no idea how MUCH writing I would do.  I’ve also never really stopped to think about my writing style or how I can improve it.  Hopefully I have learned something along the way but certainly I could benefit from a more structured environment to develop my writing skills.

 

 

The leader of the workshop is an inspiring and energetic woman whose name is one letter different from yesterday’s recipient!  Bonnie is a former stage and television actress who studied at the performing arts school in New York City that the movie Fame was based on.  She went on to study at Howard and UCLA and helped found the Los Angeles Theatre Works and has taught workshops to all kinds of audiences, even prison inmates!

 

Now divorced, she lives in the DC and has two grown sons; one a cinematographer and the other a plastic surgeon.  

 

Bonnie asked for a few days to consider how she wanted to use the ten dollars.  In an email to me the next day she wrote, “I donated the $10 to the Seva Foundation.  One of their programs addresses preventable blindness.  Through a dynamic network of partners around the world, Seva helps communities develop their own high-quality, affordable eye care services.”  Pretty cool that she decided to use it to help others see…something that many of us take for granted.  On a side note, I have wanted to give my ten dollars to a blind or deaf person.  I don’t know why I am a little obsessed with this idea, but I am.  Haven’t been able to yet, but I still have some time!

 

Bonnie on the set of Good Times

I was so moved by Bonnie’s interest in the Year of Giving.  “I’m going to be up half the night trying to think of ways to help you and your project,” she told me.  Since then she has made some introductions for me in an effort to find a venue for my year-end celebration.  Still nothing confirmed yet, but hopefully soon I will have more details.

 

 

 

In the workshop she asked us to think of one word that described ourselves.  As I write this I wonder what one word Bonnie would use to describer herself.  I can think of a couple: creative, sincere, confident, inspiring, etc.

 

So I did some digging and found some old clips of Bonnie doing some television shows back in the 70s.  From kissing Redd Foxx on the cheek on Sanford and Son to playing J.J.’s cousin on Good Times, she did some exciting work!  Check out this clip of her on successful TV series Good Times.  She plays Naomi and first appears around 7 minutes and 30 seconds.  If you watch the entire episode (there are three parts) you get to see more of Bonnie and hear Jimmie Walker utter his famous phrase “Dyn-O-Mite” twice!

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Have you ever wondered how your life would have turned out if you had dropped out of school your freshman year of high school?  Well today’s recipient Kylie knows the answer to that question first-hand.  She did it.

Kylie in front of the fountain at Dupont Circle (Photo: Reed)

Kylie, who turned 21 on Friday, decided half way through her freshman year of high school that she didn’t want to go any more.  Probably we have all thought about dropping out, but she actually did it.  Then she visited three or four other schools to see if she liked them any more, but didn’t find what she was looking for.  She tried home schooling for a while, but that didn’t work out either.  So what did she do?  She says she ended up hanging out with some friends that were freshmen at a Delaware college.  They too were not going to class much either.  She “experimented with lots of things” she said and wound up finding herself.  She discovered that she really liked to write.

Today, she is taking classes at American University and hopes to open creative writing centers in youth correctional facilities.  She has already started the process but has a way to go to launch her first center.

I asked Kylie to describe herself and she said, “I am empathetic to a fault.  I’m maybe a little lost…but definitely passionate.” I felt her passion when we spoke about our mothers.  “I love her more than anything,” she said about her mother.  She asked about my mother and I shared with her what a wonderful person my mother was.  She started to cry.  “I don’t know what I would do if I lost my mom” she said fighting away a tear.

Photo: Reed

I was interested in Kylie’s tattoos.  She has seven “professional” tattoos and one “prison” tattoo.  I call it a “prison” tattoo because it was one that a friend did with a BIC pen.  Ouch!  That one didn’t look so good either.  On her right arm she has a large tattoo that says “Love Killer.”  It hurts me just to look at it as I imagine the tattoo needle hammering into the veins that ran along her forearm.  She got this tattoo because of an ex-boyfriend she had.  She shared with me the details of a couple of past relationships.  “Who was the Love Killer,” I asked.  “Maybe I was” she answered.  

Something she said about two former boyfriends stayed with me.  “The one guy I loved, but I never told him that I loved him.  The other one I never loved, but I told him that I did.”  Ironic isn’t it.  “I sometimes regret not telling him that I loved him.”  I asked her if she thought that things would have ended up different if she had told him that she loved him and she shook her head to tell me “no.”  “In that case” I said, “it doesn’t really matter, does it?”

Kylie told me that she was going to give the $10 to somebody else.  As for ways that you can help Kylie, she said she would give that some thought and see if she came up with something.

Photo: Reed

We were heading in the same direction, so we walked through Dupont Circle and headed toward the Metro entrance.  On the way over we passed a woman sitting on a crate panhandling.  Kylie pulled the $10 out of her pocket and dropped it in the woman’s bucket and kept on walking.  “I had to get rid of it!  I didn’t want to be tempted to spend it.”  I sneaked a peak back at the woman…her face was pleasantly shocked.

Happy 21st birthday Kylie!

By the way, check out what Start from Day 126 did with the $10 I gave him…he posted his experience today on his website!

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I was interviewed yesterday by NPR…so make sure to listen today during the morning and afternoon news for a short report on my Year of Giving by the talented journalist Rebecca Sheir.  Click here to listen online. 

On day 83 I found myself heading over to the Caribou Coffee shop on 14th Street near Logan Circle to meet my friend David who was in the play The Foreigner with me.  On the way I ran into Ron from Day 24.  He was talkative and we chatted for a few blocks as we walked the same direction.  We walked past Bob from Day 72…he was at his usual place shooting baskets.  I would have asked him what he ended up using his $10 for but I had several things to do and was running a little behind, so I decided to follow up with him another day.

Brad (Photo: Reed)

While I was at Caribou Coffee I met Brad.  The 27-year-old was working on his computer when I met him…turns out he has a blog called A Jersey Kid…definitely worth checking out. 

Brad was born in Connecticut but grew up in New Jersey.  He moved to DC to go to George Washington University where he did both his undergraduate studies as well as law degree.  I know what you are thinking…wow, you found a lawyer in DC…what a shocker.  Well, Brad is not a lawyer. 

After graduating from law school he realized he didn’t want to practice law…so he joined an IT firm doing project management.  He also writes regularly on his blog and hopes to make writing a more integral part of his life.  For now he says, “You either do what you love, or do what allows you to do what you love.”

We spoke about all kinds of things.  If you want a good person to just discuss the interesting facets of life, you should seek out Brad and have a chat with him.

On this day he was particularly bothered by some comments made recently by Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s niece, Alveda King.  She was quoted as saying, “Abortion is a racist, genocidal act.”  Brad disagreed with her using such inflammatory language.  Regardless of your views on abortion he says, a statement like this does not encourage educated debate on the subject.  I have to agree.  I wonder what the late Dr. King would have thought about his niece’s views.

I ended up getting a phone call and had to leave, so our discussion got cut short.  Brad says he will give the money to someone else.  I look forward to hearing his story about regiving the $10!

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In an era of emails and blogs it is very possible that the art of writing letters by hand is close to extinction.

I was wondering if Karin was going to mail her friend my $10. (Photo: Reed)

I had lunch today at a favorite place near my house, Teaism.  The upstairs seating is often crowded and you usually end up sitting very close to your neighbors.  The room was an interesting mix of people…my favorite was the rather strange man that I caught eavesdropping and trying to strike up conversation with two women who quickly switched to German or Dutch to make their conversation more private.

I noticed an interesting ring that Karin was wearing and she explained that she was a metalsmith and had made it herself.  She and two friends launched a boutique together in their hometown. 

How do you get into metalsmithing and making jewelry you ask?  Well, Karin has an interesting story.  She served in AmeriCorps where she traveled around educating kids about literacy and the arts.  When she finished, she used her stipend that she had received to study metalsmithing at Maine College of Art.

Karin said she was going to add the $10 to a donation she was planning to make this week toward a fundraiser that her godson is doing through his school to help fight heart disease.  I was touched by her decision given my family’s history with heart disease and my past work experience with the American Heart Association.

Jewelry by Karin

Interested in seeing or purchasing some of Karin’s jewelry but don’t want to drive to Oneonta?  You can see check out her work at www.windfall.etsy.com. Independent metalsmithing, like letter writing, has all but vanished.  By purchasing her work you will help support talented artisans continue their craft.

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