Archive for December, 2009

Today is New Year’s Eve.  Not my favorite holiday.  I don’t know why, but somehow I think it is overrated.  There is so much build-up to something that to me always turns out to be rather anticlimactic.

By the way, before I forget, I have started to manually update the statistics page.  Although it is not what I envisioned, it is a start and I hope to improve it soon.  But for now, you can start to get an idea of some of the quantitative data that I am collecting.  I hope to update it at least once a week.

I was up early this morning…then took a nap and would you believe it slept till 1pm!  This was not good, as I had agreed to meet with someone at 1pm, so I woke up to my phone ringing, dashed into the shower and ran out the door.

After my meeting, I was walking home and thought I would jump into a coffee shop to give my $10 away.  It was cold outside and writing in my little journal while it is cold and drizzling is not a good mix.

I found Christopher sitting by himself barricaded behind his laptop doing prep-work for a 10am call that he agreed to do for his employer tomorrow morning.  That’s right, he is going to be on a conference call for work on New Year’s Day.  Give this man a raise!  (or a day off!)  Christopher is a technology and strategy consultant with PWC

I asked the soon to be 32-year-old what he was going to do with the $10 and he paused and thought for a minute.  His pensive face gave way to a smile and he said, “I am going to add the money to a donation that I am going to make to a group called FAIR Fund.” Earlier in the day, Christopher had met a woman who worked for FAIR Fund.  According to their website, “FAIR Fund works internationally to engage youth, especially young women, in civil society in the areas of anti-human trafficking, domestic violence and sexual assault prevention.” I thought this was a very noble and altruistic decision.

I later learned that his decision to give the $10 to a deserving cause was not out of character.  A past Peace Corps volunteer based in Querétaro, Mexico, Christopher understands the value of giving.  Having lived in Mexico myself, we swapped stories about our experiences and found a lot of commonality.  In fact, Christopher knows something about blogging too!  He used to have a movie review site called the Mad Black Critic, where he would give very structured feedback on films so that potential viewers could determine if it was worth their money.  For example, he had a category called “social contribution factor” that would evaluate the social impact (positive or negative) that a film might have.  All in all an interesting venture. 

I enjoyed meeting Christopher.  I love that he chose to use my $10 to support such an important cause.  I hope that he will keep in touch and be inspired to continue his altruistic behavior.  Happy New Year everyone!  Be safe.

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I got up early and went down to the Unemployment Service Center in NE Washington.  As you might recall, I have been struggling to get them to pay my benefits.  So far I have not received a dime.  I went on Monday, but apparently I got there too late.

So this morning, I made sure to get there early.  I arrived at 8:30 and was out of there by 10:15.  I met with Ms. Bonham.  She was friendly and took care of my situation and hopefully I will start receiving my unemployment benefits.  Thanks Ms. Bonham!

I thought it would be great to find someone at the Unemployment Office to give my $10 to.  There were some people right outside the office who I suspected had just left.  I approached a woman waiting for the bus.  Nadine, a 32 year-old living in Columbia, MD is originally from Cameroon.  She actually was not at the Unemployment Office, but was waiting for the bus to get to her job as a Home Health Aid.  You might recall that Davitia from Day 14 was also a HHA.

Nadine was all bundled up.  Her head was just barely peaking out of her hooded coat.  She has been in the US for five years and says she is happy here.  Even in the winter.  “I don’t like the heat,” Nadine said.  “I really like the cold.”  I found this ironic given that her homeland of Cameroon probably never gets below 45 degrees Fahrenheit, with the exception of the upper parts of Mount Cameroon.  Want a bit of trivia?  Cameroon’s name is derived from the Portuguese word for prawns or shrimp, Camarões.  Back in the 15th century, the Portuguese landed on the shores of the Wouri River where they found a large supply of prawns and crayfish and named it River of Prawns (Rio dos Camarões).

Anyway, I asked Nadine what she would do with the $10.  She said that she would put it toward her school savings.  Nadine needs to finish about six courses to get her Licensed Practical Nurse certification.  I hope she gets back to school this year and finishes her studies.  Jameela, from Day 7, is an LPN now trying to get her RN.  Maybe she can give you some tips or advice. 

By the way, I am going to start adding some video to the blog…stay tuned!

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Yesterday was the birthday of my friend Scott.  I had theatre rehearsal until about 10pm and then I headed down to Arlington, VA to meet up with Scott and some others.

We ended up getting a bite to eat at Bob and Edith’s Diner.  I noticed that it was after midnight and I thought I could give my 15th installment of $10 away.

At the table next to us, sat two young ladies deeply engaged in the type of conversation people have when they haven’t seen each other in a long time.  I cautiously approached them and explained the Year of Giving.  J.J. wasted no time in saying that her friend Sam should receive the $10.  Sam accepted although she later said she was highly skeptical of our intentions at first.

Sam is a 24 year-old resident of VA who originally hails from NC.  She is an artist and fashion designer.  I asked what she was going to do with the money and the conversation begun to whirl.  I believe the final verdict was that the money would some how be spent on someone else.  If Sam checks this out, she can update us.

Sam says she has a natural tendency to help others and really cares about others’ feelings.  She attributes this generous and caring trait to her mother.

It was getting really late and although neither Scott nor I had to work on Tuesday, my internal clock was telling me that I needed to get some sleep.  We left Bob and Edith’s with our stomachs full and satisfied with another successful day of giving.

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Today was a mixed bag.  Several positive things happened, but also some frustrating setbacks.

I have been battling with unemployment.  For some reason they have not paid me a dime since I filed back in September.  I have sent letters, emails, called them, all to no avail.  So, finally I decided to trek over to the closest center that they have which is on Rhode Island Avenue in NE.  I get over there and wait in line to get to the front desk only to find that they stopped letting new people in 11 minutes earlier.  So, once again, I am shot down by the unemployment office.  I will be back tomorrow or Wednesday at 8:30 am to guarantee that I get to speak to someone.

On the positive side, I got two updates from previous recipients of the Year of Giving and I heard back from two different organizations with whom I have been interviewing.  The updates were from Davie (Day 5) and Jenny (day 13).  Davie is doing well.  He used the $10 toward a bus ticket to NYC and is doing well there.  He still plans to come back to DC in January.  He was very gracious for the gift and even offered to do something in return, however, he said he wasn’t sure what that would be but said he was really good at giving mohawk, chelsea, undercut, etc. style haircuts.  Not sure how I would look with one of those, but who knows! 

You might have also seen that Jenny posted a comment.  She promises to keep us posted on her journey during the Year of Giving.

So on my way home from the failed Unemployment Office visit, I stopped at the Giant at the Rhode Island / Brentwood Metro station.  On my way out I saw a woman with a cart full of groceries waiting for someone to pick her up.  Davitia, a 32 year-old resident of NW, is a Home Health Aid.  She visits people, mostly elderly, in their homes and helps them with some of their basic routine items.  She is very kind and I am sure she brightens the day of the people that she serves. 

I got a chuckle from the response Davitia gave when I asked if she would accept the $10.  She snapped her neck back slightly and said something like, “Heck yeah!”  She smiled and I gave her the $10.  She said that the money would probably go to her Metro SmarTrip card.  Interesting that Jenny said the same thing yesterday.

I asked Davitia what she had purchased and she had the usual things to feed her family.  She has three children, so you can imagine the amount of food they go through to fill their growing bellies.  I was glad to meet Davitia…she brightened my day.

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I ended up putting off my giving today until late tonight.  I traveled back from Pennsylvania, went to my theatre rehearsal, and then made it downtown to my place and unloaded my car with my bags and Christmas gifts.  I dumped everything just inside the door and then grabbed my little notebook and $10 and went out to find somebody at about 10:30 pm.

When it’s late, I prefer to find people inside or near well-lit areas; otherwise people are often reluctant to talk.  I decided to head over to Kramerbooks.  It’s open late, it is an excellent place, and I thought I would find someone interesting there.  I meandered through the book-lined labyrinth inside but did not find anyone that I really felt like approaching.  Then I spotted a woman outside peering through the front window.

Jenny, a 26 year-old recent masters recipient in the area of public health, was waiting for the 42 bus.  She was inquisitive about what I was doing, however, agreed to participate rather quickly.  I gave her the $10 and asked her what she planned to do with it.  She said that all her money was earmarked for bills, rent, etc.  She had about $13 of spending money to her name.  Now she had $23.  She said she would initially hold on to the money until Wednesday when she started a waitressing job.  She needs to have a “bank” of $30 in cash to make change.  Once she gets some money from the job, she said she would use the money to add to her Metro card to help her get to/from work. 

Her professional goal is to find a job in global public health.  Maybe something with USAID, etc.  Those jobs are hard to come by according to her.  I think she has a good shot though, as she has a solid education and already done work in Africa in the public health field.  So if anyone out there can help Jenny out or give her some tips on getting a job in this field, leave a comment, I know she would appreciate it.

As we started to depart, I asked her to check out the blog and keep us posted on how her new job goes as well as her job search for a career in global public health.

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The day after Christmas.  It’s always a bit bitter-sweet.  I am always a tad disappointed when I wake up on December 26th and am not greeted with gifts neatly wrapped in colorful paper waiting to be claimed.  It’s kind of like the last day of a wonderful vacation.  Sure the vacation was great, but it’s painful to accept the return to reality.  

Anyway, my father and I got up and went out to run some errands.  Along the way we went to the post office to send my health insurance provider a check for $5.40.  Somehow THEY sent me the incorrect invoice last month and then adjusted it leaving me owing them (adjustments somehow never end up in your favor) $5.40 by Thursday to avoid “termination of the participation in the Plan.”  

The post office was quite empty.  I for some reason expected it to be rather busy.  We were greeted promptly and helped to send our letter: Priority with Delivery Confirmation.  The post office has become rather confusing.  There are all these different types of envelopes, small forms to sometimes fill out, and options to decide.  If I am sending something other than a regular letter, which I do so infrequently now, I have no idea what I need to fill out to ensure that it gets there, not necessarily the fastest, and that I get some type of confirmation.  Let’s not even venture into the area of if I want insurance or not on the value of the contents contained.  For these reasons, I urge our current Post Master General, Jack Potter, to simplify the process or have one line that is just for questions, because I often wait in line for 20 minutes only to find out that there is a small yellow or white piece of paper that I didn’t fill out.

So, I got everything resolved and decided why not give my $10 today to the nice man who helped us at the Post Office.  I would list his name and basic things about him as I normally do, but I don’t want him to somehow get in trouble for any reason for taking my gift.  I have heard about crazy things happening at the post office, so I am not taking any chances.   We’ll call him “Phil.” 

Phil said he was going to use the money to grab some lunch.  It was just before noon, so my $10 came at the appropriate time!

Thanks for participating Phil.  I hope you had a great lunch.

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Merry Christmas everyone.

Today was wonderful.  We got up early to exchange gifts since my brother and his fiancée Mandy had to get on the road to visit her family in New Jersey.  After exchanging gifts and hugs we had some breakfast and even managed to squeeze in a game or two of bridge before Ryan and Mandy had to leave. 

My father and I worked on straightening up the house some and decided to catch a movie.  We went over to the Camp Hill Theaters on Simpson Ferry Road to see Invictus, starring Morgan Freeman and Matt Damon.  Inspiring movie, although I think director Clint Eastwood’s other recent works are a notch above this one.  My dad really enjoyed it.  As we exited the theater I looked for someone to give the $10 to.

I found 26-year-old Mike from Mechanicsburg.  He was standing alone next to a bucket of popcorn and two large drinks.  Mike had just finished seeing Sherlock Holmes, which he gave a thumbs up for.  He was waiting for Avatar, the new film out by James Cameron.  As he seemed to be a bit of a movie fan, I asked him what his favorite all time movie was.  He settled on the 1995 hit The Usual Suspects.  Fine choice I might add.

Mike was not sure what he was going to do with the money.  Said he would probably spend it on himself in some way or another…something to eat or something he needs to pick up here or there.  I reckon there is a chance he stays for a third film today :).

So, counting today, I have completed 11 days of giving…353 more to go!  I find it interesting that none of the recipients have commented on the website or sent me a comment.  I think that hearing their point of view would enrich the project tremendously and I encourage any and all of the recipients who might wander back to the site to check in.  Let us know if you ended up spending the money the way you thought or if you changed your mind.  What type of reaction have you received from those with whom you have shared your story? 

By the way, I followed up with an email to our Scottish mate David, who we were introduced to on Day 5, however, I have not heard back from him either.  I was hoping to meet up once more with him before he heads off to Afghanistan.

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