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Archive for April 12th, 2010

The Year of Giving received so much attention yesterday due to Liane Hansen’s report on NPR Weekend Edition.  I got about 3,500 hits and 75 messages yesterday alone.  So many touching stories from you about how you somehow relate to one of the recipients or have been moved by my own commitment.  I hope that you know that your letters and stories mean a lot to me.  I am slowly responding to your emails.  Please keep sharing…together our collective stories and efforts make a difference. 

Many of you asked how my job interview went on Friday.  Thank you.   I think it went well…but I won’t know anything for probably a week or so.

Did you read the article that was linked at the end of Alex’s email yesterday; interesting research on the contagiousness of kindness.  I don’t have a controlled study like they had to conduct their research, but my unscientific data shows the same results.  It’s powerful.  Have you found yourself catching the bug?  If so, please drop a note here and share what you are doing to spread kindness.

When I ended up at a small gathering at my friend and former work colleague Daniel’s house I was introduced to Ed.  One of the nicest guys I have met.  His easy demeanor and sense of humor strike me immediately.  I asked if he would accept my ten dollars.  He said sure. 

Originally from Colorado, Ed is a “self employed contractor, carpenter, tile setter” specializing in renovating kitchens and bathrooms.  Although he does all kinds of work, he has a special interest and talent in working with full round log timber frames.  He got started after he completely remodeled his own log house in Colorado 16 years ago. 

Well there was more interesting things about Ed.  He is a motorcycle aficionado, lists skiing and glass blowing among his hobbies, and was an exchange student at the University of Tampere in Finland.  I was an exchange student in both Mexico and Spain and have also been to Finland almost 30 times.  It’s funny the similarities that you can discover when you take time to speak to a stranger.

I shot some video of Ed.  He talks a little about his work and interest in building homes as well as what he thinks of DC.  He was extremely open about himself and spoke to me about coming out that he was gay.  Now 45, Ed only came out 8 years ago when he moved to DC.  When I asked him if there was anything that he could use help with that I could post on my Lend a Hand section, he laughed and said “you can help me find a partner!”  So new territory for the Year of Giving to serve as a “match-maker” of sort.  Ed shares what he looks for in a partner.  If anyone wants to meet Ed, please shoot me a message with some information about yourself and I will forward your message on to Ed.  Who knows…maybe he will contact you!

As for the $10.  Ed was heading to see a band at the Black Cat and said it would end up getting spent there most likely.

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So this morning I heard the NPR story by Liane Hansen…it was great!  If you missed it, check it out here.

So I was walking around my neighborhood one night looking for someone to give my $10 to.  People often ask me how I choose the recipients.  There really isn’t any scientific method, but more of an instinctive gut reaction that I have.  Something about the person makes them interesting to me.  Maybe they are dressed in an interesting way, maybe a pan-handler says something clever, or perhaps it’s just a nice bus driver.  

Alex is sitting in a small park on a bench reading a book at about 9:00pm.  The dim light from a nearby street lamp is just enough for him to read his book: Negotiating Across Culture by Raymond Cohen. 

Alex is dressed in a suit sans tie.  He looks comfortable and at ease with me approaching and sitting down next to him.  He is reading the textbook for his post-grad coursework at Georgetown.  In addition to his schoolwork, Alex also has a part-time job at a DC think tank.  As I explain to him my year-long commitment I learn that his birthday is December 15th (the day I started the Year of Giving).  Somehow I feel that I was meant to meet Alex.

When Alex isn’t studying, working at the think tank or taking in a night at local art galleries (that’s what he was doing this night) he gives his time.  He helps out at shelters and kitchens around DC.  He has volunteered several times at Loaves and Fishes, a ministry of St. Stephen and the Incarnation Episcopal Church that has been serving lunch to the hungry and homeless on Saturdays, Sundays and federal holidays since 1968.

Alex hopes to work in international development and policy in Africa.  This is no surprise given his vast international experience.  For a 24-year-old he has seen a lot of the world.  Check out the video where we talk a little about his experiences overseas.

The following is a letter that I received from Alex explaining how he used the $10.  Also, take note of the link to the study on kindness at the end…definitely worth a read.

 Hey Reed,

I was really unexpected and nice meeting you the other night. I wanted to drop you a note to say that I really think your project is fantastic. I think it’s great that you have embraced the curiosity, generosity, and faith in other people that a lot of us aspire to. I too believe that there’s so many incredible and interesting people we encounter in our daily lives that we seldom take the time to stop and appreciate. I myself wish I did it more.

So, I told you I’d write you to tell you how I’d spend my money.  Basically, 10 bucks isn’t going to change what I can afford, or what some deserving NGO in the area could do if I gave the money to them.  But, what the gesture of yours can do is change something I do, particularly stopping to appreciate the people we see in our daily lives but maybe don’t stop to acknowledge or appreciate. So, what I decided to do was spend that money on some cookie supplies, bake some cookies and give them to people we don’t too often acknowledge – the guys who hand out the WaPo Express, the people who work at the Metro stations and the cleaning people and receptionist in my building on K Street.

Oh and I also thought you’d be interested in this article I came across on the kindness multiplier. Reminds you that an act of kindness has consequences you don’t see!

Cheers and best of luck,

 Alex (109)

Thanks Alex.  What a thoughtful and creative use of the $10.  I would love to know how the people reacted!  If you haven’t already done it yet and can record it, it would be great to post here!  It was great to meet you…thanks for making this giving experience so special.

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