Archive for August 6th, 2010

A Bread for the City volunteer plates food for the picnic guests (photo: Reed)

The Year of Giving has given me a renewed appreciation for so many organizations in the DC area that provide tremendous social good.  Several people who have been daily recipients of the Year of Giving have sung the praises of organizations such as:  American Coalition for Fathers and Children, Bread for the City, DC Cares, DC Central Kitchen, Food and Friends, Green Door, Martha’s Table, Miriam’s Kitchen, SOME, Street Sense, etc.  Today’s recipient possibly owe’s his wife’s life to a physician at one of these organizations.

Started in 1974, Bread for the City is a front line agency serving Washington’s poor.  The agency began as two organizations; Zacchaeus Free Clinic began in 1974 as a volunteer-run free medical clinic, and Bread for the City was created in 1976 by a coalition of downtown churches to feed and clothe the poor.  The two entities merged in 1995.  Today, we operate two Centers in the District of Columbia and provide direct services to low-income residents of Washington, DC.  All of our services are free.  Our mission is to provide comprehensive services, including food, clothing, medical care, legal and social services to low-income Washington, DC residents in an atmosphere of dignity and respect.  – Source: www.breadforthecity.org

I have been aware of Bread for the City for many years, however, haven’t had the chance to get to know their services first hand.  So I decided to attend their Parking Lot Picnic and got to meet several of the staff members there and even got a tour of the facility which is currently being expanded (Thanks Kristin!)  Some of their staff worked hard all afternoon to provide hot dogs and hamburgers for everyone.  I grabbed a burger and sat down at a table next to Mike.  I had no idea how he and his story would impact me.

Mike and Reed (photo: Marnette)

Mike has been volunteering at Bread for the City for the last three years, but his relationship with the organization goes back much further.  You see Mike was a bicycle messenger and used to do a lot of deliveries for an insurance claims center.  He would go to Bread for the City and pick up claims for their clients and then deliver them to the processing center.  He was there all the time.  “Of all the places that I had to go and make a pick-up, this is the only place that had all their forms ready and organized” he said.

Well during the time that he was picking up forms at Bread for the City, his wife was struggling with a mysterious illness.  “No one could figure it out.  She couldn’t hold anything down” he said.  “No fluids, nothing!”  She got down to 98 pounds and was deathly ill.  “About once a week we would have to call an ambulance and she’d go in and they’d give her an IV and she’d be better for a while, but then when she would get home it’d start again.”  They stuck her so many times that they had to resort to her neck in order to find good veins.

Finally one day he was at Bread for the City and met Dr. Randi, the organization’s medical director.  Dr. Randi agreed to take a look at his wife’s situation and noticed she was on all kinds of medications.  Dr. Randi ordered her to stop taking all the medicine for a while so that she could start to understand what was going wrong and then carefully prescribe medicine to correct the issues that she discovers.  Well guess what happened?  After Marnette, Mike’s wife, went off all the medicine, she started getting better.  She was holding down food and putting on weight.  It wasn’t long before she was perfectly fine.  I met Marnette, who works in food service at Powell Elementary School, and she looked healthy and said she couldn’t feel better today.  They are both extremely thankful for Dr. Randi’s dedication and compassion.

Photo: Reed

Fast forward to the present.  He and his wife are happily married and healthy.  Mike no longer is a bike messenger.  “The bike messenger business has completely changed.”  According to Mike after 9/11, the anthrax scares and the increased exchange of electronic files, the number of bike messengers in DC plummeted.  Now he drives tour buses and limousines.  “Instead of taking envelopes from Point A to Point B, I take people!”

Mike said that he was going to use the $10 to buy groceries for him and his wife.

If you would like to volunteer or support Bread for the City, go to their website and click on “Get Involved.”

Read Full Post »

Day 219 – Tara H.

Day 219 was an interesting experience. It ended up being about 10:00pm and I hadn’t given away my $10 yet.

Tara and Sean in the fountain at Dupont Circle (photo: Reed)

On my way home from an event I attended I decided to see who I could find at Dupont Circle. I saw a group of people sitting on the edge of the fountain. A young lady in their group was actually standing in the fountain and two others dangled their feet in the cool water in search of some respite from the smothering heat. Just as I got close to them they spotted a friend passing by and started chatting with him. I kept walking to the south side of the fountain and sat down on a bench and just watched the scene for a little bit. It wasn’t long before I spotted Tara and Sean.

I saw a couple who were standing in the fountain getting their picture taken by a random person. They were using their phone to take the picture and I overheard someone saying that the picture didn’t come out very well. Although I didn’t have my SLR camera with me I did have my small canon digital camera that my friend Patricia lent me when my canon digital camera died. I figured I might be able to get a better picture for them. While offering to take their photo I took advantage of the opportunity to ask them to be my 219th recipient. This launched us into a thirty minute roller coaster discussion about my motives and reasoning behind my project and giving in general.

While Tara seemed more open to accepting the $10, Sean was quite clear that he didn’t want the money. A few times he actually said that he would  accept it but wanted me then to go and find someone more “deserving” to give it to.  I explained that he could do that but he wasn’t interested in that option. At a certain point I wrote the encounter off as a refusal and decided to take the photo of the two twenty-somethings anyway and send it to them.

About that time Tara made me an offer. “If you get in the fountain with me I will accept your $10” I was dressed in a suit and can assure you that if you had asked me earlier that day to name 100 potential things I would be doing later that evening, jumping in the fountain at Dupont Circle would not have made the list. With a little encouragement from Tara I decided to take her up on the offer. I think this marks the first time that I have had to do something for someone else in order for them to accept my $10.

Off went my socks and shoes. I rolled up my suit pants to my knees and

Reed steps around to the other side of the camera (photo: Sean)

swung my leg over the edge of the fountain. Before I knew it the two of us were standing in the middle of the fountain laughing as Sean took a photo of us. It was fun and felt really good.

We got out of the fountain and I let my feet dry off a little.

I found out that Tara works for a property management firm in Annapolis, MD where she has lived her entire life with the exception of attending East Carolina University. Sean and her have been friends since their freshman year of high school. On this night they were just hanging out, catching up with one another and having a few drinks.

I asked Tara what she planned on doing with the $10. “I want to do something good with it but it might just get spent on alcohol at the next bar we go to” she admits. I told her that she could do anything she wanted to with the money. “You know what, I am going to find a homeless person to give it to on the way to where we’re going.”

I put my socks and shoes back on and said goodbye to them both. They headed toward the Dupont Hotel and I headed back toward my place.

I got the following email from Tara the next day:

I met you last night in the Dupont Circle fountain and you chose my friend Sean and I to be your Pay it Forward. I wanted to let you know after a deliciously over priced martini at Cafe Dupont, before retrieving a cab, I walked back over to the circle and woke up a homeless man. I asked him if he was hungry, he said “of course” and then I handed him the $10.
The first words out of his mouth were “God bless you, your an angel” and I just walked away. I’ve read many of the responses on your blog about peoples’ judgement on why we (being the participants that give away the money to someone that “deserves” it) would do such a thing. It isn’t even because it made me feel good, because it didn’t, I was thinking about the much larger picture and impact that you are having on so many people. After grabbing the cab and passing off the $10, we went back to my friends house and were sitting there telling his roommates about how we met this crazy guy named “Reed” and everything about the Year of Giving and his one roommate was like “Yea, yea, yea… OH MY GOD, I’ve heard about this guy! He’s like famous.” And of course I start laughing immediately at Sean from his skepticism but we were so enlightened by the whole experience.

Point being:
a) You chose my friend and I for a reason
b) We could have easily spent the $10 at the bar but instead that $10 fed a homeless man for the next 2 days.
c) Making you get into the fountain with me just so you could give me $10 was RIDICULOUS!
d) What you are doing is special, kind and humbling.

God bless you and your ventures!!!
I’m excited to follow you up until your Christmas Party!

It was a pleasure.

Read Full Post »