Today’s blog marks the countdown of the final 100 days of my Year of Giving. Hard to believe that I have given away $2,650, met 265 incredible people and written 265 blog posts about the amazing journey that I embarked on December 15th of last year. I wanted to take a moment and just thank every one that has been a part of my year. From the recipients to the readers to my family and friends to the journalists to those who have sent items for the Lend a Hand project, you all have helped shape the journey. Thank you.
Day 265 takes place on Sunday September 5th in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania. My father and I drove over to the Kipona Festival along the sparkling shores of the Susquehanna River. The festival features a variety of food, children’s theatres, educational activities, arts and crafts, boat races, concerts and fireworks.
We strolled by hundreds of tents full of arts and crafts, food vendors and families enjoying the festivities. There were several people who I thought about giving my $10 to. There was Scott Matyjaszek, a 3-dimensional photographic artist who hand cuts all the photographs and then layers them to create what he calls “photo-reliefs.” His work was really impressive. You can check it out at www.artephax.com, however, I doubt you can fully appreciate his work since it is in fact the 3-D element that makes it so unique. There was also a young guy from Tennessee grilling some chicken that he marinated in oil, lemons and other spices. And I also thought about giving the money to Patty Hankin from Bethesda, MD who was there displaying some of her beautiful photographs of flowers.
But sometimes I feel like I don’t really choose. The recipients choose me. This is what happened when 42-year-old James asked me for money as I was shooting some photographs of the Walnut Street Bridge that connects City Island to Harrisburg.
James said he has been homeless for the past three and a half months and sleeps along the bank of the Susquehanna River. A graduate from Shippensburg University, he told me that he had fallen on tough times after being arrested for various charges including theft and DUI. On top of that, his girlfriend died unexpectedly. All of this caused him to lose his job as a funding/benefits coordinator.
“People sometimes don’t believe that a white college educated guy like me could be homeless, but I am,” James told me. He says that he lives off of panhandling and $150 a month that his brother, a television news producer in Washington, DC, sends him.
James seemed nervous and said that needed to go. “I’m not going to lie to you, I am going to get me a sandwich at Sandwich Man and probably buy a cheap pack of menthol cigarettes.” He hurried off.
Just then my father, who had walked a few yards away to get out of the sun, introduced me to a gentleman sitting on a stone wall a few steps from where I met James. He gave me his business card and introduced himself as the chief of police from a neighboring community. He saw James approaching several individuals. “I tried to get your attention when he came up to you. I didn’t want you to get scammed.” The off duty chief said that he positioned himself right next to me in case anything happened. That was really nice of him to keep an eye out for me.
People often ask me if I believe everything that people tell me. Of course not, but I try to give people the benefit of the doubt. Although I have faith in humanity, there was something about James and his story that didn’t sit well with me. He seemed so anxious to get going once he got the $10. Perhaps he was really hungry. Or maybe he has some addiction issues and went off to get his fix. Or maybe he just noticed the police chief paying attention to him and felt uneasy. Who knows? It really doesn’t matter for the most part. I am practicing unconditional giving, so the recipients can do anything they want with the money. I would like to hope that people are usually honest with me though.