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Wow…I am still thinking about Bob from Day 251, aren’t you.  I wish you could have been there with us for the entire conversation.  He was really amazing.  Today’s recipient is equally impressive.  Read on! 

These two guys opted to decline the $10. (photo: Reed)

Day 254 started with two refusals.  First two guys who were sitting on the grass in front of an office building at the corner of 19th and O Streets said “No” because they were deep discussion.  Then I wandered down 19th Street a little further where I found William, a US Post Office mail carrier.  He was sitting in his truck grabbing a bite to eat and said that he was too busy.

I kept on walking down to the corner of 19th and M Street.  I looke across the street to see if Anthony was there, but I didn’t see his smiling face.  It was around there that I ran into Christina carrying a clear container of salad from Mixt Greens and a Netflix movie envelope.  She seemed skeptical of my motives at first, but agreed to accept the $10.  We walked west down M Street as we talked.

Christina poses for a picture with her pricey salad. (photo: Reed)

I find out that she works at a nearby NGO and is on her lunch break.  “This salad cost more than $10,” she tells me as I hand her the $10.  I asked her what she got in her salad, I mean for that price I was hoping that she at least got some truffles or Beluga caviar or a TV.  I mean I once heard of a salad at the Hemel Hotel in London that had Almas golden caviar, Beluga caviar, kreel-caught langoustines, Cornish crab and lobster, plus Florette baby leaf salad tossed in some super expensive olive oil with grated truffle placed in a basket made from courgettes, red peppers and potato and decorated with gold leaf…all for the low price of US$982! 

She was carrying a DVD so maybe they gave her that.  Nope.  Just a salad.  “I think this might be my first and last salad from there,” she says.

I asked her what about her made her unique.  She paused and thought for a moment and said, “Well, I am a brain cancer survivor.”  I swallowed and tried to think of something to say.  She told me that they removed the tumor in July and that she was currently going to chemotherapy every two weeks.  “I feel good now,” she says with a smile.

“How did you find out,” I ask trying to imagine how many things most go through your head when you learn this.  She says that there wasn’t a lot of time to think about anything.  They operated almost immediately once they had found the malignant tumor.  We arrive at her office.  I continue to ask some more questions without realizing that I was now completely focused on her bout with cancer and there is a lot more about Christina and I only probably have a few minutes more before she needs to go up to her office.

Christina loves to travel – especially internationally.  She has a passport full of stamps to prove it too.  Croatia, Thailand and Italy as some of her favorite places.  “Did you go to San Gimignano in Italy,” I ask.  It’s one of my favorite places on the planet.  She had in fact visited the tiny hilltop village.  She fondly recalls some of her memories from her trip.  The small town where there was only one phone booth with a line of people wrapping around it outside.  “We also saw this woman who had this really nice flower garden.  She ended up inviting us in and made us try all these different types of homemade grappa.  One was made with oregano, another with thyme…”  As she is telling me about her trip I can’t help but slip into the memory of my own trip there and how much I enjoyed it.

photo: Reed

She also tells me that she loves movies, hence the DVD in her hand.  “Shoot,” she says looking down at the red and white Netflix envelope.  “We got talking and I totally forgot to drop this off at the post office.”  I had already taken a good chunk of her lunch break so I offered to go and drop it off.

We say goodbye and I start walking back toward the post office when I shout back, “What movie did you get?”  “It’s True Blood,” she says referring to the hit HBO series starring Anna Paquin. 

I got an email a few days later from Christina letting me know that she had donated the $10 to Mercy Corps for their Pakistan flood relief efforts. 

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Day 252 – Heather M.

My mother and brother playing with my Uncle Jack's dog Spike in 1973. (photo courtesy of Ryan Sandridge)

Americans love dogs.  The Humane Society reports that there are more than 77 million dogs in the United States.  From other sources I found that this is more than twice the number of the second largest dog populated country, Brazil.  

I grew up around dogs.  We had a little mutt named 99 until I was about seven or eight.  My grandmother on my dad’s side was a Collie breeder and my mom’s sister Sue was an Akita breeder.  I even picked out a dog from the Humane Society when I was about nine.  I named him Paws.

Heather with Petunia and Bear Bear (photo: Reed)

Anyway, dogs have made their way into my blog on numerous occasions.  I quickly counted more than 25 posts involving man’s best friend.  Although I couldn’t find a figure for how many dogs we have in DC, I did read that the Humane Society reports that four out of every ten homes have at least one dog.  Today’s recipient has two dogs who you will meet.

I found Heather walking Petunia and Bear Bear along the park at 23rd and P Streets.  Petunia is a rather fierce looking dog that appears to have some pit bull in her.  Don’t let this little three and a half year old fool you though, she couldn’t hurt a fly.  “She just wants attention,” Heather tells me as Petunia licks me to death.  Bear Bear is quite large and I know that I have seen this dog in the neighborhood before.  It’s the kind of dog you don’t forget easily.  Now three, Heather has had Bear Bear since he was five months old. 

Heather poses with Bear Bear (left) and Petunia (right) (photo: Reed)

“They are both rescues,” Heather told me as she explains how she found Petunia wandering around in Charlotte, NC.  She rescued Bear Bear from a home where he was being neglected.  “I got the owner’s permission.” 

These two dogs are lucky that they have found a loving home.  According to the ASPCA, five out of ten dogs in shelters are destroyed simply because there is no one to adopt them.

The $10 I gave her will be donated to the Humane Society of Charlotte.  

Petunia is really affectionate despite her looks (photo: Reed)

Originally from Ohio, Heather recently moved to the DC area from Charlotte.  She is married and in addition to these two loveable guys, is the proud mother of two cats as well.  She teaches English as a Second Language (ESL) and is working on her doctoral thesis focusing on international policy and development in the Middle East.  “I just got back from a trip to Syria where I was doing some research.”

We were distracted from our conversation several times as Petunia insisted on being the center of attention.  Heather is using a plastic bag full of water that she drops on the ground to get Petunia’s attention when she gets excited.  While I think that Petunia needs some additional training on this, it seemed to be helping.  

I gave both dogs a little pat and headed home.

Note: If you would like to rescue a pet, visit your local Humane Society.
DC Humane Society
Washington Animal Rescue League

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Be not afraid of greatness: some are born great, some achieve greatness and some have greatness thrust upon them.” – William Shakespeare, Act II, Scene V of Twelfth Night. 

I’m in a Shakespearean mood since on Day 250 I spent the day at the Sidney Harmon  Hall helping out with the Free For All, a free event that the Shakespeare Theatre Company has produced every year for about the last 20 years.  In addition to having two free weeks of Shakespeare’s classic Twelfth Night, on Saturday there was a wonderful all day event for families where children got to explore their creativity and knowledge of theatre and the arts. 

A young boy finds just the right marker to finish his coloring (photo: Reed)

I have dabbled in theatre since my teenage years and had fun helping kids understand the world of Shakespeare as well as helping them with more tangible tasks such as coloring.  While I was helping the children color their tote bags with special markers that write on fabric a very famous individual walked by: William Shakespeare.  I was pretty startled, but the show must go on so I continued with my work.  At one point though I realized that I might be able to steal a few minutes with the great bard and give him my $10.  The rest is history. 

Matt was born in Danville, Pennsylvania but grew up in Tennessee.  He holds a BA in Philosophy from Columbia University and an MFA in Classical Acting from the Shakespeare Theatre Company’s Academy for Classical Acting at The George Washington University.  He is currently working towards a PhD in Renaissance Theatre History at the University of Maryland.  He is also the Founding Artistic Director of the not for profit Theatre Company, Faction of Fools, which is managed by his wife Sarah.  Around for about a year, Faction of Fools focuses on mostly Commedia dell’Arte productions.  “These are plays that are very funny, very silly and very energetic,” says Matt. 

Mr. Shakespeare offers some artistic direction to the young apprentices (photo: Reed)

The Commedia dell’Arte began in Italy 500 years ago and quickly spread throughout Europe and continues to live in theatres around the world today. Its emergence during the Renaissance marked the beginning of professional theatre in the West; furthermore, the comic characters, themes and devices employed by early Commedia troupes influenced artists from Shakespeare, Moliere and Goldoni to The Blues Brothers, American musical theatre and contemporary sit-coms.

Matt’s interest in the theatre started at an early.  “I started telling stories when I was in the third grade.  My third grade teacher was a professional story-teller – which made her the coolest teacher ever!  I’ve been telling stories ever since.”  He says that his favorite Shakespeare work is the distinctively modern Troilus and Cressida, which focuses on the constant questioning of intrinsic values such as hierarchy, honor and love.  “It’s too everything.  It’s too philosophical, too poetic, too stupid, too funny…it blurs all the lines in terms of what a play can do and does it all on top of each another.” 

On this specific day, several of the children didn’t immediately recognize him as the bard from Stratford-upon-Avon.  “No less than five children thought I was a pirate,” Matt told me grinning.  “That’s ok, even my wife told me this morning, ‘your beard makes you kind of look like a pirate.’” 

I got my picture taken with the great William Shakespeare! (photo: Reed)

I thought I would ask young Shakespeare a few things about his life.  He told me that he was born in 1564 and although his exact birth date is unknown it is commonly believed that he was born on April 23rd since he was baptized on April 26th and 3 days were commonly passed before baptism.  In addition to this, the fact that he died on April 23rd, 1616, many historians hold steadfast to the April 23rd date for both is birth and death. 

Matt was quite busy with the activities of the day and I didn’t want to keep him too long, but I did get him to agree to do a very quick question/answer on video.  Check it out: 

Although Mr. Shakespeare would have preferred to receive pounds and shillings, he readily accepted the ten dollars and promised to donate it to the Faction of Fools Theatre Company. 

DC residents have an opportunity to see Matt this November at the Wooly Mammoth Theatre.  He stars in The Great One-Man Commedia Epic, single-handedly bringing to life 12 characters drawn from historical Commedia dell’ Arte.  It’s a hilarious tale of some common Shakespearean themes that come together to bring an entire town to the brink of tragedy before love prevails, normalcy is restored, and comedy triumphs.  It’s on my calendar, maybe I’ll see you there?  

The Great One-Man Commedia Epic
Wooly Mammoth Theatre
Wed, Nov 3 — Sun, Nov 7
8pm Wed, Thu, Fri, & Sat / 3pm Sat & Sun

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Deborah (left) and Keely pose with two five-spots! (photo: Reed)

Sometimes I find myself in the middle of a conversation with someone and realize I should give my $10 to the person that I am speaking with.  This happened on Day 218.  My friend Patricia was on her way to Australia and had some friends coming to stay at her place while she was gone so we agreed to meet so that she could leave her key with me to give to them when they got into town.  Sounds slightly complicated, but really it was quite straightforward. 

Patricia showed up with Keely, Patricia’s sister, and Deborah.  The two ladies have been friends almost all their life.  They met around the age of 10 and they are about 40 now…so 30 years more or less.  They live in Long Island and were in DC visiting Patricia.  As I witnessed their banter back and forth I couldn’t help but find the entire conversation hysterical.  Having known each other for so long, they seem to know what the other will say and almost finish each other’s sentences on a regular basis. 

Keely is married and has three children and works as an elementary school librarian.  Deborah is single with no kids and works as an office manager at an accounting firm. 

We talked about all kinds of interesting facts.  For example the most popular book in the elementary school where Keely teaches is a book by American author Jeff Kinney called The Diary of a Wimpy Kid.  I had never heard of this book, but then again what do I know about the reading habits of ten-year-olds?  She said that she only lets third graders and above borrow it due to its subject matter.  Keely didn’t buy my notion that the Dewey Decimal System will one day be replaced by something more contemporary.  I know it’s based on a simple principle, but I got to think that after 135 years somebody would have come up with an even better system!

Deborah, who Keely says is an extremely loyal friend, has a bit of a fear of heights.  She doesn’t like the escalators at the Metro and is not even fond of going up in her attic.  However, she had no problem jumping in a hot air balloon and going up thousands of feet in the Arizona sky.  She admits that logically she should have had more fear of the “glorified wicker basket.”  In fact she loved it.  I found it funny that they allowed alcohol on the hot air balloon ride so that they could do a champagne toast but didn’t allow anyone to board with flip-flops – for supposed safety reasons. 

The conversation turned to food and I learned that both Keely and Deborah are a little obsessed with two iconic food establishments: Cracker Barrel and Dairy Queen (I think they like to be called DQ now.)  Check them out here talking about both places:

I checked DQ.com and it seems that they are right; there are no DQ’s on Long Island.  The closest ones are in NJ.  I think Carvel dominated that region.  Well, free advice for the DQ folks: Open a store on Long Island!!!

The conversation turned a little more serious when we discussed what they would do with the $10.  Keely and Patricia’s uncle was recently diagnosed with non Hodgkin’s lymphoma so Keely and Deborah thought that maybe they would donate it to a charity that focuses on finding a cure for the disease.  I think he was to start chemotherapy last week so I hope that we have good news soon!  I told them to tell their uncle to be strong!

I later learned that the following day on the way to the airport they risked being late for their flight to make a quick pit-stop at a DQ.  Thankfully they got their ice cream and got back on the road and arrived at the airport just in time!

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First of all thank you so much for all the kind notes, emails and comments about my new job here and on Facebook.  I am very excited about this opportunity!

Photo: Reed

Summer time is a great time to get outside and visit a farmer’s market.  I was walking downtown on Day 192 when I came across a small farmer’s market near Penn Quarter in DC.  Near the corner of 8th & H Streets was stand with a yellow tent with the name Endless Summer Harvest on it.  I decided to wander over and find out what exactly the folks at Endless Summer Harvest were all about.

Photo: Reed

  • The water stays in the system and can be reused- thus, lower water costs
  • It is possible to control the nutrition levels in their entirety- thus, lower nutrition costs
  • No nutrition pollution is released into the environment because of the controlled system
  • Stable and high yields
  • Pests and diseases are easier to get rid of than in soil because of the container’s mobility

Cassandra and Zack (photo: Reed)

The main disadvantage of hydroponic systems is that great caution must be taken to control the growth of salmonella due to the high humidity environment coupled with the presence of fertilizers.

 Anyway, I got to meet two great people who were working at the stand: Cassandra and Zack.  Day 192’s recipients met while studying biology at James Madison University.  Cassandra works full-time at the Alliance to Save Energy and helps Endless Summer Harvest out on Thursdays at the farmer’s market.  Zack, a 21-year-old JMU student, has worked at Endless Summer Harvest since high school. 

Photo: Reed

I asked the two of them what they were going to do with the $10 and they said that they were going to donate it to a group that works to stop mountaintop removal for coal mining purposes.  I am trying to find the exact organization and when I do I will post it here.  There are lots of negative environmental effects of this practice.  My new employer, the World Wildlife Fund, has this to say about it on their website:

In West Virginia and other Appalachian states – in one of the most biologically diverse temperate regions of the world – mountaintops are torn apart to gain access to low-sulfur coal lying underneath. The leftover rock and earth is dumped into nearby valleys and streams. These practices threaten songbirds and other wildlife dependent on large tracts of interior forest, and the mussels, fish, crayfish, and invertebrates found in the streams. Hundreds of miles of streams have been buried by the dumping of such wastes in the past, in an ecoregion that WWF has identified as being globally outstanding.

Photo: Reed

I enjoyed meeting Cassandra and Zack.  They opened the door to a new world to me, the vendor community at farmers markets.  They seem more like partners than competitors.  “The fruit people do really well,” Zack says with a little bit of envy, “but we all help one another out.”  While I was talking to them several other stands stopped by to see if they could use some left over product that they had.

7pm came around and they started to pack up.  I was impressed at how quickly they tore down and got everything packed up.  Cassandra wasn’t scared to get her hands dirty either.  She didn’t hesitate to pick up the huge coolers they use and load the van.

Photo: Reed

 Note: The Penn Quarter Farmers Market is administered by Freshfarm Markets and is located at the north end of 8th St. NW, between D and E Streets.  According to a representative of the organization, it is open every Thursday (except Thanksgiving) from April 1 – Dec. 23rd from 3pm – 7pm.

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Day 188 was Father’s Day.  My dad came down from Pennsylvania for the day.  My brother and his wife met us at Guapo’s in Shirlington, VA for lunch.  After getting our Mexican fill, we went over to watch City Island.  I had never heard of this movie, but it is quite good.  Then we went over to my brother and his wife’s house and played bridge.  I really enjoy playing bridge, however, I don’t know hardly anyone who plays and I am not that good.  It is probably the most dynamic card game that I know. 

For dinner we decided to take our father to Ray’s the Steaks (2300 Wilson Blvd.) in Arlington, VA. I had not been there before and was very impressed….well I shouldn’t be surprised, their sister restaurant, Ray’s Hell Burger (1725 Wilson Blvd, Arlingtong, VA), serves up the best burger I have ever sunk my teeth into.  I asked our server, a young lady who was working her last shift before taking a leave of absence from Ray’s, if there were any staff members who were fathers.  She went to check.

Daren (Photo: Reed)Meanwhile we enjoyed a delicious dinner.  They have a special that runs Sun-Tues that consists of a salad, two 5-oz filet mignons, two family style side orders and dessert for $24.99.  For the quality you get, it is a pretty good deal.  We didn’t have anything to drink, but their wines and beers seemed reasonably priced.

Our server returned with Daren.  He’s a proud father of two girls, 5 and 8 years old.  A product of growing up in both Ocala, FL and the Bronx, NY, he considers himself more of a Bronx guy.  “I’m definitely more Bronx when I’m angry,” he says laughing.

He’s been working at Ray’s for about a year and a half.  “It’s a great place to work.  Management is very respectful to the employees.”  He goes on to say that, “Michael, the owner, comes in almost every day.”  

I asked Daren what his favorite item from the menu was.  Check out this video for his answer as well as a little bit about one of Michael Landrum’s newest ventures, Ray’s Hell Burger II  (1713 Wilson Blvd, Alrington, VA).  Caution, you may be mouth-watering hungry after watching:

I learned that Ray’s has no website and does no marketing.  Anyone who has eaten there understands why.  The food is so good that you don’t need to do marketing.  Another interesting thing they do there is on Sundays they donate 10% of their sales to the Boys and Girls Clubs of NE Washington, DC and Arlington, VA.  “I’m going to donate your $10 to the Boys & Girls Club,” Daren shares with me with great excitement.

Although polite, Daren’s supervisor seemed a little bothered that I was potentially keeping Daren from his tables, so I wished him a happy Father’s Day and said goodbye.

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On my first day back in the US after my trip to Colombia I wandered around my neighborhood looking for a recipient.  I ran into Leonel from Day 56.  He was at Books-A-Million.  He said he was doing well and we agreed to try to meet up that Saturday to watch Team USA play in the World Cup.

I walked over to the Starbucks at Dupont Circle and found a few people sitting outside enjoying the nice weather.  The first man I approached refused to participate and even refused to receive my card.  I walked to another man outside and he shook his head and said no.  He was from Cuba and spoke to me for a minute or two but said he wasn’t interested in participating.  He kept my card.

Feeling a bit rejected, I headed inside to see if my luck would change.  It was there that I found Michael sitting on a stool.  He seemed interested in what I was doing.  After a few minutes, a man came out of the restroom and Michael said, “Hey listen to what this guy is doing.”  I explained the Year of Giving again and his friend said that this sounded interesting.  They agreed that Michael would receive the $10.

“I have been crying all day today,” Michael shared with me.  I imagined the worse and suggested that we not do the interview.  “It’s ok, they were tears of joy!”  It turns out that Michael was celebrating 80 days of sobriety after a two-year roller coaster addiction to crystal meth.  On top of that his friend that was with him was celebrating one year free of the drug.  

Michael is in active recovery and attends daily meetings and has a sponsor.  “I am in a very good place today,” he says.  It’s a day-to-day process though he admits.  “I am focusing on how to stay clean.”  As we begin to talk, Michael’s friend chooses to go outside as it becomes difficult to hear the painful story.

Crystal Meth user (photo: crystalmethaddiction.org)

His addiction started by trying it for the first time with a former lover.  “Meth is a huge problem for the gay community,” he tells me.  I can’t help but listen to Michael’s story without thinking back to Rob’s story from day 117 .  “I lost my job, my partner, my house, my dignity, my self-respect, and my self-esteem.”  A former 20 year alcoholic, Michael is familiar with addiction.  “Addicts are liars.  When I was using my immediate reaction was to lie about everything, even to myself.”  The situation got so bad that I decided to kill myself.  It took an intervention by an ex-partner and a family member that resulted in him going to a treatment center to save his life.

Given the sensitivity of his story, Michael preferred to stay anonymous and not have his picture taken.  He also didn’t want to offer his email address telling me “I will send you an email.”  Unfortunately I haven’t heard from him yet.

“I know exactly what I am going to do with this $10,” he says.  “I am going to donate it to Crystal Meth Anonymous”  According to the website, CMA is a free organization that brings together men and women who share their experience, strength and hope in order to help one another free themselves from their addictions to crystal meth.  Michael spoke very highly or the organization.

The support he receives has helped him stay sober.  He now has a job and is “starting to live again.”  He told me he used to think that he was the only one in his situation.  With the support of the group he now knows that his situation is not unique.

His friend came back and they shared a moment just smiling at one another.  He turned and looked at me and said, “This is the happiest day of my life and I got to share it with someone I love.”

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Two quick updates.  I finally got video up for Anthony’s post yesterday and Victor from Day 139 posted an update from him on his page.  

Colombian 16 string guitar in need of some strings (Photo: Reed)

Manizales continues to be a wonderful and inspiring place for me to be.  I am trying to catch up on my blog writing so that I can start to share the stories of Manizales with you.  But for now, we have to transport ourselves back to the Georgetown neighborhood of  Washington, DC.  

I had just finished seeing my friend Annie in a production of Rhinoceros…she was amazing and the show itself was really good too.  On my way home I stopped at the Social Safeway to get a few items.  I still hadn’t given my $10 to anyone.  I am not sure how much I really needed items from the grocery store or I just figured that a 24-hour grocery store would certainly have a few candidates for my $10.  Would you believe the first two people I approached refused.  The first woman, Mary Pat, was studying the pet food options when I approached her.  She spoke with me for a while but I couldn’t convince her to participate.  The second person, who was buying paper towels, refused and didn’t tell me their name.  

Angela getting items for the Lost viewing party. (photo: Reed)

The third person I approached was over by the bakery and the rotisserie chickens.  Her name was Angela. 

The 39-year-old is a resident of DC and works as a news writer for a media company in DC.  I didn’t ask which one and she didn’t offer the information.  She said she was on her way home from visiting a friend and since she wasn’t tired thought that she would pick up some groceries.  The next day, Sunday, she was attending a party for the final episode of Lost.  I don’t watch Lost and have never really been interested in the show, but I thought a celebration about the show finally coming to an end was a good idea…although I don’t think most people who were excited about the finale were excited for the same reasons that I was.  For years friends have been telling me that they hoped that the next episode would explain things…but it never does…it hasn’t for something like five years.  “I really hope the finale explains some things,” Angela says to me.  If the past is any indicator of the future, she is going to be disappointed with what the show reveals. 

I on the other hand was not disappointed because first of all, I didn’t watch the show, and second of all, I was busy watching the grand finale of Celebrity Apprentice.  I know it’s a cheesy show, but I enjoy it.  And there is not a constant mega cliffhanger incorporated into the plot like Lost.  Each show is pretty straight forward.  Somebody gets fired at the end.  Despite being a fan, Mr. Trump could make this a one hour show…heck a 30 minute show.  He of all people should know time is valuable.  (actually he does know that and that is why it is two hours.  Time is money and he gets lots of money for the commercials that are run during the superfluous two-hour time slot. 

Anyway, sorry, I got off on a tangent.  When I am typing nobody brings me back on track. 

So Angela told me that her life and job was pretty “regular” and that there was nothing particularly interesting to share.  Just after saying that though, she mentioned that through her job she did get to join an interview session with the legendary Ray Charles.  

 “Everything that I had ever hoped about meeting someone of his stature came true.  He was the smartest guy in the room.  He was very nice, but he was clearly in control of everything that was going on.” 

photo: Reed

Working in news, she said other stories have often stuck out in her mind for long periods after the story is over.  She mentioned a story from Frederick, MD about a student basketball player who rarely got to play and was put in a game finally and finally made a basket.  The crowd went nuts.  It reminded me of this story!  I love it.  I even made team members at my last job watch this! 

Angela had a caring nature about her.  It really showed when she shared that she was going to donate the $10 to the Homeward Trails Animal Rescue, a non-profit organization that provides pet adoption in Virginia, Washington, DC and Maryland.  They find homes for dogs and cats rescued from high-kill animal shelters or whose owners could no longer care for them. 

It was getting late and I had to get up early the following morning to ride in Bike DC.  We parted ways and I went to check out in possibly the slowest checkout lane in the world.

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Remember Mike from Day 146?  You may recall that he works as a Physical Therapist at a Rockville, MD PT clinic.  He shared my story with his boss Bill.  They graciously offered for me to come in to their clinic at no cost for some PT sessions on my neck and back to see if I can improve the pain that I have.  Isnt’that incredibly nice of them!  It means a lot to me.  Thank you guys!  I look forward to the day when I no longer have pain and numbness in my neck, arm, and hand.

After my first session, I was feeling good.  I went out that day with a little more pep in my step and my posture a little better.  

Photo: Reed

Some days I find myself walking around the city…seeing potential recipients but never thinking that they are the right person for that day.  I passed all kinds of people who I debated giving my $10 to, but for some reason I kept on walking.  I walked all over the city, 67 blocks in total.  The light rain was just enough to keep my umbrella up the entire time, but I didn’t mind.  I started to get hungry though and decided to make my way over to John’s burrito stand.  On my way over my cousin Cheryl called and we talked until I came face to face with a large protest that had taken over the intersection of 15th and K Street.  The mix of angry cries for justice and police bullhorns trying to control the situation was making it difficult to talk on the phone, so we hung up and I went to find out what was going on.  This is when I ran into Joan.

Joan, a retired small business owner living in DC, was holding one end of a banner that read, “WE WANT OUR $$$ BACK!”  Although I hadn’t taken her money, in fact, I didn’t even know Joan, I hoped that my offer to give her $10 back might help her and her colleagues out.  Thankfully Joan wasn’t mad at me.  She was fed up with big businesses and lobbyists owning our government.  She feels that they have taken all the power away from the people.

Photo: Reed

As a CODEPINK activist , Joan actively participates in protests that the grassroots peace and social justice organization puts on.  The organization emerged out of a desperate desire by a group of American women to stop the Bush administration from invading Iraq.  On November 17, 2002 CODEPINK was launched when a group of women set up for a 4-month all-day vigil in front of the White House during the cold of winter. I wonder if they went over and spoke with Connie and Thomas at the Peace Vigil.  Anyway, they inspired people (mostly women) from all walks of life, and from all over the country, to stand for peace.  Now the organization has grown international.

Photo: Reed

On this specific day she was a little disappointed because CODEPINK received information about the protest very late which limits their ability to mobilize and produce a large turnout.  She cites messaging and timing as areas that need improvement in these types of protests.  Despite falling short of her expectations, the protest still managed to attract an estimated 1,000-1,500 people.  Plus it shut down a major corridor of transportation.  Their location at 15th and K was no coincidence given that K Street has long been home to a sea of lobbyist offices. 

As Joan and I started to talk, the mass of people began to march South on 15th Street.  I tagged along and pulled my video camera out and started to record.

Photo: CBS News

The march came to a halt near the White House and I parted ways.  Later they went on to Capitol Hill to voice their disapproval of BP at the Homeland Security Committee Senate hearing where BP America President Lamar McKay testified.  CBS News later reported that “only three Senators – Joseph Lieberman, Susan Collins, and Mark Pryor – of the 17-member Homeland Security Committee showed up to ask any questions at all.” In fact, Lieberman and Collins reportedly praised McKay for his cooperation and dismissed him in less than 45 minutes.

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Last week I found out that Woman’s World Magazine is doing a story on the Year of Giving.  The article will be in the July 19th issue which hits newsstands the week of July 8th.  I will post something here when we get closer to the date.  The reason I mention this is because last Friday they sent a photographer to take some photos of me giving away my $10. 

It was a pretty day and I suggested to Pete, the photographer, that we walk up to Dupont Circle.  After arriving, I took some time surveying the potential recipients and found a woman sitting on the grass playing with her daughter.  Perfect!

I walked over to Cecilia and explained what I was doing and asked if she would participate.  She agreed but mentioned that she might have some difficulties answering some of the questions because as Spanish was her first language.  I offered to do the interview in Spanish and she said that that would be more comfortable.  Her daughter Emilia was full of energy and a bit awestruck by the attention, especially the camera!

Pete deftly maneuvered around us as we spoke, capturing the scene unfold on his Nikon D300. 

Cecilia and Emilia (Photo: Reed)

Cecilia and her family moved here for her husband’s job18 months ago.  A teacher back in her native Chile, Cecilia has had to adjust to a lot of new things here in the US.  As she is not working while they are here, she has had the opportunity to dedicate the majority of her time to five-year-old Emilia and her nine-year-old brother Santiago.  Additionally she has been taking English classes and learning to cook. 

Cecilia spoke to me on camera about some of the challenges that living abroad has presented.  Besides learning a new language, culture, and city, Cecilia shared that being far away from their family has not been easy.  Family serves as our support network in multiple ways.  Luckily technology helps minimize that void.  I noticed how technology impacted communication from the time I lived in Mexico as an exchange student in 1990 to when I lived in Brazil four years ago.  In 1990 I would only call and speak to my family once or twice per month because of how expensive it was.  Going back just a few years though, it was not unusual for me to talk to my family several times a week while living in Sao Paulo.  Tools like email, Skype, more economically priced long distance service, etc. helped reduce the miles between us.

This video clip of some of my conversation with Cecilia is in Spanish…hopefully this will be an interesting new element to the blog for Spanish-speakers who are following the Year of Giving.  And for those who don’t speak Spanish, you might enjoy watching it just to see how playful and happy little Emilia is.  

As for the $10, Cecilia shares on the video that “the $10 will travel with me to Chile.”  She plans to go next month and will donate the money to the relief efforts for the recent earthquakes there.  Thankfully her family and friends are all ok and only suffered minor inconveniences.

On a different note, I want to take this opportunity to share with you some exciting news about me and the Year of Giving.  As you know I have been searching for work.  I have some good news on this front.  No, I didn’t find a job…but I did secure a small consulting project in Manizales, Colombia.  Next week I will travel there and spend ten days in the heart of Colombia’s coffee-belt working with a nonprofit foundation with their role in helping the region meet the Ministry of Education’s goal of being a truly bilingual country by 2019!

This is a very exciting opportunity for me and I feel that it will enrich the Year of Giving in many ways as well as change the landscape some and see first-hand how people from another part of the world react to my commitment.  I will of course continue my daily giving and blogging.  More news on this in the coming days!

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Last Sunday I went to a party for my friend Dan who was celebrating surviving three years of law school.  There was some really good food there too.  Somebody made some shawarma that was fantastic. 

I met a guy there named Mike and decided to give him my $10 for the day.  

Mike E. (Photo: Reed)

 

Mike is married and lives in Burtonsville, MD with his family.  He got a degree in Engineering but decided that a career in engineering wasn’t what he wanted and went back to school at the University of Maryland at College Park to study kinesiology.  

Kinesiology, from the Greek words kinesis (movement) and kinein (to move) and ology (branch of study), is the branch of physiology that studies the mechanics and anatomy in relation to human movement. 

Mike has been working at a physical therapy clinic in Rockville, MD for three years.  “I love the gym and I love sports,” he said.  “This was just a natural fit for me.”  Mike’s work is truly rewarding.  He shared with me a story about a woman who slipped and fell and pulled her hamstring as a result.  She didn’t take care of it and the problem got worse.  It got so bad that she couldn’t sit for a year.  Mike then got the opportunity to work with her and she started to improve and was finally able to sit again.  Mike added, “When you are able to help someone feel better, you feel good too!”  It’s not so different than my experience of daily giving. 

You know how when you meet a lawyer, you feel compelled to ask some legal questions.  If you meet an accountant, you’re certain to think of some obscure tax question that you have wanted to get resolved…well, I am no different I guess.  So I have been suffering from neck and back pain which results in numbness down my right arm and in my hand.  I shared this with Mike and he asked me some questions about the pain. 

This is where my back pain seems to stem from. And no, this is not me!

 

Before I knew it, I was lying down on the floor and Mike was working on my neck.  He got it a lot looser and improved my range of motion.  I still had pain and numbness, but there seemed to be some improvements just after 20 or 30 minutes.  Mike gave me some exercises to do at home to try to reduce my pain.  It was so incredibly nice of Mike to take time to try to help me feel better.  Thanks Mike! 

I also have an appointment with a physician later this month, but I am looking into trying to do some physical therapy as well.  Anyone who has ever had similar pain knows how much it starts to affect your life.  I can’t wait until I am pain-free. 

Mike decided to donate his $10 to Freeset, a fair trade business that offers meaningful employment to women trapped in Kolkata’s sex trade. According to the group, there are more than 10,000 sex workers in Kolkata, formally called Calcutta.  These women were forced into prostitution by trafficking or poverty.  Freeset offers them a real choice.  When they choose to work at Freeset, they can start new lives, regain dignity in their communities, and begin a journey towards healing and wholeness.

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Ok, I am back.  I was out of commission for about 36 hours with a stomach flu.  I am not 100% yet, but feel much better.  I look forward to getting the blog up to date!

What would you sacrifice for others?  What would you put your body through physically to help someone else out…to help people that you don’t even know?

On Saturday my friend Surjeet and I were walking through Dupont Circle and saw some guys doing what looked to be push-ups.  I remember saying something like, “They aren’t even doing the push-ups right…they are doing them like girls.”  What I saw were four people doing some type of modified push-up…then rising to their feet and doing something like a jumping-jack.

Manni enjoys a light moment (photo: Reed)

Manni gives his arms and legs a break (photo: Reed)

We went over to investigate.  As it turns out they were doing a challenge to raise money for the Wounded Warrior Project, a nonprofit charged with honoring and empowering severely injured service men and women.  The four men had taken a challenge to do 3,000 “burpees.” 

They were at around 2,000 when I arrived.  Manni was in the lead.  He took time out of his painful commitment to speak with me.  The last part of the video I recorded about an hour after the first segment.  Manni’s condition in the latter segment has visibly deteriorated.  He was nonresponsive to questions from me and others at that point…just focused on finishing.

Manni finished all 3,000 burpees in 8hrs 5min.  He later said to me in an email, “It was absolutely the hardest money I ever worked for, and I didn’t get to keep any of it!”

Thanks to all those who participated in the Wounded Warrior Project challenge and to those who generously donated.  Manni is the real deal…he is a guy that you want on your team.  Thanks Manni for your sacrifice on Saturday and for your service to our country.

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I have been receiving lots of emails inquiring about my job process.  I wish I had something to update you on.  I am actively looking for work and am participating in several hiring processes right now.  I will certainly post an update when I know something for sure.  Thanks so much for all of your thoughtful messages.

Last Sunday evening I was taking a walk around my neighborhood and looking for a recipient for my $10.  I approached a woman near the Dupont Hotel.  She was kind and said she liked the concept but didn’t feel like she was worthy of receiving the money.  I explained that she could do anything she wanted to with it, including giving it to someone else.  I used all of my negotiation training but I was not successful.  As I was finishing talking with her, a very elegantly dressed couple walked by holding hands.  I thought that they would be interesting to talk to so I chased after them.  It turns out that they had recently got engaged and they were going to get their picture taken.  They didn’t stop so I had to deliver my 30 second elevator pitch as I walked at a good clip next to them.  They seemed completely uninterested in the Year of Giving and said I could talk to them until we reached the next corner.  I thought at first that they would accept the $10 and I would have the shortest time to date to get information from a recipient, but that wasn’t the case.  As we got to the corner they simply blew me off.

Slightly dejected I scanned the street to find someone else and my eyes found Carlos.  Originally from Madrid, Spain, Carlos has lived in Washington, DC for the last 18 months working for an international organization.  I shared with Carlos that I used to live in his country in the city of Valladolid. 

Carlos near Dupont Circle (Photo: Reed)

Carlos was quite tired and jet-lagged having just flown in a few hours earlier from a trip back to Madrid.  I didn’t want to take too much of his time and quickly asked him what he would do with the $10.  He contemplated the choice some and finally settled on donating it to a Clinic in the Adam’s Morgan neighborhood that helps immigrants receive medical treatment.  It sounds like a great organization and I asked him to drop me a message when he donates it and get’s the exact name of the clinic.

I got my camera out to take a photo of Carlos.  While I was doing that I asked how he thought the people of Madrid would react to the Year of Giving.  He thought they would react positively to it and try to do something meaningful with the money.

Giving is not foreign to Carlos, in fact his employer offers an opportunity at the end of the year to donate a portion of each employee’s salary to a variety of nonprofits.  He said he usually participates in this program.

We shook hands and I said “goodbye” to Carlos.  He was probably very tired.  If he was still on Madrid time, it was well after midnight.

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I met up with a journalism student from Howard University who was tasked with doing a short video report.  Brittney chose to do it on the Year of Giving and asked to meet up with me and follow me around as I gave out my $10 for the day.

We met at 9am at the Starbucks on Howard’s campus.  We spoke for a little while and then headed South down Georgia Avenue in search of a $10 recipient.  We hung out near the Shaw Metro entrance but then decided to walk up to U Street.  We came across the African American Civil War Memorial.  You might recall that on day 79 I went to the memorial and then walked over to the museum and met with Hari, the curator of the African American Civil War Museum, and gave him my $10 for the day.

Memorial surrounded by the Wall of Honor

It was still early and the sun was shining bright on the 209,145 engraved names of the soldiers and officers who served in the United States Colored Troops.

There was a woman pushing a stroller slowly around the memorial.  I approached her and asked if she would accept my $10.  The woman, who I believe was a nanny from French-speaking Africa, declined to participate in the Year of Giving.  She got nervous I think with the possibility of being on camera.  I don’t know if she was here illegally or something, but she was pretty clear that she wanted to avoid any and all cameras.

I then spotted a man in a trench coat studying the monument.  I walked up to Greg and asked him if he could help me with a project that I was doing.  He heard me out and said he was ok with it.

Greg is 41 and lives in Virginia.  Born and raised in Massachusetts, he has been in the greater Washington area for 10 years.  Greg has been in the hotel and hospitality industry for many years.  In fact, he transferred from Massachusetts to DC for a new job with the same hotel conglomerate that he works for now.  

Greg at the African Civil War Memorial in DC (Photo: Reed)

Greg was actually working when I ran into him.  Well, it wasn’t obvious he was working.  How many jobs pay you to check out monuments?  Note to self: apply for Greg’s job!

Ok, he wasn’t getting paid to do that, but he was waiting for his hotel’s liquor license renewal paperwork to be issued around the corner.  Greg explained that the district renews the licenses once a year on the same date for all establishments.  It seems insane to process all of these licenses at the same time.  It would seem to me that the office would be pretty slow for 11 months and then go crazy for one month.  

Greg was getting ready for a week of vacation up in Massachusetts.  He is a history buff and was excited that he was going to witness the reenactment the battles of Lexington and Concord.  This year marks the 235th anniversary of the battles.  

I asked Greg what he would do with the $10.  He asked if I knew if there was an association or foundation supporting the memorial.  I told him about my encounter with Hari and explained that the museum has a place for donations.  He promised to walk over to the museum and make a donation.  I told him to make sure that he said hello to Hari…who coincidentally I passed earlier that day as I walked over to Howard University and he walked to work.

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Several of you have been nice to ask how my job search is going and I thought I would give an update.  I continue to actively look for new employment.  There are several opportunities that I am studying right now.  Most of them are very similar to roles that I have held in the past (leadership roles in IT/telecom and nonprofits focused on education), however, part of me thinks that I should really think out of the box.  What ideas do you have?  What are the most interesting / inspiring careers you have heard of?

As you might have read yesterday, I was down in Southern Virginia with my cousin Doug doing some genealogical research on our family.  On Sunday Doug and I drove to Petersburg, VA to the Blandford Church, where one of my great, great, great (about 6 more “greats” should be inserted here) grandfather, Theophilus Field, was buried.  He is the only person to be buried in the church itself. 

Gate to the area where the civil war soldiers are buried (Photo: Reed)

That’s not the only reason the church (and surrounding cemetery) is notable.  Built in 1735, it is one of six buildings in the world that every window is made of Tiffany stained glass.  The church has an interesting history which includes it’s restoration in the early 20th century.  After years of abandonment, The Ladies Memorial Association of Petersburg decided to restore the church as well as retrieve thousands of bodies left scattered around the Petersburg area after the Civil war and give them a Christian burial.  What they thought would take them a year or so turned into a 15 year process where more than 30,000 soldiers’ remains were collected and buried. 

During this time, the celebrated stained glass artist Louis Comfort Tiffany offered to help the Ladies Association and steeply discount the cost of 15 stained glass windows to be outfitted in the church.  The Ladies sought sponsorship from Confederate states and states that were sympathetic to the South.  Only one state that was asked didn’t sponsor a window, that was Kentucky.  When that happened, Tiffany himself paid for the last window. 

The windows are beautiful…my favorite was the Louisiana window that portrays St. Paul holding a sword.  Standing inside the dimly lit church the kaleidoscope of colors and the musty smell transport you back in time.  If you visit Petersburg, make sure you visit the church.

Photo: Reed

The cemetery is also interesting.  The remains of soldiers from every war that the US was involved in prior to the Gulf War can be found there.  It is the resting spot of the late actor Joseph Cotton, made famous for his work in many of Orson Wells’ films.  With more than 300 acres, it’s the second largest cemetery in VA (after Arlington Cemetery). 

So why do I know all of this…because I had a great tour guide!  Gene, originally from Pennsylvania, moved to Petersburg for a 2.5 year military assignment and ended up staying over 50 years.  Full of knowledge and energy, Gene now works for the Petersburg Tourism Department.  It is by chance that he ended up being our guide, as the person scheduled to lead our tour was running late and Gene offered to cover for her.

Gene in front of Old Blandford Church (Photo: Reed)

 

I learned some other interesting things about Gene…he used to be a school teacher – taught piano and voice, although had to stop his singing due to some throat complications he had as a result of contacting Polio when he was 10.  Another interesting tidbit about Gene is that he and I went to the same university.  Well, when Gene attended it was called Indiana State Teachers College – now it is Indiana University of Pennsylvania.  I rarely meet alumni by chance and this was extra special since he studied there before it achieved its university status.  

Gene was very hesitant to accept my $10 since I am unemployed now.  He shared that his son who lives in Florida has been unemployed for 15 months.  He finally agreed to accept the $10 and decided to donate it to the Petersburg Museum Foundation, a new organization founded in 2007 whose mission it is to ensure the long-term preservation, restoration, and interpretation of Centre Hill, the Siege Museum, and the Blandford Church.

Gene and I have already exchanged emails and I look forward to keeping in touch with him throughout the year.  I am waiting to get donation details if anyone would like to send the Petersburg Museum Foundation a contribution.  They have ambitious plans but need more than a million dollars in funding.

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On Saturday I had an amazing day.  My cousin Doug was in town from Colorado for some meetings.  He decided to stay the weekend and had a great idea of heading down to the Richmond area to do a couple of things.  

First, we have some family in the greater Richmond area so we managed to make my cousin Dianne’s daughter’s birthday party.  Later we had dinner with our aunt Carol, her husband John, and Dianne.  That was really great. 

The other reason for our trip was to do some genealogy research.  We have a family cemetery in Goochland County, VA and also have a relative that is the only person to be buried in the Old Blandford Church in Petersburg, VA.  (more about this church tomorrow!)

Leake Cemetery, Goochland, VA (Photo: Reed)

Anyway, we left the birthday party to try to find the cemetery in Goochland.  It is in a wooded area and is not marked.  If you don’t know that it is there, you are not going to find it.  We pulled the car over on the side of the road and walked back into the woods to search for it.  We had both been there before and had a rough idea of where it was located.  Part of the reason we were there was to document its location.

Well, we traipsed around for about a half hour before we found the small cemetery.  There are about a dozen headstones there from the Leake side of my family surrounded by a waist-high cement wall.  After spending some time at the cemetery, we decided to see if we could find someone who lived nearby that might know who owns the land that it is on.  We would like to do some work on the cemetery to help preserve it, but thought we should check with the landowner first so that we do not cause any problems (or get shot!).

So we drove around to what we thought was the backside of the property.  We came to a small fork in the road.  The road to the left had several “No Trespassing” signs clearly displayed.  The other road was a drive way to a beautifully groomed property.  Can you guess which way we chose?

Matt's beautiful property (Photo: Reed)

At the end of the driveway we found a house and picturesque pond off to the right side of the house.  We knocked on the door, but nobody answered. You could see in the house from the door and saw that a light was on.  “I’ll walk around back and see if anyone is out back” I told my cousin.  He turned a little pale and said, “I don’t know…you might get yourself shot walking around somebody’s property like that.”  

The good news is that I did find somebody out back.  The even better news is that Matt was only armed with a big smile.  

Matt is 28 and grew up on this property which spans 300 acres.  He is a farmer and raises grass-fed cattle as well as some chickens and ducks.  He has about 70 cows.  Along side Matt was his dog, Chico.

Matt & Chico in front of 200 yr old outdoor kitchen (Photo: Reed)

I wish I could properly describe Matt’s demeanor.  He had this gentle, modest, humble demeanor and a warm loquacious speaking manner.  He was relaxed and friendly and his face broke into smile so naturally that you felt like you were among family.

Matt said that he was going to give the money to the James River Association.  The group’s mission is to protect the James River, which more than one-third of all Virginias rely on for water, commerce or recreation.  Yesterday I got an email from Matt that I would like to share with you all:

Reed,

It was a great surprise meeting you on Saturday.  I am glad you guys made it out to the farm.  Right after you left I was telling my girlfriend about what you are doing and her jaw dropped because she had just read about you in the [Washington] Post.  I have really enjoyed reading some of the stories on your site..  I admire your commitment to this project, and know that you are inspiring a great deal of kindness.  In the spirit of your generosity, I decided to sponsor 10 participants in the James River Runoff Rundown for $10 each.  The Rundown is a one day event in which paddlers join forces to cover the entire 340 miles of the James River in order to raise money for the James River Association.  Here’s the link.

 Thanks for again for what you are doing,

 Matt G.

This is amazing.  I can’t begin to tell you how happy I am when I learn that my $10 inspires further giving, especially when it parlays into a $100 donation.  

Matt you are a class act.  You made my day…and thanks for not shooting me and my cousin!

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Today, March 15th, marks the three month mark in my year-long journey.  Many times the recipients are inspired to give the $10 to someone else or to a charity.  Other times someone watching what is going on or reading on my blog has been inspired to give $10 themselves.  I have been lucky in these first three months to witness so many inspiring moments.  Day 88 was one of those special days.

I traveled up to Gaithersburg, MD to see my friend Jeff perform in the Rockville Little Theatre’s production of Over the River and Through the Woods.    The show is very well performed and the Gaithersburg Arts Barn is a great intimate space to see theatre.  The show ends this Sunday and I hear that there are still tickets left for some of the shows…so if you live in the area check it out!

Photo courtesy of http://www.clydes.com

After the show, some friends joined Jeff for a late meal at Clyde’s Tower Oaks Lodge in Rockville.  Tower Oaks Lodge has been a favorite spot after many theatre performances in Rockville.  It’s a very unique locale…it’s almost as if you leave the Washington metro area and walk into the Adirondacks when you walk through the front door. 

I still hadn’t given away my $10…so I went searching throughout the many rooms looking for a recipient.  I settled on Hans…a man in his late 30s / early 40s who was standing by himself behind the host station.  I figured he must work there and who better to give it to than someone working at almost midnight on a Friday evening.

It turns out Hans is the General Manager of the restaurant!  He has been with the Clyde’s Restaurant Group (they also own the Old Ebbitt Grill, 1789, and  F. Scott’s to name a few) for 20 years and worked at four of their properties. 

Han's poses with his $10 (Photo: Reed)

We get interrupted by some young guys wandering in the door in search of a banana split.  Hans take care of them and we pick up where we left off.

Hans tells me that he is going to give his $10 to the American Coalition for Fathers and Children, an organization that believes that children thrive with the active involvement of both parents.  Furthermore they feel that barring “issues of abuse, neglect or abandonment, social and government policy must be structured in such a way as to promote and maximize the opportunity of all parents to contribute to the social, emotional, intellectual, physical, moral and spiritual development of their children.”

I had a feeling that there was a story behind this, so I asked.  It turns out that Hans is a divorced father who has not seen his children in more than two years.  I didn’t dig into the details too much as I could see that this was a sensitive issue for him. 

Hans said he was really impressed with my commitment and told me to come see him if I needed a job.  He then gave me his business card and a $100 voucher to eat at the restaurant!  Oh my gosh.  I didn’t know what to say but to thank him.  That was really nice of him.

I knew exactly what I wanted to do with the gift certificate to Clyde’s.  I am going to invite 2 of my previous $10 recipients to join me (and hopefully Hans) for lunch one day.  Now the hard part, who do I invite…this is where I NEED YOUR HELP.  Please vote here on who you think most deserves to go with me to eat at Clyde’s.  I have already invited Hans.  The list below is of the top 20 recipients based on feedback that I have received, page loads, etc.  I have removed several names of those who are not local or did not give any contact information.  [UPDATE 4/3/2010:  Voting is now over]

I thanked Hans again and headed back to my table.  I was gone so long that they had already settled up the check.  My friend Jeff paid for mine.  I insisted that I give him money for it but he wouldn’t accept it.  Thanks Jeff.

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Today I ended up giving my $10 to two different people!

I was joined today by Rebecca Sheir from NPR.  We met at my apartment and talked for a little while and then set out to find a recipient.

On our walk we saw Anthony from Day 67.  He was his upbeat usual self.  The next time I see him I will let him know that Maureen is giving him some shoes!  He is going to be so excited.

Chatting with Nathan

Near the White House we found Nathan.  He looked deep in thought as he sat by himself on a bench.  Nathan is 52, lives in MD, and is unemployed.  He questions my intentions when I offer him the $10, but when he realizes that it is a genuine offer, he graciously accepts.

Nathan keeps a positive attitude despite being unemployed.  He says that he hasn’t bought hardly anything that he doesn’t truly need in over a year to help him save money.  In the video below he talks about having to move into a basement apartment to reduce his monthly expenditures even more.  He also shares what he is going to do with his $10.

You can find Rebecca Sheir’s report of this experience here.

We left Nathan and walked around the city some more.  Near Gallery Place we bumped into Ivory from Day 49.  It’s been over a month since I last saw him but he recognized me immediately.  He is still trying to get more books produced.  He recently got a shipment of 500 of them which he said he sold out of immediately.  Ironically as we chatted with him, the person who is helping him get his book published walked by.

We started walking back to Dupont Circle.  On our way we noticed a large tractor-trailer with expanded sides.  It was a mobile museum exhibit on the customs and traditions of the American funeral.  At first I thought this was a very odd exhibit to have, much less housed in the back of a trailer.  We were greeted by Harry who is the President of MRA Experiential Tours which operates the exhibit.

Harry in front of the American Funeral Museum (Photo: Reed)

He invites us inside and shares the history and culture of American funerals to us.  He proves to be very knowledgeable on the subject and we find out that he has first hand experience…he worked his way through college working at a funeral home.  The exhibit is very interesting and you can find out where it is going to be by checking their website.  Although, it might not be completely up to date as Washington, DC was not listed on their calendar.

Harry started in the shipping and freight forwarding business for events.  He later got the idea of having mobile exhibitions.  He now has about 20 trucks in the fleet.  He has done work for a variety of well-known companies such as Mattel, Boeing, Tabasco, AstraZeneca, Mazda, etc.

You might recall that on Day 82 Keith gave me $10.  I wanted to give that to someone but in addition to my regular amount that I give each day.  So since I already had given Nathan my $10, I used Keith’s $10 and gave it to Harry.  In turn Harry said that he would donate the money to the National Scholarship Program of the American Board of Funeral Service Education.  The scholarship program was established to provide financial awards to students enrolled in funeral service or mortuary science programs to assist them in obtaining their professional education. Established during the 1960’s the program has awarded scholarships to hundreds of students.

Thanks to both Keith and Harry for making that donation possible!

We took a different route back to Dupont Circle and guess who we ran into sitting in Franklin Square?  Nathan had met up with his brother and they were sitting talking to each other.  We were a few blocks from where we had originally met him.  Small world.

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Memorial surrounded by the Wall of Honor

I have done a poor job this week of updating the blog…but trust me, I have not wavered on my commitment to giving.  In fact, I have some very interesting people to tell you about as I get caught up.  Today is Hari’s story.

Being unemployed has some benefits.  One thing is that I try to go regularly to the different museums and cultural institutions that Washington has to offer.  There is an abundance of information and history here and I have time to soak it up.

I decided to check out the African American Civil War Museum.  It is located on the corner of 12th and U in DC.  A short walk away is the memorial and the Wall of Honor that remembers the 209,145 soldiers and officers who served in the United States Colored Troops.

Hari is the museum’s curator.  He was gracious to spend some time talking with me about the civil war.  Listening to Hari unfold the events that led to the civil war is exhilarating.  Usually when someone tells you about some event that took place deep in our history, it is hard to appreciate the actual event because you don’t have sufficient understanding of contributing events, cultural references, etc.  But Hari anticipated my questions and painted the full picture for me.

Hari at the African American Civil War Museum (Photo: Reed)

He first was drawn to history by his elders in his hometown of Pauls Valley, OK.  The elders took the time to explain to Hari historical events that they had lived through.  In the 8th and 11th grade, Hari discovered that the text books that he was using didn’t accurately portray the involvement of Americans of African descent  in the Civil War.  His teachers at the time, Ms. Bagley and Ms. Wallace respectively, understood that this history was suppressed and taught the true history. 

Hari went on to graduate from the University of Oklahoma.  It was there that he had a Kenyan American professor of African American History who was not only ignorant of the involvement of African Americans in the Civil War but refused to teach it saying that it was not on his syllabus. It was this encounter that fueled Hari’s desire to dedicate himself to researching the involvement of African Americans in the Civil War. 

He received a commission in the Marine Corps and later found himself as an instructor at the Naval Academy.  He realized that there was still a lack of understanding of our own history and felt that Americans need a foundation of common understanding about our own history before we are fully capable of dealing with conflict and struggles in foreign lands.  “If we can not understand what went on her in our own history and what cultural attributes were possessed by Americans” Hari explained, “then it will be impossible for us to do it anywhere else.  The only thing that we’ll be able to do is to kill people when we can not get them to understand our way of thinking.”

Hari left the Marine Corps to dedicate himself full-time to the topic.  I encourage you to stop by the Museum and meet Hari.  If he has time, I know he would be happy to share with you his extensive knowledge of our nation’s history.

Here is a clip of Hari discussing our views on race and how a paradigm shift has occurred in our society’s views about race as it pertains to sports and how this represents a much greater paradigm shift in our society’s way of thinking.

It’s no surprise that Hari decided to donate his $10 to the museum. 

For those of you who can not make it to the museum to meet Hari, he recommended two books to me that you might want to check out:

  • The Great Conspiracy by John Alexander Logan
  • A People’s History of the United States by Howard Zinn – A note about Mr. Zinn.  He died unexpectedly on January 27th of this year.  He was 87.  He was quoted as saying that he would like to be remembered “for introducing a different way of thinking about the world, about war, about human rights, about equality,” and “for getting more people to realize that the power which rests so far in the hands of people with wealth and guns…ultimately rests in people themselves and that they can use it.”

 

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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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I am snowed in. 

We got about two feet of snow in DC so far and it is still coming down lightly.  Trees are down, cars are completely covered, and people are heading to Dupont Circle for a massive snow ball fight…the news reported that some 3,000+ on Facebook have said the are going to join the fight.  I think I will stay here for now.

Last night my brother invited me to go to the Capitals game where they beat the Thrashers.  On my way home, some friends sent me a message to meet up for a drink at the Russia House.  I made my way through the snowy streets and arrived at the Russia House.  It was pretty busy.  My friends showed up and we had a few Lithuanian beers.

Beth was sitting next to us.  The 30-year-old lives in the Columbia Heights neighborhood in DC.  Although she studied Art and History in college, now she works in energy policy.  In addition to her job, she is enrolled in Johns Hopkins’ International Energy and Environment Program.  Coincidentally we discover that we have both lived in Brazil.  I lived in Sao Paulo for three years, she lived in Rio.

Beth said she was pretty sure that she knew what she wanted to do with the $10, but asked to follow up with me later on it.  I just got an email from her now saying that she donated the money to the World Resources Institute’s International Financial Flows and the Environment program.  That was the fastest follow up I have had so far!

By the way, Andrea S. from Day 48 followed up with me and let me know that she gave her money to the Woodside United Methodist Church Food Pantry.  She wrote me a nice note and I have asked her to post as a comment on her day’s blog post.

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Day 48 – Andrea S.

Sunday was a long day.  I had my final two theatre performances of The Foreigner, one at 2pm and the other at 7pm.  I thought both went well.  After the second show we had to tear down the entire set and put everything back in storage.  This took us about 2.5 hours, so we left at around midnight.

It’s a good thing that I found someone to give my $10 to earlier in the day.  In fact, I gave it to someone I found in the lobby of the theatre who had seen the 7pm show.  Andrea said that she enjoyed the show and that I was her favorite actor in the play…ok, so she didn’t say that…but I am sure that is what she was thinking.

She is a 35-year-old social worker in the home healthcare field.  Andrea deals directly with the public when they are unhappy with her firm’s services.  She is calm and relaxed talking with me.  I bet that this attribute is a huge asset in her work when irate customers call her to complain.

I usually ask the people I meet a couple of standard questions.  One I like to ask is that they tell me something interesting or unique about themselves.  This is a hard question for many people to answer.  Andrea struggled as well.  She told me that she was the mother of two children…and then she drew a blank on what else to tell me.  She used a lifeline and asked her husband who was with her at the show to share something.  That sparked some thinking and I soon knew that she had met some interesting people such as B.B. King and Garrison Keillor.

I asked her what she was going to do with the $10.  She told me that she didn’t think she was the right person to receive it because she would probably just get a burrito bowl at Chipotle or something.  She said that she really wanted to do something more meaningful with it and asked to be able to think about it a while and then get back to me.  We exchanged emails and I hope to hear from her soon.

I think it is great that people want to think about it.  It shows that my unconditional gift to them has caused them to think about how they should use it, or possibly even how they look at giving in general.  If you want to read a good summary of one recipient’s thought process about what to do with the $10, check out an email I received from Sara of Day 44

Before I left to go help strike the set, I asked her if there was something that the readers of the Year of Giving could help her with and she said that she was looking for a new job.  I will post this on the Lend A Hand page as well, but she said that she would ideally find a job as a Director of Consumer Relations of an Assisted Living operation.  If you know any contacts in this field in the Greater DC area, please post them here or contact me and I can contact Andrea.

Look for tomorrow’s post about Ivory, an interesting writer and salesman for Street Sense!  I got some video of him as well that I will try to post here or on the Facebook Page.

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First of all, today we reached some milestones.  Over 3,000 unique visitors to the site and over 6,000 hits.  The site is growing much faster than I thought it would…that is great…hopefully people are inspired to do something kind to others during their day.

John (right) and I visit a few days after I gave him my $10

I met up with John from day 40 today.  On Day 44 I ran into John from Day 40.  He was not the jovial South Carolina native that I met on Saturday.  He explained that his brother died on Sunday due to complications related to his diabetes.  He had refused to take his medications for an extended period of time and passed away as a result.  His sadness quickly dissolved into anger though as he told me about an upcoming court appearance. 

He explained that he had served 17 years in prison for murder.  I could hardly believe that this gentle giant could have killed another human being.  “It was self defense” he explained.  I didn’t have my notebook with me so I am relying on my recollection.  He said that one day in 1980 he and his father had gone to a store at the intersection of 14th and T in NW, DC.  His father, an off duty police officer, was shot in the head outside of the store.  Upon hearing the gunfire, he explained that he excited the store, removed his father’s revolver and shot and killed the man. 

As much as I want to believe everything that John has told me, I hope that some of this is not true.  I can not begin to imagine what it would be like to struggle with so much tragic personal loss.  He told me on Day 40 that he had lost two children and his wife as well.

I gave John a dollar from my pocket and walked to do some errands.  I told him I would be back by in a while, as I had to walk back the other way to get home.  He asked me to stop by on my way back, that he had a favor to ask of me. 

When I reached John on my way back, he greeted me with the familiar smile.  He asked if I had some more money so that he could get a shirt for his brother’s funeral.  I only had $11 on me…$10 of which I needed to give away to someone else.  I gave him another dollar and went on my way. 

Then I had to find a recipient for Day 44.  Would you believe I had a hard time?  I first went to a couple who were sitting on the sidewalk around 24th and M Street.  Both of them had a crazed look in their eyes.  I sensed I was dealing with some people who were on a significant amount of drugs.  I proceeded cautiously.  I explained what I was doing and asked if they would accept my $10.  They were so confused and paranoid that they declined.  I went on my way and asked a young lady named Liddy who was walking her dog.  She was nice, but said she didn’t feel worthy.  So I was off again.

I walked another 6-7 blocks.  I came across some potential people, but there was never the right moment to go up to someone and ask them. 

I found a woman who was walking next to me and I thought, what the heck, nothing else has worked I am just going to start asking everyone.

Sara initially refused as well.  When I explained that if she refused I would have to find someone else, I think I guilted her into it.  The 28-year-old Chicago native now lives in DC and is a landscape architect for the US Green Building Council.  Her position is an internship and she is actively seeking employment for a full-time position as a landscape architect.  I might have a connection or two for her, but if anyone out there knows of something, please post here.

Sara was on her way to watch the State of the Union Address.  I asked her what grade she would give President Obama after his first year, and she said an A-.  I hope she reads this and will tell us her perspective on his speech.

Sara said that she was a bit undecided on what she was going to do with my $10.  She was either going to use it to buy some food to take to her State of the Union party or try to donate it at Miriam’s Kitchen.  She is scheduled to volunteer there soon.  If you are not familiar with Miriam’s…you should check it out, they are an important organization for the poor and homeless communities in DC.  She said she would let me know for sure what she did with it later.  I hope she is better than Mark from Day 29…he never got back to me!

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Today’s giving experience will not disappoint.  I promise.

 On Tuesday’s I meet with a group of recently laid off professionals.  We openly discuss our career situation and try to leverage one another’s experience, ideas, and contacts to help one another out.  I left our meeting around 4pm and ran some errands.  On my way home I saw two women in front of a Starbucks asking passersby for a few minutes of their time.  This was interesting because lately it has been me asking strangers to stop and talk to me.

Interested and excited to see how this goes from the other side of the table, I stop and meet Theresa.  She is a 24-year-old Maryland transplant from Wisconsin.  It is bitter cold out and she says that her Wisconsin heritage prepared her well for just such a day.

She explains to me that she is working for Save the Children, an “independent organization creating lasting change in the lives of children in need in the United States and around the world,” according to their website.  She typically works nine-hour days, 5 of which are spent directly engaging with potential donors.  With an educational background in International Studies and a one year stint with AmeriCorps, she is well poised to be working in this field.

In only 22 days I have had some interesting encounters.  So I figured with her experience engaging citizens face to face to help the organizations that she has worked for, she probably has had some experiences that stand out.  She recalls one day that she was working for Amnesty International and asked a woman to become a donor.  The woman explained that she was a survivor of the Darfur genocide and in a witness protection program and therefore could not divulge her name or be put on any type of mailing list (personally, if I was on such a list, I think rule number one would be not to divulge that to anyone).  Another time she met one of the lost boys of Sudan who had actually been a recipient of Save the Children aid when he was a child.  He received soup and vitamin supplements from the organization.  He was a student when Theresa met him and not able to become a monthly donor, but he gave her $10 (sounds like I have a copy cat J).

So, speaking of that $10.  I asked her what she was going to do with the money.  Part of me was curious if someone who pleads with strangers all day, everyday to donate to a cause would give their own money as well to the cause when given the chance.  She didn’t hesitate at all and said she was going to donate it to Save the Children.

Theresa is a very energetic individual with a talent for her field of work.  I think I need to connect Jenny (Day 13) and Theresa somehow.  Theresa said she was going to check in with the blog…so if she does, I will connect the dots.

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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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