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I asked if I could take Pierre's photograph and he said, "Why not, I am a handsome man!"

After attending a luncheon fundraiser for Room to Read that featured journalists Cokie and Steve Roberts, I hailed a cab and headed over to my office at 24th and M Streets.  I asked the cab driver how his day was and he responded, “Wonderful.  Every day is beautiful!”  I peered up at the name listed on the taxi permit fastened to the underside of the sun visor and saw that his name was Pierre.

I leaned over, grabbed my book bag and pulled my small notebook out to take some notes about this jovial character as we traveled the 30 blocks across town.

Originally from Port-au-Prince, Haiti, Pierre moved here in 1972.  “I remember it well, it was the year that Mr. Nixon had some trouble,” the 66-year-old said still smiling broadly.  “And the Dolphins won the Superbowl!”  He would know that too because he moved to Miami before moving to DC later in 1975.  He hasn’t been back to Haiti in a while though.  In fact, he isn’t aware of any family still living there.  “If I have some, I don’t know them.” 

“I’ve been driving a cab since 1984 or 85.”  He’s been lucky, he said, that he has never experienced any dangerous situations while driving his cab like Freddy, the recipient from Day 331 who was shot while driving his taxi back in the late eighties. 

I shared with Pierre that part of my motivation for this project was my mother, who passed away four years ago this month.  He told me that he lost his wife two years and eight months ago.  “We had ten children and 20 grandkids.  The oldest is now 46; I had her my last year of high school,” he said turning onto M Street.  “All but one of them are here in DC.  And the 20th grandchild was just born the day before.  “I was coming from the hospital when I picked you up,” Pierre said.  

I love this guy.  He had such an energy and esprit de vivre!  His ten dollars went to buying his lunch for the day.

“I really like what you are doing,” he said as I got out of his cab.  “Probably many people have thought something similar, but the difference is that you took the initiative and did it!” he said with his intoxicating voice.  

I hopped out and snapped this photo of him as he pulled away.

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There was a lot of talk earlier this week of a white Christmas here in Pennsylvania, but so far no snow.  I had a wonderful holiday with my father, brother and sister-in-law.  I got some great presents and had fun making cookies and playing bridge.  I am stuffed though.  No more food for me until Spring.

It's hard to see here but this is a photograph that I took of James sleeping. He leans slightly against the wall and his upper body slowly bends toward the earth.

Today’s recipient is going to touch your heart.  He’s 58-year-old James who has been homeless in DC for “six or seven years.”  I found him at the Chinatown Metro stop late at night while he slept standing up.  I observed him for about five minutes and then he began to fall over and woke up again.  I walked over to see if he was ok.

“Oh I’m fine, thank you,” James said forcing the words through the frozen air.  “I sleep standing up ‘cause I get cramps lying down.”  He later added, “The last time I slept in a bed was 1995.”  I can’t imagine that.  I was still in college at that time.

Through speaking with James it appears that he has some chronic health problems, but he refuses to go to the hospital.  “I don’t trust them,” he says softly.  

Everything that James owns sat in front of him in a cold metallic shopping cart which he keeps chained to him to ensure that nobody steals it while he sleeps.  “I have my clothes, soap, cleaning stuff, shoes, underwear, socks, a step-ladder,” he says continuing on to name some other items.  I notice that tucked on top of the cart was a Webster’s Dictionary that was probably 25 years old.  “Oh, that’s my dictionary,” he said rallying a bit of energy, “I like to read the dictionary.” 

James says that he doesn’t have any living relatives that he knows of.  His mother died in 1968 and his grandmother looked after him until she later passed away.  

James eyes rarely opened wider than this.

He seemed interested in US presidents.  He enthusiastically spoke about President Obama.  He seemed fond of Bill Clinton and Jimmy Carter too.  “Clinton was alright, he came out to a trailer park one time to meet the folks,” he started to say, “and Jimmy Carter was a good man too, he had nigger lips, did ya ever notice that?”  His comment paralyzed me slightly and I couldn’t even really come up with a response.  I’ve never liked that word and don’t use it myself.  It so often comes loaded with so much hate when it is uttered, but James said it with endearing admiration for the 86-year-old former president.

James tries to stay warm next to his belongings.

“I’m probably gonna get me a burger and a $0.65 senior coffee at McDonald’s,” he said motioning toward the ten dollars that was folded between his fingers.  Sometimes he hangs out there to stay warm, watch some television and treat himself to the occasional ice cream.

The air was so cold my face was hurting.  I said goodbye and shook his bare hand.  It was cold and stiff and I asked if he had gloves.  If he didn’t, I was going to leave mine with him.  “I’ve got some, they’re in my pocket, I’m just not wearing them right now.”  The temperature was plummeting and I urged him to go to a shelter, but he insisted that he would be fine.  I hope that he was right.  Street Sense’s Ellen Gilmer reported last week that 37 homeless individuals died this last year in the DC area.  Sadly many of them probably died alone.

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View from Tabaq of the Washington Monument keeping watch over DC.

On day 352 I headed over to Tabaq Bistro, the venue for my year-end celebration, to meet up with my friend Patricia who managed the entire event.  She’s a rock star and knows how to run events.  We went over a bunch of logistical issues about things you’d never dream of (i.e. will they have waiters or a buffet table, what kind of connection cables does their sound system use (1/4 inch if you were wondering), does the price quoted include serving plates and napkins, and the list goes on.  After an exhausting review of items, my head was sufficiently cloudy and we decided to get some food upstairs and figure out what we had forgotten.

We maneuvered our way up the two flights of dimly lit stairs to the upper level of Tabaq which has one of the best views in DC if you haven’t been there.  Its wall to wall glass gives sweeping views toward the downtown, the monuments and beyond.  We grabbed some space at the rather empty bar area and ordered a drink and began perusing the dinner menu.  Muhammara, that sounds interesting.  It’s a roasted red pepper and walnut puree.  We got one of those and chicken breast stuffed with spinach, cheese and peppers that glistened with thin layer of port wine sauce.  My mind swirled like the cocktails the bartender was serving up.  There were a myriad of things that had to still get done that day.  One of which was to deliver my $10 to some unsuspecting individual.

Rachel chatting with Patricia.

Our bartender was a young woman named Rachel.  Why not give it to her?  She was very friendly and frankly had the time since at the time we were her only customers.  The Connecticut native had been working there for about a month.  She recently graduated from American University with a degree in graphic design and photography.  My friend Patricia also went to American University here in DC and actually knew exactly where Rachel lived in Connecticut.  Small world…almost freaky.

Rachel mixes up the perfect martini.

The world is in fact small for Rachel.  She loves to travel.  Maybe it’s because her father is originally from New Zealand and she has always had the international bug.  Her father grew up in Auckland.  “I’d like to move to New Zealand some day,” Rachel says.  “Maybe try sailing or just hang out for a while,” she added.

At some point the conversation turned very technical focusing on the specific fonts she used to develop her website – which you can find here!  “I used universe font,” she started to say, “I tried to avoid gil sans and helvetica.”  Fonts…hmm, I can barely choose between wearing brown or black shoes in the morning much less what kind of font I am going to use on my website and documents.  Patricia and Rachel debated the finer points of fonts – the conversation gliding far above my comprehension.  I drifted in and out of the conversation while shifting my attention to the hearty portion of Muhammara that was still in front of us.

A cherry blossom photograph that Rachel made. For more of her work, click on the photo to visit her website.

Rachel stood close enough to get us something should we need it but not too close to make us feel uncomfortable as we ate.  “So what do you think you will use the ten dollars for,” I asked the camera shy bartender.  She paused for a moment and told me that she would probably use it to pay for the Metro or maybe put it toward a dinner she planned to make that week for a really good friend of hers.  “I’m thinking about making chicken picatta,” she said.

 

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Jim has been homeless for more than three years.

So many of the 365 people that I have met have touched my soul.  They have made me think about things that I would have never had the perspective to ponder prior to taking this walk.  Jim, a 52-year-old homeless resident of Washington, DC, invited me into his world for a while.  Will you join me?

It was an abnormally warm November 30th.  Puddles filled the streets and sidewalks as water droplets still fell from rain covered tree branches from the late afternoon showers.  Tucked under a small awning in front of what used to be the Riggs Bank in DC – now PNC – was Jim.  His head didn’t move much at first when I called out to him, rather his eyes abandoned the crossword on his lap and found their way to mine.  He sat up a little bit, plucked the earphones away from his ears and offered me a dry piece of real estate next to him.

Mostly homeless since 2007 he credits not being able to find work as the cause of his current lack of regular indoor housing.  The biggest challenge he faces being homeless is not the cold or the danger, but finding a place to store his personal items.  “I lost all of my belongings…twice!”  He once tried to hide his things in Rock Creek Park only to find them gone when he came back.  “There needs to be some type of lockers downtown where to store things in,” he says, “I’d be happy to pay a reasonable fee for such a service.”

It’s a different paradigm living on the streets.  You become more in tune with some things.  “The saddest people out here are the schizophrenics,” Jim says.  “They don’t access all the resources that are available for them and they can’t keep schedules.”  We touched on a variety of levels of mental illness and I jotted down one of the things he said that caught my attention: “There is a certain charm that mildly psychotic people have.”

He told me about an “ex street boyfriend” he had.  “He once stole some ugly sunglasses and some eye cream; only a gay homeless guy steals eye cream!” he said appreciating the humor.

The air occasionally brought a chill with it and Jim slipped a blue knit hat over his head.  With the Express newspaper still in his lap he says, “If a crossword is too hard it gets to be like work and if it’s work, I expect to get paid!”  We laughed together.  Speaking of work, Jim did recently get a job at a Cosi for about a week.  “It was just not for me,” he said shaking his head slowly and watching some young people walk by probably on their way to a nearby coffee shop or bar.  “I felt like I had hundreds of managers telling me what to do.”

We must have sat there for about 90 minutes.  I shot some video that I have included here of Jim talking about where he is from, about being homeless, suffering from depression and finally he took me on a short field trip over to the Marvelous Market to do some dumpster diving.  His compassion and charisma impacted me a great deal. Check it out.

Jim plans to use my $10 to get some coffee and maybe a snack in the morning at Books-A-Million.  “I’ve been wanting to read God of Small Things,” he says about Arundhati Roy’s Booker Prize winning novel.  “It appears to be a rich fictional piece that I might just end up getting lost in.”

I asked someone walking by to take our photo.

Through my conversation with Jim I learned that he knows Bill C. and Tommy N. who I gave $10 to earlier in the year.  As a final note, I have stopped by and left some food for Jim when I have seen him sleeping at his spot.  He also joined me at the Year-End Celebration which meant a lot to me!  Do check out the Lend a Hand initiative to see a couple of very simple things that you could get to help Jim out.

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Deb Felz: singer, guitarist and songwriter

I never know where I am going to find my recipients.  Today I found Deb at the Potbelly’s where she was playing guitar.  It’s cool that Potbelly’s has musicians in there.  It’s not a place that you would expect to hear some great local talent, but Deb is pretty awesome.

I ordered their Uptown Salad and headed over to a table.  I was pretty sure that I had seen Deb before.  And then I figured it out, she was opening act at the Velvet Lounge the night I gave my $10 to Ethan, Day 128.  I just took a look back at that blog post from April and sure enough I even mentioned Deb!  

As I walked over to get my drink I asked her if she was in fact Deb Felz who had opened up for Ethan and Machines on Vacation.  In fact it was her, it’s a small world.  I sat down and started eating my salad and then it hit me.  She should be my $10 recipient of the day!  I waited until she finished her song and applauded, I was the only one, not because the others didn’t enjoy the music but because it is just not the environment where people are clapping for the performer.  But I did anyway. Then I went over and explained what I am doing and asked her to be part of it.  She set the $10 on the Fender amp that was to her right and started another song…I sat back and listed to about a half-dozen beautiful songs.  She finished and we pulled up some chairs to talk.

Deb plays as Adam gives me the "Who the hell is this guy?" look.

We were joined by her boyfriend Adam.  I noticed him while she was playing and I was photographing her.  I’m sure he was like, “Who the hell is this guy?”  I introduced myself to him and he was really nice as well.

Deb’s card says “singer, guitarist and songwriter.”  She is in fact all of these…and quite talented at each.  She does pretty much all original music.  I remember at one point some people at a nearby table asked her if she took requests.  “Not really.  I mainly do originals because I can’t do anything else,” she said warming the room with her smile.  Wow…there are a lot of people out there making music that can’t do anything original.  Her creativity started with writing.  “I’ve been writing as long as I can remember,” she told me.  “I wrote my earliest song around 9 or 10 and started guitar to put music to it when I was about 11.”  She doesn’t just enjoy the writing; she says that it’s something she needs to do.

She likes when people listen to her music and get something out of it that she hasn’t even thought of.  “All art,” she says “is for the audience.” 

Adam said that Deb has good Karma.  I’m not surprised after hearing what she intended to do with the $10.  “I’m going to give it to this one Street Sense vendor, she’s always by the Smoothie King.”  She ended up not seeing that vendor for a while so she gave the money to Kenneth B. from Day 30.  “He’s out there in all kinds of weather.” 

"Deb has pretty good karma!" - Adam

I particularly liked something she told me during our conversation.  She said, “The people who I admire the most are the people who have something to complain about and don’t.”  Well said.

Well, here are some links to Deb’s music.  I love it.  My two favorite songs are Pull and Meant to Be.  If you want to hear more of Deb’s music, just come to the Year of Giving Anniversary Celebration next Tuesday…she’ll be playing live!

Deb’s website where you can listen to many of her songs for free

Video of Lovesick, Pull and one other song at Potbelly

Video of Raining in Baltimore at Potbelly

Video of Backwards at Potbelly

My video recordings have some annoying background noise that I can’t remove with my free software I use to edit.  Sorry!

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This post is a little out of order, but I will get caught up on the ones I skipped by this weekend.  I am getting behind doing my day jobs, planning for the Year of Giving Celebration next Tuesday, giving my daily $10 away and planning the next year’s commitment!  Trying to sleep now and then too!

Over Thanksgiving weekend, I took my father to see a Hershey Bears hockey match.  I would often go to the games as a child with my Boy Scout troop.  I used to enjoy them, but this time I didn’t really enjoy it.  Partly I think because the people that sat around us were loud and obnoxious the entire game.  The other factor was that it became pretty clear that the fans showed up more for the fights than they did the hockey. 

The Bears easily won 4-0.  The nearly 10,000 fans packed into the Giant Center Arena would celebrate after each goal however if you really wanted to see cheering all you had to do was wait until somebody started punching his opponent in the face.  “I want to see somebody bleeding on the ice,” a fan who was behind us said casually. 

I’ve been to many Washington Capitals games and have not felt this same blood and guts mentality.  Anyway, it left a bad taste in my mouth.

After the game I suggested to my dad that we hang out inside the arena for a while since getting out of the parking lot was sure to be an abysmal experience.  He and I walked down a little bit to the area where wheel chairs are allowed and saw two older men chatting away.  At the first opportunity I inserted myself into the conversation and explained my mission.

George, a man probably in his late 60s or early 70s with cotton-like flowing beard, told me he wouldn’t accept the ten dollars.  “I don’t know why,” he started “just because.”  I turned to his friend Melvin and asked him the same question and got this response, “Well, I don’t know either, but if that is what you want to do than I guess I’m OK with it.”

It was incredibly hard to hear Melvin.  The acoustics were funky where we were standing and he was a bit of a soft talker so I feel like I got about 70% of the story.  The 73-year-old from nearby Campbelltown, PA told me that he’s retired from the transportation business.  “I loaded and unloaded the trucks,” he said just loud enough that I could hear him.  He also was a volunteer fireman for many years.

Giant Center Arena

To his left there was a metallic cane that leaned against the railing.  “I broke my pelvic bone,” Melvin shared.  “I did it right after a game here come to think about it.”  I wouldn’t be surprised if he fell trying to get through the aisles.  The aisles are so thin that you can barely squeeze in and out of the aisles.  I nearly dropped a platter of chicken tenders, french fries, ketchup and beer all over the row in front of me because I could barely get by some women in our row.  Not to mention that I too probably would have landed on their heads.  It’s possibly the most poorly designed, not to mention dangerous, seating area that I have ever seen.

Anyway, Melvin said he was doing better now and that this was the first hockey game he had made this year. 

I asked him what he planned to do with the money and he didn’t know for sure.  “I’ll probably use it to take my wife out to breakfast in the morning,” he said after pondering it for a moment. 

A man who looked to be in his 40s walked up the aisle and stopped to talk to Melvin.  It turned out to be one of his three children.  They got to talking and I figured it was time to go and said goodbye.

Melvin preferred not having his photograph taken and didn’t leave me any contact information, so I will probably never know if he reads this or get any more details on the whereabouts of that ten-dollar bill.  I wouldn’t have gotten a good picture anyway; the arena wouldn’t let me bring my camera in.  They have a strict no detachable lens camera policy which I think is silly.  “We do this to prohibit professional photographers from taking photographs at the game,” I was told by a security guard.  I was surprised since I always take my camera to NHL games and have never had a problem.  This was the second time in two weeks that I have been turned away at the gate of a sporting event for carrying something that was not allowed in the stadium.  Maybe I ought to just stay away from stadiums.

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Still no major sponsor for the Year of Giving Anniversary event.  Have spoken to a few law firms, they have passed.  Had two corporate companies analyzing it too, one passed the other one now has completely gone silent.  Although I try not to be bitter, the sad reality is that these companies spend this on business travel without batting an eye.

Lorrie at 13th & H Streets in DC

On a positive note, today’s recipient will make you smile.  Her name is Lorrie and she is a Street Sense vendor who I met at 13th and H Streets in downtown Washington.  

Lorrie has been selling the Street Sense newspaper since May and says that she loves it.  Her wide smile and contagious laughter is still vivid in my memory.  “I try to make everyone’s day,” she told me.  Well she made mine!

Check out this short video of Lorrie and see her warm smile for yourself!

After meeting Lorrie, we have spoken a few times on the phone.  She explained that even with her paper sales she is falling short of the income that she needs.  If you would like to help Lorrie by making a donation, you can go to the online donation portal of Street Sense and make a donation.  In the comments section just put what percentage of your donation you would like to go directly to Lorrie H.

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I found Lisa wrapped in a sleeping bag nestled in an alcove in front of a Chinatown building near the intersection of 9th and E Streets.  I walked about 20 feet past her and decided to go back and give her my $10.

It was about 10:00pm and sun drenched streets had long been replaced by the black and blue shadows.  At first I wasn’t sure if she was a man or a woman, but as I got closer and my eyes adjusted I could see clearly that she was a woman.  The 50-year-old’s dirty blond hair was mostly covered by a wool hat.  Her eyes were like perfectly cut Brazilian aquamarines.  They were so stunning that it was hard to look elsewhere. 

She said that she has been homeless for 10 years.  I handed her my card.  She studied it for a while – rocking it back and forth between her uncovered fingers to catch the dim light that cast over her from the empty street.  She took the $10 and told me that she would get some breakfast in the morning.  “Maybe get me some pancakes,” she said still suspicious of the altruistic gift. 

I tried to make small talk and ask her about her experience on the streets.  “The toughest part is finding enough water,” she said as I pushed my hands deep into my pockets to keep them warm.  It was chilly, maybe 40 degrees yet she cited drinking water as the biggest challenge.   

Things got very awkward when I asked if I could take a photograph of her.  She got noticeably upset, “No.  I don’t want my picture taken.”  She extended her hand toward me offering the folded up ten dollar bill.  “You can have your money back.  I don’t want it.”  I explained that if she wasn’t comfortable being photographed that that was fine and the money was hers to keep.  We were both silent for a moment.  I looked away from her and saw a Styrofoam food container – the kind you get from a Chinese take-out restaurant – and a half full bottle of water.  Her hand and the ten dollars disappeared again under the many layers garments.

“Well, thanks for speaking with me,” I told her as I picked up my trusty backpack – I’ve been carrying that bag around for 342 days now!  “Good luck and stay safe…and warm!” I added as I went on my way.

Every time I leave a homeless person I have more questions than answers.  It always weighs heavy on my mind for the rest of the day.  As I pull the covers up over me at night and close my eyes I wonder if Lisa is withstanding the cold.  I wonder when the last time she slept in a bedroom with lots of pillows and a thick warm comforter.  I wonder what she dreams about?

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After being unemployed for 285 days, I have a special connection when I give my $10 to someone out of work.  According to data released by the US Department of Labor yesterday, unemployment has risen to 9.8% from 9.6% where it had hovered since August.  That represents 15.1 million people who can not find work.  The good news is that we are slightly better off than we were in 2009 at this time when there was 10% unemployment which accounted for 15.4 million people out of work.

Phiona is one of the 15.1 million people searching for work in this country.  She has been unemployed for five months now.  Back in February I recall that the average duration of unemployment was 7.5 months.  I tried to find what it is at now, but couldn’t find an updated statistic on this.  So if she is an average case it will probably be February before she finds another job assuming the rate has stayed similar.  It’s tough out there.

She wants to do project management work for nonprofits.  In addition to her experience in disaster management and post-conflict reconstruction, she did a fellowship at UCLA and got her master’s degree from the University of Pittsburgh.  She sounds like she is prepared.

Speaking of being prepared…this 28-year-old was certainly prepared when I ran across her talking on her cell phone at the top of the Metro escalators at Dupont Circle.  She had a colorful umbrella next to her and opened that up just as the rain began to pick up – it had been drizzling lightly for a while.

She was quite weary of my intentions at first and asked not to be photographed – even when I offered to photograph her from far away with her face safely hidden behind the umbrella.  That’s just the way it is sometimes.  People are often uncomfortable being photographed, especially if it is going to be uploaded into the cavernous halls of the internet.

Originally from Kenya, Phiona is hoping to go to Africa for the holidays.  When you’re unemployed there is that weird balance of time and money.  When you were working you could afford to travel but didn’t have the time.  Now when you are unemployed you have more time than you could imagine but spending money on travel was always difficult for me.

Anyway, I wanted to share something with you that Phiona said.  We were talking about a variety of different things as the rain fell from the steel-wool colored November sky.  “It’s always somebody else who tells you who you are,” she said.  That’s an interesting comment because it goes along well with a phrase that I particularly like, “perception is reality.”  But is it really true that we are the person that someone else tells us we are ?  I say that we are who we are but we are to others what they tell us we are.  Wow, somebody else could surely phrase that better than I did!  By the way, I don’t think I have ever written a sentence where I used “we are” three times…perhaps I just won a prize or something!

Anyway, she didn’t know what she was going to do with the $10 when we said goodbye but promised to email me and give me an update.  Well, she did just that.  This week I received an email from Phiona letting me know that she bought herself some lunch with $5 of it and gave the rest to a homeless man by the Metro.

Enjoy your weekend!

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Before I get to today’s recipient, I need your help to find two things.  First, I need a couple of people who are out of work who would be willing to take the same challenge that I have done this year for a week or two.  In other words to go out and give $10 away every day and then blog about it on the Year of Giving.  If you or someone you know wants to do this, please email me.

The other thing is that the Year of Giving is expanding!  We need a part-time intern for next year.  Someone who is a little web savvy and can dedicate about 10 hours a week to the project.  It doesn’t need to be for the entire year, but at least a 6 month commitment.  It will be an amazing experience, trust me.  Any interested people should get in touch with me ASAP and tell me why you should be chosen.

This is not good.

Now…on to today’s recipient.  This is really embarrassing yet it was bound to happen at some point.  I opened my journal up to the page marked Day 335 and there was nothing written there except the name Paul.  I had no idea who Paul was or where I met him.  How is this possible?  Then I went to look at my photos and figured out the photos immediately after Tyler were probably of Paul.  Bingo!  I was right.  I remember him now, he was a bike messenger I met on Columbia Road in Adams Morgan late one Sunday evening.  But where are all the notes about Paul?  How old is he?  What is his email?  What the heck did he do with the $10?  Hmmmm…I don’t know.  I know I wrote them down some place but I didn’t have my trusty Moleskine on me apparently.  I do have a video though…although it doesn’t tell too much either.

Paul powering up on some beverages at CVS.

I ran into Paul in front of the CVS that is next to the Safeway.  He was getting some beverages to take down to a restaurant down there street where his brother was waiting for him.  He had heard of the Year of Giving and was very friendly.  I told him about my losing my mother and he shared that his father had passed around this summer.  He talks about his dad and their relationship in this clip.  It’s clear that this was not easy for him to talk about.

Other than that, I can’t recall much.  The last couple weeks have been a complete blur.  I think he is in a band or DJs or something…who knows.  Hopefully I will find the little piece of paper where I jotted all the notes down.  And if anybody knows Paul…tell him to get in touch!

UPDATE: Jan 7, 2011

So I was doing some new year cleaning and found the paper where I wrote down the info on Paul!

When I met him he told me, “I’m coming back from a show that I didn’t go to.”  That kind of perplexed me, but then he explained that he went to a show where the band didn’t play.  “I ended up buying some CDs of the band,” he said referring to the metal band that calls themself Body Cop.

Paul is no stranger to music.  He plays bass and drums and even does some producing.  I asked him about musical influences.  “I’ve been inspired by so many but Brian Wilson, Myles Davis and Frank Zappa for sure.”   He has a website where you can listen to some of his work.

“I’m going to use the money for food,” he told me.  “I’ve been trying to conserve money lately.”  He said that he was lucky to have a job and enjoyed the flexibility of being a courier.

When we parted he said to me with so much enthusiasm, “It was really cool running into you.”  The feeling was mutual.

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Of the 12,000 homeless in Washington, DC, Bill stands out.  Maybe it’s his charismatic demeanor the empathic tone of his voice.  Whatever it may be, I will remember my encounter with Bill.

Bill getting ready for bed on K Street.

I was walking north on 21st Street late at night.  I stopped and waited for the green walk sign to illuminate and crossed K Street.  It was void of all of the lobbyists and corporate types that fill the sidewalks during the day.  Despite the “Don’t Walk” sign I crossed the empty street.  As I approached the other side I saw a man on the northwest corner bundled in a sleeping bag in front of the glass doors of a bank.  The area was well-lit and I walked over to him.

Homeless on the streets of our nation’s capital for over five years, Bill ended up on the streets after the death of his father and subsequent loss of employment.  

Chills sprung up around my neck as he told me that he was born in Harrisburg Hospital in Pennsylvania.  Not only is it very close to where I grew up but it is the very same hospital where my mother died four years ago. 

We talked a little bit about the Central Pennsylvania area.  He went to York Catholic High School.  I went to Mechanicsburg High School.  And although we were separated by about 20 years I felt some kind of connection with Bill.

He lucidly spoke to me about being homeless.  “You have to be,” he began to say as he tugged at his dark hooded sweatshirt, “somewhat detached from reality to be homeless.”  He describes the mental state that one gets into as a sort of shock.  It paralyzes some individuals and they simply are unable to break out of the cycle.  “You could write a good book about being homeless though,” he perked up and said.  “You could call it Squirrels on Food Stamps.  I mean we sit in parks all day like the squirrels.”  

Despite the obvious dark side of being alone and homeless in America, Bill tells me of a side many people don’t know about.  “It’s dangerous out here for those of us who are homeless.  Sometimes you end up being in the wrong place at the wrong time.”  Bill was referring to an incident a few years earlier where at that very spot where he was sitting he was attacked by someone while he was sleeping.  He woke up to bone crushing blows to his skull.  “Thankfully I am just a few hundred yards from GW Hospital.  The doctor there told me I was 15 minutes away from dying.”  He is still noticeably bothered about the incident.  His voice silenced and we both just looked at each another.  “You can still see some of the blood stains over there,” he said pointing to a grape jam colored spot just feet away from where he was going to rest his head that night.

I found out we have something else in common other than being from Central Pennsylvania.  Bill used to live around the corner from my apartment in DC.  “That area has changed a lot since I lived there.”  He lived there from 1984-1995 and said that his rent started at $350 and ended at $450 per month.  Well, I can tell you that it has skyrocketed since those days.  “I lived across from Nora’s,” he said referring to a high-end restaurant noted for being the first certified organic restaurant in the United States.  Some of you might remember that I took my father there for dinner on his 70th birthday on Day 306.  

“In fact I used to steal fresh herbs from their garden,” Bill said chuckling a little.

He was going to use my $10 to buy himself breakfast the next morning.  “I usually go over to Miriam’s Kitchen, but I get so tired of that.  I’m going to go to the cafeteria at GW and get some sausage and biscuits.”

Before I left I told him about the Lend a Hand project.  “You know what I would love,” Bill started to say enthusiastically, “an electric blanket.”  Now you might wonder how a homeless guy is going to use an electric blanket, but Bill is pretty smart.  He sleeps right next to an electrical outlet.  So if you want to make a 55-year-old man’s day, send me an electric blanket and I will deliver it to Bill.

UPDATE: 11/28/2010

This is a first!  Less than 12 hours from when I posted this someone already sent me a brand new electric blanket for Bill.   Thank you Michelle!!!  When I receive it I will take it to him and try to post a picture or video, although he was not comfortable with me taking his picture when I met him….so we will have to see.  Thanks again!  You have been such a great supporter of the Year of Giving!

UPDATE: 12/5/2010

 

I delivered the electric blanket that Michelle from NC sent for Bill.  He was so thankful and it is really cold tonight so I am sure it will get good use.  Can you believe that he said he wanted to write a little note to the bank to ask permission to use their electricity?  Unbelievable.   He said that he could also use some size 8.5 shoes or boots with winter coming.

 



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Happy Thanksgiving!!!

There is SO much to be thankful for today.  Here’s just a few things…

the last 36 years 327 days ■ my amazing family ■ loyal friends ■ love that I feel ■ my job ■ my home ■ my sight ■ my hearing ■ my sense of taste ■ my sense of touch ■ my sense of smell  ■  asymptotes  ■   the ability to run  ■ our differences ■ our similarities ■ sleep ■ spell check ■ rain ■ nature ■ sun, moon and the stars ■ mornings ■  evenings in San Gimignano ■  laughter ■ children ■ gardens  ■  trust  ■   history  ■ spices  ■  caipirinhas  ■   tacos  ■   hugs  ■   music  ■   the 33 Chilean miners  ■   language  ■   my mother’s recipes – especially stuffing …

I could go on…but I if I did, we would never get to know about Meghan…and her friend John!

She looks sweet and innocent, but Meghan was ready to club me with her 1/2 steel bike lock had I been an attacker.

So on a cool evening I wandered over to Dupont Circle to see who I would find.  I immediately saw Meghan sitting next to a bicycle on the east side of the circle but I decided to make a lap around the fountain to see if I found someone who caught my attention.  Nope.  It was Meghan.

The 28-year-old from Richmond has been in DC for almost six years.  She has a government job which she says that she doesn’t enjoy very much.  “I’m waiting for a friend and where going to go for dinner,” she told me when I asked what brought her to the circle that night. She said she would probably put the ten dollars toward the evening.

As we were talking her friend John showed up.  It’s cool how they met.  They both worked for years for the same agency on the same floor but didn’t know each other.  Then on a trip to Spain Meghan found herself in a cozy little tapas joint in Sevilla.  John, who also happened to be in Sevilla on vacation, happened to come over and talk to her and it turned out they worked together!  Now they are great friends.

“She’s one of the funniest people I know,” John told me.

Meghan, who lives in the Shaw neighborhood, changed her mind and decided to give John half of her ten dollars…who knows, maybe that compliment literally paid off!  “He’s great,” she told me.  So then something happened that had never happened so far this year.  John said he wanted to give me his five dollars!  What could I do but accept it.  I’ve put that five dollars toward covering my costs for the Year-End celebration on  December 14th!

“I saw you walk around the fountain twice and then come over toward me,” Meghan began saying, “I was ready to hurt you with my ½ inch steel bike lock!”  Phew…good thing I made a good impression!

Me, Meghan and John. Meghan holding her $5, me holding the $5 that Meghan gave to John and he passed on to me!

Here is a quick story to make you feel good on Thanksgiving!  John told me that he was at the American Museum of Natural History New York City this summer when he found $70 on the ground.  “I turned it in to the information desk figuring someone had dropped it,” he explained.  He gave them his information as well and would you believe four months later they called John and told him that since nobody had claimed it that they were going to send it to him.  Wow…can you believe it?  It gets better.  “I told them to keep it and consider it a donation,” John said humbly.  I love it!

We’re getting ready to sit down for dinner now.  I was in charge of making two stuffings…one a regular bread stuffing full of celery, sausage and sage that my mother used to make…it’s my favorite.  The other is a cornbread stuffing that my grandmother (Dad’s mom) used to make.  I hope you enjoy your Thanksgiving, but do take a moment to reflect on all that you have to be thankful for.

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This photo is from the video below.

Hey, so some people have been nominating the Year of Giving for the Most Creative Social Good Campaign for the 4th Annual Mashable Awards.  If you would like to vote for the Year of Giving as well, click here!

After 323 days of giving, I naturally gravitate to things that are new or happen for the first time.  Like on Sunday I shared with you a story about me giving my $10 to my dentist – which by the way I got lots of feedback that people don’t like to see teeth on my website!  That was the first time I had given the money to someone in the medical field who saw me as a patient.  On Day 317 I gave my $10 MSNBC morning host Willie Geist.  It somehow mixes things up for me.  Well today I have another “first” as I like to call them. 

I was at a writing workshop that is put on a Borders Books at 18th and L Streets in DC.  For six weeks we would meet and practice our writing.  On this day, Trevor, an unemployed 32-year-old political campaign veteran showed up.  He was very talented.  At the end of the class the discussion turned toward my Year of Giving.  “I’m unemployed and haven’t had dinner yet…I’ll take your ten bucks,” he said to me.  I haven’t ever given to someone who has asked outright for it except for the homeless and street panhandlers.  But I thought sure, why not.

He put a creative spin on his current employment situation.  “I like to think of myself as between jobs…or funemployed…or maybe consulting or freelancing, or maybe I should just call myself an artist.”  Most recently he was working on political campaigns for the Democratic Party.  “I feel like my purpose is to write attack ads against Republicans.”

He’s got a plethora of work experience.  He’s worked in a pornographic book store, has done screen writing and started a nonprofit.  “That one gave me a nervous breakdown,” he said.  “And it job taught me the difference between having a job and a mission.  It’s not good to have a mission.”  I’m not sure I agree with that…maybe I misunderstood what he was getting at.

Currently he is supporting himself with some photography.  He lists Sally Mann of Virginia as a photographer that he appreciates.  She’s got a book called the Deep South that was sitting on the chair next to him.  Trevor offered to photograph the year-end celebration on December 14th…hopefully he’s willing to donate his services for that in the spirit of the project.  

Check out some excerpts from my conversation with him…

Some other random tidbits… Trevor told me that for his 18th birthday he bought himself a pair of custom leather pants.  In London he won $3,000, half of which he spent on a gold lamé suit.  He promised to send me a picture and tell me what he was going to do with the $10, but I haven’t received it yet…maybe he will update us all.  

All in all a pretty interesting guy and wickedly talented …unfortunately we didn’t see him at any more workshops.

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Today’s post is from Election Day.  I thought it would be appropriate to give my ten dollars to someone who was exercising their civic duty by voting.

I walked over to my polling location and voted.  As an aside, what is wrong with our voting system?  They only have one electronic voting booth.  The rest is done by paper ballots.  I used to live in Brazil where they had fully electronic voting.  The electronic machines were introduced there in 1996 and fully implemented in 2000.  Ten years later, we have one machine in my voting district!  Parabens Brasil!

I approached several people who came out of St. Thomas Episcopal Church, my local polling location.  I first approached a white woman in her 50s with short dark hair who sat on a bench by herself.  She wasn’t very friendly toward me and asked me to give it to someone else.  Then I saw another woman leaving the voting center.  Amina refused as well, however, she said she liked the Year of Giving concept very much.  “I ran a soup kitchen in Johannesburg, South Africa for four years,” she shared.  “But for me to take your money and then give it to someone else just seems wrong.  I can use my own money to do that.”  We chatted for a little while longer before she went on her way.

Silvia and Salvador choose not to sleep in DC's shelters.

I then found a couple sleeping upright on a bench as they soaked in the sun’s warm rays to balance out the cool November air.   They were on the west side of the church.  I had seen them earlier, but didn’t want to wake them.  I noticed Salvador wasn’t able to sleep so I walked toward him.  As I got close to him, he nudged Silvia with his right elbow to wake up.

Silvia is 41 and is originally from El Salvador.  Salvador is 29 and is from Mexico.  She’s been here since 1984, him since 2002.  They are both homeless and sleep near a church at 16th and O Streets in DC.  “We even made it through the big snow storms last winter,” Silvia told me in Spanish.  “In fact, Salvador made us a really good shelter by the church with all the snow.”  

Salvador works at a restaurant somewhere near Thomas Circle I believe.  She works downtown cleaning offices I believe.  “I’ve got to work,” Silvia said.  “I have to pay $130 every month in child support.”  She has three children between the ages of 16-18.  She told me that she became homeless after a “situation of domestic violence.”

Salvador was rather quiet.  Maybe he was skeptical of my kindness.  He did say that he became homeless three years ago.  

Both of them said they would buy food with their portion of the ten dollars.  “I’m going to get me something from Chipotle,” Silvia said with an electric smile.  

They used the $10 for food.

It was five o’clock.  Salvador headed over to the church to start preparing their shelter for the evening and I walked with Silvia to the Dupont Metro where she needed to catch the train to get to work.  I gave her a hug and wished her luck.

This couple needs some basic items for the winter…please check out the Lend a Hand section if you are able to help them out.

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Jorge was born on the second floor of what is now the Russia House. (photo: Reed)

I was walking along Connecticut Avenue when I saw a guy dressed up in a Roman outfit.  It was getting close to Halloween, so I thought perhaps there was a costume party.  Then I realized he was having his picture taken…I decided to walk over and give my $10 to him.  

“I’m a rock’n’roll pop singer, song writer and producer,” Jorge told me when I asked him what he was up to.  “I am out here today doing a photo shoot for my electronic press kit for five of the largest major record label groups in the world.” 

Most of my conversation with Jorge was captured on my video.  Check it out and find out what he’s doing with Vanilla Ice.

It’s a bit self promoting, but I guess he needs to be getting the word out as he gets ready for his forthcoming albums and books – Jorge’s also a non-fiction writer and poet!

As for the $10, he said he was going to put it toward some food and transportation.

You might recognize the Royal Palace in the background from Day 309. (photo: Reed)

If you would like to listen in on some of his music, you can check it out on his MySpace page: mutatioformulae.  You can also check out his Facebook page.

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Dane fishing in the waters of Valley Creek in Pennsylvania. (Photo: Reed)

While I was visiting my friends up in Pennsylvania we decided to go for a hike in Valley Forge.

Along the hike I spotted Dane doing some fishing in the Valley Creek.  I couldn’t resist trying to give my $10 to a guy wading knee-deep in the water.  I yelled over to him and he made his way to the shore and I handed him the money.  I’ll chalk that up for a first: Gave $10 to person in the middle of a creek!

I honestly thought there was a 50/50 chance that I was going to fall in the creek, because to be able to get close enough to Dane to give him the $10 I had to maneuver down part of the bank where I placed one of me feet on a branch and the other on a rock that jutted out from the bank.

Me photographing Dane along the banks of Valley Creek. (photo: K. Kanelakis)

I asked him how the fishing was.  “I haven’t caught anything today,” he told me.  I realized that if I didn’t scare the fish away when I yelled over to him that my friends two boys were taking care of it as they proudly dumped as many rocks as they could into the creek.  When Dane is not fishing, he is looking for work in journalism.  A graduate from UNC, he hopes to find work in Sports Radio.

Here is a little bit of our conversation…

Later that evening Dane was heading to game six of the National League playoffs.  Sorry the Phillies lost Dane.  I was impressed that four or five hours before they threw out the first pitch Dane was chilling in creek doing a little fishing.  

He said he was going to use my $10 get some Mountain Dew.

If anyone can help Dane find a job…leave a message!

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Hey, so yesterday I totally screwed up on my twitter account.  I thought I was sending a private message and apparently I broadcasted my mobile number!  Ooops.  Thankfully LilaScot noticed it and sent me a message to let me know.  Thanks!  I got it taken care of now.

One of my favorite pubs, Ireland's Four Courts in Arlington, VA. (photo: Reed)

So today you are going to meet five amazing, intelligent, beautiful people.  With a description like that they could only be one thing…that’s right Steeler fans!

Dave, Julie, Cathy, Scott and Brandon were all watching the Steelers game at one of my favorite pubs: Ireland’s Four Courts in Arlington.  All of them but Brandon were clad in their Steeler jerseys and shirts.  If any of you are wondering what to get Brandon for the holidays, I’m guessing that a Steelers jersey would be much appreciated!

Some of them live here in the DC area, others live in Pittsburgh and Cathy came all the way from Panama City. 

From L-R, Cathy, Scott, Brandon, Dave and Julie. (photo: Reed)

I tried to figure out how everyone knew each other.  So Dave and Scott went to middle school together at Eden Christian Academy.  Julie and Scott are dating and I think Cathy and Dave are too….they actually met playing World of Warcraft online.  Hey, maybe Ashanti will meet someone there too….he used to be a big fan of the online game. 

I commented on Brandon’s hat and learned that he actually bought it in Germany.  “So I was there for Oktoberfest with Julie and Scott,” Brandon told me.  “I have a big head and it’s not easy to find a hat that fits…so when I found this one I got it!” 

All five of my new Steeler friends agreed to put their $2 share of the $10 toward their bar tab. 

I offered to put something on the Lend a Hand section for any of them and got some interesting requests.  Cathy would like to meet the Steelers’ all-pro safety Troy Polamalu.  In fact she said that she bought Head & Shoulders 2 in 1 shampoo just because his commercials for it!  Advertising works.

Brandon would like some help finding a job as a research analyst in the criminal justice field.  The 25-year-old lives in Northern Virginia and has a degree in public policy specializing in criminal justice. 

My new football friends hanging out at the Four Courts. (photo: Reed)

Dave joined in and said he would like some Steeler tickets!  And if you donate some tickets to Dave, add an extra ticket for me!!!  I’ve never been to a game in Pittsburgh.

Well the Steelers went on to trounce the Browns 28-10.  Hey, catch the Steelers this Monday night take on the Bengals!  I’m thinking about going to the Pour House to watch the game if you are in the DC area and want to join.  Who knows, you might even get ten bucks!

UPDATE: 11/20/2010

I just got an email from Cathy…I was right, they are dating, in fact they are engaged.  And guess what, she told me that Julie and Scott have just got engaged as well!  Congrats guys!

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I was walking down Columbia Road toward Adams Morgan when I ran into Yab from Day 231.  He was doing well and seemed in good spirits.

The bus stop where I met Ronnie at 18th and Columbia Rd. (photo: Reed)

A few blocks north, I came to the intersection of 18th Street.  This is the heart of the lively Adams Morgan district.  I spotted a man in a wheel chair wearing a black and white checkered hat who was waiting for the bus and thought I would go over and give him my ten bucks. 

Ronnie was extremely suspicious of my offer to give him $10.  In the end he accepted it but he was reluctant to tell me much about himself much less allow me to take a photograph.  When I reached him, I noticed that he was missing his right hand.  He used his left hand to control his motorized chair.

Currently unemployed, Ronnie says that he will use the money for food.  He said he was very involved with his church and sings in the choir.  “I’ve been singing all my life,” the 50-year-old DC native told me.  

Ronnie's bus pulls away into the night. (photo: Reed)

I heard the growl of the 92 bus bound for Congress Heights as it barreled through the intersection toward our stop.  “That’s my bus,” Ronnie said.  Three others got on the bus and I went to the driver and asked him to lower the ramp so that Ronnie could get on.  All in all it took about four minutes to get Ronnie on board and get the door closed.  The bus pulled away and headed south down 18th Street.

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Sea of rally-goers between me and the Capitol. (photo: Reed)

Good morning!  DC is full of visitors this weekend for the Rally to Restore Sanity.  Led by Jon Stewart of the Daily Show, the event was supposed to be a rally to bring people together.  Unfortunately I think it ended up being attended almost exclusively by democrats.  It would have been nice to have a more inclusive audience.  

My dad came down from Pennsylvania and we went down to the rally.  I can not tell you too much about what happened there because there were way more people there than what they expected.  As a result, there were not enough speakers/jumbo screens for most of us to hear or see what was happening.  It’s too bad too, because I really like Stewart.  I think he is wickedly smart not to mention one of the funniest guys on television.  I would have given him my $10 – but that didn’t happen.  I did give it to a 16-year-old student from NC who attended the rally with his father.  His story in a couple of weeks.

Located at Connecticut and DeSales, The Mayflower Hotel was home to President Harry S. Truman for three months while the White House was being renovated. (photo: Reed)

As for today, I want to introduce you to Luis.  I met him a few weeks ago outside the Mayflower Hotel here in DC when the IMF sessions were taking place in Washington.  Originally from El Salvador, Luis works in the private transportation industry.  On this day, he was chauffeuring executives to and from their meetings.  He’s been in this business for the past ten years he tells me.  Some times he has been hired to make long trips too.  “Last week I went to New York City twice,” Luis said. 

In front of us was a herd of black Town Cars, Escalades, Suburbans – all with tinted windows.  Some had signs in the window to indicate who they were reserved for.  “BNP Paribas” read one sign referring to the French banking powerhouse.  Another had a sign for the London-based HSBC. 

A flight crew from Lufthansa exited and crowded the side entrance to the hotel, about 10 feet from where we were standing.  They all lit cigarettes and a cloud of tobacco smoke settled over us.  Luis, neatly dressed in a black suite with a blue tie, shook his head in disgust and took a few more steps away from the airline personnel.  

His cell phone rang and he excused himself and took the call speaking in Spanish.  He returned a few minutes later apologizing for the interruption.  He explained that his clients were just about ready to leave so I let him get back to work.  

IMF/World Bank Meetings (IMF Photo/Stephen Jaffe)

Before shaking his hand and wishing him good luck, I asked him if he had thought about what he would do with the ten dollars.  He said he would probably use it to buy some breakfast that week. 

He asked not to be photographed and also preferred to not provide any contact information.  Hopefully he will be in touch later so that I can make sure he gets information about the year-end celebration.

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Giving is the theme of this post!

Click on the link below and help Maggie reach her goal! (photo: Reed)

I found myself swallowed up in a sea of pink on Connecticut Avenue.  I ended up walking south forced by the inertia of the mass of walkers in the Susan G. Komen 3-Day for the Cure, a 60 mile trek that begins in Maryland and finishes with a spectacular view of the monuments of our nation’s capital.

I found myself next to Maggie, a 46-year-old mother of two who hails from Clarksville, TN.  “I’ve come up here the past three years to join my sister in the 3-Day,” Maggie tells me as she nears the 60 mile marker and the end of her journey.  “My grandmother and a couple of aunts battled breast cancer, but this year I am walking for my friend and coworker who had a double-mastectomy last week.”  She said that her friend was recovering well.

She didn’t hesitate a second and told me, “I’m going to donate the ten dollars to the Komen 3-Day.”  She could use the help too.  She is about $900 shy of the minimum pledge amount that walkers agree to which is $2,300.  She has a few more days to get donations…why don’t you donate $10 today toward Maggie’s goal!  Click here to donate.  I just donated another $10 online to her and it only took a couple of seconds.  And you’ll love her team name too: One TaTa at a Time.

Back home she works with the Wounded Warrior program at Fort Campbell. 

Maggie (right) poses for a photo with her sister who lives in the DC area. (photo: Reed)

She shared with me that she was deployed to Saudi Arabia in 1991.  She and two other women worked along side 300 Sri Lankan men washing all the clothes for the soldiers stationed there.  “It was a scary experience,” she said.  “There was not a night that I didn’t cry myself to sleep,” as a result of the Scud attacks.  

We arrived at the rest station and she got some water and a little rest before making the final steps to the finish line.  We hugged and I congratulated her for her walk and commitment to help find a cure for breast cancer.  She is a giver.  She’s a mother, she serves our country and even finds time to pursue worthy causes like the Komen 3-Day.  Let Maggie serve as a role model for all of us.  

Can you say hero? (photo: Reed)

As I left I saw a man doing the walk with the help of a prosthetic leg.  Tell me that’s not inspiring!  Way to go!

On my way home I saw Tommy from Day 230.  He seemed to be doing ok but was suffering from depression.  He is on medication and is hopeful that he will improve.

By the way, this was 10-10-10 Give a Stranger 10 Bucks Day.  I totally forgot to tell Maggie about this. I was so wrapped up in the mobs of marchers that it totally slipped my mind!  I do do this every day, so sometimes I kind of shift over to auto-pilot.  However, my I met my friend Tricia for lunch and afterwards she gave $10 to my neighbor Howard who walked by!

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Ben, me and Ian. I look ridiculous I know! (photo: Reed)

One thing I did not do enough of this summer is ride my bike.  I meant to meet up with Mark E. from Day 132 and go for a ride.  He is an avid rider and offered several times to meet up.  I did manage to get out a few weeks ago though and took my $10, notebook and camera with me.

Somewhere about a mile or so north of Georgetown is a place called Fletcher’s Boat House.  It was there I spotted Ian and Ben.

You can rent boats to go out on the Potomac River at Fletcher's. (photo: Reed)

“I’m officially a police officer,” Ian tells me.  “But I consider myself an EMT.”  It turns out he is quite the busy guy.  He is juggling classes at George Washington with his work as a police officer and EMT.  “I hope to go to med school,” he says in a steady confident tone.  Somewhere in all of that he finds time to get away and enjoy the beautiful crescent trail.  And let me tell you, it is stunning this time of year.

A senior at GW, Ben is figuring out what he wants to do.  “I’m leaning toward the music industry,” he says shrugging his shoulders a little bit.  He’s double majoring in philosophy and psychology, you’d think that this would help to give you the critical thinking skills necessary to figure out what direction to go in, but who knows, maybe it just complicates the entire equation. 

Ian's got his eyes set on going to medical school. (photo: Reed)

My notes say that Ben was going to use his $5 to buy some bottled water.  Next to that I wrote, “or deep fried H20” it looks like.  I have no idea what that means, I certainly don’t remember him saying that.  Let’s see if he checks in on the site and tells us.  As for Ian, he was going to put it toward his Metro fare card to get to his EMT station.  

I got a kick out of something Ben told me.  “Ian is time-locked in the 80s.”  That’s kind of funny, because if I do the math right he was born in 1989.  I guess that first year really influenced him!  “Music, TV-wise, movies….he loves Scarface,” Ben goes on. 

Ben needs our help to get an internship at a performing arts center. (photo: Reed)

Hey performing arts centers…Ben needs an internship.  Ideally he would like to get a programming or production internship at the Kennedy Center.  Shoot me a message or leave a comment if you can help Ben out.  Oh, and by the way, if there is dancing at the year-end celebration, I hope Ben comes.  Ian told me, “Ben can dance to absolutely any kind of music.”  Wow…the bar has been set pretty high.  Maybe instead of his internship he ought to try out for the show So You Think You Can Dance?

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After 21 years with US Steel, drugs and alcohol have left Michael homeless. (photo: Reed)

In the early hours of October 5th I had just given my money to Alexander and Phaze.  I was talking to Alexander and getting my things together to leave because it was about 1:00am and I had to be at work in a few hours. Right then a guy pulled up on a Trek bicycle.  My initial thought was that the bike might have been stolen since it was missing the seat.  In a soft voice he approached me and said, “You want the real story?” He claimed that Alexander’s story was not representative of those facing real hardships on the streets.  “I don’t choose to be out here,” he said.  Although he was critical of Alexander’s choice to sell

StreetWise magazines, I support it.  I have seen how Street Sense here in DC has changed the lives of many individuals here in DC.  Michael was telling me that he was deserving of the $10 because of the hardships of his life.

So to give you an idea how this went down, I was filming Alexander and just let the camera running when Michael rolled up and started talking to me. Here is the raw unedited (with the exception of one part where we were interrupted) video from that conversation.

Michael said he goes daily to the labor lines in search of day work. “I get work probably once a week,” he told me.

Michael showed me the scars from where he was shot in Seattle. (photo: Reed)

He also told me that he survived a shooting in Seattle. Michael explained that it resulted from an incident where some other man pulled up the skirt of the woman he was with. He stood up for her and ended up getting shot six times. Michael pulled up his shirt to show me the wounds.

Michael's seatless bicycle (photo: Reed)

Before leaving Michael offered to give me the money back. I don’t really know why and I told him to keep it and he did. He said he was going to use it to buy food that week.
Right as I was packing up my stuff, another guy named Tim came by and also asked for money.  What is going on here?  Did someone tweet that a crazy guy was handing out money at Michigan and Randolph? Anyway, I politely told Tim no and headed home.

On my way home a filmed the following video debrief.

Tomorrow, it’s back to DC.

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So you may have noticed that I have been slow posting blogs lately.  Well, I have been swamped.  But now something has complicated my blogging even more!  I have a FLIP Mino HD camera that I use to shoot my video.  It’s pretty awesome for the price range (about $200).  HOWEVER, there is one thing that drives me crazy and has now twice brought my blogging to a crawl.  Their current software versions only output the files in MP4 format.  Previous versions of the software made an automatic conversion to Windows Media Video (WMV).  The issue here is that the movie editor that comes with Windows and YouTube both don’t work with MP4 files, but do work with WMV.  So now I can not edit or upload my videos. 

I have spoken to their support team and they even rolled my software version back, but it has now automatically updated itself again.  Aghhh!!!  This cost me several hours last time it happened and will require several hours again.  Maybe I should get a new camera…any suggestions? 

So the bottom line is that I am skipping Days 295 and 296 for now.  Sorry…have had to jump to 297 since this entry has no video.

On Day 297 I tried to give my $10 to an older gentleman in front of the Verizon Center.  He refused and I walked a few blocks away to the corner of 9th and G Streets where I found Boyo.  That’s actually not his real name but he was not comfortable with me using that.  In fact he didn’t really want to share any details about himself.  He didn’t want pictures taken either. 

Boyo was selling the Street Sense newspaper in front of the Gallery Place Metro entrance.  Born in London, he moved to his parent’s birth country of Nigeria at the age of five.  At some point I guess he moved here, but he wouldn’t go into details about that.  Boyo, who I managed to learn was 45, talked about putting his life story together in the form of a book and said that once he did that we could read it and learn all that we wanted to about him.  But until then, he preferred to stay anonymous and advised me to speak with him through his “editor” which coincidentally is a person that I know.  Small world.

Anyway, I did get Boyo to tell me what he would use the money for.  He said he would get something to eat.

I gave him an extra dollar and bought one of his newspapers and caught the 42 bus home.

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I gave my $10 away on Michigan Ave between Randolph and Lake (photo: Reed)

So today I broke a 293 day streak.  It was Monday, October 4th, 2010 and I failed to give away my $10.  Well, sort of.  I gave it away a few minutes after midnight.

As you might remember I got to Chicago on Day 293.  On Day 294 I was in meetings all day and then went to a work related dinner.  By the time dinner was over and I said goodbye to my colleague, it was almost midnight.  I had just a few minutes to find someone.  I headed east on Washington Street toward Millenium Park.  I was about five blocks away so I hustled down there.  On the way I saw a woman walking by herself. I tried to give my $10 her but she refused.  It’s particularly difficult to give to women by themselves during the middle of the night.  

I got to Michigan Avenue and decided to walk north.  The cold wind off the lake made it feel like it was in the 30s.  I later saw that the low that night was 45, so I probably wasn’t far off.  I was glad I had brought a light jacket along on my trip.  I checked my watch and saw that it was now about 12:15am.  Dammit, I failed to give it away before midnight.  I slowed down now and took my time.  The streets were a far contrast to the bustling foot and car traffic that filled them during the work day.  Taxi cab headlights lit up the shadowy office complexes that surrounded me. 

Alexander captures one of Phaze's pieces (photo: Reed)

Between Randolph and Lake I saw two guys sitting on empty milk crates playing chess.  I slowly approached them.  They ignored me…talking trash trying to distract the other’s next move.

Alexander finally noticed me and I said hello.  I wasn’t sure what to think.  All of a sudden I started realizing that it was probably not a good idea to just be venturing out in a city that I am not familiar with after midnight.  Although I go to plenty of unsafe areas of DC, I usually know where I am, have someone with me, and know exactly what I am going to do if I get into trouble.  Here I found myself not really knowing where I was and not knowing what to expect with these two guys.

Behind them were several cans of 16 ounce Steel Reserve 211 beer, some plastic grocery bags and a bicycle with a hooded sweatshirt draped over it.

Alexander told me that he was released from prison on August 18th.  “I’ve been in and out of prisons and correctional facilities since I was 13,” the 55-year-old told me.  Although he seemed harmless, there was something a little unnerving about reaching into my pocket and taking out my wallet in front of a life long criminal…but I did it anyway.  I gave each guy $5.00.

I started to take some notes and they both got very suspicious.  I mentioned I wanted to take some photographs too and they became even more skeptical.  “You are a cop, man.” Phaze told me.  He was convinced that I was with the police.  I showed them my DC driver’s license, but that didn’t help, now they thought I was with a federal agency.  You’ll love this though.  Alexander chimed in, “No, no, no.  He ain’t no cop.  You know what he looks like.  He’s a sorry ass public defender, that’s what he is.  And I should know, I’ve known a few of them.”  I loved that.

They stopped talking with me and redirected their attention to the match at hand.  

Alexander showing me his picture and poetry in StreetWise. (photo: Reed)

“You ought to buy one of his magazines,” Phaze, the 29-year-old chess challenger said to me breaking the silence.  Alexander reached over into one of the plastic bags and pulled out a copy of StreetWise, a street magazine similar to the Street Sense newspaper we have in DC.  These papers/magazines are designed to give employment opportunities to the homeless and poverty-stricken as well as provide valuable insight into the challenges they and others in their situation face today.  I am a big fan of Street Sense so when I saw that he was a vendor for StreetWise, I had to buy a magazine.  “They’re two dollars,” Alexander said. 

While I was searching for a few bucks Phaze shouted over for me to look at the last page.  “Check out whose picture is in there next to their poetry,” he told me.  It turned out to be a photograph of Alexander next to three poems that he had written.  When I get caught up with my blog posts you will meet a Street Sense vendor named David on Day 304 who is a former convicted felon who also took up writing and poetry while in prison.

Phaze before he started to spit. (photo: Reed)

In my wallet I had two $5 bills and a ten.  I gave him five knowing that there would be no change.  He tucked the money away and went back to the game.  Phaze knew his moves were numbered.  “He is really good,” Phaze said about Alexander’s chess ability.  “He usually beats me.” 

I am not really sure what Phaze does.  His passion is spitting or spoken word poetry.  It’s a cocktail of poetry, hip-hop and rap all mixed together.  After being defeated at chess, he asks me to buy one of his CDs.  He keeps trying to get me to buy the CD for $5.  In an effort to convince me to buy it, he gives me a sample of it.  On this video you can see Phaze, whose full name according to him is Phaze Da King, spitting.  At the end he gets a little bothered by my videotaping and hits the camera out of my hand.  It’s all on video.  Check it out!

I was ok and so was my camera.  After getting him to settle down some, I gave him $5 for his CD.  It doesn’t play in my CD player so I need to take it to a computer that has a CD tray so that I can listen to it.  

Spitting was not Phaze's only means of expression. (photo: Reed)

So what do you think these two guys told me that they were going to do with their respective five dollars?  Well, Alexander told me that he was probably going to use it to buy some more magazines to sell.  “Or I might use it to buy me some food before that…or a toupee!” he said letting out a deep laugh.  I looked over at Phaze and asked the same question.  “I’m gonna hold on to it and give it to my son who is supposed to be born on January 1, 2011,” he said.

It was now about 1:00am.  I was tired and had to get up early in the morning for more meetings.  But my night was not nearly over.  As I was leaving I met another guy named Michael who met Alexander while they were in prison.  As it was now after midnight, I decided to make him the recipient of Day 295 and will share his incredible story with you tomorrow!

Here is a short video of Alexander.

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Nora's holds the distinction of being the first certified organic restaurant in the US.

Sorry for the delay in posting this week.  I appreciate all of your emails checking to see if I was ok!  I have been swamped at work, so I got behind.

Day 306 was was my father’s 70th birthday.  We took him to a restaurant near my house called Nora’s which has the distinction of being the first certified organic restaurant in the United States.

After our delicious dinner my father went with me to search the neighborhood for a $10 recipient.  Just a few blocks away along Connecticut Avenue we spotted a man inching his way down the street.  We would later find out that his slow gait was due to broken ankles and broken knees.

I stopped him and asked if he would accept the $10.  From beneath his black hooded rain poncho he spoke softly saying that he would accept my gift.  I proceeded to ask him a few questions but he said he was not comfortable answering any personal questions and did not want any photographs taken of him.  He offered to give them money back and I explained that the money was his to keep.

He was an African-American man who I suspected was in his 60s.  despite his slow walk he appeared in good health.  He had a stark white beard that seemed to block the words from getting out.  “I also have a dislocated organ,” he told us pointing to the left side of his abdomen.  Neither of us asked him to explain further.

He clenched the $10 in his worn hands.  I could see the dirt that had settled underneath his long fingernails. 

My dad and me at Nora's celebrating his 70th birthday! (photo: Ryan Sandridge)

“You can call me John I guess,” he told me in a way that I knew that wasn’t his real name.  John said I looked familiar and I thought for a moment that I might have already given my $10 to him earlier in the year, but after I spoke with him for a few minutes I was sure that I had not met him before. 

I told him that it was Dad’s 70th birthday.  “He’s got good skin,” he said in response.  He also said something about my father’s eyes.  I think he said that they were still well aligned, but Dad thinks he said that they were “alive.”  In either case, he made some nice comments about my dad. 

John says that he tries to write every day.  “Well, when it’s warm I come right here and write on these benches but when it gets cold I find a place indoors.”  I asked what he liked to write about and he explained that he had a book about verbs and he practiced making sentences where he put the verbs together with various statements.

He was carrying two plastic bags that contained some personal items.  He showed us bottles of multi-vitamins and Ensure.  “I take 3 multi-vitamins a day; I usually try to take them six hours apart however yesterday I took all three at the same time.”  He went on to say that every other day he drank a small bottle of Ensure.  “When I have a little extra money I usually spend it on vitamins or maybe a book.”

Since the conversation had circled back to money I decided to ask him what he planned on using the $10 for.  “To survive,” he said.  “I’m just going to use it to survive.”

The 42 bus rolled up and he said he was getting on.  He gave us both a fist bump and started inching his way toward the bus.  It took him a few minutes, but sure enough he got on and the bus pulled away disappearing into the traffic at Dupont Circle.

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Thanks for all the warm wishes about what would have been my mother’s 67th birthday yesterday.  Your emails and comments here and on Facebook meant a lot to me.  Thanks!

Donville loves his job at Starbucks! (photo: Reed)

The Starbucks to people ratio in DC is off the charts.  I got to walk nearly eight blocks to get to a grocery store, and not even a very good one, but coffee, no problem, they’re everywhere!  Too bad I don’t drink much coffee because there are six Starbucks within a five block radius of my house.  Donville works at one of them.

I ran into him while he was on his break.  Originally from Long Island, New York, Donville has recently started there as a barista.  “I love it,” he told me.  “The best thing is connecting with people and building a relationship with the community.”

His father is Dominican so Donville grew up speaking some Spanish.  “It’s helpful when you can speak to someone who is not comfortable speaking in English,” he said. 

Donville came to DC to study at Howard University, but after a year and a half he decided to put things on hold for a while.  Although he doesn’t have any family here he seems to like DC quite a bit.  Speaking of family, he told me that he was going to put my $10 toward a trip home to New York to see his family during the holidays.  “I’d actually like to go home for both Thanksgiving and Christmas,” he said.  Hopefully my $10 will help.  The bus ticket can be pretty cheap – just ask Davie from Day 5 who after receiving my $10 went straight to catch a $24 bus to NYC.

Donville would like your help in locating his brother who was put up for adoption at the age of four. (photo: Reed)

One of eight brothers and sisters, Donville shared something very personal about his family with me.  Unfortunately his parents were not financially able to support the entire family and were forced to give one of his siblings up for adoption when he was young.  His little brother who was named Elyshawaun should be 14 years old now.  He and his family do not have contact with him any more.  Donville would like your help to locate either his brother or his biological father, William Gafney (or Gaffney), who also should know the whereabouts of his brother.  He didn’t know what Elyshawaun’s last name was, but they were both last known to be in Brooklyn.  If you remember Victor from day 139 you might recall that he shared with me that he had never met his mother.  I was pleasantly amazed when a blog follower, Linnie, used her genealogy skills and tracked his mother down!  Wow…that was amazing!  Hopefully we can find young Elyshawaun!

My ten dollar gift to Donville went toward a $7 pack of Newports.  I am always a little disappointed when the money gets spent on cigarettes.  But it is his choice.  I told him that my mother died of heart disease and was a long time smoker.  He said that he had only been smoking for about a year and planned on quitting some time.  “But just not now,’ he said.  He didn’t know where the other $3 would get spent…who knows, maybe he will read this and give us an update!  Maybe he has quit smoking by now.  You can do it Donville!

Check back tomorrow for my first blog post from my recent trip to Chicago!

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I love going out and giving my $10 away.  However, I have to admit there have been a very small handful of days when I am just not motivated.  This is one of those days.  I was not feeling well and just wanted to go to bed, but I forced myself into some presentable clothes and headed out in the drizzling darkness.

KULTURAs at 1728 Conn. Ave. (photo: Reed)

I saw a man sitting in a folding chair on the sidewalk of Connecticut Avenue.  He was wearing a long sleeve shirt opened up with a white t-shirt underneath, jeans and flip flops.  His calm, easy demeanor unaffected by the light rain that fell on his shoulders.  Andrew is the owner of KULTURAs Bookstore at 1728 Connecticut Avenue which is nestled on the west side of Connecticut just north of Dupont Circle.  It’s a wonderful shop featuring second-hand and rare books as well as small but unique collection of consignment clothing.  They even sell some handmade ponchos commonly found in parts of Latin America.  I had been in the bookstore during the snowpocalypse we had last winter.  “We opened during the snow storm, so you must have stopped in during the first week,” Andrew told me.  This was KULTURAs second stint in the Dupont area.  Andrew explained that he and his wife had had a store in the area for a long time but in 2006 they packed the family up and moved 3,000 miles to Santa Monica, CA where they continued with KULTURAs. 

Andrew peering out the store front. (photo: Reed)

The rain started to pick up and we walked inside where he sunk into a chair behind a wooden desk.  “The timing wasn’t ideal given the economy,” Andrew said referring to the fact that after three years they decided to move back to DC last fall.  “It was fun though…we had a blast!”  He told me about their house that overlooked the Santa Monica Bay.  “I’d go surfing with my kids before school,” he reminisced as he propped his right leg up on the edge of the desk.

His upbringing consisted of periods of time living in DC, Detroit and Texas although he said he felt most comfortable in the Los Angeles area where he has family.  After graduating from the George Washington University with a degree in Latin American studies, he spent a year studying at the Universidad de los Andes in Colombia.  “I even took a weaving class there!” he told me.  I mentioned that I had spent a few weeks in Manizales, Colombia this year and he knew the area.

He married his wife in the late 80s and now has two children; one in high school and the other in college.

KULTURAs also sells consignment clothes and handmade ponchos. (photo: Reed)

Andrew is easy to talk to.  The conversation naturally drifted to the topic of owning a bookstore.  “I like interacting with people,” he says.  “Someone will come in and ask for a particular book and then you discover there is an entire story behind why they are looking for that book.”  I could relate to this.  It’s similar to what I have said about the Year of Giving – everyone has a story.  KULTURAs gives store credit for books that they buy.  Andrew says that can be exciting as well.  “Sometimes you find a real treasure!”

I was interested to hear his opinion about the long-term outlook for books.  It seems that technology is murdering the traditional print media.  The timeliness of news makes it a perfect subject to be transmitted via computers and handheld devices.  Magazines and books have also been threatened by Kindles and Nooks.  “I think physical books will diminish significantly,” the 52-year-old says pointing out that younger generations prefer to get their information online.  I do think books will begin to be read more on electronic tablets and devices we haven’t even dreamed of yet, but perhaps there will still be a strong attachment for some people to have a physical book in their hands.  Maybe it’s the sound of cracking open a new book or the musty smell of an old book or perhaps it’s just the idea of turning pages that attract some of us. 

An outside shot of Andrew ringing up a customer. (photo: Reed)

Speaking of books, I wandered around KULTURAs.  I saw lots of interesting books about art, architecture, cooking, philosophy, etc.  They even have a good number of books in foreign languages.  But it was Donald Miller’s first book Through Painted Deserts that caught my eye and ended up going home with me.  A friend of mine was recently talking about Miller and a conference of his that she was attending in Portland, Oregon.  She is a fan and I thought I would pick up his book and give it a chance.

As for the $10, Andrew said that he was going to use that to buy some groceries. 

When I left I realized I felt much better.  Maybe it was just getting out of the house?  Maybe the Year of Giving helped in some way.  For a half hour I forgot all about how I felt, the work that went unfinished that day, or the emails I still had to write. 

For more information on KULTURAs, check out their website or stop in and visit them at:
Dupont Circle: 1728 Connecticut Avenue, NW
Tenleytown: 4918 Wisconsin Avenue,  NW

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Today is 10-10-10!  Hopefully you will join me and Howard Wu in giving away $10 today.  Howard came up with this idea and created a Facebook page for people to share their stories.

The fact that today is a special date, 10-10-10, seems very appropriate for today’s recipient.  You will see why later, but Joey has some absolutely brilliant abilities when it comes to dates.

Joey (left) and his brother Rick before entering Nationals Park (photo: Reed)

I was headed to the National’s baseball game and got a ride over from my friend and former colleague Rick.  He was joined by his brother Joey, who was visiting Rick here in the DC area.

I soon learn that Joey is a remarkable man.  The 52-year-old from New Hampshire is autistic.  His parents were told to institutionalize Joey, but they never did.  He has lived with his parents, who are now in their 70s, all his life.

Despite Joey’s disability he lives a full life.  He is a tremendous help to his parents around the house.  Rick tells me that he keeps his room and himself meticulously clean, and makes his own breakfast and lunch.

Joey told me that I was born on a Tuesday, he was right too! (photo: Reed)

He is a very gentle man.  He keeps to himself and doesn’t say much.  In fact, he didn’t speak at all until he was about nine.  When he does it is usually to answer a question.  And he is very decisive in his answer.  I often find myself trying to recall things and taking a few seconds or minutes to determine whether I know the answer or not.  Not Joey.    He either knows the answer or he doesn’t, there isn’t much in between.  

For more than twenty years, the Easter Seals have provided a tremendous amount of care for Joey.  During the week they provide transportation for him to and from different locations where he works.  Usually he sets up tables at local restaurants and has also worked at the library alphabetizing periodicals.  When his day is done, he returns to the comfort of his parent’s loving home.

 Joey has some incredible abilities.  Like Dustin Hoffman’s character in Rain Man, he has savantism.  When I got in the car Joey quickly asked me my name.  I told him and he asked me to repeat my last name for him.  I got the feeling that this information was being stored away for future use.  He then asked, “When were you born?”  I told him that my birth date was January 22, 1974.  He took a few seconds and then said, “Tuesday.”  Rick told me that he knows the day of the week for every date. WOW!  I had no idea if he was right or not, but after checking this when I got home, I discovered he was right!  He also told me that my father, who turns 70 this Friday, was born on a Tuesday.  He was right again.  Rick tells me that if he ever meets me again he will surely remember my name and birth date.

Me at the game (photo: Kimon Kanelakis)

Joey wasn’t done yet.  Nope, not by a long shot.  He also has a knack for telling you the song name and artist for almost any song from the 50s, 60s, 70s and 80s.  Rick had on an oldies station and every song that came on Joey would tell us the name of the song and the artist.  “I Saw Linda Yesterday by Dickey Lee,” he says.  A few minutes later he enlightened us with, “Traces by the Classics IV.”  I’ve never heard of either of the artists much less would I have known who they were by listening to them.  And I would have never known if he was right or not either but Rick’s radio will display that information if you press some buttons.  We repeated this exercise about a half-dozen times on the way to the game and he was spot on.

Joey really likes to swim.  Rick told me that he had gone swimming almost every day while he was in DC.  Unfortunately, his time in DC was coming to an end.  After the game Rick and Joey were driving north to meet their parents half way between New Hampshire and DC.  Joey was going back home. 

I caught a photo of brothers Joey and Rick before the left to get Joey's gelato. (photo: Reed)

I wish each and every one of you could have met him.  Joey is pretty amazing.  I almost forgot to tell you what he did with his $10.  On their way out of the stadium he bought some gelato.  I believe it was chocolate…he apparently eats chocolate every day.  He still has the other $4 carefully tucked away in a box where he keeps his spending money.  I’ll let you know if I hear what happens to the other $4.

By the way, Joey was born 52 years to the day before I started the Year of Giving: December 15th, 1957 – it was a Sunday.

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Volunteers enabled SOME to prepare almost 400,000 thousand meals last year. (Photo: Thom Wolf)

Volunteering is an integral part of society.  It helps ensure that essential public services are provided, builds social capital and fosters cohesive communities all while benefiting the volunteer as well by giving them opportunities to acquire new skills, have sense of purpose and integrate them into their community.  I encourage everyone to find some volunteer activity to do at least once a month.  It doesn’t need to be formal either.  It could be as simple as raking your elderly neighbors leaves, helping someone learn to read, or offering to provide a professional service or trade that you are skilled in at no cost.  Former President Clinton said in his book Giving, “Almost everyone – regardless of income, available time, age, and skills – can do something useful for others and, in the process, strengthen the fabric of our shared humanity.” How true he was.

On Day 277 I was volunteering at So Others Might Eat (SOME), an organization that has impressed me tremendously.  For 40 years they have been feeding and clothing DC’s homeless and poor, treating the ill in their medical, dental and mental health programs, training individuals for jobs and housing those in need. 

It was a Friday morning and I was volunteering in their dining room.  They serve breakfast and lunch to a couple hundred people in a short span of time so things need to be done quickly and efficiently. 

Michelle will celebrate eight years of sobriety on October 16th! (photo: Reed)

This is where today’s recipient comes in.  In addition to being the Assistant Volunteer Coordinator, Michelle also is the Dining Room Manager.  In other words, while I am working in the dining room, she is my boss.  And let me tell you, she makes the place run.  She knows when not to take crap from someone but also knows when someone just needs a hug.  I even saw her take a minute to dance a little to the music that was playing and she’s got some moves!

Born in DC General Hospital, Michelle grew up in PG County.  She went to Largo High School and went on to study cosmetology.  But then things changed.  “I got into drugs and alcohol and let them override my education,” she explained.  “I was in and out of treatment, in and out of jail.  It was not a good situation.”  She became sober on October 16th, 2002 – same sobriety anniversary as Bob!  She worked a few jobs but really wanted to work at SOME.  “I applied and then was calling, calling, calling you know and I finally got the job!”

Michelle has three grown children and a grandchild.  She now lives on Capitol Hill, owns a vehicle and has a steady job that she enjoys.  “I am grateful for so many things.”

Michelle (right) with co-worker Brittany. (photo: Reed)

Michelle, who turns 48 in less than two weeks, says that it’s the little things that make her day.  “You know, sometimes people will come up to me and say ‘thank you, you helped me so much’ and that means a lot to me.”   She gets to know some of their guests very well.  “I’ve been to funeral services for some of them…in fact I’m going to one today.” 

She’s a people person.  “I think I’m funny,” she says with a smile.  She is and has a great smile, but she can be tough too.  “We don’t tolerate disrespect or disruptive behavior here.”  Just then a guest walks by and asks her a question.  She greeted them by saying, “Hello friend, what can I do for you?”  She calls everyone “friend.”  Michelle is one of those people that define the organization’s culture.  Weak organizations, especially service related organizations, lack people like Michelle.

SOME is located at 71 O Street in NW Washington DC. (photo: Reed)

The ten dollars I gave her would be spent on something small for herself.  “I’m going to be good to myself!”  She said she might get a sub from Subway.

If you are in the DC area and need a good place to volunteer, check out SOME.  Why not get a bunch of your friends or coworkers together and set up a day for you all to go and volunteer together.  More details on how you can help can be found here.

So Others Might Eat (SOME)
71 ‘O’ Street, NW
Washington, DC 20001
Phone: 202.797.8806
www.some.org

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This was a sports weekend. NASCAR yesterday then the Redskins game on Sunday. I almost tried to go to the Nationals’ afternoon game on Sunday just to be able to say that I have been to a NASCAR race, a MLB game and a NFL game within 24 hours! It would have been crazy.

The ‘Skins were playing the Cowboys so it was one of those games where there is a lot of trash talking. Some of it was happening right in front of us. There was a guy wearing a jersey of the newly acquired Redskins’ quarterback Donovan McNabb sitting directly in front of us who was dishing it out to some Cowboys fans sitting to our left. It seemed friendly, but there was lots of ribbing going back and forth.

James dishes it out at the Redskins home opener. (photo: Reed)

The Cowboys fans got a good laugh when “McNabb” was booted from his seat by some other fans who apparently had tickets for those seats. Realizing that he had been busted, “McNabb” swaggered down the steps but not before some final words for the Cowboys fans in the section. He disappeared inside the stadium.

I saw him reappear in the section next to ours a little while later and went to try to catch up to him. I went down and over a section and found the man wearing number 5 in a corridor that connects the seating area to the concession stand area.

This father of four turned 37 on September 14th. (photo: Reed)

When James is not boasting about the Redskins, he is working at Walter Reed Medical Center working with the Wounded Warrior program. [This is the second time I have crossed paths with the Wounded Warrior program during my Year of Giving. The first time was with Manni from Day 131.] He is also the father of four, two boys and two girls. “You know what I’m gonna do with this $10,” he asked. “I’m gonna get my one-year-old son some Pampers!”

I met James two days before his 37th birthday. “I’ve been a Redskins fan since I was four years old!” James proudly told me. He claims Santana Moss as his favorite player. The team is coming off a very disappointing year and I asked him how he felt about this year’s season under new leadership from coach Mike Shanahan and quarterback Donovan McNabb. He told me that he thought the team would go 12-4. He added, “I feel a Superbowl this year!”
He is certainly enthusiastic. You can get a feel for the energy I am talking about by watching this short video.

As a longtime fan, James attends every home game and is part of a group called the Redskins Diesel 44 Bus. He invited me to visit the tailgating bus some time, “It’s a pimped out bus that’s got good food!”

The home team went on to squeeze by the Cowboys 13-7. Despite their opening day win, they have not been so successful in their two most recent outings bringing their record to 1-2. Could this be a repeat of 2009?

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