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Happy Worldwide Day of Giving!!!

I spent the day at Nonprofit 2.0 unconference conference sharing ideas and strategies for nonprofits in a social networking world. On my way home I cut through Dupont Circle – one of my old haunts when I did my year-long commitment to giving ten dollars a day away in 2010.
I made a lap around the circle looking for my recipient and spotted Dave K. rooting through a garbage can. Although he never said it, I believe the 45-year-old former science teacher from New York is homeless right now. His faded pants and worn sneakers were putting in overtime. His missing teeth didn’t stop him from being really generous with his smile that was tucked away under a thick cotton-white beard.
“Nothing in particular…just looking,” he said when I asked him what he was looking for. I had seen him open up some food containers from the lunch-goers from nearby offices that pepper the grassy respite in Northwest DC. “I think I’ll get me some coffee from Starbucks,” he told me looking down at the $10 in his hand. “I’m gonna get a venti dark roast!”

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The sunlight shifted back and forth on his face as the leaves above waved in the wind. I asked him why he was no longer working and he placed his index finger over his pursed lips. “There are some things that I prefer not to talk about,” he said.
We chatted a bit more…from quantum physics to garbage. “I once found a hundred-dollar bill,” Dave said causing his eyebrows to come out from beneath the white Virgin Atlantic sunglasses he was sporting. “Yep, it was sitting right on top of a public garbage can in New York City.”
I could sense that he was satisfied with our talk and was ready to move on. I asked a guy walking by to snap our picture, invited him to small happy hour celebration for the Worldwide Day of Giving tonight at L’Enfant Cafe and Bar. He smiled again and we shook hands goodbye. He wandered over to another garbage can and leaned in to sift through the refuse.
It felt great to give away the $10. I still do it from time to time but I don’t write about it…so this was kind of special as I enjoy sharing the stories of the amazing people I meet.
Click here to check out other stories of people participating in the Worldwide Day of Giving.

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Today I found myself at Speedway Gas Station; I walked in and stood near the coffee station with clear view of the front door.  I had decided the next person who walked in the door I was going to give $10 to.

Marvin and Melinda

In walked Marvin G.  He was in there to get a Sugar Free Vanilla Latte for his wife and they were out of it so he was trying to figure something else to get her.  I approached him a told him about the project I was working on and he was amazed at the generosity.

When asked what he thought he would do with the $10 he asked if he could give it back to me.  I explained he could give it back to me but I would have to give it to someone else however if he wanted to give it to someone it was his to do with as he pleased.  He said he would figure out something to do with it.  When asked if there was anything he needed he said he didn’t need anything however it would be wonderful if his grandkids that lived in Phoenix, Arizona would come visit again because he really misses them.

-Melinda T. from Xenia, OH

 

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Filter Coffee House, 1726 20th NW, Washington, DC

It was the Sunday before my Year of Giving Anniversary Celebration on December 14th and I was scrambling to get everything done that I needed to do.  I had taken a break from my planning to meet up with a friend of mine who was visiting from Sao Paulo, Brazil.  We went to Maggiano’s for lunch and on my way home I stopped by a small coffee shop near my apartment called Filter.  Those who have followed the Year of Giving for a long time and have superpower memory might recall that I met Mark from Day 132 there as well.

I was sitting there having an espresso scoping out the café.  I really didn’t need a coffee, but I did need to find a recipient and given that it was raining outside I figured that finding someone indoors where it was dry and warm was much more appealing than talking to someone while becoming a human sponge.

I grabbed a seat in the cozy café next to two young ladies who were sitting to my left.  There are maybe 10 tables so often times you end up sharing a table with someone else.  I didn’t know if they were together or just sharing a table, but figured I would ask the one sitting closest to me.  It turned out they weren’t together and Meg, after pulling the earphones from her ears, agreed to accept my money.  The other girl at some point seemed bothered by the conversation, or just bummed she didn’t get the ten bucks, and moved.

Meg and her husband JD with the ten dollars

Meg is a 23-year-old who lives in Takoma Park, MD and came into the city that afternoon to go to a “good coffee shop.”  She was reading Wilkie Collins’ 19th century classic epistolary The Moonstone and listening to some music while she waited for her husband JD to arrive.  Meg does some really amazing work.  She works for an organization that helps resettle refugees from conflict areas such as Somalia, Sudan, DRC, Iraq, Pakistan, etc.  “It’s very rewarding,” she said taking a sip of her latte.

Meg and her husband got married this summer and moved here after having met at Oklahoma State University.  Now a bunch of my relatives went to OU and I thought that this would be a good thing to mention.  Little did I know that you don’t want to tell an Oklahoma State alum that you are partial to OU.  We made quick treaty and she went on to tell me that she and her husband had spent time living abroad in Egypt and really enjoyed it.  Having lived in Mexico, Spain and Brazil myself, I think the opportunity to live in another country, especially one where they speak another language, is extremely rewarding.

JD arrived covered with beads of rain from the lingering afternoon drizzle.  As it turns out he left his wallet in the car and asked Meg if she could buy him a coffee.  Meg smiled and slid the ten dollars across the table to her husband.

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Just four more days.  Wow…time flies when you are having fun (and scrambling to get everything ready for Tuesday’s celebration!)  Lots of recipients and blog followers have RSVP’d for the event.  It will surely be an interesting evening.  Some donations are coming in for the raffle and auction, but still no primary sponsor.  Hmmm….it looks like I am the primary sponsor 😉

Here in DC it seems like Starbucks cafes are everywhere.  I think you can walk to five of them within ten minutes of my house.  Oh, before I go on, let me go back to the sponsorship item really quick since I mentioned Starbucks.  I actually thought they would be a very interesting sponsor.  I have given my $10 away at several Starbucks locations, have given to employees, and happen to frequent their establishment quite often myself.  In addition, the Year of Giving is all about bringing people together, connecting our community.  I’m guessing that if you ask Starbucks what their business is, I doubt they’d say it was making coffee…but providing a much bigger holistic service that had more to do with bringing people together.  Maybe not, just a guess.  But anyway, nothing from them yet…although that’s not for a lack of trying.

Cliff nimbly maneuvers over the curb.

Anyway, do you ever think about how is that every morning a place like Starbucks has everything it needs to quench your cravings?  It’s because of people.  It’s because of great people like Cliff who I ran into on the night before Thanksgiving.  I guess I could say Thanksgiving Eve, but that sounds weird to me.  Anyway, he was hard at work around 10:30pm at the Starbucks closest to my apartment.

I walked around to the back of his truck where he was pulling a dozen crates off at a time with a dolly and then rolling them into the cafe.  Each one was full with fresh milk, coffee beans, pastries, you name it.  “I don’t work for Starbucks directly, but they’re the only account I service,” Cliff told me as he heaved the dolly up over the curb.  “You build up some muscles doing this,” he added with a half smiling half grimacing expression.  He rolled the dolly around the side of the truck, opened the door, and backed into the now dimly lit coffee haven.  It was weird to see someone inside a dark completely empty Starbucks.  Usually they are brightly lit with an even flow customers percolating in and out. 

He came back with an empty dolly ready to load up another set of crates.  Cliff was very friendly and willing to speak with me although he told me he used to be more reserved and kept to himself.  I found that hard to believe based on my encounter with him. 

“It usually takes me about 10-12 hours to do my shift,” he said.  Starbucks goes through a lot of product.  He told me something like that he delivered some 686 units of milk each day, and I can’t remember if that is total or per store.  I’m guessing total, but I just did a quick search and it seems like it is possible that that figure is per store if he delivers every other day.

“I’m a very happily married man,” the 44-year-old from Maryland told me.  “I’ve got two girls and two boys; been married for 18 years.”  I asked if he was going to be spending Thanksgiving with the entire family and he said only one of his kids would be home, “The others are all grown and have their own families.” 

Cliff is a solid guy, not only personality-wise but also physically.  Let’s put it this way, you wouldn’t want to have to wrestle him to get your coffee every morning.  He’s recently been focusing on his health.  “I’ve been working on my weight,” he shared.  “I’ve lost 40 pounds…you see I’m diabetic,” he told me as he muscled another load over the curb.  “I got 20 more pounds to go to reach my goal of 200.”  That’s quite an achievement to lose 40 pounds. 

I waited for him while he disappeared again and delivered the goods.  I looked at the lined walls of the interior of the truck.  It was full of all kinds of goodies.  My mind slipped into a dream-like state and I envisioned myself driving the truck around giving all the homeless people I have met this year some hot coffee and pastries. 

I needed to get on the road to Pennsylvania and I’m sure Cliff was getting sick of chatting with me.  He came back and I asked him what he was going to do with his money.  “I’m going to give it to my wife,” he said grinning like a child.  “A man’s got to provide for his wife and family.”  I shook Cliff’s hand and invited him to the Year of Giving Anniversary Celebration this Tuesday.  “I might have to work that night,” he said.  “But let’s see.”  I started to walk away and he added one last thing, “I’m going to tell my wife about this.  She’s gonna love it.”

I walked back to my apartment, got in my car and began the two-hour drive to Mechanicsburg to spend Thanksgiving with my father.

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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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Versión español sigue abajo.

For those of you who have not seen the video I posted yesterday about my life on the plantation in Colombia, check it out.  Although totally different than my life here in DC, life there on the plantation was excellent.

 Are you ready for the Worldwide Day of Giving?  It’s this Tuesday.  It’s your chance to do what I do for one day and then share your story with the world.  I want to collect as many experiences from around the world about giving that day and share them here…let’s make something beautiful happen.  I need your help though to get as many people involved as possible.

For those of you in DC, I am looking forward to actually meeting up on Tuesday evening with those who are interested.  I am currently working out the final details with a local venue (Dupont Circle) and hope to host the event there.  In addition to celebrating the Year of Giving and the Worldwide Day of Giving, we will do something to help those who are out of work in the Gulf region due to the oil spill.  I hope you can join me!

Sunday the 30th was election day in Colombia.  I was excited to see how the election process took place in another country.  Roberto Gonzalo’s sister was working at a polling place.  He was voting at another place.  It was pretty much like it is here.  Voting levels are about the same as here I think, somewhere around 50% of the population voted.  As I mentioned yesterday, the election resulted in two candidates going to a run-off election on June 20th.  It’s widely believed that the Juan Manuel Santos will prevail.

While I waited for Roberto Gonzalo to vote, I met Giliante.  Giliante works for the El Gran Cafeteiro company and sells coffee on the street.  Dressed in somewhat of a space suit, he walks the street with a metallic canister on his back filled with piping hot coffee.  He then has a hand control that he dispenses coffee out of for about 25 cents per cup (he makes about six cents per cup).  Check out Giliante in action preparing a coffee for me.

The 34-year-old Manizales native has been doing this for nine months.  It beats the construction jobs he was doing before.  He enjoys the fact that he meets a lot of different people every day.

I asked him what he would do with my 20,000 pesos and he said he would use it to buy some medicine he needed: flouxetina (prozac) and acido valproico (valproic acid).  I had never heard of flouxetina and acido valproico so I asked what they were for.  The educated and well spoken mobile coffee barista looked at me and said, “They are medicines to help me not get depressed, because when I get depressed I have a problem with cutting myself…with self mutilation.”  It was then that I started to notice small scars on his hands and on the right side of his neck.  He must have noticed me staring at them and said, “I have hundreds more…most of them on my arms and stomach.”  He lifted his shirt up and I was stunned.  His chest and stomach were completely covered with crisscrossed lines.  It was impossible to look away from the center of his chest where a fresh-cut was present and maybe a half-dozen stitches protruded through the skin.

Giliante (Photo: Reed)

Giliante was so calm and mild-mannered, I could not envision him doing this to himself.  He said that when he does not take his medicine, he gets depressed and feels the need to cut himself.  The latest cut happened about a week ago he told me.

I asked to take a picture of his chest, but he got very shy and said he would prefer not to.  I respected that and we said goodbye. 

Roberto Gonzalo then asked me what his answer was to my question about what other people might be able to help him with.  I had not asked him that question though.  I scanned the crowd, but he had dissolved into the sea of anxious voters.

As we walked back toward our car, I hoped we would see Giliante again so that I could ask him how people could help him.  Would you believe that about a half hour later we saw him five blocks from where I originally saw him.  I got his attention and asked my question.  He didn’t hesitate, “I would like to find a surgeon who would remove some of my scars for me.  They are painful reminders.”  I vowed to try to find a surgeon who would help him with that and also offered to try to get the medicine that he needs.  He was so thankful.  If anyone can help Giliante or has suggestions on ways to help him, please let me know. 

I couldn’t stop thinking about him for days.

Gilante talks about his job and the elections…

Spanish Version

Para aquellos de ustedes que no han visto el video que publique ayer acerca de mi vida en las fincas en Colombia, échenle un vistazo. Aunque totalmente diferente a mi vida en DC, la vida allí en la finca fue excelente.

 ¿Estás listo para  el Día Mundial del dar? Es este martes. Es tu oportunidad de hacer lo que yo hago por un día y luego compartir su historia con el resto del mundo. Quiero reunir la mayor cantidad de experiencias de todo el mundo de tratar de dar en ese día y compartirlas  aquí… hagamos que algo hermoso suceda. Necesito su ayuda para conseguir el mayor número de personas que participan como sea posible.

Para aquellos de ustedes en Washington DC, estoy deseando una reunión en la noche del martes con los que están interesados. Actualmente estoy trabajando en los detalles finales con una sede local (Dupont Circle) y espero poder realizar el evento allí. Además de celebrar el Año de Dar y el Día Mundial del dar, vamos a hacer algo para ayudar a quienes están sin trabajo en la región del Golfo debido al derrame de petróleo. Espero que pueda unirse a mí!

El Domingo 30 fue el día de elección  en Colombia. Me emocioné al ver cómo el proceso electoral se llevó a cabo en otro país. La hermana de Roberto Gonzalo estaba trabajando en un centro de  votación. Él estaba votando en otro lugar. Fue más o menos como aquí. Los niveles de votación son casi lo mismo que aquí, creo que alrededor del 50% de la población votó. Como dije ayer, la elección dio lugar a dos candidatos a una segunda vuelta el 20 de Junio. En general se creía que Juan Manuel Santos seria el determinante.

Mientras esperaba que  Roberto Gonzalo votara, me encontré con Giliante. Giliante trabaja para la compañía El Gran Cafeteiro y vende café en la calle. Vestido el algo como un traje espacial, camina por la calle con un bote metálico en la espalda llena de café humeante. Luego el tiene un control de mano que le dispensa el café por unos 25 centavos por taza.

El nativo de Manizales de 34 años de edad, ha estado haciendo esto durante nueve meses. De acuerdo a el es mejor que los trabajos de construcción que estaba haciendo antes. Le gusta el hecho de que se encuentra con un montón de gente diferente cada día.

Le pregunté qué iba a hacer con mi 20.000 pesos y me dijo que lo utilizaría para comprar unas medicinas que necesitaba: flouxetina (Prozac) y ácido valproico (ácido valproico). Yo nunca había oído hablar de acido valproico y flouxetina así que le pregunté qué eran. El educado y bien hablado barrista móvil de café me miró y dijo: “Son medicamentos que me ayudan a que no me deprima, porque cuando me deprimo tengo un problema con cortarme mí mismo… con la automutilación.” Fue entonces que empecé a notar pequeñas cicatrices en las manos y en el lado derecho del cuello. Él debió de haber notado mi mirada fija en ellos y dijo: “Tengo muchas más… la mayoría de ellos en mis brazos y el estomago.” Él se levantó la camiseta y me quedé atónito. Su pecho y estómago estaban cubiertos completamente con líneas cruzadas. Era imposible apartar la vista del centro de su pecho, donde un nuevo corte estaba presente y tal vez una media docena de puntos sobresalían a través de la piel.

Giliante estaba tan tranquilo y apacible, no podía imaginar que él hacia esto a sí mismo. Dijo que cuando él no toma su medicina, se deprime y siente la necesidad de cortarse. El último corte sucedió hace aproximadamente una semana, me dijo.

Le pedí que me dejara tomar una foto de su pecho, pero él se puso muy tímido y me dijo que preferiría que no. Yo respete eso y nos despedimos.

Roberto Gonzalo  me preguntó cual fue su respuesta a mi pregunta sobre lo que otra gente puede ser de ayudarlo a él. No le había hecho esa pregunta. Lo busque entre la multitud, pero él se había disuelto entre la aglomeración de votantes ansiosos.

Mientras caminábamos hacia el coche, yo esperaba ver a  Giliante de nuevo para que yo pudiera preguntarle cómo la gente podía ayudarle. ¿Creerían ustedes que alrededor de una media hora más tarde lo vimos cinco cuadras de donde originalmente lo vi. Llame su atención y le pregunté  mi pregunta. El no dudó: “Me gustaría encontrar un cirujano que eliminara algunas de las cicatrices en mi cuerpo. Ellos son un recordatorio doloroso. “Juré tratar de encontrar un cirujano que le ayudara con eso y también ofrecí tratar de obtener el medicamento que necesita. Estaba bastante agradecido. Si alguien puede ayudar a Giliante o tiene sugerencias sobre los medios para ayudarlo, por favor hágamelo saber. No podía dejar de pensar en él durante días.

Encima hay dos videos de Giliante grabado en español.

Este blog fue traducido generosamente por Nancy Alvarez en  Los Angeles.

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Version en espanol va ser publicado al final de jueves.

On Friday Roberto and I decided to have a few beers at a local convenience store that has a TV, two billiard tables, and a few tables where locals can sit and relax.

After our second beer some neighborhood kids asked if we wanted to play some street soccer.  We agreed.

Not only am I terrible at soccer, I was completely out of breath running back and forth on the gravel road that was our “field.”  We are at about 7,000 feet which is about 6,990 feet higher than Washington, DC.  That on top of the 24 ounces of beer sloshing around my stomach had me completely incapacitated.  Thankfully Roberto played well and scored two or three goals for us while I rambled around wheezing.

The next morning was Saturday and Roberto took me down the mountain to show me his plantation.  He grows coffee, bananas, guavas, etc. and has pigs, chickens, turtles, dogs…you name it.   Here is a short video in English about life on the plantation.

Later that day he took me to his mother’s house where the entire family met for a long lunch filled with conversation about the following day’s presidential election.  Most people in the household were supporting Antanas Mockus, however he ended up coming in second place with less than half of the votes of Juan Manual Santos.  Nevertheless, there will be a run-off election between the two candidates on June 20th.

We spent a few hours relaxing at their house after completely gorging ourselves with homemade soup, rice, beans, chicken, fried plantains and crunchy coconut clusters for dessert.

That evening we stopped at a small food stand in front of a residential building in the Francia neighborhood where Rubiela stood stoking the charcoal fire.  There was only one thing on the menu: arepas.

Grilled arepas (photo: Reed)

Arepa is a flat bread made of corn that is very popular in Colombia, Venezuela, and even parts of Panama and Spain’s Canary Islands.  Picture a pancake-like bread…or maybe a really thick corn tortilla. 

Rubiela takes ground corn and mixes it with water, salt, and butter to make the dough.  She then takes the dough, cooks it on the grill, and serves it with a thick tomato and onion stew (guiso) or cheese or both.  Every day she makes at least 3 kilos of arepas which yields about 66 pieces of bread.

I found that there are several varieties of arepas and that they are consumed just about any time of day. 

Rubiela and her son Cristian (photo: Reed)

Rubiela, a single mom, has been firing up the grill in front of her home for seven years.  This is the way she provides for her and her 12-year-old son Victor Manuel.  “There was nothing else to do so I started selling arepas,” she tells me referencing the economic struggles in Manizales.  She says that it is even hard to find a job as a maid, much less an office related job with benefits.  Ideally she would like to work in an office environment where she could help with receiving guests, serving coffee, and other small tasks.  

Her laugh is contagious and fills the air with joy.  I try not to let it completely hide the fact that I know that she dreams for something different.  She is thankful though for her and her son’s health.  “There are good days and bad days, but we never go hungry,” she tells me.  

Roberto and I left to run some errands and agreed to come back later that evening.  When we returned hours later, the sun had set, her son had retired into their home, but Rubiela was still tending the fire and cooking arepas.  Her hearty laughter had subsided and she was noticeably tired.

We both got two arepas.  I got mine topped with the tomato and onion guiso.  Roberto got his with guiso and cheese.  Each arepa with guiso was $0.40.  If you wanted cheese on top, add another $0.60.  Pretty cheap.  They were delicious.  We ate, laughed, and talked politics…hard to avoid with the election the following day.  She was voting for Juan Manuel Santos, the candidate from the incumbent U Party.  

Rubiela said she was going to hold on to my money and put it toward the rent that is due on June 4th.

Here is a short video of my time with Rubiela, part of it is in English part in Spanish.

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