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Posts Tagged ‘Dupont Circle’

So I went out to Safeway last night and bought a copy (actually two) of the bright pink Woman’s World Magazine.  It was the only thing I bought and I got a couple strange looks from the cashier.  Anyway, on the back inside cover there is really good article on the Year of Giving and a picture of me in a shirt that looks really green in the photo!

On Day 199 I ventured out looking for a recipient. It was one of those sweltering hot days and I didn’t a bit more get three blocks away and my forehead looked like I had just finished a spicy plate of lamb vindaloo.  Speaking of Indian food, which I love, have you heard of the Karma Kitchen?  There is one in Berkeley, Chicago and here in DC.  The website says, “Imagine a restaurant where there are no prices on the menu and where the check reads $0.00 with only this footnote: Your meal was a gift from someone who came before you. To keep the chain of gifts alive, we invite you to pay it forward for those dine after you.”  Now they don’t do this every day, but I think here in DC it is every Sunday at the Polo India Club (1736 Connecticut Ave NW, Washington, DC).  I haven’t been there on a Sunday yet to check it out, but I have exchanged a few emails with one of people behind the idea.  Apparently the Year of Giving inspired them to share the stories of their guests and also give $10 away to a stranger every Sunday!  Read what Stephanie did with her $10!  Very cool.  I hope to check it out very soon!  Thanks to the folks at Karma Kitchen for believing in kindness of others!

Ok, sorry, I got sidetracked…so as I walked around the corner of a Starbucks I saw a man with what looked to be hundreds of envelopes that he was furiously licking shut.  I thought I would go in and meet him and see if he would accept my $10 or even just some help finishing off those envelopes.  You can do them pretty fast with a wet napkin or paper towel.

He was a bald pudgy man probably in his late 50s or early 60s.  He peered at me through his heavy framed glasses and in a thick accent said he didn’t have time.  I started to offer to help him with the envelopes and he barked something else at me that I didn’t understand but in fact I did understand that he didn’t want to continue the conversation.  So I left.

I walked around some more.  Up to Dupont Circle down Connecticut Avenue.  Maybe the guy smoking the pipe on the bench or the man who appeared to be homeless shouting at people walking by or why not mom holding her daughter’s tiny hand waiting for an ice cream?  For some reason, none seemed right that night.  I ended up strolling through some more residential streets and found Valerie (whose name I have changed her on her request) and Katie sitting on their front patio enjoying the subtle breeze that attempted to counter the thick omnipresent heat and humidity of the first day of July.

After graduating from the University of Arizona, they decided to move to DC and get some work experience.  Now they were relaxing on the eve of their last day in the apartment.  Katie is moving back to Arizona to attend law school in the fall and Valerie is staying in DC but moving to a new apartment in Georgetown.

When I approached them Valerie was talking about a young guy that works at the Subway near her office.  He is from Nepal and “exudes kindness” she says.  Every time she goes in she learns a little more about him.  Apparently he moved here and wants to go to college but doesn’t have the funds to do so.  “I just feel so bad that here is a guy who works so hard and is so nice to people and he can’t afford to get an education.”  Oh, and on a totally different note, Valerie highly recommends the new Subway special: an egg-white sandwich with veggies and cheese on whole wheat with a coffee for $2.50.

So at some point Valerie asked if I wanted something to drink.  “We’re having watermelon juice and vodka.”  That seemed like a strange combination.  “We have moved literally everything out of our place.  The only thing we have left in there is half a bottle of wine, watermelon juice and a handle of vodka.”  A handle?  Hadn’t ever heard it called that.  Anyway, let’s try this watermelon and vodka, I hope they still have ice!  You know what, the drink wasn’t bad either.

They told me a pretty funny story too.  Apparently they needed newspaper to pack some of their items so they swiped their landlord’s New York Times off the porch – he lives upstairs from them.  “We didn’t think he would miss one day’s paper.”  Well, he did.  He came down and asked them if they had “borrowed” it.  Caught off guard they denied it.  As we were talking about this, he and his wife arrived home.  He seemed like such a nice man.  I think they felt a little bad about it.  Maybe they will use the $10 to buy a back issue copy of that day’s paper and send it to him!

Speaking of the $10, I asked them what they were going to do with it.  They decided to split the $10 evenly.  Valerie said she was going to take her $5 and add her own $10 to it and give it to the young man at Subway to help him with his savings.  Katie said that she was going to take the $5 and add her own money to sign Valerie up to take the GRE exam.  By the way, I checked and the exam costs $140 so that is really nice gift!  That’s ok she said though, “If I had to invest in any person in the world it would be her.”

Pretty cool.

It was dark and I needed to get home.  I thanked them for the hospitality and wished them luck.  I actually think I might have seen Katie the next day sitting out on the terrace at the Front Page in Dupont.  Still proudly wearing my Brazil shirt on the day that they lost to The Netherlands, I passed a table full of football fans and one of them waived to me.  I walked over to the table only to be unsure of who it was.  I came up with some awkward things to say I guess and then went on my way.  Well, I guess we’ll find out if it was her when she reads this!

Update July 11, 2012: I received a request from the woman I have called Valerie here requesting to change her name and remove photos of them.

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Anthony sits on the frozen ground in front of the Metro

Remember Anthony from Day 6?  Well, would you believe I ran into him a few weeks ago?  I like Anthony a lot.  He unfortunately has a pretty nasty drinking habit which has left him homeless for years.  But if you haven’t read his story or would like to see a video of how he is doing now, check out his updated blog post here.

Day 194 takes us to a local watering hole.  The Brickskeller has been a fixture in Washington, DC’s Dupont Circle neighborhood for the last 53 years.  It’s a unique locale and arguably a bit “touristy.”  However say what you will, I enjoy a visit to this institution now and then. 

The Brickskeller (Photo: courtesy http://www.lovethebeer.com)

As you walk up the stairs of the entrance and pass through the outermost door you find two doors to your right and a reception of sorts far in the back.  The reception is for the Brickskeller Inn, which I know little about.  I seem to always get distracted by what’s behind the two doors on the right before I can make it back to the inn.  Both doors remind me of something out of a medieval castle.  The first one leads downstairs where there is a labyrinth of rooms separated by hand-fired brick walls.  I chose the second door which reveals a dimly lit windowless space with a bar surrounded by 12 stools.  Further to your left are dozens of tables, dart boards, a juke box and lots of beer memorabilia. 

Partial beer list (Photo: Reed)

I take a seat at the bar and study the ten pages of beers that boast close to a 1,000 beers.  They are always out of a lot of beers, so you have to get two or three choices ready.

I sat there writing up some of my blog entries – sometimes I write them out by hand first.  I eventually got a little hungry.  Much of the food is mediocre at best in my opinion; you don’t come here for the food.  Having said that, the Garden Burger is outstanding.  It’s a vegan burger made with mushrooms, black beans, brown rice, onions, chipotle seasonings, etc.  I almost exclusively get that when I order there.  I order one and a Flying Dog Snake Dog IPA to wash it down.  The Snake Dog IPA I found to be quite delicious and went very well with my burger!  Hats off to the Frederick, MD brewer!

Flying Dog Snake Dog IPA on the left, Megan in the background (Photo: Reed)

Right before my burger comes, I notice two guys to my left who appear to be brothers.  I thought I would invite them to be my 194th recipient.  Brian and Shawn in fact are brothers.  Brian is a civics teacher from Charlotte, NC and his younger brother Shawn lives just over the state line in Hardy County, West Virginia.  They refuse to accept the $10 saying that someone else in the bar would surely do something much more amazing with the money than they would since they were “already like 15 beers in” as Brian put it.  They were looking to continue their evening and I sent them to Adams Morgan where they were sure to find a lively crowd.

Megan serving a beer (Photo: Reed)

I then thought I would give it to my server/bartender.  As she delivered my delicious Garden Burger, I asked her if she would accept my $10 and she readily agreed.  Megan, a 23-year-old self-proclaimed army brat, lives in the Colombia Heights neighborhood of DC and has been working at the Brickskeller for nearly four years. 

A group of three people take Brian and Shawn’s spot at the bar and I overhear the one member of their group comment that “Megan has been here for ever.  She’s good.”  This guy seems to be a regular as he asks Megan, “Do you have a couple of my usuals on ice back there?”  The Brickskeller is also known for having slightly warmer beers than what many are accustomed to drinking.

Megan stops by as she brings the gentleman his beers and I ask her what her favorite beer is.  “That’s hard.  Right now I would have to say it is the Lagunitas Maximus Double IPA.” 

Bartending for four years means two things.  First you probably know a lot about beer.  Second, you probably have seen some crazy stuff.  Megan knows her beers pretty well and has seen her share of crazy stuff too.  “I once saw a five-foot waitress knock a guy out.”  Wow…note to self: tip five-foot waitresses at the Brickskeller well!

Speaking of tipping, I also asked Megan for some thoughts on the age-old tradition.  “Tipping says something about the service but it also sends a message about the person who is leaving the tip,” she says.  “Sure there are times I haven’t been a good server, but I still tip pretty good when the service is bad.”  I don’t know if I agree with that.  As a former waiter and bartender, I am a firm believer in tipping commensurate with the level of service.  If I get lousy service I don’t have a problem with leaving a lousy tip.

Photo: Reed

Megan excuses herself again to wait on some thirsty patrons who sat down on the other end of the bar.  Social Distortion’s Story of My Life fades off the juke box and gives way to Journey’s Don’t Stop Believing.

When Megan comes back she says she will probably buy a beer or two with the money at the end of her shift.  “We are allowed one beer under $5.00 for free after our shift.”  Well, my ten spot will come in handy if she wants to order up her favorite from California brewer Lagunitas which sells for $6.95 for a 12 ounce bottle.  Cheers!

The Brickskeller is located at 1523 22nd St NW, Washington, DC 20037.

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Two quick updates!  I have finally got some video together from my first delivery of items for Tommy from Day 155.  You can see the video here.  He was so thankful!  Thanks to all who continue to send items for those on the Lend a Hand list.  Also, I recovered some video for Alex on Day 180 and posted it.

On Day 190, I went out to Dulles to meet up with my friend Alex for coffee.  He did his MBA at Vanderbilt with some friends of mine a few years ago and had a long layover at the airport on his way back from the west coast to Europe.  It was a short visit, but always good to catch up with old friends.  He keeps telling me that I should come to see him in Riga, Latvia…it would be fun and interesting to see how Latvians respond to the Year of Giving!  

Later I found myself sitting in Tina’s chair at the Hair Cuttery at Connecticut and R in NW.  I have had this idea before to give my $10 to the person that cuts my hair.  Since you sit there and talk to them for a good while, I have always thought that they make for a perfect person to meet and give $10 to.  I have tried a few times, Day 60 for example, but have not been successful yet.  

Today I would change that streak.  I asked Tina if she would be a part of the Year of Giving.  “I think I have heard of this.  Are you that guy?”  This is always a weird moment.  Part of me is excited when people have heard of the Year of Giving but another part of me is somehow shy to affirm their suspicion.  A bit sheepishly I told her, “Yeah, I’m the guy.”  

I wasn’t sure until the end of my hair cut when she actually took my $10 if she would participate or not.  She seemed a bit hesitant the entire time, but I did learn a little bit about her…but not much.  She seems to be a pretty private person.  

Photo: Reed

Born in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, she moved here some 30+ years ago after meeting an American man.  She has been working at the Dupont Hair Cuttery for about 15 years.  By the way, if you live downtown this is one of the most economical places to get your hair cut.  For men, cuts are $18.  Depending on where you live, this might not sound like a good deal, but almost everywhere else here charges more than $30.  I have always had good experiences there and I always get a different person.   

I asked her what was the craziest hair cut she has ever given.  Wouldn’t you know it, she said the “M” word….yeah, I won’t write the word, I already get hundreds of people every day coming to my website looking for this type of hairstyle.  See this post/comments to learn more about this odd relationship the website has with people surfing for these kinds of haircuts.  

Tina didn’t tell me much more (and I definitely wasn’t allowed to take her picture!)  We talked about the weather and trivial things like that.  I did learn that she likes Sci-Fi movies and has always wondered if there was intelligent life in another universe.  I believe that there is.  

She finished up, I gave her the $10 which she plans to pass along, paid the bill, tipped her and went on my way.  

A question for you readers.  I am writing an article about giving and whether intentions matter.  What do you think?  Does it matter what someone’s intentions are when they practice giving?  I would love to hear your thoughts on this.  

The Hair Cuttery in Dupont is located at 1645 Connecticut Avenue, NW, Washington, DC 20009-1054 – (202) 232-9685.  Open Weekdays 9am-9pm; Sat 9am-7pm; Sun 11am-5pm.  Walk-ins welcome.

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SoHo, 22nd & P, in NW DC

I met Darrold at the SoHoTea & Coffee Café at the corner of 22nd and P in DC.

He was born in New Bedford, Massachusetts on June 29, 1941.  The son of a construction worker and an electronics factory worker, he comes from a modest family with a strong affinity for the arts.  His mother and older brothers sang and his father played guitar.  Darrold was no exception.  He started performing with his family at an early age.  His dedication paid off too, getting him accepted to study music at the prestigious Juilliard School for Music in New York City.

Darrold (Photo: Reed)

In 1970 he founded the Urban Philharmonic, a nonprofit symphony orchestra that performs high quality music in diverse urban settings without all the formality often associated with symphonies.  Maestro Darrold moved the Urban Philharmonic to Baltimore and then to DC in 1978.  He and the Urban Philharmonic have been here ever since.  Darrold says he likes DC.  “I like that I can see the moon rise and set,” something he says he wasn’t able to do in NYC.  “I miss Manhattan though; the quantity and quality of the arts and performing arts.”

“The Washington community is just beginning to harness its own political power,” he states.  This sounded a bit strange to me because I usually think of Washingtonians as being politically savvy so I asked him to expand upon this.  “The institutions here are powerful, however, until recently the people themselves have not had any power.”  He talks about how former Mayor Marion Barry used his power to leverage the power of the people.  I can see that, but he also used his power to benefit himself tremendously.  Not to mention that he was a convicted on various counts of drug use and tax evasion.

The conversation naturally moved to music and Maestro Darrold told me how excited he was to conduct Beethoven’s 3rd Symphony, Eroica.  “It’s an interesting piece,” he says as he paints me a mental picture of Beethoven running off to follow Napoleon to try to understand war, pain, death and dying.  “Beethoven succeeds in sharing his inner most feelings with the listener; this is what makes him so great!”

I asked him what great musicians influenced him when he was young to pursue a career in music.  He grinned widely and told me that Billy Holiday and his mother.  “She was soprano and had a beautiful voice,” he told me still smiling

I loved feeling the excitement in Darrold’s voice when he spoke about the Urban Philharmonic.  Due to a lack of donations, the Urban Philharmonic came critically close to fading away for good.  But Maestro Darrold dug deep and found the strength to push on.  He is fighting now to keep the organization alive.  At almost 70-years-old, he is committed to bringing back the Urban Philharmonic with an aggressive schedule of six concerts this next season.  To do that, it will depend on donations from people like you.  If you would like to learn more about the Urban Philharmonic or make a donation, please click here.

Darrold is going to use the $10 to help buy food this week.

Below is a brief video of part of my conversation with Darrold.  Hear first-hand what it feels like to conduct a symphony!

Note: I was so impressed with the potential of this organization that I have agreed to volunteer some of my time to help with strategic planning and overall management of the organization.

UPDATE: Nov. 14, 2013

I’m sad to share that I learned yesterday that Maestro Hunt passed away last Wednesday Nov. 6th at his home. I don’t have much more details at this time, except that there is a memorial service being held on Friday Nov. 15th at the Church of the Holy City (Emanual Swedenborgian Church) located at 1611 16th Street NW (16th & Corcoran). Doors open at 6:30 p.m. followed by service at 7pm.

Darrold exuded love and kindness. His enthusiasm and passion could hardly be contained within his body. It was impossible not to be moved by his ardent smile which he shared unselfishly. DC, and the world of music, has lost one of the greats.

Here is an article from the Examiner.

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Happy Fourth of July to you!  If you are reading this from outside the United States, it is just another day.  Here it is a day that we stop to celebrate our sovereignty that was established in 1776.  Enjoy!

Day 187 was a beautiful day in Washington, but it was hot.  As I walked through Dupont Circle I found Alana sitting on a bench close to the fountain listening to her iPod and reading a book while enjoying the sunshine.

A bartender for the last three years somewhere here in the DC-MD-VA area, Alana was a little reluctant to tell me too much about herself at first.  But I get her to open up some.  At one point she even said, “I have no secrets.” 

Originally from Toa Payoh in central Singapore, in 1993 Alana left Singapore to study marketing at the University of New Haven in Connecticut.  She shared a little about her initial impressions of the United States and how it was similar and different than Singapore.  “Singapore is modern but people still hold on to traditions.”

Alana didn't want to be photographed, but she did allow me to take a picture of her colorful toenails (Photo: Reed)

She tells me that she likes reading, watching TV and playing video games.  “I really like the fighting games,” she says with great enthusiasm.  “Do you mean like Mortal Kombat?” I asked.  “Well, that is pretty old school.  Nobody plays that now,” I learn.  Apparently a more hip game system is the Play Station 3.  “Once in a blue moon I play a role playing game when I’m bored killing people,” she says with quiet gentle tone.  I was amused by how calm she spoke about how much she enjoyed playing “killing games.”

I start to feel the sun burning my skin.  Alana offers me some of her sunscreen which I readily accept.

I used to tend bar as well and always thought I got an interesting view of the nation’s economic situation through my customers.  I found that people would tend to share their troubles with me, especially financial ones.  She thought about it and said, “I haven’t seen that much change, maybe a little.” 

“So what are you going to do with the $10,” I asked her.  She took a drink of her Starbucks iced tea and seemed to think about the question some before looking over at me and saying that she would probably give it back to me.  I tried to encourage her to do something else with it.  She said that she would try to give it to someone else.  We agreed that I would check back with her in a few days to see what happened to it.  With my computer out of commission, I got behind on following up and only reached out to her yesterday.  I will ask her to post what happened to it here.

I said goodbye and retreated to my air-conditioned living room a few blocks away.

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Today I put on my Brazil jersey on and went to watch the match versus The Netherlands.  Although Brazil didn’t win, I am not sure that the Netherlands won it.  Neither team played a great game, but The Netherlands missed a few opportunities to make the game 3-1 or even 4-1.  I remember being in Sao Paulo, Brazil four years and a day ago when France beat Brazil 1-0.  The pub where I watched the match was completely silent after the game…the streets where empty.  The country went to sleep to wash away a nasty hangover.  I imagine that today is a somewhat similar day. 

I will wash my sorrows away with a blog post about an inspiring man named Charles who I met as he washed windows along Connecticut Avenue. 

Photo: Reed

 

Charles is 52 years old and was born and raised here in Washington, DC.  “I was born just over there in Georgetown,” he says as he points west toward the popular historic neighborhood.  “I used to play drums over here at Dupont Circle when I was young.” 

He attended Francis Junior High School just a few blocks from where we were standing.  He grins as he tells me that he still gets together every July 17th with his friends from Junior High. 

Now he lives down near the Waterfront with his mother who he helps take care of.  His father, who died some years ago, worked at the Navy Yard making weapons.  “His picture is on the wall there,” he says proudly.  He tells me that he and his father were almost identical looking. 

Charles' cart (photo: Reed)

 

After 12 years delivering the Congressional Record, the official record of the proceedings and debates of the United States Congress, Charles’ boss retired and he decided to start a new chapter in his life as well.  His boss let him keep some small carts that he used to use to deliver the report and he thought he could put a milk crate on it and make a good cart to carry supplies.  He had often seen people cleaning windows in DC but they were always carrying all the supplies and it was cumbersome to have to gather everything up every time they moved on to the next location.  He put two and two together and launched his own window washing business. 

So seven years and 400 customers later, Charles is doing pretty well.  He is a very simple man, but he understands business very well.  You build your business one customer at a time.  And if you take care of them, they will take care of you.  As an example, one of his clients even lets him keep his supplies in their back room so that he doesn’t have to haul it back and forth from his home. 

“I take care of most of these businesses,” he tells me as he points up and down Connecticut as far as I can see.  Each place is different.  Different size windows, different service (inside, outside, or both).  He chuckles as he tells me that one of his clients is a sex toy shop with lots of erotic toys, etc. in the window.  It definitely helps break up any potential monotony in his work! 

His favorite place though is an old school with lots of windows.  Although the building is special, what he likes most about it is how friendly everyone there is.  Even the kids say hello to him when he is there. “They say hi Mr. Charles when they see me.”  

In general his services cost between $5 and $25, depending on the customer’s specific needs.  Residential service can be quite a bit more if you have to deal with screens for example.  

Charles finished the storefront he was working on and it looked great.  I asked him if he had any trade secrets he would share with me.  He gave me three: 

  1. Use newspaper instead of cloth or paper towels
  2. Add a small amount of rubbing alcohol in the winter to avoid freezing
  3. Use dishwashing detergent instead of window cleaner, it’s a lot cheaper (he buys  a bottle at the Dollar Store)

It’s not all work and no play though.  When Charles is not working, he enjoys visiting the Smithsonian’s Air and Space Museum.  

Charles at work (Photo: Reed)

 

Note: If anyone would like to contact Charles about window washing services, let me know. 

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OK, I am really behind now on my blog posts. My computer is dead. My brother and I spent all day trying to fix it yesterday. I think the hard drive is shot. It might take me a couple of days to confirm that and then get the problem completely fixed or get another computer. Thanks to all who offered to lend me laptops. Maybe some company out there will be inspired to give and help me out with a new one! Feel free to send letters to your favorite laptop manufacturer!

Before I share with you Day 181’s recipient, I would like to update you on Kenneth B (Day 30). Kenneth has been selling the Street Sense newspaper at the north entrance to the Dupont Circle Metro for two years. Unfortunately I recently learned that Kenneth will have to miss about a month or two due to some medical problems. I see him all the time and he loves serving his customers. I went to visit him the last day before he took time off and he shared with me some financial concerns that he had due to the month or two that he will be out of work. If you would like to help Kenneth out (or any Street Sense vendor out for that matter) you can send a donation to him via Street Sense’s website. In the special instructions field, please indicate what percentage of your donation you would like to go directly to Kenneth and the great team over at Street Sense will make sure he receives it. Thanks for keeping Kenneth in your thoughts.

Ashley at Starbucks at the corner of Connecticut Ave. and R Street (photo: Reed)

So Day 181 was the Sunday before the Worldwide Day of Giving. As I passed the Starbucks near my house I saw a young lady sitting on their patio studying flash cards. I haven’t seen somebody using flash cards for years. Full of intrigue I stopped and introduced myself.

Ashley is a 22-year-old recent graduate of the George Washington University and is studying to take the GRE exam. Tonight she is focusing on her vocabulary by studying words like “dirge,” disabuse” and “dissemble.” I took a shot at about a half-dozen words and was embarrassed at how dreadful my vocabulary knowledge was.

Ashley is quite smart. Although she plans to leave for a Peace Corps assignment this fall, she wants to take the test now while her education from GWU is still fresh in her mind and then use that score to apply for graduate study upon her return from her stint overseas. I think the test results are valid for five years.

I asked her what interested her about the Peace Corps. “I love exploring. I want to serve my country and be a good diplomat of the United States.” Ashley was actually supposed to have already left for her tour however her plans got delayed several months after a less than perfect Lasik eye surgery. She explained that she very well may have to have additional procedures to correct the situation. “I think I am going to opt for “PRK” which is much more painful.” Sorry to hear that Ashley!

In the mean time she picked up a second job at a restaurant. I asked which one and would you believe it was the same place I had chose to hold the Worldwide Day of Giving celebration two days later! Small world.

When she is not working, this native of Rapid City, South Dakota likes reading, good food, good wine, coffee, dancing and exploring other places. She has traveled extensively and tells me a little about her trips to Syria, UAE, Egypt, Lebanon, Pakistan, Israel, Jordan, Turkey and Thailand. With all the travel it’s no surprise that she has picked up some Arabic and even some Spanish.

I asked her what she was going to do with the $10 and she said that she was going to give it to somebody on the Worldwide Day of Giving. And she did! Not only did she give her $10 to a young man named Aziz on June 15th, but she invited him to join her at the Get-Together we had in DC that evening. Aziz came and I got to meet him as well!

Update July 30, 2010: I finally was able to upload the video that I shot when I met Ashley.

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

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

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

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

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

Crystal Meth user (photo: crystalmethaddiction.org)

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

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

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

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

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

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I often get asked if I regret giving my $10 to anyone.  The question has always seemed foreign to me.  Sure, some encounters go better than others, but I don’t regret having met any of the people that I have come in contact with on my journey.  I find that even the people who I don’t feel a strong connection with teach me something.  Well, the person that I met last Tuesday comes the closest to being a regrettable experience. 

Lately I have noticed a woman sitting north of Dupont Circle at 1625 Connecticut Avenue during the day.  It’s very close to the Chipotle there.  Anyway, I have walked by this woman a couple of times now and haven’t had time to stop and speak with her.  But Tuesday I decided to introduce myself to Arlen.

The 29-year-old was dressed in an oversized sweatshirt sitting on some blankets with her legs tucked under her.  She looked like she had not showered in some time.  She had a considerable amount of somewhat long facial hair covering her face.  She sat almost motionless, staring out toward the street.  As I got closer she slowly moved her head to the right and up to look at me.  I crouched down in a baseball catcher’s position and introduced myself.  She took the ten dollars and slowly moved her head back center and looked downward and started to smile.

“Do you have a cigarette,” she responded in a slow hypnotic tone.  I explained that I didn’t smoke and she asked if I would go find her a cigarette.  I decided to try to speak to her a little more before I went on a scavenger hunt, but she seemed obsessed with finding a cigarette and managed to pull herself up and stagger over to some people and try to bum a cigarette off of them.  Although she seemed to be talking to them for a few minutes, she continued to another set of people where I imagine she posed the same question.  A few minutes later she returned with a lit cigarette and sat down.

She was so out of it that I thought I better cut to the chase and ask her what she was going to do with the $10.  She said she was going to buy food with it.  “Are you homeless,” I asked.  He head moved again slowly and her glassy eyes met mine “Now you’re being disrespectful!”

I apologized and explained that I was not trying to be disrespectful in any way but that I just wanted to understand her situation better.  “I make $10 a day and you ask shit like that,” she said.  I apologized again and said that I hoped my $10 would be of great help.  “Whatever, you’re a son of a bitch,” she snapped back. 

Although she seemed to obviously be completely drugged out of her mind, I could not control feeling offended by her behavior.  I responded back, “You say that you only make $10 all day long, I just gave you $10.  A thank you might be more in line than calling me a son of a bitch.”  She sighed and mumbled something under her breath.  We both sat there in silence for about 10 seconds until she got up and walked over to the people who had given her the cigarette.  I waited for her to come back for about five minutes but she didn’t even look back over toward me.  I decided to leave.

I try to focus on taking something positive away from this experience.  It’s hard to know what that is though.  She was not a likeable person although I know she was not in her right state of mind either.

So, do I regret giving Arlen my $10?  Not at all.  Do I wish it had went differently?  Absolutely.

Day 163 is the day I arrived in Manizales…so get ready for the Year of Giving to go international!  I give my first $10 away on an airplane too!

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Last night was a late night trying to get the bike video put together and uploaded.  Today I found an internet cafe downtown that seems to be working a little better for me.    

Yesterday they had elections here in Colombia.  No candidate got more than 50% of the votes, so there will be a run-off on June 20th between the top two candidates: Juan Manual Santos and Antanas Mockus.  Most the people that I have met here support Mockus, the son of Lithuanian immigrants.  A philosopher and academic, his opponents say that while he seems intelligent that he doesn’t have clear ideas, has flip-flopped on ideas, and isn’t capable of being a strong leader.  On the other hand, those who support Mockus say that Santos is too much of a military-style leader.  Serving as President Uribe’s Secretary of Defense, he has been very aggressive toward neighboring Ecuador and Venezuela.  I think Santos will end up being elected as it will seem like the safer vote for many Colombians.  Just like in the US, people were glued to their TVs and radios following the results. Anyway, back to last Monday where I had a busy day getting ready for my trip to come here to Manizales.  On top of everything I had to do, I was foolish enough to get locked out of my apartment and lost several hours waiting for the locksmith company that said they would be there in 30 minutes.  I should have hung up with this company after the following conversation:

Woman: Hello? 

Me: Hi, is this the locksmith company on New Hampshire Avenue?

Woman:  Hello?

Me: Yes, hi, is this the number to the locksmith?

Woman:  What do you want?

Me: I’m sorry, is this the locksmith on New Hampshire Avenue?

Woman:  Why are you calling?

Me:  I’m looking for a locksmith.  Have I called the right number?

Woman:  What do you need?

Me:  (now a little frustrated) I need a locksmith…am I calling the right place? 

Woman:  I am not a locksmith, but I can have a locksmith call you back….

Well this went on for a while, anyway I finally figured out that I did have the right number and she was going to send a locksmith.  It would cost $29 to come out to the house and then an hourly labor fee for the work.  I asked how much the hourly rate was and the woman said that the only the locksmith would be able to tell me that. 

So the locksmith arrives and assesses my “simple lock” at $199 plus the $29.  I asked how long it was going to take and he said he didn’t know.  He also wouldn’t tell me what the hourly rate was, but $199 seemed insane.  In the end, I negotiated it down to $29 plus $71 to get the door opened.  He had it open in less than five minutes. 

Ok, enough venting…but hopefully you learn from my experience.  If you haven’t already make sure one or two people have a spare key to your home and if you have to call a locksmith remember that you can probably negotiate with them.

Later that night I was walking through Dupont Circle and saw a couple that seemed to just be enjoying the beautiful night sitting near the fountain.  I stopped to talk to them.  It turns out that Julia and Ken became my first recipients from Canada!  It was not easy at first convincing them that there was not catch to the ten dollars.  Ken was particularly suspicious.  “At the end of all this you’re not going to try to get me to join some church are you?”  Afterall, we were sitting a couple hundred yards away from the founding Church of Scientology.  I assured them that there were no conditions related to my gift and that I just wanted to take some time to get to know them.  Ken cautiously agreed to proceeded.  

Julia & Ken (Photo: Reed)

Hailing from Winnipeg, Manitoba, they had been in DC for 5 days and were leaving on Tuesday.  They came to DC for a small wedding but managed to extend the trip a few extra days and make a mini-vacation out of it.  They were staying a stone’s throw away at the newly renovated Dupont Hotel.  After a full day of visiting the Air and Space Museum, Museum of Natural History, Museum of American History, and the National Art Gallery, their tired legs and feet were enjoying a peaceful moment in this urban respite.  They really enjoyed the wedding.  There was a musical group made up of several Ukrainians who were excellent.  “They were only supposed to play three songs but they played all night,” they told me.  While they were at the wedding the met a man who was from Winnipeg as well.  After talking some time they realized that he used to live in the same neighborhood where Julia and Ken also used to live.  After a few more questions they realized that the man actually used to live in the exact same house that they did.  Bizarre right.  What are the chances to run into someone who used to live in your exact house, especially in a different country! Well this couple is no stranger to coincidences.  As we sat on the bench, another Winnipeg couple from the wedding strolled by and said hello.  They weren’t staying at the same hotel even, but they happened to be walking through Dupont Circle after getting turned around after dinner. The $10 they assured me would go to someone else or some organization.  “I promise you it wont be spent on anything for us,” Ken assured me. 

Kelekis, Winnipeg, Manitoba

If I ever get to Winnipeg, they gave me a few pointers on what to see and do there.  Grand Beach, a very shallow sandy beach, is a very nice place to visit in the summer they told me.  Ken added that this beach was once rated on of the top ten beaches by Playboy Magazine (Ken only read the magazine for the articles apparently.)  “You should also go to Kelekis and get a hot dog, they are the best,” according to Julia.  They also have wonderful theaters, symphonies, operas and even the Royal Ballet.  I particularly enjoyed a story that Julia shared with me about leaving Kelekis one time and seeing an old man walking back and forth looking confused.  She approached him and learned that he was looking for the bus stop.  Well, Julia recognized him as Leo Mol, a Ukrainian (they seem to like Ukrainians!) born artist that achieved worldwide notoriety as a sculptor and offered to give him a lift and he accepted.  He was already in his 90s and still working regularly.  There is a sculpture garden in Winnipeg she told me that has several pieces of his work.

I asked if there was anything that we could help them with, but they couldn’t think of much.  “Perhaps some tips for our son who is going to travel through South America for six months,” Julia mentioned.  If anyone has some tips on making the best out of a six-month backpack style adventure in South America, leave a comment for Julia and Ken.

  We said goodnight.  I made a quick joke that I wanted Ken and Julia to join my church and went on my way.

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As I pack my bags to leave for Colombia tomorrow, I started to think that I should publish the blogs in Spanish while I am there. That way if the person I give to doesn’t read English they can at least read their own blog entry! Any volunteers to translate the blogs for those days

I am interested to find out how my project is received there; a mixture of nervousness and excitement is brewing. Tell all of your friends in Colombia to keep a look out for me!

Photo: Reed

So last week I was walking through Dupont Circle when I saw a bunch of people hula hooping. There was just no way to walk by this and not stop! So I did and asked a woman there if she would accept my $10. She said yes on one condition: I had to do some hula hooping first!

Let me just tell you that the last time I did any hooping (they prefer hooping over hula hooping) I was probably in Mr. Montgomery’s gym class in the 7th grade! Anyway, if you check out the video you will see me attempting to hoop.

Eileen has been hooping for about two years now and recently received her Hoopnotica certification and has started teaching hooping classes. She recommends that if anyone would like more information about hooping in the DC area that they check out www.hoopdancedc.com or www.hoopnotica.com. Or you can just go down to Dupont Circle any Wednesday night at 7:30 pm and hoop away! Eileen also mentioned that there is free yoga at Dupont Circle starting at 6:30…so you can come for hours of relaxation and entertainment FOR FREE

Now, hooping does not come without risk. Eileen told me she has busted up her lip and sprained an ankle in her hooping pursuits. So if you are not up for the risks, this is not a sport for you. Thankfully there is no waiver that you need to sign to hoop with Eileen and her friends though. Unlike my past experiences with skydiving where you sign your life away pretty much.

Photo: Reed

When Eileen is not hooping, she is making a tremendous contribution to society by teaching. She is a special education teacher in a local school. Other than that she claims that she lives a boring life. “I have a cat and I belong to a book club…that’s about it.” She fails to mention that she is also a fire eater…fire breather…or fire spitter…I don’t know what you call it but someone who puts something flammable in their mouth and then releases it into flames. How do you forget to mention this! I mean this is really interesting! Hey, want to spruce up your next office party? Get Eileen and her friends to do a hoop dance and spit fire! Ok, speaking of fire, you might get fired…but trust me it will be a hell of a good time!

Anyway…I am not going to bore you any more with my feeble attempt to convey the friendliness and talent of these hoopers…check them out for yourselves in this video! Better yet, go and join them Wednesday nights at 7:30 at Dupont Circle! You will also see Eileen giving her $10 away!

For more information on hooping:

www.hoopdancedc.com

www.Hoopnotica.com

Hoop Mama’s blog

Hoopalicious Baxter

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

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

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

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

Cecilia and Emilia (Photo: Reed)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Have you ever wondered how your life would have turned out if you had dropped out of school your freshman year of high school?  Well today’s recipient Kylie knows the answer to that question first-hand.  She did it.

Kylie in front of the fountain at Dupont Circle (Photo: Reed)

Kylie, who turned 21 on Friday, decided half way through her freshman year of high school that she didn’t want to go any more.  Probably we have all thought about dropping out, but she actually did it.  Then she visited three or four other schools to see if she liked them any more, but didn’t find what she was looking for.  She tried home schooling for a while, but that didn’t work out either.  So what did she do?  She says she ended up hanging out with some friends that were freshmen at a Delaware college.  They too were not going to class much either.  She “experimented with lots of things” she said and wound up finding herself.  She discovered that she really liked to write.

Today, she is taking classes at American University and hopes to open creative writing centers in youth correctional facilities.  She has already started the process but has a way to go to launch her first center.

I asked Kylie to describe herself and she said, “I am empathetic to a fault.  I’m maybe a little lost…but definitely passionate.” I felt her passion when we spoke about our mothers.  “I love her more than anything,” she said about her mother.  She asked about my mother and I shared with her what a wonderful person my mother was.  She started to cry.  “I don’t know what I would do if I lost my mom” she said fighting away a tear.

Photo: Reed

I was interested in Kylie’s tattoos.  She has seven “professional” tattoos and one “prison” tattoo.  I call it a “prison” tattoo because it was one that a friend did with a BIC pen.  Ouch!  That one didn’t look so good either.  On her right arm she has a large tattoo that says “Love Killer.”  It hurts me just to look at it as I imagine the tattoo needle hammering into the veins that ran along her forearm.  She got this tattoo because of an ex-boyfriend she had.  She shared with me the details of a couple of past relationships.  “Who was the Love Killer,” I asked.  “Maybe I was” she answered.  

Something she said about two former boyfriends stayed with me.  “The one guy I loved, but I never told him that I loved him.  The other one I never loved, but I told him that I did.”  Ironic isn’t it.  “I sometimes regret not telling him that I loved him.”  I asked her if she thought that things would have ended up different if she had told him that she loved him and she shook her head to tell me “no.”  “In that case” I said, “it doesn’t really matter, does it?”

Kylie told me that she was going to give the $10 to somebody else.  As for ways that you can help Kylie, she said she would give that some thought and see if she came up with something.

Photo: Reed

We were heading in the same direction, so we walked through Dupont Circle and headed toward the Metro entrance.  On the way over we passed a woman sitting on a crate panhandling.  Kylie pulled the $10 out of her pocket and dropped it in the woman’s bucket and kept on walking.  “I had to get rid of it!  I didn’t want to be tempted to spend it.”  I sneaked a peak back at the woman…her face was pleasantly shocked.

Happy 21st birthday Kylie!

By the way, check out what Start from Day 126 did with the $10 I gave him…he posted his experience today on his website!

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Last Monday I spent the morning doing some phone calls and interviews.  I got outside a little to walk Ruben, the dog that I have been taking care of, but other than that I was pretty much inside.

That evening I had plans to have dinner with some former colleagues of mine from my last job.  We decided to meet up at my friend Patricia’s house in Arlington.  I took Ruben out for another walk before leaving, stopped by a wine shop and a new gelato shop to get some wine and gelato for the evening.  By the way, I got the gelato from Dolcezza in Dupont.  I sampled a bunch of the flavors, but settled on dulce de leche granizado and lime cilantro.  The lime cilantro was such a unique flavor, I had to get it.  The citrus flavors combined with zest of the cilantro created a deliciously refreshing dessert!

The evening was great.  I got to spend time with some old colleagues.  Laura and her husband brought their four-month-old boy Griffin too!  He is amazing!

Bar at the Afterwords Cafe (Photo: Reed)

Anyway, the night winded down and I dropped Kate off at her hotel in Chinatown.  It was 11:45 and I still had to give away my $10.  As I drove I kept my eyes open for somebody on the streets.  I passed a couple of large groups of people, but didn’t think that stopping them and explaining what I was doing would go very well at midnight, so I pulled over at Kramerbooks near my house.  Inside I found a young couple sitting at a table and offered the guy my $10.  He politely declined and I looked toward his friend.  She somewhat reluctantly agreed.

It turns out that she is the bartender there at Kramerbooks.  I didn’t realize that though because she was sitting at a table at the otherwise empty bar.  Get this, I realized I didn’t have a ten dollar bill.  For that matter, I didn’t even have $10!  I think I had $8.  Then I remembered that I had a bag of quarters in my backpack and grabbed them and counted out the rest of the money for her.  It was a little embarrassing, but Cynthia rolled with it and didn’t make me feel awkward at all.

Cynthia said she likes to travel.  Two of her favorite destinations are Dubrovnik, Croatia and Budapest, Hungary.  Camping and snowboarding are also high on her list of things to do.

About this time several people made their way into the bar and I let Cynthia go wait on them.  She returned shortly with a glass of water for me and asked if I had any other questions.  I could see that she was busy and I didn’t want to take up more of her time…so while she was preparing things I asked her what her favorite drink and food items were on the menu at Kramerbooks’ Afterwords Café.  Her favorite drink was a tie between the Brewmaster Reserve by Brooklyn Brewery and the Old Brown Dog by Smuttynose Brewery.  Her favorite dish is the Bison Burger.  Honestly, you almost can go wrong there, everything is good.

I wrapped things up and let Cynthia get back to work. 

Her $10 is going toward the purchase of a new dictionary for a homeless man who she knows.  Someone stole his bag which contained his dictionary.  I asked if there was anything that I could include in the Lend a Hand project and she mentioned that her car needs some work so she would love to get some help with that.  Heck, maybe a show like Overhaulin would come and help her out!

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For those of you who have not seen the CNN report, check it out.  Reporter David Banks put together a really nice piece.

Last Saturday I met up with a journalism student from the University of Maryland who was doing a story on the Year of Giving.  Ruben and I met her near the Dupont Circle Metro stop and walked over to the circle.  It was pretty busy and Ruben was excited to see all the people and fellow dogs out enjoying the day.  I ran into Danny Harris from Day 64 in the center of the circle.  

Shortly thereafter I spotted Peter under a shaded tree reading a biography of the master of suspense Alfred Hitchcock.  Peter is an Actor living in the East Village of NYC.  Originally from Louisville, KY, he studied at Carnegie Mellon University in Pittsburgh, PA and then moved to The Big Apple.

Originally drawn to the stage by Shakespearean plays, now Peter is focusing most of his energy on some short films.  He shared with me a the link to a rough cut of one that he recently finished…he’s very good in it, check it out!

So you may be wondering why the heck Peter is 250 miles away from his home sitting under a tree reading about Hitchcock.  As it turns out his sister lives in DC and was performing one of the lead roles in The Marriage of Figaro at the Kennedy Center this week and he came down to watch her.  She was working during the day, so he was just relaxing seeing a bit of the city.  

Peter contemplated the $10.  He said that it would probably get spent on some bourbon, beers, or maybe some food.  Later he told me, “Maybe I’ll do something else with it…all these other people have done something amazing with it, so who knows.”

He had more time to kill and I probably didn’t help the chances of my money being passed forward as I showed him where the Brickskeller Pub was.  We said our goodbyes and thanked one another.

Here is some footage of him being interviewed by the University of Maryland journalist as well as a few of my own questions.  The wind is really bad…sorry.  It actually blew over my Flip camera at one point!

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Meghan with Chief (Photo: Reed)

Last Friday I went for a walk around DC with Ruben, the dog that I have been taking care of while my friends Chris and Karrin are traveling.  I thought I would let Ruben help me pick the recipient of the day.  We walked around for a while and made our way over to Dupont Circle.  He spotted another dog and started to lunge forward toward Chief, his new canine buddy.

Chief’s owner Meghan accepted the $10 on their behalf.  Meghan is from Philadelphia and splits her time between the City of Brotherly Love and the Nation’s Capital where she is working toward her masters’ degree at Johns Hopkins School of International Studies (SAIS) where she is focusing on International Public Health.  Coincidentally through the Year of Giving I have met four or five people who are studying or recent graduates in this field.

Meghan was taking a much needed break from writing her remaining three papers and studying for her last exam.  Despite being in the eye of the storm, she seemed rather relaxed.  Perhaps that is because she is graduating in two weeks and will be done with all of her studies.  As we get close to those momentous occasions our brains seem to somehow remind ourselves that we only have to suffer a little bit more before things improve.

With no job lined up after graduation, Meghan’s life after school is up in the air right now.  She has decided what area she wants to work in though.  Meghan is passionate about maternal health, particularly the areas of child survival and vaccinations.

As the 27-year-old finishes her school and internship at UNICEF, she would love to find a job in Philadelphia or possibly Baltimore.  If you know of any positions in Public Health in or around Philadelphia, please leave a comment here or send me a note and I will forward that to Meghan.

So where did this $10 go?  Well, Meghan said the actual bill would probably get spent on lunch that day, but she would most likely think of some way to “pay it forward or donate it” and let us know where it ends up.  I heard from Meghan today and she said:

I ended up giving the $10 to someone who is usually asking for money near my house and always hangs out with and pets Chief when we walk by.  I hope this helps.  Thanks again for making my day of studying a little more enjoyable and social!

Watch this video to meet Meghan, Chief, and Ruben for yourself.  Let’s just say that trying to conduct and film an interview with two dogs was a new experience.  

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On Monday morning I was enjoying a chat with my friend David on the sun-drenched patio of Kramerbooks.  David was in town from New York City, where people are apparently accustomed to seeing famous people all the time. 

We hadn’t been seated for more than a few minutes and David said, “The guy who plays McNulty on The Wire just walked in.”  I don’t watch The Wire, so I wouldn’t have recognized actor Dominic West even if I had seen him.  About two weeks ago I walked out of the Asian restaurant RICE here in DC and didn’t notice actor Kal Penn holding the door for me.  I am simply lousy at recognizing actors – I once got frustrated with Sir Anthony Hopkins and elbowed him.  I had no idea it was the famed English actor.  I guess I just don’t watch enough television and movies, or perhaps I just don’t pay enough attention.  Who knows?

Anyway, I suggested to David that I give my $10 to the hit HBO series actor.  David got up and did a quick sweep of the store and said that he had already left out another door.

We went back to talking.

About 30 minutes later David says to me, “You are not going to believe this, but Peter Ustinov is sitting behind you.”  Ok, what is the chance of David seeing two famous actors in the span of about 30 minutes…4 blocks from my home in Washington, DC no less!  I found myself repeating his name in an effort to draw a connection to who Peter Ustinov was.  Spartacus is the only thing that came to mind…but I couldn’t recall the details of his appearance.  Both of us showing our geek side quickly Googled the actor’s name on our phones and sure enough, the man behind me looked a lot like him.  The man sitting behind me looked a little younger than the image on my phone, but was pretty similar.

I decided to offer him my $10 and see if we were right.  David reminded me, “If he has a British accent, then it’s definitely him.”

I approached the man and explained my giving project.  In an English accent, he politely replied, “I would love to but actually I have to be leaving to take a flight.” 

I asked for his name just to track in my records which is my common practice. 

He replied, “Peter.”

This is him!  Wow, this is kind of exciting.  I had to ask him if he was the famed English actor of Spartacus, many Agatha Christie movies, Lorenzo’s Oil, etc.  “No,” he said shaking his head side to side.  “I get that a lot, but I am much younger and not nearly as fat as him!” he said with a grin. 

My first thought was that he was politely denying being the real Peter Ustinov…I mean what are the chances that they look similar, have British accents, and are both named Peter!

Peter Ustinov

Pieter Ariaans (Photo: Reed)

As it turns out, I was speaking with Pieter Adriaans, an accomplished Dutch professor, scientist, and painter.  He was sitting by himself reading Programming the Universe by MIT professor Seth Lloyd.  “It’s interesting, however, I disagree with some fundamental points that he makes in the book.”

Pieter probably can make a good case for his arguments too!  He studied philosophy and mathematics in Leiden, The Netherlands and has been active in research in the areas of artificial intelligence and relational database systems since the mid 1980s.  He later cofounded a company called Syllogic that he sold to little company out of Plano, TX called Perot Systems.  Since then, he has focused mostly his research, sailing, and painting.

Pieter was part of a very interesting sailing project to make a state-of-the-art sailing vessel that had superior auto-piloting.  You can find out more here at the Robosail Sailing Lab’s website.

I don’t know when he has time to do his painting, but apparently he does.  He has hundreds of impressive works.  You can browse through his paintings on his website which has paintings that date back to the 1960s.

Pieter was such an interesting person that every answer triggered a new question, but I was ever mindful of his time, so I thanked him for sharing a few minutes with me and said goodbye. 

David says he will leave the $10 as an extra tip for someone working in the service industry while he is here in the US.

As we were leaving, David said he saw Harrison Ford walking into the bookstore.  Ok, I just made that up!

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Last Thursday I was still pretty sick from the stomach virus I came down with on Wednesday.  I finally got myself out of bed around 8pm and walked up to Dupont Circle and found Warren, a two-year veteran of the Street Sense sales force, resting on a chained fence hawking newspapers.

Warren holding the new issue of Street Sense (Photo: Reed)

I have never met Warren before, but I have heard his untiring refrain, “Street Sense, Street Sense, Street Sense, Street Sense.”

Born and raised in Washington, DC, Warren has spent most of his time in the nation’s capital, however, he did spend about 5 years in Japan as a youth.  He now spends his afternoons most days selling the Street Sense, usually in and around Dupont Circle.  It helps support him, but he confides that he would love to have a job that paid a little more.  He used to work in the office printing business as well as drive a delivery van and hopes to be able to return to similar more stable work.  When the weather is bad now, he barely scrapes by due to low paper sales.  If you know of any potential jobs for Warren, please let me know.

Warren was kind enough to let me videotape him briefly.  Take a look.

Warren said he was going to use my $10 to help buy him some groceries.

If you have not already signed up for the Worldwide Day of Giving on Facebook, please do so now!  June 15th is less than 45 days away!

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

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

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

Manni enjoys a light moment (photo: Reed)

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

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

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

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

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

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Technology is just not being my friend these days.  First last week the display on my point and shoot Canon camera died.  Then that little ball that you use like a mouse on the Blackberry decided it didn’t want to roll to the left.  The WiFi switch on my laptop is starting to fail.  It constantly says that it has been switched to off…causing me to lose my connection.  This is really annoying when you have a daily blog!  What’s next?  Maybe I need to go back to low tech.  I could write up my daily adventures by hand, make drawings of the people I meet, get a mimeograph (now that is old school!) and make copies of everything and then mail them out to you via the post office!

Anyway, last Friday I tried to give my $10 away near Dupont Cirlce to a Hispanic woman who was carrying some bags.  She just looked like she could use ten bucks, but she didn’t want to talk to me at all.  She just kept saying, “Sorry, sorry, sorry.”  I tried in Spanish, but she just kept on going.

Later I found Jona (pronounced Yona) pushing a scooter over to a place to lock it up by the Metro entrance.

The 27-year-old hails from Tirana, the capital and largest city in Albania, but has been living in the US since 2000.  She is a Finance Manager so she probably has some interesting opinions on my Year of Giving.

She says that she likes living in the US, but makes a point to visit Albania every year.  In fact she plans to return to live there some day.

We chatted for a while.  I asked her if there was anything we could help her with.  She said that she herself didn’t need anything but would like for everyone to start doing their part to help conserve our environment.  I asked her what specifically and she said, “Just the little things.  I mean just do it.  People know what the right thing to do is.”  She herself was participating in a very interesting conference that day called, Creating Climate Wealth.

The two-day conference convened respected entrepreneurs, intrapreneurs, and corporate leaders to provide their insights and expertise on the policies, market frameworks, and programs that will clear the barriers to deliver emission reductions and promote job creation.

She said that Virgin’s Richard Branson was there launching his new venture the Carbon War Room.   I found a statement from Branson on Tonic that said, “Almost 50 percent of emissions can be eliminated without adding any burdens to consumers through improved market structures and enhanced policies.  Climate change solutions represent the largest wealth creating opportunity for our generation. It is also the biggest win for governments with respect to economic development, job creation, increased property values, etc.”

Jona said former Costa Rican President José Maria Figueres was on the panel with Branson and had a great comment.  He was talking about how in business and our personal lives we make a plan b in case things don’t go the way we hope.  “There is no planet B!” he said.  Figueres was able to pass a carbon tax in Costa Rica in the 1990s!  He credits this to Costa Rica having a single term presidency and not being sidetracked by re-election efforts.  Commenting on the importance of carbon taxing, he went on to say, “As long as the price of a tree standing is less than the price of a tree cut for timber, we won’t save the forests.”

I wish I had known about this summit. I would have loved to have participated.

Jona didn't want her picture taken, but said I could take a picture of her scooter! (Photo: Reed)

At the end of our conversation, Jona gave me the money back.  She said, “I am going to give $10 of my own money to the guy who sits in front of the Johnny Rockets on Connecticut Avenue.”  She asked me to use that $10 to help someone else out.  I did not give it away that night.

On Sunday I saw the man she was talking about.  His name is Travis.  I used that extra $10 that I had to buy him dinner: Cheese Steak sandwich platter with everything on it and french fries.  I let him know that Jona would be by to see him one day too.

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Happy Earth Day!  It’s a shame that many people only think about caring for our planet once a year, but I guess that is better than nothing.  I will be posting Day 126 later today about a man who has dedicated his life to saving our country and planet.  His story tonight.

Many people ask how they can help me.  This week I received a check from a friend of mine and four gift certificates from a follower named Tawanna.  A few weeks ago a man from California sent me a donation via PayPal to sponsor ten days of giving.  Although all of these efforts are greatly appreciated, I would encourage you to think about how you can help those on the Lend a Hand page or individuals and organizations in your local community.  I promise to put the donations that I receive to good use, although, I can not accept money for my $10 daily commitment.  I made the $3,650 commitment myself and I don’t feel that it is fair to accept donations for my own personal commitment.  I am in the process of studying the possibility of creating a nonprofit that would help manage and distribute funds that I receive in a responsible manner.  I hope you don’t take this the wrong way.  Call me stubborn!  Larry and Kelly from California told me yesterday that, “to be a great giver, you also have to be a good receiver.”  What do you think?

Gravett playing the EWI4000s (Photo: Reed)

On Day 125 I was walking by Starbucks at Dupont Circle and saw a man playing a clarinet-like instrument inside the coffee shop.  I had seen him playing there before, but didn’t have time to stop.  I went inside and saw that the instrument is connected to a small electronic device that connects to earphones.  He was deep in concentration.  I nervously walked around pretending to be interested in anything but him.  Finally I just bit the bullet and walked up to him and asked if I could talk to him for a minute.

AKAI EWI4000s

That minute turned into two hours.  Gravett is a musician who is practicing on a EWI4000s.  It’s an electronic saxophone.  I used to play saxophone.  My band instructor, Mr. Snyder, I am sure would agree that the saxophone was not my calling in life.

The real benefit of the EWI4000s is that it has an internal sound module that stores the sounds/tones that the instrument produces rather than relying on an external modulator.  This allows Gravett to not have to carry around bulky equipment to hear the sound he is producing.  Pretty cool.

I asked him how he makes a living and he said he played the saxophone and worked as a pedicab driver in DC.  Pedicabs are bicycle powered cabs.  Very timely that I should write about him and his pedicab on Earth Day.  Gravett has returned to Washington DC last year after spending time living in Mexico City, the Czech Republic, and Jamaica.  I told him that I had given $10 to another saxophone player on Day 100 (Bill).  He nodded his head and said he knew him.  “Bill is really talented” he said.

Benjamin Banneker (1731-1806)

I asked Gravett what he thought he would use the $10 for and he said he was going to save it for his next stint overseas.  “I have been thinking about going back to Mexico City.  I really like it there … or maybe Guatemala.”  Although Gravett said he likes Washington quite a bit, he prefers to live outside of the United States.  He feels that he doesn’t necessarily know or share in the history of the city and prefers to be somewhere that this is not expected of him.  In his work operating the pedicab he gets asked questions about the city quite a bit.  He impressed me though when he told me the story of Benjamin Banneker.  Banneker worked closely with Andrew Ellicott on finalizing the city plans for the District of Columbia.  I always thought it was the Frenchman Pierre Le’Enfant who was responsible for the entire plans, but George Washington supposedly dismissed Le’Enfant and left

Ellicott and Banneker to salvage the plans.

By the way, for those of you in Maryland, Ellicott and his two brothers established Ellicott Mills, later renamed Ellicott City.

Gravett is someone who lives in the present.  He believes that communication is only real when it is live and spoken.  Sounds are only real when they are produced live from their original source.  We spoke philosophically about these and many items.  Some things we agreed upon.  Others we did not.  But that is ok.  In the spirit of the legendary newscaster Ron Burgundy, we agreed to disagree.  I enjoyed chatting with him so much that soon we were being asked to leave as the coffee shop was closing.  

We gathered our things and headed to the West entrance that boarders Connecticut Avenue.  We said our goodbyes as he put a helmet on and got on his scooter (his legs are probably tired from all the pedaling!)  As I started to leave he said something that I have found myself telling others.  “Thanks for sharing.”

Because that is what we were really doing.  We were both sharing; sharing our time, our ideas, our questions, etc.  Had I not been doing this project, I don’t think I would have ever stopped to talk to Gravett.  I probably would have lived the rest of my life never knowing about Benjamin Banneker.  

Gravett did tell me something that you could help him with.  He would like information on living in Guatemala.  In particular, he is interested in extremely low-cost housing information as well as general safety issues.  He hopes to move there this summer.  If you have information or know where he can research this better, please leave a comment.

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Today was a very busy day for the Year of Giving blog due to Elizabeth Barr’s story that ran on AOL.   I received over 100,000 hits and approximately 50,000 unique visitors to the site.  In the last 10 hours I have received nearly 800 emails and comments, many of them incredibly inspiring.  So many of you have shared how the Year of Giving and the people I have met have touched your lives.  Thank you.  Almost a hundred people today have pledged to give $10 to a stranger on the Worldwide Day of Giving (June 15th) and share their stories with us here.  About a dozen people have vowed to start their own Year of Giving.  Others have offered to help those on the Lend a Hand page, thank you!  One gentleman even offered to help a woman who posted that she needed a computer by sending her a good used computer!  This is what it is all about; watching the Year of Giving take on a life of its own. 

All of that is terrific!  There has been something that happened today that bothered me though.  I am completely supportive of good intellectual debate and discussion, however some of the comments about Katy (Day 111)  ripping up the $10 went too far in my opinion.  After more than 20,000 views today, there were several slanderous comments against Katy that I feel are not in the spirit of the Year of Giving.  One comment that I thought represented my feelings after reading the comments was by a poster that goes by the name Saw.  

He who is without sin….cast the first stone. How is poor Katy going to feel when she reads all the unkind reviews of her action? Does she deserve such harsh judgment? How are the people leaving cruel comments any better than Katy? Aren’t they much more interested in that $10, than the pain they might cause her? 

I agree with this statement completely.  As a result of this I have temporarily closed the comments section for Day 111.  There are more than 325 comments already on the subject and I think her decision has been thoroughly debated.  I am not sure we can come up with an angle that hasn’t already been covered.    

Back to Day 123.  Last Friday I found Jen sitting in the grass in Dupont Circle.  She was killing some time before she had to start her shift at a local restaurant.  She said she was in a bit of a bad mood and thought that she would hang out in the park for a while and get herself in a better state of mind before clocking in.  

Jen relaxing in Dupont Circle (Photo: Reed)

 

Originally from Pennsylvania, she was familiar with my hometown of Mechanicsburg.  The twenty-something is a graduate of the George Washington University where she studied anthropology and dance.  Wow…what a combo.  What direction would I go if that was what my undergradudate degree was in?  Well, she might have found herself in the same predicament as she has decided to go to grad school to study Latin American and Caribbean studies.  I might be going out on a limb here, but that might be influenced by the fact that her fiancée is Brazilian! 

Given Jen’s current financial situation, she has given more of her time than money to others.  She has volunteered as an English as a Second Language (ESL) instructor.  She planned on volunteering two years with the Peace Corps but it looks like she won’t pursue that now that she is engaged. 

I asked her what she was going to do with the $10.  She said she would give it to someone else.  “Maybe I will leave it as an extra tip for a waiter.”  She agreed to comment here after she has given it away and share with us the fate of the $10. 

Jen told me she was planning a trip to the west coast where she was going to drive the coastal highway from LA up to San Francisco.  She hoped that someone reading my blog would have some good tips or links to good Websites to help her plan the route and things to do.  So if you have any tips/suggestions for her, leave a comment here!   

Want to know a weird coincidence…Jen knows several of my other recipients!  My world is becoming smaller!!! 

UPDATE [April 22, 2010] 

I received the following email from Jen today and wanted to share with you: 

I’ve been meaning to write you, just to give a little more feedback on what I thought/think about your project. 

Honestly, it took a couple days for it to sink in.  After I spoke with you, I went straight to work, worked a 7-hour shift, left, went home, slept a bit, then went back the next morning for a 15-hour double, so I honestly didn’t have time to think about it until Sunday.  I was supposed to meet a friend for brunch, but she overslept, and I kinda needed some alone time, so I grabbed a book and took myself to brunch at Tonic.  As I predicted, I ended up leaving the server an extra $10 on top of a normal tip. 

It was funny – I felt like I had to get rid of the $10 as soon as possible.  It wasn’t mine, and I had to get rid of it as soon as possible before I was tempted to keep it.  Plus, being in the restaurant industry myself, I know how nice it is to feel like your time and work is appreciated when someone tips you a little extra.  There were a lot of other ways I could have given away the $10 – donated it to a local charity or cause I believe in, used it to buy lunch for a homeless person, or something along those lines.  I’m not really sure why I decided to give it away on the fashion I did – I guess it was just quick and easy, and I could (temporarily) brighten up someone else’s day. 

Anyway, you’re trying to build community through inspiration.  Stepping back, doesn’t it kinda suck that you have to give $10 a day in order to do that?  Like, is that the only way to build community and inspire people?  I mean, this whole thing isn’t about the money – it’s just the common thread with everyone you talk to. 

All the same, if you had approached me in Dupont and just wanted to talk, I would have been more than happy to share…but probably would’ve just brushed off our interaction afterwards and never thought about it any further.  You’re reaching out and giving back when you reached a juncture in your life where you should have been doing the opposite, and I think that’s a very powerful message. 

Anyway, kudos on your work.  I hope your project continues to grow, bring further insights to others as well as yourself, and, hopefully within the year, reach a grand final culmination.  Please stop by my restaurant anytime you want to chat 🙂 

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

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

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

Carlos near Dupont Circle (Photo: Reed)

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

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

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

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

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John pushing one of this two carts (Photo: Reed)

Taxes are due today.  Ugh… I have waited to the last minute.  Shame on me.  Maybe the IRS will give me $10!

On Day 115 I was walking home and walked by a man pushing two shopping carts full of stuff south down Connecticut Avenue.  He had a system where he would push one of the carts about a block, leave it there, then go back and push the second cart up to where he had left the first one.  He repeats this for hours sometimes.  I stopped and offered to help push his carts for a while so he didn’t have to keep making double trips.  He wouldn’t accept my help.  

His name was John.  Two Johns in a row! 

Even from a few feet away I clearly smelled a very foul vinegar-like odor coming from John.  He definitely needs some new clothes and a good shower.  I wanted to help him and offered him my $10.  He accepted it.

Photo: Reed

His shopping carts are full of grocery store boxes and empty bottles and all kinds of other things.  I asked where he leaves the items during the day, because I imagine he can’t stay with the items all day long.  He said he usually just leaves them down near the McDonald’s on 20th and M Street.   The 64-year-old is obviously uncomfortable talking to me…but I push on.    

John has been homeless for five years he says as he looks around a bit erratically.  The tattered hat he wears cast a slight shadow on the upper part of his face making it difficult to see his eyes as I speak with him.  He says that he ended up homeless here in DC after moving down from Albany.  “I couldn’t find housing when I got here,” he said.  He has been pushing the carts for years. 

My guess is that he suffers from some form of mental illness. He says that he will use my $10 for food.  I asked him if there was anything that the YoG followers could help him with, but he said “no.”  I really wanted to get his clothes washed for him or get him some new ones but he said he had no contact information, although I might be able to find him near that McDonald’s he mentioned.  Incidentally that is the same McDonald’s where Gregory from Day 71 used to hang out.  I haven’t seen him for a couple of weeks now.

I managed to get a short video of John, but then he got a little antsy and went on his way.

  

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Last week I met with about a dozen former colleagues of mine from the Alliance for a Healthier Generation for dinner at Lauriol Plaza.  I like this place, but I don’t understand the mania around it.  If the weather is nice, everyone goes there and it is not unusual to be told that there will be a two hour wait.  We were lucky that we didn’t have to wait two hours.  After dinner a few of us went over to Kramerbooks for dessert.

After we finished I asked our waiter if he would participate in the Year of Giving, but he said he was slammed and didn’t have time.  So I wandered inside and through a small door that leads to a cozy café / bar where I found John sitting by himself fidgeting with his phone.

John at Kramerbooks in DC (Photo: Reed)A patent litigation lawyer from Irvine, CA, John is in town for a law conference.  He started his own practice with some partners in 2006.  He handles all kinds of cases, although the examples he mentions are mostly in the area of technology and biotech.

When he is not practicing law, the 35-year-old says he enjoys sports, movies, and photography.  In fact he had a nice Nikon camera placed in front of him at the bar.

John and his wife also are involved in giving.  They help the Teen Leadership Foundation.  Specifically he tells me about one set of kids that are with a foster family where the mother has cancer.  In fact he says that he is going to give the $10 to her.

I asked John if there was anything you could help him with for the Lend a Hand section.  He said no, but then thought for a minute and said, “Actually I really could use a responsible, hard-working personal assistant that I can trust to handle confidential materials.”  So if that sounds like you or someone you know and you are in Irvine area, let me know and I will connect you with John.

We shook hands and thanked one another and I started walking home.  About half way home I realized that I never gave John the $10!  Oh no!  I hustled back to the café hoping to find him still there.  Sure enough he was there and was totally cool about it.

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Day 100.  I have given $1,000 to 100 different people so far.  $10 doesn’t sound like much, but trust me it adds up.  Although some people remind me of plenty of things I could have used the money for, I wouldn’t trade this experience for anything.  It has been amazing.

If you live near Grand Forks, ND, I will be on the air with Denny and Kerri of KYCK 97.1 FM Wednesday morning a little after 8am Central Time.  You can listen live on the Internet as well at http://97kyck.com/.

Bill playing the sax (Photo: Reed)

Last Wednesday I went out in search of a recipient for my $10.  I ran into several former recipients of my Year of Giving: Kenneth B. (Day 30), Bill C. (Day 36), Nikki G. (Day 66), and Manny H. (Day 85).  Now when I walk around my neighborhood I always run into someone that I have given to before.

I came across Bill Davis who was entertaining Metro riders entering and exiting the Dupont Circle station.  The 46-year-old Maryland resident has been playing music since he was in elementary school when he started playing the saxophone.  I too started playing the saxophone when I was in elementary school, however, I produced much different sounds.  I recall my brother Ryan comparing my playing to the sounds of a slow dying moose.

(Photo: Reed)

Bill has been around the music industry for a long time.  He shares one of his most proud accomplishments; producing Peaches & Herb’s Colors of Love album.  You might remember Peaches & Herb best from the late 70’s hit Reunited.

“Reunited and it feels so good

Reunited ‘cuz we understood…”

Bill said he was going to use my $10 to buy him some new reeds for his saxophone.  My name must have subliminally influenced his decision.

I asked him what he thought of my project and he said, “Giving is a beautiful thing.”  That it is.  Speaking of giving…I’ll give you a little peak at Bill’s musical talent.  Check out the following video.

 

UPDATE: Nov 15, 2011:

I ran into Bill this morning at Metro Center. As I climbed the escalators I was greeted by the crisp November air and the melodic tunes of Mr. Davis playing the saxophone. It makes the vibe of the whole area kind of cool. We chatted for a second. He said he was doing alright and might even stop by David’s farewell party next Monday night.

Here’s a photograph I took of Bill this morning…I took this with my point and shoot which is old and not that good…but it still captures his familiar poise.
IMG_3993.jpg

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Ben & Jerry's Dupont Circle (Photo: Reed)

I am still behind on posting my giving experiences.  Today’s post is from last Tuesday!  I’m going to try to start ‘posting two a day until I get caught up.

I was walking home from a meeting and noticed a large line outside of the Ben & Jerry’s scoop shop south of Dupont Circle on 19th Street. 

As it turns out it is Customer Appreciation Day where they give everyone a free scoop of ice cream.  Ben & Jerry’s doesn’t stop there though, they also partner with cause related organizations to give them an opportunity to fund-raise.  

Here’s how it works.  Ben & Jerry’s allows the charitable organization to be present and ask for donations on free scoop day.  In addition, if a patron donates $2 or more, Ben & Jerry’s gives the donor a 10% off card valid for all purchases for a year.  Great idea!

I had to stop.  The organization asking for donations was Cancer Prevention and Treatment Fund.  I donated $5 to the organization and then decided to try to give my $10 to person asking for donations.

Emily (Photo: Reed)

Originally from Arizona, Emily is a Research Assistant with the organization.  It was quite chilly that afternoon and Emily looked like it was taking a toll on her.  Her face was tight and body scrunched together as she tried to stay warm.  Her coat sleeves provided little relief for her exposed hands that held her sign.

Emily said that she was going to give the money to someone else.  “I am not exactly sure how, but it will go toward helping someone else out!” she cheerfully shared.  I asked if she gave regularly and her smile went awry and she said, “Well, my fiancée is better at that than I am.”

There were several interns helping Emily get donations.  They would tell the people in line that they were accepting donations for the Cancer Prevention and Treatment Fund as well as explain the added benefit that patrons would receive by donating more than $2.  At some point the interns had to leave and Emily was left by herself.  I noticed that the donations slowed down as people were just walking by Emily.  I had a few minutes to spare and offered  to walk up and down the line and tell those waiting about the opportunity to donate and receive the Ben & Jerry’s discount card.  I did this until 5:30 when a fresh set of volunteers were scheduled to arrive.  I had to get going and said goodbye to Emily. 

A few hours later I received the following email from Emily!

I was so excited to do something with my $10 but was not sure that “something” would be blatantly obvious. I was wrong. Not only did I have the opportunity to use my $10 for someone else’s well-being, but it happened a mere 2 hours after meeting you.

I was freezing cold after working outside trying to get donations for the organization I work for and just wanted to get home. Upon trying to enter the blue line platform [on the Metro], I discovered the blue line was having massive issues. It was going to be a very long wait to even board a train. I decided I would get a drink and wait it out. Perfectly logical, right? As soon as I stepped outside it began to pour rain. After running into the nearest bar and discovering there was not a single seat, I settled on a nearby Subway.

As I tried to rush in the doors from the rain I was approached by a seemingly homeless female. Now, my personal policy is to not give money to homeless individuals. This is not because I am heartless; rather, I prefer to make donations elsewhere to places I have a better idea of where my money will go. So when she started to ask me–I already had my mind made up–I said no. What I didn’t process until after I had said no, was that she didn’t ask for money–she asked for a sandwich. I promptly ordered 2 turkey meal deals. She was very thankful and is currently eating her sandwich across the room from me.

I wonder what her story is.

Thanks for the opportunity to make someone’s day. I’m still in subway typing this email out…I couldn’t wait to share my ten dollar story.

 Respectfully,

Emily (day 99!)

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I have gotten way behind…all the wonderful emails, comments, media and speaking requests, etc…added to being out of town for a couple days has taken its toll.  Thankfully I got a good night’s sleep last night and am recharged and ready to get caught up!

On Wednesday I headed to Dupont Circle to meet with Katherine Frey and Susan Kinzie of the Washington Post.  Susan had tagged along with me the day before and today Katherine joined to photograph my Year of Giving.

We ran into Bill from Day 36…he was playing an original song he wrote called “Made as One” at the South end of the circle (click here for a pic of us talking).  We chatted briefly…he seems like he is doing well. He is still looking for some places to play.  He used to play at Potbelly’s some evenings, but they have stopped that.  If anyone would be interested in having Bill play at their establishment, let me know.

It was a little after 5pm and the sun’s shadows were growing longer.  I wanted to walk over to the area where the chess players hang out.  It was there I met Sean.

Sean waits his turn to play chess (Photo: Reed)

Sean is a telecommunications engineer with the US Army.  I asked him what he did more specifically and he responded, “I like to tell people that I used to be the guy that you would see in the movies carrying that bag…well, now I try to destroy the other guy’s network!”  When he is not serving our country, the father of three daughters likes spoken word poetry and playing chess.

Sean had made his way up to Dupont Circle after finishing work for the day.  He stands carrying a chess set that he says belongs to his daughter.  In fact he has taught all three daughters to play chess.  Although this is the first time he has been to the circle since winter and snow blanketed Washington, he tries to play as much as possible.

“This is like crack” he says, “although I have never tried it, it’s gotta be something like this.”  “I wake up in the morning thinking about it.  It’s sick!” he says with a grin. 

Today all the chess tables are taken.  Sean waits his turn.  “That’s ok though.  I like to watch.  There are some really good guys here and I always learn something.”

It was about this time that I learned something that I never knew before.  Sean tells me that he played chess for the Army for 4 or 5 years.  I figured he meant that he was in like a chess club at the different locations he was stationed at, but I was wrong.  In fact Sean’s job for the Army was to play chess.  He was on the Army chess team and that was his job.  I had no the military had chess players on the payroll! 

I had a lot of great video of Sean, but for some reason it was not saved on my camera.  I did have some other quick video clips that I had taken later that I have put together here.  Sean talks a little bit about playing chess for the Army, donating his time, and teaches me a little chess lingo.

As for the $10 he said that he was going to give it to his daughters.

Well, that’s it for today.  I am going to go start practicing my chess game.  Maybe the Army will hire me!

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Mark your calendars.  June 15th is the Worldwide Day of Giving.  I know what you are thinking.  You’ve never heard about this day.  Well, that is because I just made it up.  It’s going to be an amazing day though.  Let’s see how many people throughout the world we can get to give $10 (or the local currency equivalent) to a stranger on that day and then share their stories here on the Year of Giving.  More details to come…but start telling people now.  This is your chance to experience the exhilaration that I have been feeling every day for the last 3 months!

On Day 87 I met Rick.  He was sitting in front of a hair salon on Connecticut Avenue.  I remember seeing Rick about a month and a half ago when I was giving my $10 to Ron.  Ron asked if I knew Rick…he said, “Everybody out here knows Rick.” 

Rick says he has been homeless for 7 months…but that doesn’t seem to add up with the fact that everybody seems to know him.  Even Rick himself told me that everybody knows him.  Maybe he has been panhandling longer…but just lost his housing 7 months ago.

He says he doesn’t like to stay in shelters.  “They’re full of drug users in there” he says.  Most nights he sleeps on the streets.

He keeps one eye always on the foot traffic…especially the ladies.  He is quick to shoot a smile their way.  A couple people fill his cup with dollar bills as we talk and a few regulars say hello.

Rick is a little too smooth.  I wasn’t sure what to believe or not to believe. Sometimes he seemed to lose his train of thought…maybe it was the booze.  His breath was soaked in alcohol…although he wasn’t sloppy. 

Check him out for yourself and find out what he thinks of his family, where he sleeps, and what he says he is going to do with the $10!

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Gregory has been homeless in DC for almost eight years.  He stands bundled up holding this sign and a ripped up cup at the corner of 18th and Connecticut Ave. in downtown Washington, DC. 

Photo: Reed S.

I spent about 45 minutes talking with Gregory.  He is very soft-spoken and gentle.  He says that he lost his job and his wife left him for another man about 8 years ago…the cocktail of events started a chain reaction that left him homeless and drinking.  Gregory said he used to never drink…he said he didn’t even like the taste, but he felt that he was able to escape from the pain and depression that he suffered from by drinking.  He paused and said that he has been sober for seven months now. 

His voice got even softer and he fought off tears as he shared some of the painful memories.  He told me that he had seen some doctors at one point and they wanted to give him pills for depression and mental illness.  He never took them.

Like almost every homeless I have met, he does not stay in shelters due to the violence, theft, and poor conditions.

While we talk, a man who was eating at Fuddruckers came out and gave him a small box of food, said nothing, and left.  Gregory continued to talk to me for a few minutes and then asked if I minded if he ate while we talked.  He opened the container to find an order of French fries.  He seemed hungry as he ate the entire box. 

I asked him what he planned to do with the $10 and he replied, “I know exactly what I am going to do with it.  I can get 3 meals at McDonald’s and have a dollar left over for something else…maybe something on the $1 menu.”  His favorite food is fried fish.  I asked him what the most he had ever received and he pointed to me and said $10.  

We talked about different services that are available to him.  I suggested he sell the Street Sense paper as well…several of the vendors do quite well once they build up a loyal customer base.  I asked him if there was anything that the readers of the Year of Giving could do for him and he said that he could use some jeans and other pants.  He wears a size 38 x 32.  If you are in DC and would like to meet Gregory, he is normally in front of the McDonald’s on M Street in between 19th and 20th Streets.  If someone else is there, he usually goes to Connecticut and 18th Street.  I can also reach him if you would like to get something to him.

By the way, I went down to try one of John’s burritos at Pedro and Vinny’s burrito stand.  It was excellent…I highly recommend it!  You definitely need to check out his stand at 15th and K. The food is tasty, the banter upbeat and interesting, and the line is full of regulars who he quickly recognizes.  An interesting thing is that John has somewhat of an honor system going on for payment.  He has a box that you are supposed to put in the amount that you owe.  I liked that.

On my way home I saw Roger from Day 57 but we didn’t get to talk.  About 4 blocks away I ran into Nikki from Day 66.  She didn’t recognize me and seemed pretty out of it.  She said she was talking to “the Man upstairs” and continued walking on to meet with a group of men standing in the center of Dupont Circle.  I also saw Kenneth from Day 30…but he was across the street and I was late for a meeting so I was unable to say hello.  Needless to say, I am starting to really get to know my neighborhood!

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