Posts Tagged ‘gallery place’

Blog post by Reed from Washington, DC.

When I started the second Year of Giving and invited others who were out of work or underemployed to pick up where I left off after my 365 day journey I didn’t know what to expect.  I knew that a year was way too long to find someone who would continue the giving; however, I figured that I could easily find people who would commit to seven days of giving.  I was wrong!  I’ve had a hard time finding new Kindness Investors.  Can you feel me trying to nudge those of you who are on the fence about it?

As a result I am in a situation where we have no Kindness Investor for a few days; however, I figured I would take advantage of this time to give you some updates on some of the amazing people that I met last year.


This is Knox on December 15th, 2009.

The Year of Giving began on the afternoon of December 15th 2009.  On that chilly monochromatic day, I got rejected twice before finding Knox who accepted my $10 as he hawked his shoe shining services on the corner of 21st and P Streets in DC.


Fast forward 365 days and Knox made it to the year-end celebration on December 14th 2010.  There is a great photo of us from that event.

And then I ran into Knox on February 12th after I was volunteering with Yachad.  It was ten minutes shy of midnight when I heard the familiar voice reaching out to the alcohol coated passersby on 7th Street near Chinatown.

We chatted for a while.  “Business is good,” he told me.  And he said that he has been doing well.  He claims to have a handle on his addictions although I am not sure what that means…especially after he produces a bottle of shaojiu, an indiscernible clear white liquor that based purely on the label probably has never made it to any FDA testing lab.


One year after meeting him, I was reunited with Knox, my very first recipient, . (photo: Michael Bonfigli)

Anyway, Knox is Knox.  He still thinks that I am some sort of event producer.  Ever since I invited him to the year-end party he thinks that I organize regular events.  He encourages me to throw another party soon and invite him to shine shoes.  I let him in on the secret that I am actually not an event planner…although I guess I could be as it seems that I am collecting professions these days.  He seemed disappointed but I promised him that when I throw the year-end celebration in December that he will again get an invite.


I updated his cell number in my phone, handed him the three dollars I had left in my pocket and said goodbye.  It was late and I don’t think I was helping his business a bit.

To read my original blog post on Knox that I posted on December 16th, 2009, click here.


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Yesterday evening was Day 365 of my Year of Giving.  It was absolutely brilliant.  It was so good to see so many past recipients of my $10 joined by blog followers, family and friends.  I couldn’t have asked for a more perfect evening.  If you want to get a taste of how the evening went, check out this awesome segment that ran on ABC-7 here in DC.  More to come on this when I write up the blog post for Day 365.

I hope I look as good as Margie does when I'm 65!

Now, let me take you back 17 days to a cold November 28th.  My brother Ryan invited me to be his guest at a Washington Capitals game.  It was there that I met Margie while she checked the tickets of the fans who entered the 200 level concourse. 

Margie, an usher at the arena for the past nine years, works all kinds of events.  “At first I didn’t care for hockey because I didn’t understand it, but I’ve learned some of the rules and things and now I’d probably say that it’s my favorite.”

A DC native, Margie and has four children and five grandchildren!  I wasn’t surprised to learn that she had worked in the nursing and healthcare field for most of her life as she is clearly a caring person.  She provided home healthcare for both children and adults; helping them bath, get dressed, cook, grocery shop, etc.  “I love helping people,” Margie said, “I’m a people person.” 

We laughed a lot.

She told me that this has been a difficult year for her.  “I’ve been having kidney and liver problems,” sounding positive despite the unfortunate circumstances.  She’s on several medications and hopes that her situation starts to improve soon.  It would be completely reasonable for her to use the $10 to help pay for the medications that she needs, but she decided to pass it on to someone who needs it more than she does; one of Margie’s daughters has a foster child who is expecting a baby.  As she looked down at the ten-dollar bill in her hand she said, “I know she could use the money.” 

I gave her a big hug before I left.  I look forward to seeing her again the next time I am at the Verizon Center.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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I often tell people that it’s much more meaningful to give of your time than your money.  So why am I giving away $10?  Good question.  I wanted to make a year-long altruistic commitment that I could quantify with relative ease.  A monetary amount lends itself very well to this.  Having said that, I probably give of my time almost every single day to help someone.  Whether it’s giving directions to a lost tourist, watching someone’s bag while they go to the bathroom or cooking something for a friend’s birthday, I do something for someone else just about every single day.   

Vincenzo and his new wheels. (photo: Reed)


 Well on Day 260 I was on my way to a meeting near 11th and G Streets in DC.  I was on foot and cutting through Chinatown when I saw Vincenzo stressing out in front of his blue station wagon at the corner of 7th and G.  

“Do you know anything about cars?” he asked me standing in front of the open hood of the car.  I made a quick call to tell the person I was meeting to inform them that I would be a few minutes late and then told him that I would try to help but that I didn’t know much about cars.  I thought he probably only needed some help pushing the car out of the way of other traffic.   

Another passerby, Joel, also topped to lend a hand.  

None of us really knew what was wrong with it.  The 22-year-old from Virginia Beach explained that it felt like the breaks were on and he couldn’t get the car to move forward.  I did what I always do when I’m in this situation and the hood is up.  I walked over and took a look at the engine.  I don’t know why I do that, I don’t know the first thing about cars.  I mean I know the difference between the alternator and the starter, but when things go wrong, I doubt I am going to be able to fix anything.  

Joel and I were a little more preoccupied with getting Vincenzo’s car out of the middle of the road so that he could take his time to figure out how he wanted to proceed.  I looked over at Vincenzo who now was pacing a little bit saying something about how he shouldn’t have bought this car.  “I bought this car yesterday from some ghetto dealer I found on Craigslist,” he told me.  Vincenzo paid $2,000 cash for the car.  “It’s got 152,000 miles on it.”  He beat me, my 2000 Volkswagen has 139,000 miles.  Speaking of my car, I have spent over $1,000 on it in the last week, but more on that later.    

Then I heard something about an interview.  I peaked my head around the hood and asked, “You’re on your way to an interview?”   

“Yeah, I’m supposed to be there in 20 minutes.”  

Oh man, this is really turning into a bad day for Vincenzo, who is now fully stressed and sweating pretty bad in the 90+ temps.  This is not how he envisioned this day going, I am sure.  

Finally I ask if I can try to start the car to feel what the car is doing.  He tosses me the keys and I get into the station wagon and turn the ignition.  I eased off the breaks and the car crept forward.  It seemed to be working fine to me.  Vincenzo looks at me somewhat puzzled and I frankly don’t know what I did, but we switched places and he gave it a try.  It worked!  We closed the hood and I gave him my cell number just in case it started having problems again and he was close by.   

Vincenzo managed to smile despite the day's misfortunes. (photo: Reed)


A few days later I got a voice mail from Vincenzo.  He was at a repair shop getting his car fixed.  Apparently his car died again that day on his way to the interview and he parked the car and hopped on the Metro to get to the interview.  “There was something wrong with the disc brakes and the left caliper that was making the breaks stick.”  It cost him $706 to get it fixed.  

As for the interview, he didn’t get the job.  “I kind of new that it was a long shot, but it would have been the perfect job.”  Vincenzo’s background is in personal training and he is looking for a job with large organizations to build program’s that help keep their employees in good health.  Many companies are hiring people like Vincenzo now because they can get cost savings from their insurance provider for offering these sort of services as well as get more efficient employees.  He told me that he has personally seen how people in better shape are more productive at work.  If anyone would like to contact Vincenzo for work opportunities, give me a shout.  

Anyway, it was a tough day for this guy.  I was kind of surprised that other people didn’t offer to stop.  It was just me and Joel helping him.  By the way, Joel works nearby at the Portrait Gallery and said that it was a simple decision to stop and try to help, “I stopped because he needed help, that’s it.  He seemed pretty genuine.”  Thanks for your help Joel!  We need more Joels!  

When we spoke he also told me that he donated the $10 to a charity focused on multiple sclerosis.  I also learned that he has started to train for some cycling races.  He recently kept up with some road racers for 11 miles on his mountain bike.  This is not easy when you consider they were riding road bikes and Vincenzo was on a mountain bike.  It’s a lot more work and he said he wasn’t even drafting off the other cyclists.     

So, I mentioned my car had cost me $1,000 this week.  I recently swapped cars with my father and had to get my new car registered and inspected here in DC.   It needed some work on the emissions which ran $500.  Then I had to get it registered and inspected which cost me a total of $364.  Look for the upcoming story about Chad who I gave $10 to while waiting at the Department of Motor Vehicles.  And then, get this, my car was broken into last night!  So, chalk up another $200 in repairs not to mention over $500 in stolen items.  I am seriously thinking about ditching my car and using Zipcar.  Anyone done this and been happy?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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As of today I have given a total of $410 of my savings to 41 people that I didn’t know.  More importantly, I have met 41 people and learned their story.  I can still say that it has been worth every dollar.  Also, I have “met” so many of you through the blog…people from all over the world.  To date almost every state in the US and 30+ countries visited the Year of Giving.  I have enjoyed interacting with all of you.  I have also received a lot of great suggestions about things I should do with my project.  Here are some of your ideas/suggestions:

  • Write a book
  • Have a celebration at the end of the year for the recipients and blog readers
  • Accept donations from others and use that money to give additional $10 each day or to extend the Year of Giving
  • Write to Oprah and tell her what I am doing
  • Start my own nonprofit
  • Get an airline or travel agency to sponsor travel for me to all 50 states during the Year of Giving and give $10 to someone in each state
  • Incorporate twitter into the site (done)
  • Add video blogs to the website (I just found out that this is a premium feature.  I have asked WordPress to sponsor this capability for me in the spirit of my project.  For now you can see my videos on the Year of Giving’s Facebook page)
  • Have guest bloggers
  • Organize a “day of giving” where everyone who is following online will be encouraged to give $10 on that specific day and then write in on the blog about their experience

The list goes on.  I love to receive your suggestions.  I am already in the planning stage of some of the suggestions, others are more complex and I have to see how I would go about doing them.  What do you think?  What ideas do you like?  What other ideas do you have?  Let me know if you can help make any of these ideas turn into reality.

On Day 41 I found myself in Chinatown in DC.  I was walking along the street near the Verizon Center and found Cleo playing the trumpet.  The 50-year-old native of the DC stood playing his heart out with his back to the street and his trumpet case open on the sidewalk.  The case was peppered with coins.  As we talk he answers all of my questions in a melodic verse.  I will try to get some video up on Facebook so that you can see for yourself what an amazing man Cleo is.

He has been playing trumpet since the age of 8.  Born and raised in DC, he grew up playing in the school band and later in a drum and bugle corps.  He has been busking for some 20 years.

I ask him what he is going to do with the $10 and he said he was going to use it to buy some valve oil for his trumpet.  He said he also needed to collect $25 right to get a good music stand; his old one broke.

He said that you can find him at Gallery Place when there are games at the Verizon Center (I found him at 7th and G, right next to Clydes).  He also plays in Adams Morgan at night from time to time…he laughed and shook his head and said that Adams Morgan was a wild and crazy place!

I asked him if he had a practice of doing things for others and he sang back something to me like, “I might find someone….and buy them a hamburger….”

Cleo is the real deal.  I think it might be impossible to speak with him and not smile.  He is a must see if you catch Wizards, Capitals, or Hoyas game!  

If anyone wants to help Cleo or any of the other recipients, let me know and I can try to make arrangements.

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