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Posts Tagged ‘Golden Triangle’

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

Bill getting ready for bed on K Street.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

UPDATE: 11/28/2010

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

UPDATE: 12/5/2010

 

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

 



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This photo is from the video below.

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

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

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

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

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

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

Check out some excerpts from my conversation with him…

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

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

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David is one of the most interesting and talented individuals I have met this year. (photo: Reed)

You know that I love the Street Sense organization.  Not only do I love what the paper and the organization stand for but I also have got to know many of their vendors and am honored today to call many of them my friends.

So when I heard about the Silent Auction benefit that Street Sense held to raise money for their organization, I made sure I was able to go.  It was a great event and they raised a record amount, but what I will remember most is meeting David.

He was asked to share some of his spoken word poetry at the event.  It was powerful.  David is so talented and brought the house down.  I knew he was my recipient of the day.  Here is one of the poem’s he shared with the attendees of the Silent Auction.

After he was done I approached him while he was by himself having a bite to eat from the delicious food that was generously donated by Fresh Start, a venture created by Day 225’s Robert Egger and the DC Central Kitchen.  David was so excited that I wanted to give him my $10 of the day that he started telling people around him.  His enthusiasm was beautiful.

David shared that he was released from ADX Florence, a level-5 Supermax prison in Colorado about 18 months ago.  “I shot a few people and threw them out of a window,” David told me picking at some fresh grapes on his plate.  “I had to serve my sentence there because of the violent nature of the crimes,” he went on to explain.  It was an odd juxtaposition.  In front of me stood this kind smiling man with a deep warm laugh who was sharing this information that didn’t seem to jive with the gentle giant in front of me.  He seems to be on the right track now; focusing on the positive.

Going through old photos I realized I had seen David once before. Here is a picture I took of him at the David Pike Awards. That's David on the left with Sam Ford of ABC7/WJLA-TV (phot:Reed)

David was homeless before serving his sentence and is homeless again.  One good thing is that he just was able to rent a storage locker.  “That’s a problem when you don’t have anywhere to keep your stuff safe,” says David.  He explained that he needed to go buy a proper lock for it.  “It costs $11, so I’m going to put this $10 toward the purchase of that lock!”  I happily reached in my pocket and handed him one more dollar to fully cover the cost.  He gave me a $100 smile.

David told me a story that I haven’t forgot.  While in prison he befriended another inmate who was illiterate.  Since David was good with words, this other inmate would have David write letters to his lady friend.  David would read the letters that she would write and tell him what she said and then write back to her.  “I was getting pretty interested in her,” he told me.  Here he was vicariously falling for another guy’s girl all because some guy couldn’t read or write… that’s movie material!  And a message for the kids, stay in school so other guys don’t steal your women while you are incarcerated!

I want you to watch David perform two of his other poems.  They’re powerful and deal with heavy subjects. 

David could use your help.  He would like to find additional employment.  “I’ve been cooking for years,” he said, but he would like to find something where he has more community engagement.  I was very impressed with this man.  He is one of the most interesting and talented people that I have met this year.  Although he is not always at the same location, often times you can find him selling the Street Sense at 13th and Pennsylvania in northwest DC.  Go visit him and tell him I sent you!

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In addition to her stage and television work, Bonnie has produced two radio shows. (photo: Reed)

I recently learned about a local writing workshop.  I thought, heck, I should have seen something like this 303 days ago!  When I started this I had no idea how MUCH writing I would do.  I’ve also never really stopped to think about my writing style or how I can improve it.  Hopefully I have learned something along the way but certainly I could benefit from a more structured environment to develop my writing skills.

 

 

The leader of the workshop is an inspiring and energetic woman whose name is one letter different from yesterday’s recipient!  Bonnie is a former stage and television actress who studied at the performing arts school in New York City that the movie Fame was based on.  She went on to study at Howard and UCLA and helped found the Los Angeles Theatre Works and has taught workshops to all kinds of audiences, even prison inmates!

 

Now divorced, she lives in the DC and has two grown sons; one a cinematographer and the other a plastic surgeon.  

 

Bonnie asked for a few days to consider how she wanted to use the ten dollars.  In an email to me the next day she wrote, “I donated the $10 to the Seva Foundation.  One of their programs addresses preventable blindness.  Through a dynamic network of partners around the world, Seva helps communities develop their own high-quality, affordable eye care services.”  Pretty cool that she decided to use it to help others see…something that many of us take for granted.  On a side note, I have wanted to give my ten dollars to a blind or deaf person.  I don’t know why I am a little obsessed with this idea, but I am.  Haven’t been able to yet, but I still have some time!

 

Bonnie on the set of Good Times

I was so moved by Bonnie’s interest in the Year of Giving.  “I’m going to be up half the night trying to think of ways to help you and your project,” she told me.  Since then she has made some introductions for me in an effort to find a venue for my year-end celebration.  Still nothing confirmed yet, but hopefully soon I will have more details.

 

 

 

In the workshop she asked us to think of one word that described ourselves.  As I write this I wonder what one word Bonnie would use to describer herself.  I can think of a couple: creative, sincere, confident, inspiring, etc.

 

So I did some digging and found some old clips of Bonnie doing some television shows back in the 70s.  From kissing Redd Foxx on the cheek on Sanford and Son to playing J.J.’s cousin on Good Times, she did some exciting work!  Check out this clip of her on successful TV series Good Times.  She plays Naomi and first appears around 7 minutes and 30 seconds.  If you watch the entire episode (there are three parts) you get to see more of Bonnie and hear Jimmie Walker utter his famous phrase “Dyn-O-Mite” twice!

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9/11 memorial

It’s hard to believe that it’s been 9 years since the 9/11 tragedy.  I remember where I was; just under a mile from the Pentagon.  I remember seeing the crash on TV at my eye doctor’s office and then walking over to my office in Rosslyn, VA and hearing the crash at the Pentagon.   2,996 lives were lost that morning.  To give you an idea of how many people that is.  If we were to honor one person each day, it would have taken until Nov. 26, 2009 – more than eight years – to honor all those who lost their lives.    

Remember Tommy from Day 155?  Well, I delivered some items from Meghan in Pennsylvania and took some video.  Check it out here.  By the way, he needs some items for winter, check out the Lend a Hand section.  

Before I introduce you to today’s recipient, I must apologize for a mix up on my side.  Yesterday I posted Day 256 with pictures of today’s recipient, Lisa, but with the story and notes that pertain to Jessica who was the recipient on Day 257.  Sorry…I think I got it all cleaned up now.  With 365 posts this year I was bound to mess this up at some point! 

Lisa proudly displays her $10

Embarrassingly Lisa saw the mix up and wrote to me to point it out.  Thankfully she was understanding and assured her that I would get it taken care of today.  Thanks Lisa, I’m sorry about that. 

Anyway, I met Lisa at a going away party for Sarah, the person who I replaced at the WWF.  The 26-year-old owns her own graphic design business here in Washington, DC.  After growing up here in the DC area, she went to Pittsburgh to study at Carnegie Mellon University.  Today most of her family is split between Boston and Buffalo. 

Owning your own business seems to have its advantages for this world traveler.  “I try to set aside a month or two each year for travel,” she says.  “My next trip is going to be the western part of South America or India.  She told me about another trip where she went hang gliding over Rio de Janeiro.  When I lived in Brazil I went to Rio regularly for business and often stayed at the Intercontinental Hotel.  From the hotel you can see the hang gliders taking off from Sao Conrado and riding the thermals high above.  Who knows, maybe Lisa was one of those hang gliders that I have seen! 

We talked a little bit about why people give.  “I’m pretty busy and so I often give money instead of my time.”  Lisa went on to say that she does give of her time to her family and close friends.  “I’m pretty artistic, so sometimes I will do a painting for friends.  I’ve also done a friend’s wedding invitations.”  Speaking of giving, the $10 in her hand ended up being used to buy her good friend Sarah some beers.  

photo: Reed

I asked Lisa if there was anything that someone else could give to her that would be helpful.  “I’d really like it if someone could donate five or six hours at a printing shop.  That would be amazing!”  

If anyone is in need of a graphic designer, let me know and I can connect you with Lisa!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

photo: Reed

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

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

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

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Some of you might have heard that at the Worldwide Day of Giving celebration here in DC I did an impromptu fundraising effort to start raising money for those who have lost their jobs as a result of the BP oil spill.  We raised $150.  That is money that came straight from the pockets of those attending.  Given that it was last-minute and the venue chose not to offer any type of matching or incentives for donating, we fell short of what I would have liked to raise. 

Although BP will pay lots of claims, there are lots of expenses and lost opportunities for Gulf residents that will never be repaid.  Or won’t be repaid soon enough.  I am empowering some amazing members of the Gulf community to distribute the money we raise to those who have been affected by the disaster.  These amazing volunteers will then share the stories of people that they meet and help – very much in the same spirit as I have done my daily giving.  Trust me I know, even $10 can make a difference.  If you would like to help, click on the DONATE button to the right.   

There is an interesting article in today’s Washington Post about grass-roots efforts to help those who have been affected by the oil spill.

Day 179 was interesting.  I went to a little lunch place near my old office that I used to frequent, House of Kabob (1829 M Street, NW).  This place gets mixed reviews.  Yes it’s a bit dirty.  Yes it looks a little sketchy.  And Yes the food is always tasty and the staff are incredibly friendly.  Anyway, I noticed a man who was just raving about how much he liked the food there.  He made a few comments to me and I kind of shook my head in agreement.  I took my spice rubbed chicken, chickpeas, and rice over to a table to enjoy while reading the paper.  He took his order to go.

After my stomach was fully satisfied, I headed east on M Street and arrived at a tiny park where I saw the same gentleman that was raving about the food.  He asked me how my lunch was.  Not having anywhere to be, I stopped and spoke with him.  Meet Chandler.

Chandler is taller than me…which is not too tough, I am only 5’9”.  He was wearing a red polo shirt buttoned all the way to the top, greyish green slacks, and black wingtips.  I am not sure how old Chandler is.  I asked him and he told me 47 and then said 67 and smiled and said why don’t you just guess.

Photo: Reed

I am intrigued with this man and decide to offer him my $10 when he asks me what I do.  We escaped the sun’s relentless rays and sat under a small tree.  We ended up speaking about some really deep topics.  “Some people question what I am here to do.  What am I called to do?” he said.  He went on to say, “It is pertinent for man to understand why we are here.”  

At some point he flips the focus from him to me and the Year of Giving and asks what my purpose is.  I gave him an answer, but he seemed unsatisfied with my answer.  Then he got really serious and moved within inches of my face and said,

I am going to tell you something and I want you to listen really well.  If you only listen to one thing that I tell you, listen to this.  You need to sit down and write your personal vision statement.  You need to be completely honest with yourself and write out who you are and who you want to be.  What your values are.  What are your motivations?  And don’t lie, even if you never let anyone else see it you need to be honest with yourself with this.”

He asked me to ponder what my highest actions and/or characteristics are.  Is it love, God, trust, success, honor?  Whatever it is, I should write it all down.  I think this is a very important exercise and I will do this.  It reminds me of a conversation I had on Monday with a friend who I encouraged to write a business plan for his organization.  It just helps to get it down on paper and commit to it.  

Chandler needed to leave.  I am not sure what he did, but it was something in the legal field.  We exchanged telephone numbers and email addresses and agreed to continue talking when he had more time.   As for the $10, he said he was going to invest in gold.

He left me with one other phrase that I really liked.  “May the highest in you meet the highest in me.”  He meant that we should be the very best and treat others the very best way we know how.  I like that idea.

I took some photos of Chandler and then said good-bye.  He turned back toward me as we walked away and said “to be continued.”  

I have reached out a couple of times via email but have not heard back from him.  I have his telephone number and will have to try to set up time for us to speak further.

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