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Posts Tagged ‘happiness’

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 heard from Roger D. today from Day 54…he is doing well.  Still struggling but his positive attitude is inspiring.  I hope to meet up with him this week.  He is having some trouble figuring out how to get some medical/dental assistance.  He is also still looking for counseling and a used lap top…if you haven’t checked out the Lend a Hand section, please do, maybe you can help someone today.

James (Photo: Reed)

If you have driven by the corner of Calvert and Connecticut in Washington, DC in the last 8 months there is a chance that you have seen the man on the right.

This is James.  The 39-year-old works for Street Sense.  I try to find one of their salespeople each week because I just love the concept that the paper has and have really enjoyed meeting every single salesperson.

James, vendor #315, got a job after his friend Randy suggested he apply.  Randy used to work for Street Sense until he passed away in November of last year.  The opportunity to help others is what drives James to go out six days a week to sell the newspaper that helps DC’s poor and homeless.  Even on the coldest days, even in the rain, James is out there.  He doesn’t let a lot stand in his way, not even a serious life-threatening illness.

You see, James was born with spina bifida cystica (myelomeningocele).  This is the most complex and severe form of spina bifida.  In James’ case he was born with a hole in his back and part of his spinal cord and nerves were on the exterior of his body.  Doctors operated and put everything back where it belonged, but it left him with some life long challenges, mostly related to his legs.  He uses crutches to get around, but can walk small distances without them he says.

The youngest of eight children, James is very positive.  His warmth is contagious and radiates when you speak with him.  He was so happy I thought he might have been drinking, but after speaking with him for a while I realized that that is just part of the love he exudes.  He is a member of St. Luke’s Episcopal Church and enjoys drawing, seeing movies, spending time with friends, and just “enjoying life.”  As I talk with him I can’t help but think that spina bifida might very well shorten his life.  I later researched it and found that “most individuals live well into adulthood.”

James at corner of Calvert & Conn., DC (Photo: Reed)

I asked him what he planned on doing with my gift and he said, “I am definitely going to give it to someone else…someone who needs it more than I do.”  He followed this statement up with one that I truly believe as well, “When you help others you help yourself.”

Throw away your Prozac and come down to Calvert and Connecticut Avenue in DC and say hello to James.  Repeat daily for 6 days and you will be good to go!

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Terrible news from Chile…another devastating earthquake shocks us this year.  Luckily the epicenter was not in as densely of a populated area like it was in Haiti.  Nonetheless, I have made myself available to travel to Chile if there is a relief organization that can use my services.  I speak Spanish and have been to Chile and would welcome the opportunity to help those in need.

Phillip sells a paper to a passerby (Photo: Reed S.)

On Day 75 I met Phillip, a colorful salesman for Street Sense.  I was driving north on Wisconsin Ave. in the Tenleytown neighborhood on my way to my father’s place in Pennsylvania when I saw a man on the right side of the road with a “Cat in the Hat” type hat.  Well, I had to pull over and meet this guy.

As it turns out Phillip is a Street Sense vendor and the hat is part of his “marketing.”  He is vendor number 202 and has been selling the paper for 2.5 years.  He told me that summer is the best time of year for selling the paper when he can often sell over his average of 30-40 papers a day.

Phillip is homeless and on two waiting lists for subsidized housing.  “You would not believe how many people are one or two paychecks away from being homeless,” says the former plumber whose problems started when he was hospitalized with stomach ulcers and bleeding.  He spent 17 days in the hospital and when he came out he found himself losing his home and his marriage in peril.  He got better, but unfortunately was not able to reconcile his marriage.  Financially he was in freefall and ended up on the streets.

Go see Phillip if you are in DC.  He radiates love and kindness.  He can be found in front of the CVS near the intersection of Wisconsin Ave. and Brandywine St.  Look for the hat!  Phillip needs clothes: Shirts (XL), Pants (38×34), Shoes/Boots (11), Gloves (Med/Large). 

Here is a great video clip of Phillip explaining how he stays indoors during the bitter cold months.  

There is another great video of Phillip on Facebook.  Click here to see it.

Update July 7, 2010: Here is some video of Phillip receiving some of your donations!

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