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Posts Tagged ‘helping me’

Today’s blog marks the countdown of the final 100 days of my Year of Giving.  Hard to believe that I have given away $2,650, met 265 incredible people and written 265 blog posts about the amazing journey that I embarked on December 15th of last year.   I wanted to take a moment and just thank every one that has been a part of my year.  From the recipients to the readers to my family and friends to the journalists to those who have sent items for the Lend a Hand project, you all have helped shape the journey.  Thank you.

The Kipona Festival in Harrisburg dates back to 1916. (photo: Reed)

Day 265 takes place on Sunday September 5th in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania.  My father and I drove over to the Kipona Festival along the sparkling shores of the Susquehanna River.  The festival features a variety of food, children’s theatres, educational activities, arts and crafts, boat races, concerts and fireworks.

Some come to Kipona just for the food. (photo: Reed)

We strolled by hundreds of tents full of arts and crafts, food vendors and families enjoying the festivities.  There were several people who I thought about giving my $10 to.  There was Scott Matyjaszek, a 3-dimensional photographic artist who hand cuts all the photographs and then layers them to create what he calls “photo-reliefs.”  His work was really impressive.  You can check it out at www.artephax.com, however, I doubt you can fully appreciate his work since it is in fact the 3-D element that makes it so unique.  There was also a young guy from Tennessee grilling some chicken that he marinated in oil, lemons and other spices.  And I also thought about giving the money to Patty Hankin from Bethesda, MD who was there displaying some of her beautiful photographs of flowers.

James with the Walnut St. Bridge in the background. (photo: Reed)

But sometimes I feel like I don’t really choose.  The recipients choose me.  This is what happened when 42-year-old James asked me for money as I was shooting some photographs of the Walnut Street Bridge that connects City Island to Harrisburg.

James said he has been homeless for the past three and a half months and sleeps along the bank of the Susquehanna River.  A graduate from Shippensburg University, he told me that he had fallen on tough times after being arrested for various charges including theft and DUI.  On top of that, his girlfriend died unexpectedly.  All of this caused him to lose his job as a funding/benefits coordinator.

“People sometimes don’t believe that a white college educated guy like me could be homeless, but I am,” James told me.  He says that he lives off of panhandling and $150 a month that his brother, a television news producer in Washington, DC, sends him.

James said that he slept on the river bank near where this photo was taken. (photo: Reed)

James seemed nervous and said that needed to go.  “I’m not going to lie to you, I am going to get me a sandwich at Sandwich Man and probably buy a cheap pack of menthol cigarettes.”  He hurried off.

Just then my father, who had walked a few yards away to get out of the sun, introduced me to a gentleman sitting on a stone wall a few steps from where I met James.  He gave me his business card and introduced himself as the chief of police from a neighboring community.  He saw James approaching several individuals.  “I tried to get your attention when he came up to you.  I didn’t want you to get scammed.”  The off duty chief said that he positioned himself right next to me in case anything happened.  That was really nice of him to keep an eye out for me.

People often ask me if I believe everything that people tell me.  Of course not, but I try to give people the benefit of the doubt.  Although I have faith in humanity, there was something about James and his story that didn’t sit well with me.  He seemed so anxious to get going once he got the $10.  Perhaps he was really hungry.  Or maybe he has some addiction issues and went off to get his fix.  Or maybe he just noticed the police chief paying attention to him and felt uneasy.  Who knows?  It really doesn’t matter for the most part.  I am practicing unconditional giving, so the recipients can do anything they want with the money.  I would like to hope that people are usually honest with me though.

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Every time I approach someone there is a crucial couple of seconds or minutes where I have to establish credibility and a rapport with the person that I speak with.  Here in Washington, we have lots of people who come up to strangers asking for things whether it be money or their support on a petition, etc.  So, many people get conditioned to just saying “no” to everyone who approaches them. 

A critical element of my success in getting so many people to hear me out is the fact that I have a business card that I give them.  It somehow gives me credibility and the impression that what I am doing is legitimate.  Well, I recently ran out of cards and thankfully the same company that helped me out with the original batch of cards came to my rescue again!  You may recall that when Zazzle.com heard about my project back in January they were so excited about it that they let me design my own card and then donated 500 of them to me to help me out.  It’s great to see companies that step up and help others out. 

I designed these cards and then Zazzle.com gave them to me for free! (photo: Reed)

If you like to design things (anything, from business cards to mugs to t-shirts) go online and you can design your products and then put your design in the public domain so that others can see your work.  Then if someone wants to purchase your design you get paid!  How cool is that?!  They are called “Skinny Cards” because of their smaller (3” x 1”) than normal size.  Here’s a link to my template.  People constantly comment on how much the love my cards.  Thanks Zazzle!!! 

Today’s giving story is a bit enigmatic.  I met Johnnie as he sat on a bench near the Dupont Metro North entrance/exit.  At first he said that he couldn’t accept the $10.  He liked the idea and said that he wouldn’t keep the money but he thought that I would probably do a better job of finding a person who “deserved it.”  Johnnie, who works for Metro, encouraged me to find someone else, but after I explained to him that if everyone did that my “reach” would only be as far as the area which I travel each day.  But since he and others live in different communities and travel to other parts of the city and world that he could broaden the pool of potential people that my project touches. 

We went back and forth on this for a while, maybe 20 minutes.  I figured I wasn’t going to convince the 46-year-old DC resident but finally he said, “You know what, give me that $10, I think I know what I am going to do with it.”  He said he had to go catch his bus and I didn’t have time to get a picture or anything of Johnnie.  I did get his phone number quickly as he left and have tried calling it the last two days but I get a message saying that the person is “not accepting phone calls at this time.”  Maybe he needs to use the $10 to pay his phone bill!

Hopefully I can reach him and then update this post.

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So, don’t forget Thursday is the 15th and if you want another shot at giving your $10 away, give it a try and leave a comment here to let us know how it went. 

Maria and Karel (photo: Reed)

 

Day 200 was a Friday and Brazil was playing the Netherlands in the World Cup.  I slipped on my jersey that my friends Keila and Gilson got for me and headed downtown with a neighbor to cheer on Brazil.  

We found a table at the James Hoban pub on the circle.  In our section, I think we were in the minority.  There were several Dutch fans passionately cheering on their country.  Two of them were Maria and Karel.  My neighbor used to live in Holland so she seemed to change who she was rooting for as the Dutch pulled ahead.  She ended up chatting with Maria and Karel about something and then I ended up helping  Karel with some directions to Dulles airport. 

As it turns out the couple the city of Bergen was here for some business meetings and they were leaving for the airport in a couple of hours.  I drew a little map for him on the back of a print-out of the food and drink specials the bar was promoting during the world cup games.  

From L-R, Maria, Karel, Kees and Farren watch nervously before the Netherlands took the lead (photo: Reed)

 

After 90 minutes of play Brazil’s dreams of becoming the first team to ever win six World Cup championships were quashed; at least for another four years.  Our new Dutch friends were ecstatic.  I went over congratulated them and asked if they would share their joy and participate in a milestone day the Year of Giving: Day 200.  They accepted. 

Karel is the managing director of a Dutch industrial company.  Maria works for KLM Royal Dutch Airlines.  I have flown KLM before.  I remember it well.  I was in business class from Sao Paulo to Amsterdam.  The service was excellent, much better than Lufthansa or BA which is what I usually flew to Europe when I was living in Brazil.  The captain came on the intercom alerting us that we were landing in about 45 minutes and I brought my seat to the dreaded “upright position” and noticed that in my lap was a small ceramic house that was painted the colors of Dutch flag and inside it seemed to be some liquid.  I asked the person sitting next to me if it was theirs and they informed me that all KLM business class passengers received this token of appreciation and that it was filled with rum.  I tucked it away in my carry-on bag, exited the plane and headed for my connecting flight only to get stopped by security and told that I would have to surrender my new found gift because it had liquid in it, even though it was just two or three ounces at most.  For some reason I felt a little indignant about the situation and just to spite the security officer I opened it and drank it on the spot!  

photo: Reed

 

Anyway Maria and Karel were such a nice couple.  They seemed rather impressed with Washington…well then again they were really in a good mood after watching their team pass on to the next round.  “There’s more green than we expected,” said Karel.  “It’s quite relaxed and comfortable here.  Safer than I expected too!”  I asked them where I should visit if I go to their country and Karel and Maria thought about it for a second and said that Rotterdam would be a good choice. 

I found out that they were newlyweds having just gotten married on 09.09.09 after a whirlwind courtship of just about a month (well to be exact they had corresponded for much longer but had only met in person for about a month.)  You know what they say.  When you know, you just know.  I guess this year there will be some people tying the knot on 10.10.10. 

Maria said that she was going to give the $10 to someone else.  She enjoys helping others.  Just recently she volunteered for a program that KLM did for the homeless; part of their Wings of Support program.  Later Karel asked if he could give me $10…a different $10 as they wanted to hold on to the one I gave them so they could pass it on to someone else.  I tried to remember that I too need to be gracious when people offer me gifts and accepted their $10 which I will save and use to start a fundraising effort that I will begin in a few weeks to help a small bilingual performing arts school in Manizales, Colombia.  More to come on how you can help in some upcoming posts! 

Kees, Farren, Maria and Karel (photo: Reed)

 

Right before they left, they introduced me to their Dutch friends Farren(?) and Kees.  Kees said that I had inspired him to give five different people 10 euros each when he got back to Holland.  Yes!  Way to go Kees! 

Despite Brazil losing the game, I felt like a winner.  In fact as I walked home wearing my Brazil shirt, four different people stopped me to tell me how sorry they were that Brazil lost.  One Brazilian woman hung her head out of a stopped car and just shook her head in a mixture of disbelief and sorrow.  I tilted my head to one side and shrugged my shoulders.  “De aqui a quatro anos,” I told her. 

Oh, by the way, I got a text message later that day that Maria and Karel made it to the airport!  Stay in touch.

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Charlie (foreground) plays harmonica while Kevin handles the guitar (Photo: Reed)

On Day 195 I thought about heading over to the Adams Morgan neighborhood to find someone interesting to give my $10 to.

I walked north along 18th Street, dodging the bar-goers coming in and out of the various bars and clubs that hug the road until I reached Columbia Road.  As I stood on the corner, I noticed two musicians starting to play on the corner across the street.  I decided to head over and listen to them for a while. 

As it turns out I decide to give them my $10.  Kevin plays guitar and Charlie plays harmonica, percussion and sings.  I approached them and told them what I was doing.  They agreed to participate.  Charlie didn’t say much to me but gave me a business card that says, “The Legendary Charlie Sayles” and has his contact information.   “You can read all about me on the website,” Charlie says.

Photo: Reed

Kevin tells me that they often play there at the corner of 18th and Columbia Road in front of the Sun Trust Bank and also at Dupont Circle Metro near the Krispy Kreme.  “Charlie’s in the Who’s Who in Harmonica Players and has something like three blues albums.” 

As for the $10, Kevin says they will use the money to get some food.

As they got ready to start up playing again, Kevin shared that he was looking for a job.  I didn’t get any more details on what exactly he was looking for, but once I do I will post it on the Lend a Hand section…maybe someone out there can help him out!

Charlie starts to make his harmonica sing and they continue playing.  They play mostly blues numbers.  The melody seems to naturally dance back and forth between Charlie’s harmonica, Kevin’s guitar licks and Charlies vocals.  Here is a short taste of their performance.

When I got home, I did take a look at Charlie’s website.   The 62-year-old has an extensive musical career that followed an upbringing in various foster homes and a three-year tour of duty in Vietnam.  You can find out more about Charlie here or take a listen to his music on his MySpace page.

Jay, me and Lumumba

While I was photographing these two talented musicians, a man named Jay from Atlanta came over to me and inquired about what kind of camera I was shooting with.  We began talking and I found out that they were here putting on a large trade show and conference.  When he and his colleague, Lumumba, heard about what I was doing, they got excited.  “We’re going to give you $10 each man!” said Jay.  They insisted.  Thank you guys so much! 

Pretty cool that they felt so inspired to do that.  I used $5 to buy a sandwich for Carl, a homeless guy that I met the next day in Dupont Circle.  I donated $5 of it to the family of Javier Lopez-Cruz, a 26-year-old from Oaxaca, Mexico who was killed in an auto accident.  They are trying to raise enough money to send his remains back to Mexico.  The last $10 I donated toward those who are out of work in the Gulf region.  If you would like to help me in these efforts, you can send $10 of your own by clicking here!

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