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Posts Tagged ‘Houston’

-Blog post by Mary J., a Kindness Investor from Houston, TX

I met today’s recipient at Chik-fil-A in Pasadena, TX, while going through the drive-thru with Mom and Jack.  Have you ever had their chicken sandwich? If an investor had approached me about a new restaurant whose feature item was a fried chicken breast with three pickles on a buttered bun, I would have laughed them out of the room.  Now, I probably single-handedly keep the one on Fairmont Parkway in business.  They’re sooooo good.  And they make great iced tea; lemon, no sugar.
 
Chris T. was taking orders outside with a co-worker, trying to keep the growing line coiled around the building moving.  After he took our order, I introduced myself and told him about the Kindness Investment project.  He was very interested and said he’d be happy to talk to me, but didn’t have a lot of time right then to answer all my questions.  I found out he’s working at the fast-food chicken chain while attending college.
 
I gave him the $10 and we agreed to talk later.  He gave me his phone number and I left a message, but he hasn’t returned my call.  I don’t want to hold up the blog, so if/when I hear from him I’ll post an update at that time.

Well, today is my final day of giving.  It went by so fast!  My week as a Kindness Investor was a great experience and one I highly recommend to others, unemployed or working.  The project made me more aware of the many people who pass in and out and around my life every day, whom I never would have thought to talk to.  The experience added a new dimension to giving.
 
I’m now looking forward to meeting the distinguished gentleman dressed in the cream suit who rides his bike near our home, the woman wearing scrubs who walks her young daughter to school every day, and of course, the streetperson with his right leg missing whom I’d planned to include in the project all week.  I’m going to make more time to talk to people while waiting in lines, find out where they’re from, and really make a connection, even if for a few minutes.  I truly believe the electricity generated from each connection made causes a ripple effect that can only add more kindness to the world.
 
In hindsight, the best lesson I learned is that it’s better to pick people who aren’t ‘on the job’ (D’Oh – seems so obvious NOW…).  I thoroughly enjoyed meeting all the ‘investments’ this week, but I think the best interviews were with those I could spend more time with in a relaxed environment – Patricia and Marcos.
 
I haven’t contacted Patricia to follow up yet – she wants me to meet her daughter and see her great-grandmother’s picture,  but Marcos has become a regular fixture at our house.  We’re on his way home from school and he comes over to walk Jack, borrow books and use the computer.  Turns out his mom makes AWESOME tamales from scratch, along with her own hot sauce, for $8 a dozen.  I’m totally hooked.  If anyone in the southeast Houston / Pasadena area wants some, please let me know and I’ll hook you up, too.  Except for Mama Ninfa’s, they’re the best I’ve had outside of Mexico.

Marcos using the computer at Mary's house.

In fact, Marcos is in the living room with Henry and Jack watching TV as I write this.  I can hear him laughing.  He just inhaled TWO huge cheeseburgers Henry grilled for dinner.  Marcos is a great kid and we’re happy to have him in our lives.  This friendship likely wouldn’t have happened if not for Reed and the Year of Giving project.

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-Blog post by Mary J., a Kindness Investor from Houston, TX

I got a refusal today.  I first approached Carol M who was working at Pier One, but she decided not to accept the $10, but said that she liked the project and I did spend some time talking with her.

Later I gave the $10 to a lady selling newspapers on the street – I wish I had had time to talk with her and find out what she planned on doing with the money, or even get her name, but it just wasn’t meant to be.

Reed asked me to share the cards I have been using.  Below is a picture of the cards with the ten dollar bills that I am giving out.

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-Blog post by Mary J., a Kindness Investor from Houston, TX

For over a year now,  I’ve often seen a gentleman with the lower right half of his leg missing asking for money, sitting on a triangular-shaped esplanade on a side street just off the freeway.  I’ve waved to him and said hello, but never have gift cards on me to give him.  I decided after I became a Kindness Investor, he would be one of my investments, but I haven’t seen him all week.

Today I got in the car – Jack in the passenger seat – and went to find him.  I had little hope, since it’s raining outside, but I had to give it another shot.

I have mixed feelings about giving handouts to people on the street.  They’re obviously in need of help on several levels, and I’m more than willing to help them out with food. In memory of my father, I give street people gift cards to nearby restaurants, so I know they’re getting one or two good meals and the money isn’t going to alcohol or drugs (if they don’t sell the cards).  But do our donations really help them?  Do the gift cards and loose change keep them on the street, hoping for more, instead of seeking permanent shelter and medical assistance?  I don’t want to be an enabler on any level.  Anyway…

As I turned off the feeder, the triangular esplanade was, once again, empty.  I felt relieved that the gentleman wasn’t sitting out there in the rain.  I parked in Starbuck’s parking lot to see if he was seeking shade somewhere in the little shopping strip, when I spotted three men huddled close together under an overhang in front of one of the shops.  My guy wasn’t among them, but I felt drawn to them nonetheless.

“What do you think, Jack, will one of these guys be my next investment?” Jack looked at me, licked his lips and gave me a big, happy, toothy grin, so I took that as a sign to “man up” and go meet them.  Please note that I never would have approached strangers in such a situation otherwise, but Jack is an excellent guard dog and his size generally keeps people at a distance anyway.

I drove up to where the three were standing, rolled down my window and asked if one of them was interested in helping me with a kindness project for $10.  They looked at each other and laughed, two of them pointing to one, pushing him towards the car.  They were speaking too quickly in Spanish for me to follow, but were apparently encouraging the third to talk to me.

The elected member walked towards me, looking around; more wary of me than I was of them.  “Yes, ma’am? You have a project?” he asked with a strong Spanish accent.

“Do you speak English?” I asked.  “Yes, ma’am.  Very good English,” he replied.

In a combination of Spanish and English, I told him about the Year of Giving project, my unemployment and my week as a Kindness Investor.   “Do you want this $10 bill as my kindness investment for today?”

He looked a little skeptical, turned to see where his companions were, then back to me.  “And what you want for this?”

“Tell me about yourself – whatever you want, where you’re from, about your family, the kind of work you do, what brought you here today.  How will you spend the $10 – will you save it, give it to someone, buy something?”  And, finally, “Do you have a wish you want someone to help you with?  Esta bien?”

“Si, si,” he nodded his head in agreement as I handed him my card with the $10 bill tied to it.  He briefly scanned the card and put it in his pocket.  I asked if he’d like to go to Starbuck’s to sit down and he said no, that he didn’t want to miss “the truck.”

He said his name is Edmund; “Mundo”, for short, and he is 20 years old.  He was at the strip center with his brother and cousin waiting for a truck to pick them up for a job.  I asked if he had other family here and he said his parents, brothers and sisters are in Nuevo Leon, Mexico.  “No wife, no children?” I asked.  “No,” he laughed.  “Too young.”   There is a girl in Mexico he likes, “but she doesn’t know it yet,” he added.  “Maybe one day I will take her on a date.”  In the meantime, he spends most of his days finding work with his brother and cousin, watching TV and practicing his English.  He goes to church if he’s not working, calls home often and misses his family very much.

Mundo said he will probably send then $10 to his family in Mexico.  He doesn’t have a computer, but knows someone who will help him look up the Year of Giving website, so he can see his story.  His greatest wish is to make enough money to take care of his family, and for prayers to keep the jobs coming.

About that time, someone in a white truck pulled up and honked the horn.  “Must go now. Thank you for your kindness loan,” he said smiling, as he waved his compadres over and sprinted towards the truck.

I didn’t ask if the three of them are in the US illegally, but I suspect they are.  Mundo did not want me to take his picture, so I just took one of the shopping center where they had been standing.  He told me he doesn’t have contact information and didn’t want to give me his address, but offered that he lives in an apartment in the area, “with others from Mexico.”

Mundo, if you get a chance to see this, I am praying for you and your family. I am very proud of you for learning English, which you speak and understand muy bien.  And I hope you decide to use the $10 for a date with the beautiful senorita back home, soon. If you are here illegally, I encourage you to return home and go through the immigration process to live and work in the US legally, just as my great-great-grandparents from Germany and Czechoslovakia did two centuries ago, and as my husband’s parents from the Netherlands Antilles did 52 years ago.  Secure borders are critical for our nation’s safety and I would hate to see you hurt or worse crossing the border illegally.

Que tengas buena suerte, mi amigo!  Good luck, my friend. Be safe.

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-Blog post by Mary J., a Kindness Investor from Houston, TX

Today was a very hectic day. It was around 2:00pm and I hadn’t had lunch, when I spotted a Popeye’s Chicken drive-thru. I hadn’t eaten at Popeye’s in years and suddenly had a craving for their cajun-style fried shrimp and iced tea with lemon, no sugar.  After paying for my order, the server asked me to move forward and she would bring the food out to me.

As she handed me the bag, our eyes met and I thought, “next kindness investment!”  After explaining the project I was working on, she happily accepted the $10.  I didn’t have a pen on me, so she quickly volunteered to get me one, as well as tell her manager that she would be taking a few minutes to talk to me.

Ana M. was born in Mexico 19 years ago.  She and her parents came to Pasadena, TX when she was only one. She’s single, lives with her parents and four younger sisters and brother.

Ana is studying Nursing at San Jacinto Junior College and hopes to work in Pediatrics after graduation.  She’s been working at Popeye’s for about three years and would like to one day work in a hospital, as she likes helping people, especially children.

When I asked her what she was going to do with the $10, she said she was heading to Starbuck’s next door for her break.

Unfortunately, we didn’t have much time to talk, as another hungry driver was ready to pay for his order, and Ana had to go back in.

A few of Ana’s favorites:

Hobbies:  “I like scrapbooking, spending time with family, and watching movies.”

Movies:  “Anything romantic.  I don’t watch much TV, though.  No time with school and work.”

Music:  “All kinds.  It’s hard to pick a favorite.”

Her greatest wish is to get her citizenship finalized.  “It’s been a long time and I want to be a citizen very much.”

I wish Ana all the best and can tell by her kind, relaxed nature that she will be a great nurse.  Her future patients will be fortunate to have her take care of them.

 

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-Blog post by Mary J., a Kindness Investor from Houston, TX

As I clicked Jack’s leash to his collar for our walk around the park this morning, I decided to put my card with the $10 in my pocket, anticipating a potential kindness investment.  The weather is cool and sunny this week, so there would likely be a lot of walkers today working on their New Year’s resolutions.

Across the park, I could see a lone basketball player throwing hoops. “There’s someone with a story,” I said to Jack, as we headed over to get it.  Not in my wildest dreams did I expect a teenager who is friendly, caring, deep, a recycler, athletic, technical, methodical, ambitious, an animal lover, quick, honest, dramatic, and wise?  And very, very funny.

I told the young gentleman about Reed’s Year of Giving project and asked if he would like to receive my $10 Kindness Investment.  A huge smile flashed across his face and his eyes went wide. “OF COURSE?  I’d be CRAZY not to accept $10!” He’s friendly.

Then his smile turned to concern. “But you’re not working. Don’t you need it?”  He’s caring.

I explained that part of the idea behind the giving project is to help us realize that no matter how down and out we are, we always have something to give.  “That’s very cool”, he said. “And a good lesson for everyone throughout life.” He’s deep.

Marcos D. is 14 years old, much younger than I thought, so I’m leaving off some information because of his age.  I also asked him to get his parents’ permission for me to post his story on the Year of Giving.  I was delighted when he told me they said yes, as Marcos is a very interesting guy with a great story.

Marcos lives with his mom, step-dad and little sister, and speaks English and Spanish.  He’s in the 8th grade, but was quick to point out the school shirt he was wearing was from last year in the 7th grade.  “It’s still in great condition, so why waste money?  I re-use.” He recycles.

“You know,” he continued, “I’ve been very lucky with money lately.  I found a $100 dollar bill in front of the grocery store before New Year’s.  One thing about me is that I’m not a good saver. I have slippery fingers,” he said, waving his fingers through the air. “If I have it, I gotta spend it.”  He’s a teenager.

Marcos says he’s “somewhat of a mutt” when it comes to hobbies, because he likes outdoor sports, mainly basketball, as well as indoor gaming. “Most people like one or the other, but I like it all.”  He also likes building and dismantling things. He’s athletic, technical and methodical.

When he grows up, he thinks he’d like to go into technology, maybe developing computer games. He’s ambitious. I told him I would put him in touch with my nephew, John, who works for a gaming company in Austin.  “You never know, Marcos.  John may be able to help you figure out where you want to go.”  I promised him I would give him John’s contact info.

Marcos pets Mary's dog Jack.

“Hey, don’t pee on the jacket,” he said to Jack, directing my attention to my dog, who was sniffing around Marcos’ jacket bunched up on the ground. I laughed and called Jack over to sit by us while we talked.  He gave Jack a big, genuine hug.  He told me he’s also a huge dog person and misses his dog, Coco, named by his little sister.  Marcos got a little down when he told me they had to give Coco away, but he knows where she lives and sneaks her treats when he can. “I miss Coco.  She always made me happy with those big, chocolate eyes. I wish we didn’t have to give her away.” He loves animals.

“So, you got a girlfriend, wife, kids?”, I asked to lighten the mood.

“Nope, still a bachelor,” he said, making me laugh.  He’s quick.

I asked what he was going to do with the $10.  He thought for a minute and said he might give it to his mom, who could use if for groceries, then looked down at his hands and said, “But with these spending fingers, it may not make the trip home.”  He’s honest.

A few favorites:

Class:  “I’d have to say reading.  DEFINITELY not math.  I’m NOT a math person.  I’m going bald from all the stress!” he cried as he tugged at a head full of thick, wavy hair. He’s dramatic.

Book: “I like Gender Blender from the library.  A guy and girl switch bodies and they have to figure out everything, like going to the bathroom and stuff.  It’s ridiculously funny.”

Computer Game: “Metroid.  It’s good for the mind, too.  You have to collect data, figure out weak points, and stuff.  Plus it’s fast-paced action.”

And regarding Lend a Hand…. “Any wishes?” I asked.  “Too many to count.  I see trillions of doors in my brain right now,” he told me, “and I don’t know which one to open.”  He’s creative. “Obviously I could use help with math.” He’s wise. “But more than anything, I’d like my own computer to shoot my own video blog.”  He’s a teenager.

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-Blog post by Mary J., a Kindness Investor from Houston, TX

Brittany at Lavish Salon.

Having a bad hair day, I made an appointment at Lavish, a salon in Webster referred by my sister, Susan.  I didn’t plan to give my $10 kindness investment to anyone there, but after talking to colorist Brittany F., I felt she was “the one.”  When she asked what she could do for me today, I told her I wanted long hair like hers and I wanted to be as thin as she was.  “Sorry, can’t help with either of those requests,” she laughed, “but I promise to make your color look great!”  Sounded good to me.

I told Brittany about Reed’s Year of Giving projects and about being an unemployed Kindness Investor.  She was very interested and thought it was a cool idea.  She happily accepted my $10 investment and started work on my hair.

Brittany is 20 years old and originally from Canada.  Her father’s job brought the family to Texas; first Corpus Christi, then to Friendswood, just south of Houston.  It turns out Brittany attended the same high school in Friendswood that my nieces Lauren and Allison attended, though they had graduated by the time she entered high school.

Following graduation, she was deciding between college and cosmetology and opted to attend cosmetology school.  “It was only a year-long course and I figured if I didn’t like it, I could go back to school later.” Turns out she loved her career choice and plans to continue to hone her skills. She was hired by Lavish upon graduation and has been extremely happy there.  “We’re like a close family here.  We all get along really well, travel together, hang out together. I work with a great group of people – makes a big difference coming to work every day.”

If not cosmetology, Brittany was considering oceanography or marine biology. She’s always loved the ocean, is an avid swimmer and snorkeler and plans to scuba dive in the future.  “I love everything about the ocean,” she said as she layered on more color.  “Except for sharks.  I swam with dolphins at Atlantis in the Bahamas and snorkeled in Thailand. It was very cool. I just don’t want to meet up with any sharks.”

In her spare time, Brittany loves to travel and swim.  She and her boyfriend, Kevin, met in high school and have been dating about six years.  She has three dogs; a golden retriever named Harley, a brittany spaniel named Cricket and a little “weiner” (dachshund) she calls Weezi.

A few Favorites include:

Book: A Piece of Cake

Quote:  Live like there’s no tomorrow.

Movie: The Hangover (“I could watch that every day. Hilarious! And they’re making a sequel!”)

She plans to put the $10 in her savings account.  “I just bought my first new car, a Volkswagen Beetle. Red with a black top.”

“Cute car,” I said.  “You look like a VW Beetle owner, Brittany.”  Check out her picture – she does!

I told her about the Lend a Hand section on Reed’s Year of Giving website.  After she thought for a bit, she decided her one wish would be help paying off her student loans. “It would be awesome to be debt free!” she said.

You and me both, Brittany!

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-Blog post by Mary J., a Kindness Investor from Houston, TX

When I read Reed’s invitation to share in his daily $10 give on 29Gifts.org, I knew immediately I would be an investor. When I told my mom what I was going to do and suggested she participate, she thought I was nuts.

After reminding me that I’ve been unemployed for two years, my husband and I are in debt, and that my husband won’t be too happy about me giving away $70 to strangers, she added, “We taught you kids to never talk to strangers and now you want me to AND give them money?  Are you crazy?”

Maybe.  But I’m in good company.

I was drawn to my first Kindness Investment, Patricia M., while standing in a very long line at the Post Office.  She was wearing a pink baseball cap, food-stained Donna Karan NY sweatshirt, jeans, and a fanny pack around her waist.  She had near her two fully stuffed backpacks and held an old, scuffed up handheld radio with the earbuds in her ears. She counted her change several times before deciding which services she could afford to add to her shipment.  My first impressions were that she was very well-spoken, very tall, friendly, possibly homeless and had an eye problem, as she leaned in closely to where the clerk’s finger pointed, showing where to sign on the delivery confirmation slip.

After her transaction ended, she turned around several times, asking question after question of the clerk already serving other customers.

“Oh, another question – How do I get a P.O. Box?”  “I’m sorry, one more question. How much does it cost?”  “May I have the forms to get one?”  “Thank you!”  “Bless You!”  The clerk appeared more than happy and patient to answer her. The long line of customers was drawn to her, as well, as we pitched in to answer more questions.  “How much is this?,” she asked aloud to no one in particular.  I told her the shipping box she held was $3.75. Another customer said she gets them for half that at Walmart, so she thanked them and put the box back on the counter.

As she turned to collect her backpacks, I introduced myself.  “Hello, I’m Mary. I have a project I’m working on I think you can help me with.  If you’re not busy for the next 15 minutes or so, I’d love to tell you about it.”   Without hesitation or hint of suspicion, she said, “I’m Patricia.  Yes, I’ll help you.  My bike is in the front lobby with my other things.  I’ll wait there for you.”

After adding the shipping box (the one that Patricia decided not to buy) to my purchase I found out it was half-price!  I approached Patricia in the lobby, told her about Reed’s Year of Giving project and asked if she would accept my $10 kindness investment for the day.  “YES!  God Bless You. I will gratefully accept!  You don’t know what this means to me!  I ABSOLUTELY accept your $10! Thank you!”

“I also saw you needed a box, so I got one for you.”

“Praise the Lord! Thank you!  Oh my God, this is unbelievable”, she said.

I invited 55-year-old Patricia for pizza next to the Post Office and offered to help carry her bags, which were heavier than I thought possible. I could barely carry one and she carried several while riding her bike.   It turns out Patricia is legally blind –  legally blind, toting heavy bags and riding a bike! “This is going to be a very interesting meeting,” I thought.

Patricia is an African American born and raised in Austin, Texas.  A straight-A honor student, she loved learning and reading.  She transferred to Houston in 1978 with her job at the time and has been here ever since.

Things took a downward spiral in 1987-88 after her mother died.  “I lost control of life and reality.  I locked myself away and started destroying myself”, she shared, using the cuff of her sweatshirt to wipe away the tears.  “I was around 38 years old, five months pregnant with a broken foot, the father had abandoned me and I got arrested for probation violation.  Then God intervened.”

During time in jail, she read the entire bible in 60 nights, from sundown to sun-up.  “God planted seeds in me back then and now they’re sprouting”, she said smiling.

Back in court, the judge had just sentenced her to 15 years in jail when she went into false labor.  Seeing she was pregnant, he threw out the sentence and sent her to a rehabilitation center called The Shoulders, a home for pregnant women in trouble.  It was there her daughter was born and “everything became new.”

She and her now 17-year-old daughter were evicted from their apartment last year and have been living in hotels. She has two sons, but didn’t say where they lived. She receives Social Security Disability Income, after losing her sight last year during a routine eye exam to treat what the doctor diagnosed as glaucoma.  Patricia believes she has cataracts and that the glaucoma medicine is what blinded her, so she stopped using the prescribed drops.

“Have you ever been in a burning house filled with smoke?” she asked me.

“No, I haven’t.”

“Well you’re lucky”, she laughed, hinting that she may have.  “That’s what I see – outlines of things, but the details are very dark and smoky.”

“But you ride a bike,” I said in astonishment.  “Do you ever fall or run into anything?”

“Of course!  I’ve even been hit by a car.  You’re gonna fall and roll around in ditches, just like in life. But you get up and keep going.”  Patricia doesn’t see her blindness as a curse, nor is she afraid to die.  Her favorite quote is, “To be absent from the body is to be present with God.”  She believes her purpose in life is to share God’s word, because her life is testament to His promises.

“When you find your life’s purpose, you can live fully and lack nothing, regardless of what’s going on around you.”  After a lifetime of struggling, Patricia knew she was in the presence of God when she finally found rest amidst the turmoil and chaos and blindness.  “You may see me as homeless, but I have everything I need.  I’m in submission!” She’s not sad about being blind.  Her doctors told her she could wake up totally blind any day, but that doesn’t bother her, either.  “The evil that took my eyesight isn’t going to break me.  God gave me other senses.”

Patricia is going to use the $10 towards credit on her bus fare card, as she takes her bike, backpacks and computer with her everywhere she goes.  “I know this sounds crazy, but I’ve been assigned a mission from God and I’m going to fulfill it.  They said Moses and Noah were crazy, too. No one believed them, either,” she laughed.

Her mission to bring attention to government and social service corruption began in 2006.  She needed the box to start shipping legal documents she’s been collecting as evidence.  “I’ve carried this burden long enough.  Literally!  Those bags are HEAVY,” she laughed.  “It’s time to let go and let someone else carry on that part of the mission. God’s got more for me to do.”

Her greatest wish is to find a way for her and her daughter to make a home in San Diego, California.  She wants her daughter to experience more of the world and see that “the sun doesn’t shine any differently on Oprah or Michelle Obama.”  She’d also like to find her long lost older brother, another moment that brought great sadness, as well as rekindle a relationship with her estranged younger brother, who lives just outside of Houston.

Patricia has a presence about her; a pure sense of purpose that pours from her soul.  I felt I was in the presence of courage and greatness and I was very inspired by our meeting.

Her current mission is to make a change.  She loves our country and wonders if Americans really know what the words to our national anthem or pledge of allegiance really mean.  She asked me if I knew the words to The Star-spangled Banner. “Yes, I think I do,” I replied.  “Let’s hear it then.  Start singing.”  So there we were in the front lobby of Pizza Hut singing The Star-spangled Banner at the top of our lungs.  “I love and believe in this country, but we need to fix it.  We can’t keep trusting someone else to do it for us”, she said.

“I want to go to Washington and touch President Obama and he will look around and say, ‘Somebody touched me; who touched me?’  I’m going to draw from his power to make positive change,” she said.  “I’m going to make a change in this country.  God told me to.”

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