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Posts Tagged ‘immigrants’

-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 Mike B., a Kindness Investor from Cromwell, CT

Dwayne (left) with his stepfather Jonathan

I really didn’t know what to expect today after yesterday’s recipient (Jayne) being quite the individual.  Well today’s yogi turned out to be memorable in a whole different light.  No his name wasn’t Yogi, but that’s the nickname I’ve given to the people I’m giving to. Yogi being Year of Giving Investment with no reference to Yogi Bear!.  Sorry, but I love my acronyms.  Yogi today was actually two people, Jonathan and Dwayne.   They are father and stepson who were together in the computer lab at Hartford- Literacy Volunteers.

I participate in the Communications/Marketing committee there and was working on a fundraising event coming up in April.  When I knew I was coming into Hartford today, I thought for sure I’ll find someone to give the $10 to.  So after I finished my meeting, I went in search. There weren’t too many people there and I wondered why, but a staff member mentioned it was Three Kings Day, so the students had the day off!  I knew or had met all the Literacy Volunteers staff so my best laid plans was having the proverbial wrench thrown in them.

I told the same staff member of my plight and asked if she could help me.  She took me to the computer lab where a couple of students were there, working hard on improving their English.  I found my Yogi!  Both students looked up and I was wondering which one to choose when their instructor told me they were father and stepson.  So I introduced myself to both of them and they agreed to take the $10.

Jonathan was 54 and had come from Jamaica just last month.  His wife had been here for a long time and she had come to be with her sister.  Dwayne was 26 and had been in the country for two days!  I don’t think I ever talked to anyone before who just had recently come to this country.  Amazing what this project does!  They were both very friendly and were at Literacy Volunteers to help them with their English.  Jonathan said he took a class on Monday and Wednesday and was in the computer lab on Tuesdays and Thursdays. His spoken English was fine, but as he said in his heavy accent, he needed to fill out forms if he wanted to work and thus needed to learn!

Dwayne had come to also work on the computer.  This was his second day there and he was working side by side with his stepdad.  They both said working on the computer helped them quite a bit and offered a lot of opportunity.  Jonathan said he was willing to do just about anything for work to get a break and try to make some money.  As he said, “you need cash!”

The $10 was going to be spent on food and in his words: “Something good!”  We talked a little about Jamaica and they said they miss it a little, but they were here for a purpose.   Had to admire someone who comes to the Northeast in the middle of winter, especially from Jamaica! Jonathan mentioned his other son played cricket all over the world and was playing now in Barbados in 2020.

I asked what 2020 was and with his accent I didn’t quite get it.  After going home and a quick Google search, I discovered it was actually called Twenty20 and it was the World Cup for Cricket!   I asked if I could take their picture and they said “No problem”. So I did and then left them to return to their individual computer screens where it looked like they were learning suffixes.

I left with a different feeling from yesterday, that I was happy the $10 was going for food this time but was wondering where they were going to find “something good” with just the ten bucks!

We’re supposed to have a little snowstorm tomorrow, so it could be interesting finding my next recipient.  Can’t wait!

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I was rich! I had $4 in my right pocket which I was going to splurge on me, Me, ME. In the other pocket was a crisp $10 which I would give to someone-although I did not yet know who it would be, I was confident I would find the “right” someone who would appreciate a little extra coin.

In Seattle, one of the best Goodwill stores is north of the city itself in a neighborhood called Ballard. And I was off to find treasures for the New Year!  After all, weren’t people discarding of the old as they’d just brought in the new from Aunt Gladys and co-worker Andy? And I knew that someone else’s “old” would be a treasure for me.  Besides, they were having a sale!

This Goodwill store was all a buzz on the first day of the New Year. The employees were working very hard to dust off and carefully place all of the newly donated items.  As I checked the shelves and racks for what I might possibly need, I carefully observed these hard workers.  They were fast!

Alas, I’d found a blanket for my doggy and very shabby chic flower vase for $.49, so I was happy. I brought my new treasures to my car and returned to the store to find the tall young man I’d spotted earlier working  so hard.

Finally I caught his attention and asked if he could help with my project. Sadly, he was being distracted by fellow staff and – surely – his boss to keep moving.  But when I presented the crisp $10 bill and asked if he would take it, his eyes lit up, a huge smile consumed his face and he – admittedly a bit perplexed and under pressure to get back to work – slipped the bill into a pocket.

As employees and fellow shoppers whirled about us, I tried to glean some back ground information about Mohamed A. who is 23 and attending Shoreline Community College.  He hopes to graduate with a degree in radiology. But that, he informed me, probably won’t happen until 2012.

He and his family moved to the United States in 2000 from Somalia. Their first home was Phoenix, Arizona but evidently the consensus was that it was much too hot for them. So, about two and a half years ago, they set out for Seattle. I doubt they are often bothered by any extreme heat here in the Emerald City.  Perhaps a few days in the summer when it reaches a suffocating 86 degrees, but even that is rare. For many Seattleites, we do not have air conditioning in our homes; it usually doesn’t warrant the investment of an extra appliance – save a western facing bedroom, perhaps. And of course if that is needed, the only place to go is the Ballard Goodwill for a great deal on a gently used window air conditioner.

So here he was, a tall, strong, young man, working hard to ensure the heavier items were set in place. Once again, someone called for Mohamed’s help so I knew I was required to let him return to his work.  As I took his photograph, I asked what he thought he might do with his $10.

“Buy lunch!” he gleamed.

And there you have it. On my first day of 2011, I was given the honor of buying a hard-working young student – an immigrant who came to secure a better life – lunch.

What a wonderful day.  What a wonderful world.

Best of luck, Mohamed!

-Petra from Seattle, WA

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Day 364…just one more day after today’s blog post to come full circle with my year-long commitment.  But this movement will continue on.  This weekend an important new chapter will begin for the Year of Giving. Our first Kindness Investor will start blogging about her giving experience.  I can’t wait for you to meet Melinda and the amazing people she meets each day when she gives away $10.

I found today’s recipient as I left the Starbucks at Dupont Circle.  Roman was getting ready to get on his bicycle when I approached him and asked him to accept my $10.

Roman, originally from Kiev, Ukraine, is a night club promoter here in DC.  He’s also a student at Strayer University where he studies business administration.

It was one of the coldest days of the year.  I kept our conversation brief as I could feel the blood flowing through my veins turning to ice.  Ok not really, but you get the idea.  Anyway, the 24-year-old said he was going to use the money to buy some coffee during the week.

Before saying goodbye, I invited him to the Year of Giving Anniversary Celebration the following evening.  He rode off on his bike and I hurried home.

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I asked if I could take Pierre's photograph and he said, "Why not, I am a handsome man!"

After attending a luncheon fundraiser for Room to Read that featured journalists Cokie and Steve Roberts, I hailed a cab and headed over to my office at 24th and M Streets.  I asked the cab driver how his day was and he responded, “Wonderful.  Every day is beautiful!”  I peered up at the name listed on the taxi permit fastened to the underside of the sun visor and saw that his name was Pierre.

I leaned over, grabbed my book bag and pulled my small notebook out to take some notes about this jovial character as we traveled the 30 blocks across town.

Originally from Port-au-Prince, Haiti, Pierre moved here in 1972.  “I remember it well, it was the year that Mr. Nixon had some trouble,” the 66-year-old said still smiling broadly.  “And the Dolphins won the Superbowl!”  He would know that too because he moved to Miami before moving to DC later in 1975.  He hasn’t been back to Haiti in a while though.  In fact, he isn’t aware of any family still living there.  “If I have some, I don’t know them.” 

“I’ve been driving a cab since 1984 or 85.”  He’s been lucky, he said, that he has never experienced any dangerous situations while driving his cab like Freddy, the recipient from Day 331 who was shot while driving his taxi back in the late eighties. 

I shared with Pierre that part of my motivation for this project was my mother, who passed away four years ago this month.  He told me that he lost his wife two years and eight months ago.  “We had ten children and 20 grandkids.  The oldest is now 46; I had her my last year of high school,” he said turning onto M Street.  “All but one of them are here in DC.  And the 20th grandchild was just born the day before.  “I was coming from the hospital when I picked you up,” Pierre said.  

I love this guy.  He had such an energy and esprit de vivre!  His ten dollars went to buying his lunch for the day.

“I really like what you are doing,” he said as I got out of his cab.  “Probably many people have thought something similar, but the difference is that you took the initiative and did it!” he said with his intoxicating voice.  

I hopped out and snapped this photo of him as he pulled away.

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Many people have told me how they were touched by what Alex from Day 109 did with his $10.  He was the Georgetown student who took his new-found money to the supermarket and bought supplies to bake cookies with and then passed them out to people that he saw every day but didn’t really know.  We all know these people; the receptionist at a doctor’s office, the convenience store employee, the bus driver, your mailman.  Well, today’s recipient used to be one of those people to me – a person I saw fairly regularly but never stopped to meet.  That all changed on December 3rd.

Today’s recipient wanted to remain anonymous.  I’ve agreed to call him “Ilyas” for the purpose of this blog post.

A few times a week I frequent a building here in town that has a variety of very pleasant staff working there, however, Ilyas made an impression on me.  He is always neatly dressed and very generous with his smile and kind remarks to people as they walk by.

Now 58, he told me that he was born in Pakistan.  He was a businessman there working hard to run a successful business and support his family.  In 2000, September to be exact, he had an opportunity to move to the US.  He had visited several other times but it seemed to be the right decision to move here given the questionable security in Pakistan at the time.

Fortunately he was able to continue his business from his new location here in the US, but after 9/11, demand slowed down and he made the hard decision to supplement his income with some additional work.  I say the decision was hard because Ilyas had never worked for anyone else but himself.  He first got a job as a teller at a bank, but he didn’t care much for that.  “There was a lot of pressure there,” he said referring to the nature of handling money all day.

He eventually ended up at the building where he now greets me on a regular basis.  He’s been there for six years now.  I have a special feeling inside me now when I see him.  I know more about him.  I know his name and how to correctly pronounce it.  I know a little bit about his life and his family.  He’s a proud father of three girls.  And I know that it is not only his smile that is warm and generous but also his heart.  He’s kind and gentle and very thoughtful.  It’s no wonder that I often see other people stopping to speak with him as well.

After chatting for a while Ilyas placed the ten dollars back on the counter in front of me.  “I can’t accept this,” he said showing me the same warm smile that I had become accustomed to seeing.  I urged him to keep it and reminded him that he could do anything that he wanted to with it.  After a bit more convincing, he decided to keep it and said that he would donate the money.

 

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