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Blog post by Maria D., a Kindness Investor from Washington, DC.

 

Give a warm welcome to Jay. He’s a 22-year old born and raised in the District who currently works at Washington Sports Club.  Jay considers himself to be currently underemployed, like so many of us, and has aspirations of being a mechanic. “I’m going to go into the Coast Guard.  They gave me an offer to be a mechanic, which will put me on my way to pursuing my longtime dream of having my own mechanic business.”

 

Jay has been the first person I met so far who knew about the Year of Giving and Reed.  “Hey, wasn’t that guy in the newspaper, I think Street Sense? His story was really inspiring.”

 

How so, I asked. “Well here was this guy who had a great job, then lost it, and was unemployed but handing out money to people.  I especially remember the story on the tall, black homeless guy with long white dreads and a staff.  Yeah, that story was really inspirational to me.”

 

And what will Jay be doing with the $10?  “You know, Metro’s getting pretty expensive, so that’s where it’s going to go.” But Jay was also concerned with how I’d be able to give him the money. I’m budgeting for it, by giving up lunches out this week.  “Well now I feel bad, are you sure?”  Ha, YES! Somebody take the money, please!! But a sweet sentiment, nonetheless.

 

A few things I took away from this encounter are 1) It’s amazing how much money I waste all the time that I could be saving for a rainy day, giving to others, etc. and being underemployed helps put things in perspective; 2) It’s exciting to meet people like Jay who have aspirations and are finding the path and taking the steps to lead them to their goals; 3) Reed is kind of a big deal…  Looking forward to tomorrow!

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After being unemployed for 285 days, I have a special connection when I give my $10 to someone out of work.  According to data released by the US Department of Labor yesterday, unemployment has risen to 9.8% from 9.6% where it had hovered since August.  That represents 15.1 million people who can not find work.  The good news is that we are slightly better off than we were in 2009 at this time when there was 10% unemployment which accounted for 15.4 million people out of work.

Phiona is one of the 15.1 million people searching for work in this country.  She has been unemployed for five months now.  Back in February I recall that the average duration of unemployment was 7.5 months.  I tried to find what it is at now, but couldn’t find an updated statistic on this.  So if she is an average case it will probably be February before she finds another job assuming the rate has stayed similar.  It’s tough out there.

She wants to do project management work for nonprofits.  In addition to her experience in disaster management and post-conflict reconstruction, she did a fellowship at UCLA and got her master’s degree from the University of Pittsburgh.  She sounds like she is prepared.

Speaking of being prepared…this 28-year-old was certainly prepared when I ran across her talking on her cell phone at the top of the Metro escalators at Dupont Circle.  She had a colorful umbrella next to her and opened that up just as the rain began to pick up – it had been drizzling lightly for a while.

She was quite weary of my intentions at first and asked not to be photographed – even when I offered to photograph her from far away with her face safely hidden behind the umbrella.  That’s just the way it is sometimes.  People are often uncomfortable being photographed, especially if it is going to be uploaded into the cavernous halls of the internet.

Originally from Kenya, Phiona is hoping to go to Africa for the holidays.  When you’re unemployed there is that weird balance of time and money.  When you were working you could afford to travel but didn’t have the time.  Now when you are unemployed you have more time than you could imagine but spending money on travel was always difficult for me.

Anyway, I wanted to share something with you that Phiona said.  We were talking about a variety of different things as the rain fell from the steel-wool colored November sky.  “It’s always somebody else who tells you who you are,” she said.  That’s an interesting comment because it goes along well with a phrase that I particularly like, “perception is reality.”  But is it really true that we are the person that someone else tells us we are ?  I say that we are who we are but we are to others what they tell us we are.  Wow, somebody else could surely phrase that better than I did!  By the way, I don’t think I have ever written a sentence where I used “we are” three times…perhaps I just won a prize or something!

Anyway, she didn’t know what she was going to do with the $10 when we said goodbye but promised to email me and give me an update.  Well, she did just that.  This week I received an email from Phiona letting me know that she bought herself some lunch with $5 of it and gave the rest to a homeless man by the Metro.

Enjoy your weekend!

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Good morning!  Today has got to be a better day than yesterday…I just wish I had a few more hours in the day.

I hope to send out the invites via email today for the Year-End Celebration…still waiting on the venue to send over the agreement.  At the event we will have a small auction of a couple of items to raise money for some awesome charities.  If you know of something that would make a really cool auction item, something that could generate some interesting bidding, and you have a way to get it, please let me know.  I am also seeking items to give away to the attendees when they leave.  You know in one of those “thanks for coming” bags.  If you have a contact that could get something interesting for us to give away, please let me know ASAP.  It could be t-shirts, could be books, could be Flip video cameras….whatever!  We would need about 250 units.

Also, I heard some people were sending emails to the Ellen show to suggest that she include the Year of Giving in her 12 Days of Giving.  If you want to send Ellen a suggestion…click here to submit your message!  I even broke down last week and emailed her and asked for some help making the Year-End Celebration happen.  No response yet.  Not even the standard, “Thanks for your email.  We get lots of mail so …. ”

Molly holding the Sherman Alexie novel on the Metro. (photo: Reed)

Well today’s recipient threw me for a loop with what she did with the $10!  I met Molly 100 feet below the bustling city of Washington in our Metro system.  I was at the Tenlytown station waiting to board a Red Line train to take me back to Dupont Circle.  Molly looked like she was waiting for the same train so I thought I would ask her to be my recipient.  

Molly, who just turned 27 a week ago Saturday, is a researcher at an environmental institute here in DC.  She’s originally from Seattle which is maybe why she’s reading Native American author Sherman Alexie’s 1998 novel Indian Killer – it takes place there.

Within a minute the trained arrived and we boarded the subway car.  “I’m heading over to Capitol Hill,” she tells me as the doors close.  I looked at my watch; it was 10:20pm.  I had about eight minutes until my stop.  I hastily explained the project hoping to find out more about her, but frankly I didn’t learn much because there just wasn’t time.

She told me she was living on a tight budget so I thought the $10 would come in handy for her.  “I’m applying to law school,” Molly said suggesting that maybe she would use the money to help pay the application fees.  “Or who knows, maybe I will buy some drinks on my birthday?”  Ah, yes…I almost forgot, she was going to NYC to celebrate her birthday.  Well, ten bucks wouldn’t have gotten her very much there.  Then again law school application fees are hundreds of dollars probably, so really not much help on either front.

The metro screeched into Dupont and I nearly lost my balance as I furiously crammed notes down in my little Moleskine book.  I said good-bye and headed home. End of story, right?  Wrong.

So a few days later I got an email from Molly.  Here’s part of it:

…[it] was a rather rushed and, on my part, flustered conversation about what I would do with the money. Well, since then I’ve been thinking about that interaction a lot. And I’ve been thinking about the ten dollars a lot, too. For some reason, I can’t seem to spend it. And I can’t seem to stop obsessing about the best way to use it.  In fact, it’s starting to drive me a little crazy. So, if you don’t mind, I think I would like to donate it back to your project. Would that be possible?”

I think it is great that this experience has caused her to stop and think about it.  To think about different ways it could be used.  Certainly I didn’t want to stress her out, but she really pondered what to do with it.  Anyway, we are meeting Thursday and she is going to donate the money back to the Year of Giving and I am going to use it to help me pay for the Year-End Celebration.

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Day 328 – Elizabeth F.

Are you still stuffed?  Did you eat too much turkey and stuffing yesterday?  Well prop yourself up on your sofa and check out what happened with my $10 on Day 326.  I will keep it short to help you ward away the sleep inducing effects of all the tryptophan that is now in your body.

Elizabeth followed up via email, "You ended up being a great end to a day that didn't start off so well. Thank you."

Hockey season is once again upon us and I have gotten to go to a few games.  My brother Ryan has season tickets to the Capitals and is very generous in inviting me to go with him.  It was a Sunday and we met up at my apartment in Dupont.  We hopped on the 42 bus and headed down toward the arena.  I thought I would try to find someone on the bus that would accept my $10 and found Elizabeth sitting in front of us.

A Bilingual Benefits Coordinator at a local health clinic, Elizabeth was on her way to see The Girl who Kicked the Hornets’ Nest, the third in the Millennium Series by Stieg Larsson.  I haven’t read any of the books or seen any of the movies.  In fact I didn’t even know that this one was part of the whole Girl with the Dragon Tattoo thing.  

Anyway I gave her the $10 and got my notebook out to ask her some questions.  “I’m not very interesting,” she told me.  I hear that a lot, but just like with Elizabeth I usually uncover plenty of interesting sides of their lives. 

It turns out Elizabeth’s “uninteresting” life includes a two-year stint as a Peace Corps volunteer in southern Ecuador.  That sounds like a pretty amazing experience.  My sister-in-law was a Peace Corps volunteer in Kiribati, an island nation located along the equator in the Pacific Ocean.  I’ve heard mixed reviews about the Peace Corps program however almost everyone raves about the people they meet and overall life experience gained.  

photo: Reed

The bus groaned a little as we motored down Connecticut Avenue.  We had an easy conversation during the 25 blocks it took to get to our stop.  Elizabeth had a lot of questions for me too.  She said she was going to put the money in her wallet and see what happened to it.  I later found out in an email from her that she was going to use it to go to get some drinks at the Bottom Line on Friday when they feature $1 Miller Lites from 4-7pm.  That’s pretty cheap…especially for DC!  But it must have been burning a hole in her pocket because it only made it to Tuesday where it went toward happy hour.

As for the hockey game, the Caps edged out the Flyers in overtime.  The Capitals have a pretty awesome record when I am in attendance!

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I have received so many nice emails from people from Russia due to the media coverage that I have received there by Russia Channel One.  I friend of mine who speaks Russian said the report was very well done.  Spasiba!

Sometimes I find myself cutting it really close to midnight before I give my $10 away.

It was about 11:50pm and I was traveling south on Wisconsin Avenue just north of the National Cathedral.  I saw a Giant supermarket on my right, but it was closed.  Then I spotted a Metro bus waiting in front of the grocery store.  I pulled into the parking lot and saw Wayne, a 22 year veteran of Metro, standing near his bus looking at his phone.

I met Wayne on his 47th birthday. (photo: Reed)

I jumped out of my Volkswagen and walked over to Wayne and explained what I was doing.  He agreed to accept the $10 with two minutes to spare.  I was lucky to catch him because he was getting ready to leave on his next run. 

It turned out that it was Wayne’s birthday!  I think he is the first person I have given to on their birthday.  Happy 47th Wayne!  Instead of keeping the money for himself, he said that he would give the $10 to his 18-year-old daughter.  “She graduated high school this year and doesn’t have a job, so she could definitely use it.”

Wayne started working for Metro because a relative of his worked there.  In general he says he really likes his job, “I love helping people!”  What he doesn’t care for is snow.  “It’s the worst.  I was lucky this year though, I was on vacation during both big storms we had.”  He wasn’t so lucky though in the mid-nineties.  A resident of Maryland, he said that he stayed at work for an entire week because of the snow and ice storms that hit the DC area. 

Wayne just before closing the door and starting his route. (photo: Reed)

With over two decades of service, Wayne has seen a lot.  “I’ve seen a lot of good people come and go; older guys who paved the way for a lot of us younger guys.”  He explained that Metro upped the requirements at one point for drivers, requiring them to pass an exam which many of the veteran drivers failed.  “They were good drivers too, but they couldn’t pass the test.”   

I asked him about rude and unruly passengers.  He says he gets all kinds of people.  “Some times people are drunk and vomit on your bus,” he said shaking his head.  But he just brushes that stuff off.  “You know it’s all about how you choose to make your day.  I don’t let it bother me.”  I couldn’t agree more.

Wayne pulled away right on time. (photo: Reed)

He looked at his watch and said it was time for him to start his route.  He put his phone away and stepped into the bus closing the door behind him. 

Quick fact: Metro has a fleet of over 1,300 buses which provided 123.7 million rides last year. (source: Metro Facts, www.wmata.com)

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Kathryn's car. (photo: Reed)

What are the chances that I come across two people with broken down vehicles two days in a row?  Well, apparently pretty high.

You will recall that yesterday I told you about Vincenzo and his “ghetto dealership” purchase that resulted in a $700 trip to the mechanic.  Well, today I want you to meet Kathryn.

I was a few blocks from home when I passed a car with the hood up and the door wide open parked on 20th Street in front of a small park.  As I walked by I scanned the surrounding area but didn’t see anyone who looked like they owned the car.  Perhaps someone was unloading something and just left the door ajar.  I decided to walk back and take a seat on a nearby bench and just observe the car for a few minutes.  As I got to the bench I noticed a woman sitting in the park who was occasionally looking over her shoulder toward the abandoned Audi. 

“Is that your car?” I asked

“Yes it is.  I can’t get it to start,” Kathryn told me.

Wearing a floral sleeveless blouse and white pants, Kathryn explains that she thinks her battery is dead.  “It just goes tick, tick, tick.”  I offered to go get my car, which was a few blocks away, and try to give her a jump.

 “Oh, that’s ok.  I’ve already called my husband as well as a mechanic, so one of them should be here soon.”

The fifty-something year old DC resident is married and has two step-daughters.  She explains that she often drives to the Dupont Circle Metro and leaves her car there and takes the subway to where she needs to go.  “I came back and it wouldn’t start.”

About this time the mechanic called Kathryn.  He was nearby but was having difficulty navigating some of the tricky streets near our location.  Since I knew the area quite well, I offered to talk to him.  She handed me the phone and I guided him through about a half-dozen streets until he arrived.

By that time her husband was also there. 

The mechanic quickly got Kathryn's car started. (photo: Reed)

The mechanic grabbed a large yellow portable battery charger and within seconds had it connected to Kathryn’s battery and she was able to start the car.

Kathryn was reluctant to take the $10, but in the end accepted it and told me that she would pass it on to someone else.  I hope that she checks the website and shares with us what she did with the ten spot.

UPDATE: 10/25/2010

I got the following email from Kathryn…

Hi Reed,
It is Kathryn and I met you on a very hot Sept. 17 at Dupont circle
when the battery of my car went dead.

I wanted to let you know that on Oct. 9 at Union Station I met and had a conversation with a homeless man named Fred.  He hangs out on Mass. Ave 1/2 block from Union Station.  I sat and spoke with him while I was waiting to pick up a friend.

He was so happy to have the $10.00 (Pay it Forward) and I told him to please buy some good food to eat.  We also talked about the possibility of him learning to cook so that he might help out in a restaurant.  It is a small world because when I dropped my friend at Union Station on Oct. 11 Fred was in the same spot.  He was having some lunch and that made me smile. He seemed in a good way.

Thanks again for stopping to help me when I was in need.  It felt so good to pass the money on to Fred.  Keep him in your prayers.  There are a lot like him out there.

Blessings.
Kathryn

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Day 100.  I have given $1,000 to 100 different people so far.  $10 doesn’t sound like much, but trust me it adds up.  Although some people remind me of plenty of things I could have used the money for, I wouldn’t trade this experience for anything.  It has been amazing.

If you live near Grand Forks, ND, I will be on the air with Denny and Kerri of KYCK 97.1 FM Wednesday morning a little after 8am Central Time.  You can listen live on the Internet as well at http://97kyck.com/.

Bill playing the sax (Photo: Reed)

Last Wednesday I went out in search of a recipient for my $10.  I ran into several former recipients of my Year of Giving: Kenneth B. (Day 30), Bill C. (Day 36), Nikki G. (Day 66), and Manny H. (Day 85).  Now when I walk around my neighborhood I always run into someone that I have given to before.

I came across Bill Davis who was entertaining Metro riders entering and exiting the Dupont Circle station.  The 46-year-old Maryland resident has been playing music since he was in elementary school when he started playing the saxophone.  I too started playing the saxophone when I was in elementary school, however, I produced much different sounds.  I recall my brother Ryan comparing my playing to the sounds of a slow dying moose.

(Photo: Reed)

Bill has been around the music industry for a long time.  He shares one of his most proud accomplishments; producing Peaches & Herb’s Colors of Love album.  You might remember Peaches & Herb best from the late 70’s hit Reunited.

“Reunited and it feels so good

Reunited ‘cuz we understood…”

Bill said he was going to use my $10 to buy him some new reeds for his saxophone.  My name must have subliminally influenced his decision.

I asked him what he thought of my project and he said, “Giving is a beautiful thing.”  That it is.  Speaking of giving…I’ll give you a little peak at Bill’s musical talent.  Check out the following video.

 

UPDATE: Nov 15, 2011:

I ran into Bill this morning at Metro Center. As I climbed the escalators I was greeted by the crisp November air and the melodic tunes of Mr. Davis playing the saxophone. It makes the vibe of the whole area kind of cool. We chatted for a second. He said he was doing alright and might even stop by David’s farewell party next Monday night.

Here’s a photograph I took of Bill this morning…I took this with my point and shoot which is old and not that good…but it still captures his familiar poise.
IMG_3993.jpg

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