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Posts Tagged ‘Petra’

This blog post is by Petra, a Kindness Investor from Seattle, WA.

Solana in front of wooden wall art carving.

It’s a bit intimidating writing a story about a professional story-teller. But the truth is, as soon as Solana has her baby girl – which is any day now – and is back doing what she loves to do, I will be front and center, mesmerized by her gift of telling tales that are grand and important.

Daybreak Star Indian Cultural Center occupies 20 acres on an extraordinary location in Seattle’s largest park – Discovery Park – located in the neighborhood of Magnolia just north of the city.  The structure itself was built in 1977 and hosts a wealth of original Northwest Native American art.  The center is part of the United Indians of All Tribes Foundation and is a major gathering place for cultural activities and events from business meetings to powwows to weddings. This borough within a park within a city has a dramatic view of Puget Sound and the Olympic Mountains. And Solana enjoys that perk whenever she has a moment to look up from her job as the center’s go-to person for all things regarding prenatal/Headstart programs and Operations. It even says so on her business card.

This exquisite 30-year-old woman, whose own Native American Indian ancestry is both Lushoolsled and Kostalish, has been an integral part of Daybreak for 10 years.  She began as a lead teacher and then spread her wings into other education related horizons – and of course – storytelling. The center’s Headstart program embraces 108 children – 42 are Native American. The other 66 kids complete the tapestry, coming from an eclectic, precious mixture of cultural backgrounds: East African, Spanish, Caucasian, Black, Asian and more. Suddenly I wanted to be a kid in the Headstart program at Daybreak!

Painting at Daybreak Star Indian Cultural Center

Solana is already a mother of two girls – one is old enough to understand the value of becoming positively involved in the lives of those less fortunate. They spend holidays and other occasions helping those in need at various locations throughout the city where homeless people gather. It’s something Solana knows all too well. She was homeless for two of her teenage years.

Then, immediately out of high school, Solana began her storytelling career which she now weaves into curriculum for schools and programs to enhance mental health. Currently she is devoting much of her own education to Chief Dan George who she reports is a major influence in her life and also paramount in her mother’s lineage. I suspect Chief Dan George will also occupy prime real estate in Solana’s storytelling nation.

As for the big question: What is the baby’s name? Oh, no. That was my question. As for the other big question – what will she do with her $10?

Artwork of Native American leaders at Daybreak Star Indian Cultural Center

“I don’t know yet. I find that I am constantly giving. I keep small packages of food in my car in case we meet someone who is hungry. I have change for those who need some money.”

“I’m going to hang on to it until the moment is right. I’ll know. My daughter and I will know when it’s the right time to pass this gift on to someone who could really use it.”

“You know this giving thing is contagious!”

I LOL’d and exclaimed “That’s what I keep saying!”

Solana has a Website which houses the details of her work and the importance of keeping the oral history of Native American Indians of all Tribes alive. Although it’s “down” for the moment, she hopes that after her baby girl is born, she’ll have time to tend to it again – it and the million other selfless acts of love which Solana demonstrates every day.

View of Puget Sound from the Daybreak Star Indian Cultural Center

Spring is around the corner and Daybreak is around the bend. Me thinks I’ll be spending more time with my new friend and mentor when she returns to Daybreak Star with her girls in tow. What fun it will be to sit on the grass, watch the birds, water, and mountains – just like Native American Indians of the great Pacific Northwest have done for centuries.

..and then she’ll tell me a story!

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Kindness Investor: Petra from Seattle, WA

Curran made me so happy. After we’d chatted and I gave him $10 I couldn’t help but tell one of his co-workers in the grocery store, that he made me so happy (even though poor Elle had no idea what was going on).

I’d paid for my modest purchase and couldn’t resist. I walked over to the register where Curran was now helping other customers and gave him a huge hug and a kiss on the cheek. “You have made me so happy!  Thank you.”

Frankly, I don’t think I actually embarrassed him – although I may have. Curran instantly understood what being a Kindness Investor is all about. So, I think he just took my public demonstration of gratitude in stride and smiled, and went back to work. However, my bet is that his smile – both inside and out –has remained with him as long as mine has with me.

Curran is an associate at Trader Joe’s Grocery. Although I had $10 in my pocket, ready to give to someone, I didn’t expect it to be an employee where I was buying my food. But there he was. He just walked up to me. It was kismet.  After briefly explaining the project and extending $10 to him, he was quick to grasp the concept.

“That’s really cool! It’s like paying it forward,” he stated matter-of-factly. I couldn’t help but think I was actually trying to catch-up, karmically. The past few years have been very difficult for me but my own family and friends Kindness Investors have helped me through so many of the extremely rough patches.

Curran grew up in the Portland, Oregon area and moved to Seattle about seven years ago; he’s now 28. He’s been a crew member of this store since it opened two years ago. One thing I know after today’s encounter, if I were in need of any kind of crew member, I’d want it to be someone like Curran.

“I got engaged on December 22nd,” he proudly announced. “We are hoping for a November wedding in Hawaii. We want a small ceremony and it’s really exciting.”

He and his fiancé have a three-year-old girl named Hayden (OMG, I can only imagine how lovely they both are). “It’s an amazing feeling.”

“What is?” I inquired.

“Settling down. Everything. All things are just lining up. I must’ve done something right.” He was beaming. Proud. Excited. Grounded.

Although he has no pets (you know I had to ask!), he loves dogs and hopes to add one to their family when they can.

As far as what he plans to do with the $10? He didn’t miss a beat when I asked. “I think I’m going to buy bouquets of flowers to keep the random act of kindness going. Won’t that be cool to make people smile with a beautiful arrangement of flowers? I’ll just hand them to people like you gave this $10 to me.”

Earlier when I was taking Curran’s picture, Elle had stopped by to get the string of beads which he had been wearing. Evidently the person donning the au natural necklace indicates to customers that s/he is available to assist and answer questions. Later when I ran into Elle said that Curran had briefly told her about our exchange and the money.

“I wonder what he’s going to do with it?” she asked.

“I don’t know…I guess you’ll have to wait and see,” I replied with a smile.

Who would think that three minutes and $10 with Curran (or any of those with whom I’ve spent time as a Kindness Investor) would make me so very happy?

Oh, I mentioned that, didn’t I?

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Being a Kindness Investor is a very interesting study in human nature. Especially my own. Especially when I allow myself to follow my gut and not my mind’s predetermined plan. For instance, my intention to give away my fifth $10 was specific: I was on my way to Ray’s, a well-known Seattle restaurant with a breath-taking view of the Puget Sound and the Olympic Mountains. On my way, I kept catching glimpses of an exceptionally clear, majestic day which was hosting glistening water and a horizon boasting one long dance of snow-capped peaks.

 

John holding his newspapers in front of his truck.

As I descended off a main road, preparing to make a left turn under a bridge to get to Ray’s, there stood John at the corner, several cars ahead of me. In that instant, my plans completely changed. I had to talk to him.

 

I made a U-turn, and then pulled around and under the bridge to park. John was clearly a bit confused as to why I was getting out of my car and approaching him. I’m sure I’d seen him before at this well-traveled intersection, but until that day, I never saw him.

John is one of hundreds of Seattle’s homeless people who sell Real Change, a weekly newspaper dedicated to advancing not only the facts (instead of assumptions) about those who are living on the streets, but also providing a safe and legitimate way for them to make money (as opposed to holding a sign or otherwise asking passers-by for spare change). When I meet a person who is offering this newspaper and asking that I purchase it for $1, I also see a badge which indicates that s/he is a bona fide participant in the Real Change extended family.

On the day I met John, the wind seemed to gather even more momentum as it whipped around the cement columns and twist through the underpass where we spoke. John’s pickup was parked near the corner where he stood patiently, albeit freezing, hoping that those who were sitting snugly in their cars would not ignore him at the stop light and perhaps buy his newspaper.

John was more than happy to accept my $10. He pointed to his truck. “I’ll probably buy some gas for my truck or propane because I live in the back-in the camper. There are a few of us who park over there in an empty parking lot at night and we use the propane to keep warm. No, I don’t light the propane in my camper,” he continued as my brow knitted in obvious concern.

“I’ve been homeless for about 12 years. I’m 43 and it all began after a very bad divorce. I lost everything, including my daughter.” John had lived a warm and productive life in Tennessee where he had a business – a store which sold everything from carpet to hardware supplies.

“We lived on a 12 and a half-acre farm. My ex-wife and her family are rich. But they wanted me gone and to keep me down. So here I am.”

I was struck by John’s optimism and confidence. Throughout our conversation he quoted several verses from the Bible which punctuated a point he was trying to make. His breath left a wake of steam as he spoke.

“I really need a job. I have a lot of experience doing many things. So if you or anyone you know needs help with building or painting or any of that kind of thing, please think of me.” John ran back to his truck and returned with a one page resume which was clean and professional. “They help us with our resumes at the office (of Real Change).”

When I asked him about staying at homeless shelters, he didn’t actually diss them but offered his own observation. “In a shelter they label you.  You’re a drug addict, or an alcoholic, or just plain crazy. Hey, I’m just out of work. Besides, I like living and sleeping in my own place – as humble as it is.” He gestured to his truck again.

Throughout the years, John had been to Texas where he worked off-shore on a boat fishing, but that didn’t stick as two of the guys were drunks. He had part-time job at the post office and then decided to move to California.  There, he had a sleeping bag, a tarp, and a man who helped him out by hiring him for some construction jobs.

He was quick to give the staff of Real Change a lot of credit. “This newspaper and the organization – what they do – has helped me in so many ways. I’ve been able to buy clothes and food because of it. They give me four papers free and I buy the rest for $.35 a paper. I sell it for $1, so I make $.65 off each one.”

While John’s day was just beginning, my ear lobes were bright red and my nose was running from the biting cold. And I grew up in Minnesota where this day’s weather was SOP!

I asked if he could use a blanket. “Always,” he replied with a smile. I ran back to my car and pulled a small blanket out of my emergency car kit and handed it to him. Then I remembered that I needed to buy the paper. I offered John $5 for a copy of his Real Change, he said no-I’d already given him $10!

“That was a Kindness Investor gift. This is for the paper. And since I don’t have change, please take the $5.” He did.

A hug and “good luck” was the only appropriate way to say good-bye to John. He smiled and waved as I climbed back into my car and hit the fan which blew warm air over my face and hands.

Driving home I was once again overwhelmed with gratitude and happiness. Not because I was returning to my own warm home with (some) food in the fridge and an inviting bed. I was grateful that I met John and had an opportunity to learn about him, his life, and ambitions. He really does have a striking resume. I hope I will someday be in a position to hire him. That would make me even more happy.

-Petra from Seattle, WA

 

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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 17 – Kristin

Who can resist a sale? Especially when it’s just days after Christmas? And on this particular day, it was the last day of 2010.  So, I rushed to the nearest PetCo in hopes of finding the (promised) toys for my critters, having explained for nearly a week that Santa was lost in the East Coast blizzard. It was time to make good on my promise.

As I perused the store, a woman pushing a toddler – and a lot of dog and cat food – kept catching my eye.  After finishing my own thoroughly vetted purchase, I boldly approached this young mother and asked her if she would help me with a project. We shifted the cart, child, and critter food out of the line so others could move forward.

“Sure, I guess,” she said hesitantly as I handed the $10 to her. What I remember most of all about Kristin was that she was either quite shy or a bit confused about the entire situation.  Perhaps it was a bit of both.

I asked her what she did for a living, besides raising a cute toddler. “I’m a Vet.”  Well, “dah,” I thought. What a great place to find a veterinarian, besides an actual animal clinic.

photo courtesy of http://www.lienanimal.com

“It’s over in West Seattle. The Lien Animal Clinic.  But I’m on maternity leave.  I have a new-born at home,” she explained.  And I think I have a handful with a small dog and an indoor cat to take care of! My heart went out to this woman, who was, by every measure, in every way, a caregiver. And a giver of tender loving care to so many, regardless of how many legs they have.

“My husband is also a Vet,” she continued.  Both attended veterinary school at the University of Wisconsin at Madison.  She graduated in 2005. “What do we say?” she asked her son. “Go Badgers!” he shouted as he punched his fist high in the air.

She is originally from Menasha, which is about two hours north of Milwaukee. After graduating, it was work that brought both she and her husband to the great Pacific Northwest. Kristin confesses that she misses the snow, but not the mosquitoes (okay, I prompted her about the mosquitoes because I hate mosquitoes).

Kristin needed to think about what she might do with her new $10 bill on this, the last day of the decade. As I took her picture and then thanked her for her time, I secretly hoped that an orphaned animal in need would be helped because of a chance encounter at a PetCo store on New Year’s Eve.

-Petra from Seattle, WA

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He was sittin’ near the dock of Fisherman’s Bay when I approached Michael.  He was having a smoke, trying to decide how he would eat and get his one change of clothes washed.  It was cold and blowing near the water of Puget Sound in Seattle. Michael was shivering as I walked toward him.

When I asked if he would take the $10 I had extended in my hand he was quick to say “Sure, what do I need to do for it?” and promptly tucked it into a pocket. As I explained the project and that I just wanted to talk to him, he seemed a bit touched by the gesture.

He patted the bench, inviting me to sit next to him. The short horizon before us was filled with fishing boats – owned mostly by independent, small fishermen.

“Most of ‘em are back for the season,” Michael noted.  “It gets mighty cold up there in Alaska during the winter so they come back to Seattle. I used to have a boat-I moored it at Elliot Bay but it got pretty expensive.  I’d fish sockeye…all kinds of salmon, and black cod. There are a lot of fish in that ocean.”

Michael snuffed out his cigarette when I asked him what he thought he would do with the money I gave to him. “Eat breakfast and buy a pouch of tobacco.”

Beneath his knit hat and overgrown scraggly beard, were bright blue eyes, twinkling as he shared his story with someone who actually wanted to listen. He explained how he had broken his foot: He was helping clean up a yard with a high fence. When he tried to jump it instead of going the long way around to the gate, the razor-sharp barbed wire snagged him; he fell from the top and shattered his heel and other bones.  That was six months ago and he’s still in a splint, hobbling about.

“It’s really been a crummy year. I’m unemployed and then had my van towed. I had my camping stove in it, my jeans, shorts, CDs and it’s all gone.  But even before that, I had 45 years of life auctioned off to pay my bills.  Everything went: There were shoes, boots, my potter’s wheel, and a beautiful wooden chest from Thailand that was my grandmother’s. My dad helped me some when I needed money, but you just can’t replace the memories when those things are taken away from you.

“I was a photographer, too. I did poster quality work.  Most of what I shot was of the Pacific NW-the fish, the mountains, the water. Man, I loved doing that. But I’m a survivor.  I’ve seen some tough times before and I bounced back – I will again.” He smiled. He was determined. Somehow he will again have a life he wants.

Today, with a duffle bag, some blankets and one change of clothes he has an advantage because he can just leave – go – hit the road, if he wants. And he’s thinking about it.  With family and some friends who are in San Diego, he may just head south and hang with some pals who are still surfing. In 2006 he was fortunate enough to be surfing in Hawaii; in fact, another one of his skills is that he can build boats, kayaks, surf boards, canoes; he said he was taught by the best of the best.  He paid close attention when the carving and crafting artists were assembling their means of water transportation or sport.  After that, he learned how to paint – anything! Yachts, boats, houses.  He gazed at the marina filled with fishing boats.

“Yeah, it’s true.  I’ve been knocked down many times but then I always managed to get back and prove to myself that I’m the survivor that I am.”

I asked if I could take his picture. Proudly, he agreed. It was only appropriate that he be photographed against a tapestry of boats. He smiled. He had $10 in pocket, a meal on its way, and hopes and dreams in his heart.

Best of luck, Michael!

-Petra from Seattle, WA

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I love my new job. I have been dreaming about this for years. Seriously. I’ve so often thought how wonderful it would be to head out the door with a hand full of cash-and just walk up to someone and say “Here, have some money. Please, take it.” And walk away.

Dreams do to come true.

Except in my reality (as I discovered today), the joy was not only in the giving, but in the fellowship of two unknown people thrown together by – what? Fate? A Spirit nudge? An angel? Coincidence?

As I began to run errands on my first day as a Kindness Investor, forecasters were threatening snow in Seattle so I paid close attention to whom I was drawn to; who was the intended recipient of my crisp ten-dollar bill? Several people caught my eye but none spoke to me, if you will.

She was on the right hand side of the street making her way toward a small bridge which crosses over freight trains and their many tracks. It can be a dicey, if not dangerous area for anyone making their way over this small viaduct. But there she was and now I had to figure out how to get her attention without scaring her; she was somehow calling me to be the recipient of my first Kindness Investor’s random act. And so it was.

I slowed down and let several cars pass me as I approached this quintessential Seattleite riding her bike. I gently beeped my horn and rolled down the window on the passenger side of my car.

“Excuse me; can I talk to you for a moment?” As if she had a choice; I felt like I had practically run her into the parking area which we both approached. I pulled up in front of her and popped out of my car. It was cold.  Frozen snow drops had begun to fly through the frigid air.

Once I was close enough to see her beautiful face, I understood why she was wearing a flowing, flowery, silky skirt over what I hoped were very warm leggings.  The skirt said so much to me: Kindness, an independent spirit, fun!

As I began explaining to her why I tracked her down, I described the project…etc., etc., etc., and asked if she would please accept ten dollars from me. I handed it to her. She smiled in delightful surprise.

As we talked, I learned that Nora is a student who is now studying to be a pre-school teacher. In the meantime, she also works in upholstery and ceramics. I knew it. Between the bike, scarves, and skirt, she had “eclectic” and “artistic” written all over her.

While Nora lives in Seattle’s Central District, her parents live in Ballard. Via bike, a hike, a bus, or car, this is not an easy journey. Seattle’s many hills and waterways create challenges for anyone trying to get from point A to B, much less point A to point K. But there she was-our Nora peddling the trails and streets and yes, train tracks of Seattle!

As I explained that Reed in Washington, DC had begun this most wonderful journey of Kindness Investing more than a year ago, I added that giving away money has been my own dream job for some time.  And there I was – with Nora – my first “client” on the first day of my new job.  Together we were shivering on the outside but both compassionate on the inside – kindness can warm up the mood of nearly any spirit. It can also be very contagious.

“I’ll have to start my own year of giving,” she stated, smiling as she again looked at the ten dollars.

When I asked what she thought she might do with the money, her first notion was to buy the book “Finding Your North Star” by Martha Beck. Nora had read it and felt a friend could benefit from the uplifting messages within the books’ pages.

“My friend has been struggling with darker feelings…maybe the book – and your story – can be a catalyst for her; it’s about being fearless and following your passions. I think this should cover the cost of the book.”

I wanted to spend more time with Nora-she was clearly kind and considerate.  And for some lucky Seattle toddlers, they would soon know a teacher and friend who would soon be encouraging them to nurture their own desires and creative passions. Besides, who in pre-school doesn’t like a pretty teacher?

When Nora asked what I did, I explained that I was unemployed, but when I connected with Reed and we discussed the yearofgiving.org project, I knew I had to participate.  It is my own North Star. My own passion. From where ten, twenty, fifty, a hundred dollars a day will come, I do not know. But this I do know: I think my new job is a great fit. I have faith that the money will appear so I can pass it on to the Nora’s of my world who in turn will use the blessing to help their friends and perhaps others in need. And when that friend is inspired, she too, will continue to invest in kindness.

This is addicting. And very, very fun.

Thank you, Reed.

Bless you, Nora.

-Petra from Seattle, WA

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