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Blog post by Rose M, a Kindness Investor from Forest Park, IL.

I found my teens today on St. Kitts!  Our ship arrived around 11am and we disembarked an hour later.  I didn’t have an excursion today so I ended up taking a so-so tour of the island by taxi, which ended at Frigate Bay, a rock black sand beach.  I took a half-hearted dip and dried out at the bar where I had a Ting (similar to Seven Up) and a chicken roti.

I was served by an ex-pat who had left America with her husband six years ago.  She was originally from New York.  She and her husband lived on a boat for three years.  Then they decided to settle on St. Kitts, but she doesn’t think they’ll stay there forever.  She’s written a book about their adventures which is supposed to be published by McGraw Hill in May of 2012.  You never know who you’re going to meet, do you?!

She said St. Kitts was very expensive, and several times referred to financial worries.  Her husband was working construction on a nearby hotel, which afforded him health insurance.  But she had none.  She seemed like a good person to give ten dollars.  So I explained the whole deal to her, and she happily accepted the ten dollars.  Just then a few people came up to buy some beers.  While they were finishing their order, it dawned on me I had not left myself enough money to get a taxi back to the ship!

Good grief, the embarrassment!  Here I am a Year of Giving Ambassador and I had to ask for my money back!  She was good natured about it, though, and as it turned out it seemed to be for the best.

When I got back to port I hoofed it on to the boat, unloaded my stuff and grabbed a ten from the safe in our room.  Then I hoofed it back out to the port’s shopping plaza.  Someone walked by with a huge waffle bowl of ice cream.  I asked where she got it and she pointed down a certain street.  I walked in that direction when suddenly, just up ahead, I spied five teenagers walking away from me.  Perfect!

They seemed relaxed as they chatted and ambled on some distance ahead of me, so I increased my pace to catch up with them.

“Excuse me,” I blurted to their backs, “Can I talk to you for a minute?”

They all turned to look at me with surprise.  They were willing to listen as I explained to them my mission.  When I’d finished, I said I could give one of them the ten, if they wanted, or I could split it five ways.  They were fine with receiving the money split five ways.

One reason I was interested in giving to teenagers is that teens are still so idealistic and inspired.  I thought for sure they would be supportive of the Year of Giving philosophy.  Several of them commented something along the lines that what I was doing should happen more often.  So I think I was on the mark, and made sure to write down the website address for them.

I used my slightly battered digital camera to briefly film each one of them.  It was a lot of fun playing junior documentarian.  Unfortunately when I played it back later I couldn’t understand much of what they said because background noises garbled their speech.  So what you’re about to read is mostly true, some part best guess and one, and a bit pure invention.

This much is true.  All five of them are sixteen.   They all belong to the fifth form, which I took to be roughly analogous to our senior high.  They were all excited to be graduating to sixth form in two months which would allow them to move on to college or other goals.  The mix was three boys and two girls, and they all seemed to be good friends.  They were excited because their school had won the St. Kitts interschool championship for sports.  Tomorrow would be a school holiday to celebrate and there would be a “motorcade,” as one boy described it, “with lots of cars honking and people cheering.”  

I didn’t get this boy’s name.  However, I did find out he is a cheerleader and the school mascot.  The mascot is a cheeto…a large, orange cheeto.  He’s a tall, handsome boy so I’m sure he makes a very dignified cheeto.  The others in the group described him as a “natural born salesmen” and deferred to him as the leader of the group.  He responded modestly to their praise, but I could tell he was an ambitious young man.  He told me he hoped to major in electrical engineering, and was planning on saving his two dollar jackpot for the time being.  Since school is free in St. Kitts, he won’t need to save it to pay off a hefty education debt, thank goodness!

Chez, whose name I did get correctly, wants to major in IT.  I assured him that was a good choice because it was lucrative.  He agreed with a big smile. He planned on buying a soda with his two dollars “because it’s hot!” He’s a practical sort, I think.

Hasia (I think that’s his name but not certain) is going to major in economics.  He seemed the most excited about getting the money, and was clearly the spiritual one of the group.  When I started to hand out the money he said, “We have received a blessing from God!”  Later, when I gathered them as a group to take a picture, he said, “We should all be smiling because God has given us a gift!  We should have a big smile on our faces!”  He’s also the one who suggested they all shout “Ten Dollars!” when I snapped the photo, a variation on saying “Cheese.”  He planned on saving his windfall.  I have a hunch he might give it to his church or a charity.  Just a hunch.

Tahira, the smaller of the two girls, was the only one of the group who didn’t have plans to go onto college.  Well, that may be true of Tamika too.  She was too shy to be interviewed.  We all decided as a group she was speechless with joy over the two dollar boon.  Tahira, however, wants to get a job after school.  She’s interested in being a pilot because she likes to travel and would like to go to Africa.  Another career possibility is the spy business.  She sees them on TV sit-drams and thinks their lives look very exciting.  She didn’t know yet what she wanted to do with her double sawbucks.  She’s the imaginative one of the group, so I suspect she needed time to ponder the many possibilities available to her.

I asked them how it felt to receive money from a stranger for no reason at all.  They all thought it was “weird,” a word I found to be just about right, since the root of the word comes from the word “wyrd,” which means “fate” or “destiny.” And you never know what chance encounter may change your fate or destiny.

I wouldn’t be surprised if they would try to change someone’s fate or destiny for the better through the Year of Giving, or in some other way.  If I could roll these five bright kids into one, I bet I would come up with an ambitious, practical kid full of faith, hope, gratitude and imagination.  This kind soul would be speechless with joy at the way life can surprise you with grace.  What kid like that wouldn’t go out of his or her way to make someone else’s day a little brighter?

This kid would be like my cruise-mate Carol who a few minutes later treated me to a delicious waffle bowl of sour soup ice-cream.  I told her I’d pay her back on the ship, to which she replied, “No worries.  I’m good.”

They would also be like Chuck, a man on my cruise whom I’d never met before, who a half hour later saw that I didn’t have the money I needed to buy the perfect souvenir for my mother which had finally manifested at the last possible second—a coconut shell carved into the shape of a pig with ears that actually moved (no accounting for taste)— and bought it for me.

They might be like the tall, lanky fellow with waist-length dreadlocks who heaped adorable monkeys on my shoulders as I raced back to the ship moments before it was leaving and when I told him, “I’m so sorry!  I’ve absolutely no cash left on me,” insisted on taking a few pictures anyway, even though he knew with the end of the cruising season next week his opportunities to make money were about to dwindle sharply.

And I know they would be like Hasia, who tossed a “God bless you” over his shoulder to me in a lovely West Indies lilt as we parted ways.   And God—who is not outdone in generosity—did.

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-Blog post by Traci, a Kindness Investor traveling in Southeast Asia.

Today I gave my $10 to the students at the Buddhism Association School.

The Buddhist monks here offer free English classes to adults.   Tourism is a growing industry in Cambodia and the ability to speak English greatly enhances ones abilities to work, grow their income and improve their lives. While having the opportunity to be a substitute English teacher, I gave the students a donation which they used for school supplies (paper, pencils, pens, etc.) to aid them in their efforts.

Tomorrow I’m visiting an orphanage!

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I’m starting to think that this city has too many law students.  Ok, I guess it makes sense since Washington is our government’s central nervous system.  But Molly was applying to law schools, Sarah from yesterday was in her third year of law school and today’s recipient is currently applying to law schools.

Matt and I were seated in the two chairs just under the Starbucks sign.

It was one of the coldest days of the year and my exposed face and hands were stinging from the frigid wind.  I ducked into a Starbucks to get a cup of coffee and warm up a little.  I sunk into a big comfy chair by the window and found myself sitting next to Matt; a young professional dressed in a sweatshirt over a t-shirt that had the Rolling Stones written on it.  He was buried in his computer until I interrupted his concentration.  “I’m applying to law schools,” he said in response to my question of what he was up to that evening.  “I am genuinely interested in philosophy and believe that laws serve as agents for social change.”  He told me that his interest to go to law school is similar to the interest expressed by Franz Kafka’s character Fräulein Bürstner in the

The Trial.  She says, “I am fascinated with court matters.  The court has a strange attraction, doesn’t it?”

We talked about the Year of Giving and how people react to my offer.  Matt told me about a study that measured people’s willingness to help based on them having recently found a small amount of money.  He later emailed me this:

According to one experiment conducted by Isen and Levin, experimenters looked for helping behavior in unaware subjects after they left a public phone-booth. Whether or not the individuals helped a person in need was found significantly influenced by whether or not one had just found a dime in the phone-booth. In the initial experiment, the results for the 41 subjects are as follows (Doris 2002, 30):

Found Dime: (14 exhibited helping behavior, 2 did not exhibit helping behavior)
Didn’t Find Dime: (1 exhibited helping behavior, 24 did not exhibit helping behavior)

These results suggest that morally significant behavior such as helping another in need depends largely on minute factors of the situation that are not in the control of the agent.”

I found this fascinating.  The fact that finding a dime could influence people’s behavior so much.  Here I’ve been giving ten spots away, when people apparently would have been happy just getting a dime.  It would have saved me $3,613.50 too!  

He told me about another study where if a subject was asked to donate money to a cause that they were much more likely to give if there was another person in the room.  Now here is the fascinating part.  The study also showed that the subjects were equally more likely to give if instead of the other person there was a poster of a robot prominently placed in the room.  Weird.  It’s like we do the “right thing” if we think others are watching.  Even robots…painted on a poster!  Interesting.

Matt is originally from Michigan and plans to be here for about two years until he leaves for law school.  “I like DC but I think I am going to go someplace else,” he told me.  

The 24-year-old works for the government right now and preferred that I not use his last initial or be photographed.  Hmmm.  CIA?  Who knows?  He was a nice guy though, smart too.  I enjoyed chatting with him.

In his follow-up email to me he told me that he gave his $10 to a guy who plays trumpet in the morning near the World Bank offices at 18th and G or K Streets.  “He’s got a good heart,” he went on to write.  My ex-girlfriend used to always talk about this guy.  I went looking for him one morning but I couldn’t find him.  Maybe I will try to find him in these remaining 9 days.

Matt inspired me to do something too.  He suggested I try to go talk to Arlen again.  “Give her a second chance,” he suggested.  I have seen her from time to time but have never talked to her again since our meeting when she was bitter and confused.  I will try to approach her again.  Thanks Matt for the encouragement.

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Day 338 – Sarah B.

I’m 10 days away from the 365th recipient.  It’s hard to believe.  I have met so many amazing individuals through my daily giving as well as through the blog.  Letters and comments have poured in day after day giving me telling me how my story has inspired them in some way and offering encouragement to me to make it to the end.  That day is now in sight and I find myself reflecting a lot upon the last 12 months.  For those of you in the DC area, I hope you will join me on December 14th at Tabaq Bistro which has been so generous in helping make the year-end celebration possible.  The festivities get started at 6:30pm.

Sarah was worried her bangs were too short. I told her they looked fine...then again I'm not exactly a fashion expert.

Today I thought I would share with you a second recipient: Sarah.  I met her walking up 20th Street in DC.  She said she also lived in Dupont and we shared the next eight blocks together.  “I got my hair cut today,” she told me beaming.  “I go to a guy named William who works at Ava Salon on Capitol Hill.”  She adjusted her blue scarf so as to keep herself a little warmer, “I left my coat at happy hour…I might have had one too many!”

Sarah is a third-year law student at George Washington University.  Her anticipated graduation date is May 11 and after that she said she would like to find a job with the US government.  “I had an interview recently with a judge in Alaska, but I turned that down – it’s just too far away.”  She said she really enjoyed contract law, “and the government has contracts for everything.”  Then her mind must have slipped back a few hours to happy hour, “maybe I could practice wine law?”  Sounds interesting.

She wasn’t sure what she was going to do with the money.  “If this was money I had earned through work,” she started to say, “I’d probably just use it on food , maybe buy lunch with it, but since this came in such a unique and unexpected way, I feel as if I should do something different with it.”  I followed up with her this week but haven’t heard from her yet.

I have some other notes that say something about blue grass music and fiddles…but like so many other times, I can’t read my scribbles weeks later when I write up the blogs!

That's the Brewmasters' Castle in the background.

Sarah was so nice.  She is one of so many people that I have met through the Year of Giving who I’d like to be able to call my friend.  And we’re practically neighbors.  She lives a block or two away.

Sarah will be missing the year-end celebration unless she changes her holiday travel plans.  She’s got a ticket to Houston, TX on the 13th.

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Did you participate in Pay it Forward Day yesterday?  I did…I gave $10 to Rachel, a 22-year-old who just graduated from American University with a degree in graphic design and photography.  Here story coming on Day 352!

Today…we travel south to the picturesque town of Charlottesville, VA.  The town of 50,000 is located smack in the center of the Commonwealth of Virginia along the Rivanna River, a tributary of the James River.  It’s about 120 miles from Washington, but somehow we took the most backward way possible and spent 3+ hours getting there.  

So my brother, sister-in-law and I were going to meet up with my cousin Doug and his daughter Chelsea…what does that make us, cousins once removed, second cousins, anyway.  My dad also drove down from Pennsylvania.  Chelsea is a graduating high school senior and is scouting out colleges which landed them in at the University of Virginia in Charlottesville.  They live in Colorado so we don’t get to see them that often, although come to think of it I have seen Doug three times this year, but anyway, you get the point.  They come in to town and we all thought it would be a good idea to meet up.  And my cousin Dianne was driving in the next day too.  It was fun spending time with family.

Anyway I found a family having a picnic lunch – it was a perfect afternoon for that – right on campus before the football game. 

Tyler is a freshman at UVA and his family is down visiting him from Northern Virginia…close to DC.  He grew up in Herndon, VA…I also lived in Herndon for a while.  Small world.

The 18-year-old economics major says that my cousin should choose UVA.  “It’s great here,” he said as he helped himself to some potato chips, “freedom is the best part!”  I can’t think of a more beautiful place to explore that freedom.  The campus is stunning.  The town is quaint and charming.  “And we’re in the top 5 in the country for soccer,” Tyler adds.

I felt a little like I just crashed their family picnic…which I did, so I tried not to stay too long.  I gave Tyler the money and he said he was going to buy some music with it.  “Probably some punk music.  My favorite band is Sonic Youth.”  

Tyler and his family enjoying their picnic.

Before I left he did have something for me to add to the Lend a Hand initiative.  “I could use an internship in the DC area for the summer.”   Hopefully somebody will see this and give this promising young man a chance.

On Tuesday I got this update from him via email:

I ended up ordering one of my favorite albums- “Psychocandy” by The Jesus and Mary Chain. I’d never gotten around to buying a physical copy of it before.” – Tyler S.

He won’t be able to make the Year End Celebration because he has a final exam that day.  Although we’ll miss him, it’s probably a wise decision.

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I sat at Illy Café at the corner of New Hampshire Avenue and M Street sipping a double espresso.  To my right sat a girl who seemed to also be writing in a journal of sorts.  The last time I saw someone writing in a journal we got to meet Roey…maybe this would turn into a recipient 273.

I asked her to accept my $10.  She did and asked to take a few minutes to talk to her for the blog post.  Coincidentally she was waiting for someone that she was going to interview!

I am usually pretty good a detecting accents and determining where people are from, but I had no idea about Elina.  First let me say that she speaks incredible English.  Occasionally I would hear a slight accent that would make me think Eastern European.  But just when I would think that was it, I would detect an ever so slight southern twang!  I give up!

Elina hails from Regensburg, Germany. (photo: Reed)

So it turns out that she was born in Russia but grew up in the small town of Minden, Germany which is about 25 miles west of Hanover.  Her flawless English is probably partly due to her time in the US as an au pair and a year that she spent studying in Virginia on a scholarship.  “It completely changed my life.”  These days she lives in Regensburg, Germany.  “People kind of know who I am there because I was voted “party queen of Regensburg” on StudiVZ, a German social networking site similar to Facebook.

So I discover that she is in DC for about two months doing research for her undergrad thesis paper that studies society’s perception of soccer in Washington, DC.  “So I am actually interviewing people for my research,” she explained.  “I’m actually waiting for the President of a fan group for DC United.” 

The $10 will come in handy Elina tells me.  “I’ve been refusing to add more minutes to my American cell phone since I’m leaving next week.  I’m down to just $5 now and this will hopefully get me through these final days.”  She actually says that unlike most other 23-year-olds she hates having a cell phone.  “I didn’t have one until I started my studies.”

Just then a guy approached our table and she asked, “Are you Paul?”  Her interview subject had arrived.

Elina used the $10 to add minutes to her cell phone. (photo: Reed)

Paul is one of the leaders of the Screaming Eagles, a 1,100 member fan community for DC’s professional soccer club.  All three of us chatted for a while about random topics.  I didn’t want to impose on the time Elina had set up to meet with Paul so I said goodbye to both of them and excused myself.

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Borders at 18th and L Streets in NW Washington, DC (photo: Reed)

I am back in DC.  I went to Borders Book Store to pick up a gift for some friends who are moving back to Finland.  As I wandered around the store I found Madison searching through the non-fiction books.

I was surprised to find out that Madison was only 14.  She looked a little older and is very mature.  She lives in Virginia and is starting the 10th grade this fall. 

I asked her what kind of book she was looking for and she said that she was looking for a biography on Marilyn Monroe.  “She fascinates me; her whole attitude toward life.”  She perused the many books they had on the pop icon but I don’t think she ended up finding the one she wanted.  Or she just ran out of time since she ended up chatting with me for a while.

Madison seems like a very good student.  She is enrolled in an intensive Geometry course this summer so that she can skip it next year and move right into Algebra II.  Geometry though has not been easy for her.  She said she preferred Algebra over Geometry.  I was just the opposite.  I did really well in Geometry but nearly failed Algebra II.  She says that History is her favorite subject.  I would have to agree, it was one of my favorites too.

When she is not at school or studying, Madison likes to play volleyball and participate in her student government and school clubs.  She seems to like the private school that she attends. 

Our conversation makes its way back to the $10.  “What do you think you might do with it?”  She thought about the question and said that she would probably buy lunch for herself the following day at school.  “During the summer the school cafeteria is not open,” she explains so she has to get lunch on her own. 

photo: Reed

About this time I think I asked her if she was originally from DC and she said that she was but that she had moved and then came back at some point because of her dad’s job.  “What’s your dad do?” I asked.  I would have never expected the response.  “He used to play in the NFL,” she replies in a very humble tone.  I inquired who her father was.  I won’t mention his name here, but he was a first round draft pick that went on to play eight seasons of professional football.  For someone who grew up the daughter of such a well-known public figure she seems incredibly grounded and genuine. 

Speaking of her dad she looked at the time and said, “I actually have to go meet him now.”  I finished up my questions and we said goodbye.  She opted not to have her photo included, which I totally understand for various reasons.

What a smart young lady.  I was really impressed with her.  Just how she carried herself and the intelligent questions she asked.  We as society can sleep well at night knowing that it’s people like Madison that will become tomorrow’s leaders.

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