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Posts Tagged ‘school’

Just two days until the Worldwide Day of Giving

If anyone is located in an area affected by the oil spill or knows someone who is, please drop me a note.

Today’s recipient has a very special treat for you so I hope that you have a way to watch the videos that are posted on here.

Giovanni at work at the Batuta Foundation (Photo: Reed)

While I was in Manizales, I met Giovanni, a 31-year-old talented musician.  Although born in the nation’s capital of Bogotá, he originally came to Manizales to play the bass for the city’s orchestra.  He continues to perform in Manizales and cities throughout the region in addition to teaching music at the renown Batuta National Institute; a national system of youth orchestras that aims to foster social development through music.

He says he really likes life in Manizales.  I got a rather first hand view of his life as I was Giovanni’s neighbor for the 12 days I spent in Manizales.  He was living in the area of Guacas where Roberto Gonzalo lives and has his coffee plantation.  To go to work, he regularly makes the exhausting 30 minute walk up the mountain to grab a bus that goes down into the city.  It’s at least an hour or more to get into the city.  I know that because I did that several times while I was there!  

Giovanni invited me into his home.  It’s simply decorated with the essentials.  I can not help but notice the large bass leaning against the wall.  I was hoping he would play it for me.

We speak a mixture of Spanish and English.  He is very comfortable talking to me and even starts to prepare some dinner.  Dressed in a t-shirt, pants, flip-flops, he moves around his kitchen.  I asked him what he was cooking.  “I am kind of inventing right now.” I tend to do the same thing.

Before I know it he had made some coffee and served me a cup.

This is what was on Giovanni's music stand (Photo:Reed)

He says that he personally likes jazz, symphonies, and chamber music.  With a music degree from the Technological University of Pereira, he has a solid appreciation of many music genres.  If Pereira sounds familiar to you, it’s probably because that is the airport where I arrived.  Giovanni added that it is also where his parents live. 

Since I have been here during the election period, I also asked Giovanni who he felt would be the best leader to continue Colombia’s positive development that it has experienced over the past several years.  He gave me that slightly uncomfortable look that many people do when you move the conversation to political views.  He says that he has the most faith in Antanas Mockus from the Green Party.  “But I think Juan Manuel will win,” he says referring to Juan Manuel Santos who leads the poles.  

Like Viviana from Day 164, he opted to receive $10 instead of 20,000 pesos and also said he planned to keep the money as a memory of this experience.  That is touching that he would want to keep it to remember our meeting.

I asked Giovanni if he would play for me and he obliged.  Take a listen to this.  It’s beautiful.

Giovanni had some questions for me as well.  When I told him that I grew up in Pennsylvania, he told me that he had been there and that he travelled there regularly to perform.  His grin told me something was not as it appeared though as he divulged that he was referring to Pensilvania, another city in the state of Caldas.  Somehow I think that William Penn had no idea that years later there would be a city in Colombia that would share the name of the US state that was named after the colonial leader.

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Have you ever wondered how your life would have turned out if you had dropped out of school your freshman year of high school?  Well today’s recipient Kylie knows the answer to that question first-hand.  She did it.

Kylie in front of the fountain at Dupont Circle (Photo: Reed)

Kylie, who turned 21 on Friday, decided half way through her freshman year of high school that she didn’t want to go any more.  Probably we have all thought about dropping out, but she actually did it.  Then she visited three or four other schools to see if she liked them any more, but didn’t find what she was looking for.  She tried home schooling for a while, but that didn’t work out either.  So what did she do?  She says she ended up hanging out with some friends that were freshmen at a Delaware college.  They too were not going to class much either.  She “experimented with lots of things” she said and wound up finding herself.  She discovered that she really liked to write.

Today, she is taking classes at American University and hopes to open creative writing centers in youth correctional facilities.  She has already started the process but has a way to go to launch her first center.

I asked Kylie to describe herself and she said, “I am empathetic to a fault.  I’m maybe a little lost…but definitely passionate.” I felt her passion when we spoke about our mothers.  “I love her more than anything,” she said about her mother.  She asked about my mother and I shared with her what a wonderful person my mother was.  She started to cry.  “I don’t know what I would do if I lost my mom” she said fighting away a tear.

Photo: Reed

I was interested in Kylie’s tattoos.  She has seven “professional” tattoos and one “prison” tattoo.  I call it a “prison” tattoo because it was one that a friend did with a BIC pen.  Ouch!  That one didn’t look so good either.  On her right arm she has a large tattoo that says “Love Killer.”  It hurts me just to look at it as I imagine the tattoo needle hammering into the veins that ran along her forearm.  She got this tattoo because of an ex-boyfriend she had.  She shared with me the details of a couple of past relationships.  “Who was the Love Killer,” I asked.  “Maybe I was” she answered.  

Something she said about two former boyfriends stayed with me.  “The one guy I loved, but I never told him that I loved him.  The other one I never loved, but I told him that I did.”  Ironic isn’t it.  “I sometimes regret not telling him that I loved him.”  I asked her if she thought that things would have ended up different if she had told him that she loved him and she shook her head to tell me “no.”  “In that case” I said, “it doesn’t really matter, does it?”

Kylie told me that she was going to give the $10 to somebody else.  As for ways that you can help Kylie, she said she would give that some thought and see if she came up with something.

Photo: Reed

We were heading in the same direction, so we walked through Dupont Circle and headed toward the Metro entrance.  On the way over we passed a woman sitting on a crate panhandling.  Kylie pulled the $10 out of her pocket and dropped it in the woman’s bucket and kept on walking.  “I had to get rid of it!  I didn’t want to be tempted to spend it.”  I sneaked a peak back at the woman…her face was pleasantly shocked.

Happy 21st birthday Kylie!

By the way, check out what Start from Day 126 did with the $10 I gave him…he posted his experience today on his website!

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Last Wednesday I met up with Danny Harris, the creative mind behind The People’s District blog who I met on Day 64.  If you haven’t checked out Danny’s website, please do.  I love it. 

Duke Ellington School of the Arts (Photo: Reed)

Anyway, we just met up to have a coffee and share some conversation.  At some point, Danny looked at me and asked, “What are you doing this afternoon?” In the spirit of unemployment, I responded that I was pretty busy but that I might be able to squeeze something in.  I asked him what he had in mind and he shared that he was teaching a Media and Communications course at the Duke Ellington School of the Arts in the afternoons and asked if I would be a special guest in one of the classes.  I happily accepted the invitation. 

Danny picked me up on his scooter around 1:30.  Yep, I was strapped on the back of his scooter heading through Upper Georgetown.  Thank goodness nobody caught a picture of me looking ridiculous trying to figure out where to put my hands and feet.

The school is very different than the school that I attended.  Students seemed to be treated much more like adults.  The far wall was covered in books.  The chairs were set up in the shape of a circle.  The room itself was rather different.  Picture a room that has an opening to another room on one side and along the other side a wall that didn’t go all the way to the ceiling allowing discussion in the adjacent room to be heard. 

(Photo: Reed)

The ninth graders started trickling in and several came in and politely introduced themselves to me.  

Danny started his class and later introduced me.  I took a ten dollar bill out of my Moleskine notebook and showed it to the class and asked, “What would you do if I gave you $10.”  Ideas started spewing forth, but most of the ideas were focused on what they would buy for themselves.  Then I asked, “What about doing something for someone else?”  Most students then started brainstorming ideas that involved others, many of the ideas focused on how to help a teacher at the school who recently suffered a miscarriage.  It was amazing to see these young minds at work.  Sure there were the occasional moments of pure chaos, but mostly it was controlled chaos.

Danny and I posed several questions like:

“Does it matter what the person does with the money?”

“Does the giver’s intentions matter?”

“How would you feel if you gave money to someone who said they needed it and you later found out they had lied about their situation and didn’t really need the money as much as they said they did?”

“When you give, do you make any conditions on your kindness or do you do it unconditionally?”

The debate was fantastic. 

9th Grade Media & Communications Class (Photo: Reed)

The time seemed to fly by and we were getting very close to the end of the class and the sound of the bell signaling the change of class.  I told the students that I was going to give my $10 to them as a group and they had to agree on what to do with it.  There was no shortage of ideas.  Many of them involved helping the aforementioned teacher, others involved raising money for various causes.  They settled on the idea of using my $10 as the foundation of a fund that they would themselves contribute to in order to host an open mic night to raise money for their class.  

This was an amazing opportunity to interact with the students.  I hope that they consider doing something on June 15th as part of the Worldwide Day of Giving and share their experiences here with all of us.

I walked home, it’s about a mile or two.  On the way home I started getting really sick.  It was the beginning of a 36 hour stomach flu that wiped me out last week.  I have since fully recovered!

Tonight I am doing an interview with a Korean radio station…should be interesting!  I will let you know how it goes.

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So this morning I heard the NPR story by Liane Hansen…it was great!  If you missed it, check it out here.

So I was walking around my neighborhood one night looking for someone to give my $10 to.  People often ask me how I choose the recipients.  There really isn’t any scientific method, but more of an instinctive gut reaction that I have.  Something about the person makes them interesting to me.  Maybe they are dressed in an interesting way, maybe a pan-handler says something clever, or perhaps it’s just a nice bus driver.  

Alex is sitting in a small park on a bench reading a book at about 9:00pm.  The dim light from a nearby street lamp is just enough for him to read his book: Negotiating Across Culture by Raymond Cohen. 

Alex is dressed in a suit sans tie.  He looks comfortable and at ease with me approaching and sitting down next to him.  He is reading the textbook for his post-grad coursework at Georgetown.  In addition to his schoolwork, Alex also has a part-time job at a DC think tank.  As I explain to him my year-long commitment I learn that his birthday is December 15th (the day I started the Year of Giving).  Somehow I feel that I was meant to meet Alex.

When Alex isn’t studying, working at the think tank or taking in a night at local art galleries (that’s what he was doing this night) he gives his time.  He helps out at shelters and kitchens around DC.  He has volunteered several times at Loaves and Fishes, a ministry of St. Stephen and the Incarnation Episcopal Church that has been serving lunch to the hungry and homeless on Saturdays, Sundays and federal holidays since 1968.

Alex hopes to work in international development and policy in Africa.  This is no surprise given his vast international experience.  For a 24-year-old he has seen a lot of the world.  Check out the video where we talk a little about his experiences overseas.

The following is a letter that I received from Alex explaining how he used the $10.  Also, take note of the link to the study on kindness at the end…definitely worth a read.

 Hey Reed,

I was really unexpected and nice meeting you the other night. I wanted to drop you a note to say that I really think your project is fantastic. I think it’s great that you have embraced the curiosity, generosity, and faith in other people that a lot of us aspire to. I too believe that there’s so many incredible and interesting people we encounter in our daily lives that we seldom take the time to stop and appreciate. I myself wish I did it more.

So, I told you I’d write you to tell you how I’d spend my money.  Basically, 10 bucks isn’t going to change what I can afford, or what some deserving NGO in the area could do if I gave the money to them.  But, what the gesture of yours can do is change something I do, particularly stopping to appreciate the people we see in our daily lives but maybe don’t stop to acknowledge or appreciate. So, what I decided to do was spend that money on some cookie supplies, bake some cookies and give them to people we don’t too often acknowledge – the guys who hand out the WaPo Express, the people who work at the Metro stations and the cleaning people and receptionist in my building on K Street.

Oh and I also thought you’d be interested in this article I came across on the kindness multiplier. Reminds you that an act of kindness has consequences you don’t see!

Cheers and best of luck,

 Alex (109)

Thanks Alex.  What a thoughtful and creative use of the $10.  I would love to know how the people reacted!  If you haven’t already done it yet and can record it, it would be great to post here!  It was great to meet you…thanks for making this giving experience so special.

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Day 96 – Robin C.

My dad leaving Cally's (Photo: Reed)

On Saturday my father and I drove from Richlands, VA to Washington, DC.  It’s about a 7 hour drive.  Along the way we stopped in Harrisonburg, VA.  It has a small picturesque downtown.  On the west side of the main square there is a restaurant called Cally’s.  We stopped in to eat.

I decided to give my $10 to Robin, she was our waitress there.

Robin is 21 and studies Cultural Communications at nearby James Madison University.  As she prepares to leave the security of the university setting in May she ponders where she will go.  I was interested in her perspective on the economy and the job landscape from the eyes of a graduating college senior.

Robin at Cally's (Photo: Reed)

“I am not really worried about landing the perfect job right now.  I hope to move to the beach…maybe Florida…and take a bit of a break for a while and get a job…not necessarily something in my field of study, but just something to pay the bills for a while.”  I asked her if she thought her feelings were representative of the perspective that her classmates had.  “Probably not, some of my friends are really worried.” 

Robin deserves a break after four years of studies while often working two part-time jobs to make ends meet.

Cally's beer sampler (Photo: Reed)

Cally’s as it turns out is a brew pub…so my father and I decided to get a sampler of their beers.  They give you six small tastes which my dad and I split.  Robin said she liked the Downtown Amber.  I really liked the pungent Smokin’ Scottish Ale while my dad preferred the smooth velvety Kolsch.  

The Fredericksburg, VA native said she would use my $10 to put toward her final months of rent.  

After four years at JMU, I asked Robin to reflect a little on her time there.  I asked her what the best part of being a JMU student was.  She shot us a smile and said, “Leaving!”

Good luck on your graduation Robin!

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I decided to go over to the Shaw neighborhood today.  On my way I ran into Kenneth from Day 30.  He said he was having what he called “death nightmares” and was being admitted to Georgetown hospital today.  Kenneth, who suffers from various mental illnesses, was not sure how long he would be there.  My friend Mike had his own battles with mental illness and about eight years ago also went to Georgetown Hospital.  He said it completely changed his life and he now has his situation under control.  Kenneth usually sells Street Sense outside the north entrance to the Dupont Circle Metro…keep an eye out for his return and welcome him back with a smile and a hello…heck buy a paper!

When I came out of the Metro at Shaw, I was greeted by a fight between some teens.  The one boy got free and ran away.  It’s definitely a different vibe than my neighborhood.  I was about 15-20 blocks from my home and I thought that I would start to explore the neighborhood and gradually make my way back to my place on foot.  A few blocks later I met Dannie.

Photo: Reed S.

He was sitting at a bus stop, dressed in work clothes and a hard-hat.  He lit a cigarette as I sat down next to him and introduced myself.  Originally from North Carolina, Dannie now lives in the nation’s capital and says he loves it.  “It’s the land of opportunity” he says.  He is referring to the fact that he feels fortunate to have had plenty of work over the past 20 years.  Right now he is working on a window installation project at a local high school.

I asked him what he planned on doing with the $10…he smiled and said he would use it for transportation.

Dannie is a father and talked to me about the importance of his kids getting a good education.  Dannie didn’t continue his studies after high school and is now studying to become a carpenter…but he says that it is much harder going back to school at his age.  “It’s been over 20 years since I’ve done fractions!” 

Check out the video below of Dannie talking about education and how it has influenced his life.

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