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Posts Tagged ‘unemployment’

There’s no blog post today from a Kindness Investorthat’s because we don’t currently have one! 😦

So…I thought I would utilize today’s post to try to find one.

Wanted: 46 unemployed or underemployed individuals who are willing to be Kindness Investors for seven days!  No prior experience necessary, just seven ten-dollar bills and a willingness to reach out to seven strangers and give them ten bucks and find out what they are going to do with it.  Interested candidates can email reed@yearofgiving.org for more details!

 

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-Blog post by Mike B., a Kindness Investor from Cromwell, CT

It occurred to me that when I first agreed to be a Kindness Investor, I should have some kind of a plan going in to my week of giving.  Who would I give to?  How would I choose?  Would I get it right?  How was my pre-rehearsed speech going to sound?  After much thought, probably too much thought, I thought I’d follow Reed’s lead and just go with my gut.  And it’s worked out for me so far!

In the beginning of this project for me, the week itself was a bit out of sorts.  It started on a Wednesday after all.  What week starts on a Wednesday?  Mondays had always started my work week for 22+ years, but hey, I’m flexible.  Of course since I’ve been unemployed, it’s more or less the same thing, except now Mondays are usually good “interview days”.  The interviewer is usually a little more alert then the rest of the week and I’m a bit more on my “A” game.  I’ll bet someone has done studies on this somewhere.

Cromwell Library

But as I didn’t have an interview today, I was able to spend a little more time in the library. I almost forgot how useful and resourceful libraries are!  My local one has been a tremendous help in my unemployed days.  I could work on my computer at home (and do), but in the library, there’s more chance of getting work done.  And the librarians are extremely helpful as well.  This library day was a good day for me, as it was where I met Pamela, the recipient of today’s $10.

Pamela is an unemployed nurse, or rather a nurse that just happens to be unemployed.  She’s from Middletown, CT and has been a nurse for 29 years, most recently working for the State of New York in the disability area she said.  I was in the Cromwell Library on a computer and she was in the next seat over.  However, I was busy perfecting a cover letter while I was there and didn’t get the chance to talk to her.  It seemed to be a busy day in the library as no sooner did she get up and leave, someone else sat right down and started doing their own internet surfing.  My time was up on the computer (they give you an hour) and I was done with the cover letter, so it was time to find my recipient of the day.  I headed over to where the newspapers were and there Pamela was to my surprise, with many forms in front of her.  She had very light blond hair which stood out to me, and I knew, or I hoped, she was the one for today.

She looked very busy, but when I asked her if I could talk to her, and told her I would be brief, she graciously said okay.  She lost her job with the state of New York nine days ago and she was working like a mad woman to make sure she wouldn’t be out of work much longer.  She had all kinds of applications and forms in front of her to fill out, and she continued to do so as I spoke.  She had been a nurse for 29 years and had seen quite a bit through those years.  She mentioned that when the State of New York started to issue mandatory furlough days, she knew her time there was coming to an end. She said she worked all different shifts as a nurse and I wanted to ask more, but her mind was definitely on filling out those forms.

I asked if she could do it all over again, would she still be a nurse? Her answer was “Yes, that’s what I know how to do.”  But after thinking a little more, she said, “Maybe an X-Ray technician or something else in the medical field.”

When I asked her what she would do with the $10, she said it will help paying for sending more forms out!  She was headed to Kinko’s next, to fax all the forms to an office in Boston where I’m guessing she was applying.  Faxing is a $1.50 a page at Kinko’s, so that adds up she said.  We discussed what a profit Kinko’s was making on that, but as I was speaking I saw Pamela not lift her head up once and I had that feeling of she wants to be left alone to finish her work!

I asked to take her picture, but she preferred not to have it taken.  I did get to tell her why I chose her, telling her I saw her at the computer and felt this was a woman with a purpose.  I guess I was interrupting that purpose, so we said our goodbyes and I left her and her forms.

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-Blog post by Mike B., a Kindness Investor from Cromwell, CT

My third day of this journey gave me my first rejection, but life always takes a strange turn.  I began the day with the intent to give the $10 to a person in Southfield, Massachusetts, who I had yet to meet.  Southfield is a very small town in the Berkshires and I was there for the day assisting a friend on a 500+ acre plot of land that is home to a YMCA Summer Camp called Camp Wa Wa Segowea.  It’s an old-fashioned resident camp that is one of the most beautiful spots on the planet.  Of course, I might be a little biased, but it does seem that time stands still there.  And there’s nothing like seeing and hearing kids in the summertime enjoying themselves outdoors all day, learning and playing with their new best friends.  Every kid should go away to camp!

Anyways, stopping in Southfield for a cup of coffee brought me to my first person saying no, they couldn’t accept the money.  When asked why, his response was he had just finished an internship that had “that kind of giving” included, and also he was trying to reduce his presence on the internet.  I was a little distraught, but said goodbye and moved on.   Cut to the end of the day, and now I’m on my way back home, knowing I still had not found my daily recipient.  I was pretty sure I didn’t have anything in the refrigerator at home, so I was also in search of dinner.  I passed by a place, Tonio’s in New Hartford, Connecticut and was always going to stop there, but hadn’t yet.  I figured maybe two birds with one stone?

I went in, placed my order and spotted another guy also waiting for his order.  I made my introduction and found myself feeling pretty good as this was the 4th time I had said it, and thought I had it pretty down to a science now.  When the part came to ask if he would accept the $10, he asked if he could ask me a question.  Uh-oh, I thought, here it comes.  If I don’t answer it correctly, he’ll say no!  But the question was pretty simple.  He asked why the unemployed part?  I interpreted that meaning wouldn’t it be easier if an employed person would be the one doing the giving?  And I think I was correct in my interpretation.  My response was a couple of reasons and I gave them with the caveat that it was from my perspective.  I felt as an unemployed person, it was a shock at first and I was okay with it being that way right in the beginning, but after the newness wore off, it felt like I wasn’t a contributing member of society anymore.  This type of giving was helping me back in the fold.  I had something to offer someone.   The second reason was that it just feels good when you’re giving.

I’m guessing I interpreted right as he agreed on the being a contribution part and he indeed, said yes to the money. He even said he felt honored to be given it!  He himself was unemployed for nine months and shared that same feeling about needing to contribute to society.  His name is Tim L. and he’s from Wethersfield, CT.  He and his girlfriend were coming back from skiing at Catamount up in Hillsdale, NY and added the skiing was great there!  From middle school on, he said he always wanted to be in radio, on-air.

 

Tim L. at Tonio's Pizzeria in New Hartford, CT.

He graduated from the Connecticut School of Broadcasting and then had an internship at Clear Channel Radio.  He was on his way!  Unfortunately, due to the economy, he was laid off and he’s currently working in the mental health field at Community Mental Health Affiliates.  He helps monitor people with mental health problems and it keeps him quite busy.  His first love is radio though and before he left the internship, he was working in promotions for Clear Channel and liked that as well.  Unfortunately he couldn’t find a job in radio, and he was just starting to get into the behind the scenes work.

 

I said earlier that life takes a strange turn and because that first person said no to my $10, I felt I was destined to meet Tim, just to share radio stories!  My career in communications started in radio as well, after completing a course in NY, similar to Tim’s path.  We had a common bond!  So it was fun hearing someone else saying they had a passion for radio.

Tim had gotten his pizza, and I had gotten my sandwich and his girlfriend, who had been waiting in the car for him, came into the restaurant wondering what was up?  I felt bad keeping him and asking questions, but she was very nice and waited till we were done. I gave him my card, took his picture and he said he would look up the website for Year of Giving and we both went our separate ways.

Two questions I wished I would have asked him…1. What was he going to do with the money?  And 2, is there anything he would like in the Lend a Hand portion of the website?  I’m totally guessing on #2, but I bet he would love a job in radio!

So, Tim if you read this, what did you do with the money and am I right about #2?

 

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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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This photo is from the video below.

Hey, so some people have been nominating the Year of Giving for the Most Creative Social Good Campaign for the 4th Annual Mashable Awards.  If you would like to vote for the Year of Giving as well, click here!

After 323 days of giving, I naturally gravitate to things that are new or happen for the first time.  Like on Sunday I shared with you a story about me giving my $10 to my dentist – which by the way I got lots of feedback that people don’t like to see teeth on my website!  That was the first time I had given the money to someone in the medical field who saw me as a patient.  On Day 317 I gave my $10 MSNBC morning host Willie Geist.  It somehow mixes things up for me.  Well today I have another “first” as I like to call them. 

I was at a writing workshop that is put on a Borders Books at 18th and L Streets in DC.  For six weeks we would meet and practice our writing.  On this day, Trevor, an unemployed 32-year-old political campaign veteran showed up.  He was very talented.  At the end of the class the discussion turned toward my Year of Giving.  “I’m unemployed and haven’t had dinner yet…I’ll take your ten bucks,” he said to me.  I haven’t ever given to someone who has asked outright for it except for the homeless and street panhandlers.  But I thought sure, why not.

He put a creative spin on his current employment situation.  “I like to think of myself as between jobs…or funemployed…or maybe consulting or freelancing, or maybe I should just call myself an artist.”  Most recently he was working on political campaigns for the Democratic Party.  “I feel like my purpose is to write attack ads against Republicans.”

He’s got a plethora of work experience.  He’s worked in a pornographic book store, has done screen writing and started a nonprofit.  “That one gave me a nervous breakdown,” he said.  “And it job taught me the difference between having a job and a mission.  It’s not good to have a mission.”  I’m not sure I agree with that…maybe I misunderstood what he was getting at.

Currently he is supporting himself with some photography.  He lists Sally Mann of Virginia as a photographer that he appreciates.  She’s got a book called the Deep South that was sitting on the chair next to him.  Trevor offered to photograph the year-end celebration on December 14th…hopefully he’s willing to donate his services for that in the spirit of the project.  

Check out some excerpts from my conversation with him…

Some other random tidbits… Trevor told me that for his 18th birthday he bought himself a pair of custom leather pants.  In London he won $3,000, half of which he spent on a gold lamé suit.  He promised to send me a picture and tell me what he was going to do with the $10, but I haven’t received it yet…maybe he will update us all.  

All in all a pretty interesting guy and wickedly talented …unfortunately we didn’t see him at any more workshops.

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After a woman refused to be my recipient, I spotted a father and his son riding bikes together at Dupont Circle.  They seemed like perfect recipients. 

Jim and Addison next to the fountain at Dupont Circle. (photo: Reed)

 

I approached them and asked if they had a second.  “I probably won’t be able to help you though,” Jim said.  I get this often because most people think that I am going to ask them for money.  When I told him that I wanted to give him and his son, Addison, my ten spot of the day, his eye brows perked up. 

As it turns out, Jim is a former office manager / loan officer of a brokerage firm here in DC.  Unfortunately the banking crisis left him in the same boat that I was in earlier this year; out of a job.  “It’s been about a year and a half,” Jim says.  I told him that I was out of work for 285 days and I think he could tell that I understand some of what he is going through.  

At one point, Jim laughed at something I said and he grabbed his right side of his abdomen.  “Don’t make me laugh, I’ve got a hernia.”  Without insurance he has put surgery on hold which is not a good thing.  Left untreated they can lead to severe complications.  Would some doctor in the DC help Jim out and operate on his hernia for free?  Come on DC doctors, step up!   

Jim and Addison toured the entire city by bike. (photo: Reed)

 

They said that they were probably going to use the $10 for some groceries, but I later found out Jim was at a convenience store when a woman attempted to purchase a candy bar with her credit card. She was informed that there was a minimum amount required in order to pay by credit card, so she just put the candy bar back.  Jim stopped her and offered to buy it for her, which she gratefully accepted.  He also told her about the Year of Giving and the ten dollars that he had received.  The rest of their ten dollars was spent on some groceries and a $1 lottery ticket which I assume didn’t win, or they would have told me. 

I asked both Jim and Addison if there was anything they needed or wanted for the Lend a Hand project.  Jim quickly said that he would love to land a new job (see the Lend a Hand section for details on what he is looking for).  “Oh, and someone to operate on my hernia,” Jim added.  Addison had three requests, “I’d like to meet President Obama, Ellen Degeneres, or Dwyane Wade of the Miami Heat.”   

I have an idea, what if one of Addison’s idols offered to sponsor his dad’s surgery?  Maybe we could kill two birds with one stone.  

Jim was thinking about Addison’s “wishes” and added, “You know what I would also love to do, is have dinner and drinks with Bill Maher, he’s hilarious.”  He started to laugh a little but his smile quickly gave way to a grimace of pain as he grabbed his abdomen again. 

Some other little bits of trivia… Jim has become a bit of an amateur genealogist and has traced his family back some 40+ generations.  Along the way he discovered that he has connections to President Bush, Frankish leader Charles Martel and Charlamagne, King of the Franks and Emperor of the Romans.  I know my dad would be excited about the Roman ancestry part – he is so into Roman history these days. 

Anyway, I let father and son continue on their bike ride.  After all, it was a gorgeous afternoon – just perfect for exploring the city on a bicycle.

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Harvey, 42, suffers from mental illness and has been homeless for about a year. (photo: Reed)

On any given night some 671,000 people in the United States, of which 5,320 are located in DC, are homeless according to the National Alliance to End Homelessness.  Harvey is one of them.

I saw him sitting on the ground next to the entrance to McDonald’s on M Street between 19th and 20th Streets in Northwest.  On his lap was a sign that read, “A man in need is a man without greed.  Please help.”  Next to him was a styrofoam container of food and a bag of personal items.

I met Harvey while he was eating lunch. (photo: Reed)

“I’ve been homeless here in DC for about a year now,” Harvey tells me as he eats some ribs that he purchased for his lunch.  Originally from Lancaster, PA, Harvey said he came down to DC with the hope of a job but his plans were shot after being robbed at Union Station upon arriving here.  “I lost everything I had – some $2,600 in cash.” 

He says that he feels lucky in the sense that people often help him.  “I usually get about $30 a day out here.”  Harvey says that gets support from people from a wide range of socioeconomic backgrounds and races with one exception: Asians.  “I don’t know why but Orientals never help me out.”  He goes on to tell me that people who appear to be lower glass give more often than those who appear to be middle and upper class.

As we talked two people stopped to help Harvey out.  One was a young attractive professional who dropped some coins in his cup as she walked by.  The other was a British woman who stopped and asked if she could get him some food.  A few minutes later Jane returned from the McDonald’s with a bag that contained a Big-Mac, fries and a chocolate milkshake.  She even gave him the change from whatever amount she had used to pay for the food.  I asked her why she helped and she said that she felt very fortunate and that the least she could do is help someone else out.  “He’s down on his luck and I am able to help him out, that’s it.”

Harvey says that he has noticed that people’s response varies on the sign that he uses.  “One time I had a sign that said, ‘Please spare help for a worthless piece of shit.’  I made $60 that day.”  Although he was happy for the money he made that day, he stopped using the sign.  “I’m not a worthless piece of shit though; it’s hard to sit here behind that sign when you know that isn’t the truth.”

photo: Reed

He says that being on the streets has taught him survival skills.  “You have to take care of yourself, especially in the winter.  You learn how to use things like cardboard to help you stay warm.”  He also told me that he often has to shower in public fountains.  “I just bought some soap today, I try to stay clean.”

Harvey, who says he has five sisters and three brothers, isn’t in regular contact with most of his family.  “They don’t care about others.”  He also doesn’t seem to have any friends in DC.  “I don’t associate with too many people.”

He goes on to say that some of his challenges are a result of his mental illness.  “Most homeless suffer from sort of mental problem or physical problem.  I’m bipolar.”  Harvey says that he has often thought about committing suicide.  He doesn’t take any medication to help with his mental illness either.

He told me that he was going to use the ten dollars to get him some food over the next couple days and also buy a couple of beers for the evening.  “I don’t do any drugs or hard liquor.  The hard stuff makes me suicidal,” Harvey confessed. 

I shook his hand and wished him luck.  He mentioned some items that he needs and I have added them to the Lend a Hand page.

If you would like to help the homeless in Washington, DC, I encourage you to support your local Street Sense vendor or make a donation through their website.

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