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Today I met a man named Dallas who was working at the Ramada Hotel.  Dallas has worked at the Ramada for 2 years and usually works the night shift.  He likes working nights because it’s more laid back.  His favorite part of the job is getting to know the guests that stay at the hotel even though some of them he may never see again.

Dallas grew up in Nebraska and moved to Florida in his 20’s.  He met his wife there and they lived in Florida for about 15 years before moving to Ohio to be closer to her family.  Dallas has lived in Ohio for 15 years and really enjoys it even though the weather is quite different.

He laughed about people who live in Florida not knowing what snow is.  When asked what he thought he was going to use the $10 toward at first he said he wasn’t really sure but quickly decided he was going to take himself out to breakfast when he got off work that morning.

-Melinda T. from Xenia, OH / Dec. 25, 2010

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View from Tabaq of the Washington Monument keeping watch over DC.

On day 352 I headed over to Tabaq Bistro, the venue for my year-end celebration, to meet up with my friend Patricia who managed the entire event.  She’s a rock star and knows how to run events.  We went over a bunch of logistical issues about things you’d never dream of (i.e. will they have waiters or a buffet table, what kind of connection cables does their sound system use (1/4 inch if you were wondering), does the price quoted include serving plates and napkins, and the list goes on.  After an exhausting review of items, my head was sufficiently cloudy and we decided to get some food upstairs and figure out what we had forgotten.

We maneuvered our way up the two flights of dimly lit stairs to the upper level of Tabaq which has one of the best views in DC if you haven’t been there.  Its wall to wall glass gives sweeping views toward the downtown, the monuments and beyond.  We grabbed some space at the rather empty bar area and ordered a drink and began perusing the dinner menu.  Muhammara, that sounds interesting.  It’s a roasted red pepper and walnut puree.  We got one of those and chicken breast stuffed with spinach, cheese and peppers that glistened with thin layer of port wine sauce.  My mind swirled like the cocktails the bartender was serving up.  There were a myriad of things that had to still get done that day.  One of which was to deliver my $10 to some unsuspecting individual.

Rachel chatting with Patricia.

Our bartender was a young woman named Rachel.  Why not give it to her?  She was very friendly and frankly had the time since at the time we were her only customers.  The Connecticut native had been working there for about a month.  She recently graduated from American University with a degree in graphic design and photography.  My friend Patricia also went to American University here in DC and actually knew exactly where Rachel lived in Connecticut.  Small world…almost freaky.

Rachel mixes up the perfect martini.

The world is in fact small for Rachel.  She loves to travel.  Maybe it’s because her father is originally from New Zealand and she has always had the international bug.  Her father grew up in Auckland.  “I’d like to move to New Zealand some day,” Rachel says.  “Maybe try sailing or just hang out for a while,” she added.

At some point the conversation turned very technical focusing on the specific fonts she used to develop her website – which you can find here!  “I used universe font,” she started to say, “I tried to avoid gil sans and helvetica.”  Fonts…hmm, I can barely choose between wearing brown or black shoes in the morning much less what kind of font I am going to use on my website and documents.  Patricia and Rachel debated the finer points of fonts – the conversation gliding far above my comprehension.  I drifted in and out of the conversation while shifting my attention to the hearty portion of Muhammara that was still in front of us.

A cherry blossom photograph that Rachel made. For more of her work, click on the photo to visit her website.

Rachel stood close enough to get us something should we need it but not too close to make us feel uncomfortable as we ate.  “So what do you think you will use the ten dollars for,” I asked the camera shy bartender.  She paused for a moment and told me that she would probably use it to pay for the Metro or maybe put it toward a dinner she planned to make that week for a really good friend of hers.  “I’m thinking about making chicken picatta,” she said.

 

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Yesterday evening was Day 365 of my Year of Giving.  It was absolutely brilliant.  It was so good to see so many past recipients of my $10 joined by blog followers, family and friends.  I couldn’t have asked for a more perfect evening.  If you want to get a taste of how the evening went, check out this awesome segment that ran on ABC-7 here in DC.  More to come on this when I write up the blog post for Day 365.

I hope I look as good as Margie does when I'm 65!

Now, let me take you back 17 days to a cold November 28th.  My brother Ryan invited me to be his guest at a Washington Capitals game.  It was there that I met Margie while she checked the tickets of the fans who entered the 200 level concourse. 

Margie, an usher at the arena for the past nine years, works all kinds of events.  “At first I didn’t care for hockey because I didn’t understand it, but I’ve learned some of the rules and things and now I’d probably say that it’s my favorite.”

A DC native, Margie and has four children and five grandchildren!  I wasn’t surprised to learn that she had worked in the nursing and healthcare field for most of her life as she is clearly a caring person.  She provided home healthcare for both children and adults; helping them bath, get dressed, cook, grocery shop, etc.  “I love helping people,” Margie said, “I’m a people person.” 

We laughed a lot.

She told me that this has been a difficult year for her.  “I’ve been having kidney and liver problems,” sounding positive despite the unfortunate circumstances.  She’s on several medications and hopes that her situation starts to improve soon.  It would be completely reasonable for her to use the $10 to help pay for the medications that she needs, but she decided to pass it on to someone who needs it more than she does; one of Margie’s daughters has a foster child who is expecting a baby.  As she looked down at the ten-dollar bill in her hand she said, “I know she could use the money.” 

I gave her a big hug before I left.  I look forward to seeing her again the next time I am at the Verizon Center.

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Just four more days.  Wow…time flies when you are having fun (and scrambling to get everything ready for Tuesday’s celebration!)  Lots of recipients and blog followers have RSVP’d for the event.  It will surely be an interesting evening.  Some donations are coming in for the raffle and auction, but still no primary sponsor.  Hmmm….it looks like I am the primary sponsor 😉

Here in DC it seems like Starbucks cafes are everywhere.  I think you can walk to five of them within ten minutes of my house.  Oh, before I go on, let me go back to the sponsorship item really quick since I mentioned Starbucks.  I actually thought they would be a very interesting sponsor.  I have given my $10 away at several Starbucks locations, have given to employees, and happen to frequent their establishment quite often myself.  In addition, the Year of Giving is all about bringing people together, connecting our community.  I’m guessing that if you ask Starbucks what their business is, I doubt they’d say it was making coffee…but providing a much bigger holistic service that had more to do with bringing people together.  Maybe not, just a guess.  But anyway, nothing from them yet…although that’s not for a lack of trying.

Cliff nimbly maneuvers over the curb.

Anyway, do you ever think about how is that every morning a place like Starbucks has everything it needs to quench your cravings?  It’s because of people.  It’s because of great people like Cliff who I ran into on the night before Thanksgiving.  I guess I could say Thanksgiving Eve, but that sounds weird to me.  Anyway, he was hard at work around 10:30pm at the Starbucks closest to my apartment.

I walked around to the back of his truck where he was pulling a dozen crates off at a time with a dolly and then rolling them into the cafe.  Each one was full with fresh milk, coffee beans, pastries, you name it.  “I don’t work for Starbucks directly, but they’re the only account I service,” Cliff told me as he heaved the dolly up over the curb.  “You build up some muscles doing this,” he added with a half smiling half grimacing expression.  He rolled the dolly around the side of the truck, opened the door, and backed into the now dimly lit coffee haven.  It was weird to see someone inside a dark completely empty Starbucks.  Usually they are brightly lit with an even flow customers percolating in and out. 

He came back with an empty dolly ready to load up another set of crates.  Cliff was very friendly and willing to speak with me although he told me he used to be more reserved and kept to himself.  I found that hard to believe based on my encounter with him. 

“It usually takes me about 10-12 hours to do my shift,” he said.  Starbucks goes through a lot of product.  He told me something like that he delivered some 686 units of milk each day, and I can’t remember if that is total or per store.  I’m guessing total, but I just did a quick search and it seems like it is possible that that figure is per store if he delivers every other day.

“I’m a very happily married man,” the 44-year-old from Maryland told me.  “I’ve got two girls and two boys; been married for 18 years.”  I asked if he was going to be spending Thanksgiving with the entire family and he said only one of his kids would be home, “The others are all grown and have their own families.” 

Cliff is a solid guy, not only personality-wise but also physically.  Let’s put it this way, you wouldn’t want to have to wrestle him to get your coffee every morning.  He’s recently been focusing on his health.  “I’ve been working on my weight,” he shared.  “I’ve lost 40 pounds…you see I’m diabetic,” he told me as he muscled another load over the curb.  “I got 20 more pounds to go to reach my goal of 200.”  That’s quite an achievement to lose 40 pounds. 

I waited for him while he disappeared again and delivered the goods.  I looked at the lined walls of the interior of the truck.  It was full of all kinds of goodies.  My mind slipped into a dream-like state and I envisioned myself driving the truck around giving all the homeless people I have met this year some hot coffee and pastries. 

I needed to get on the road to Pennsylvania and I’m sure Cliff was getting sick of chatting with me.  He came back and I asked him what he was going to do with his money.  “I’m going to give it to my wife,” he said grinning like a child.  “A man’s got to provide for his wife and family.”  I shook Cliff’s hand and invited him to the Year of Giving Anniversary Celebration this Tuesday.  “I might have to work that night,” he said.  “But let’s see.”  I started to walk away and he added one last thing, “I’m going to tell my wife about this.  She’s gonna love it.”

I walked back to my apartment, got in my car and began the two-hour drive to Mechanicsburg to spend Thanksgiving with my father.

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