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Bob Moon: With the unemployment rate still hovering around 10 percent, it’s probably safe to assume those millions of Americans out of work haven’t been wandering around giving their money away. Except for one we know of. It’s a guy who was laid off not long ago in Washington, D.C. And for the last four months, he’s been dipping into his savings, handing 10 bucks to a different stranger each day.
From WAMU, Rebecca Sheir has his story.
Rebecca Sheir: Reed Sandridge calls it the “Year of Giving.” And every day, when he walks up to a complete stranger to offer money, the reaction is usually the same.
Ivory Wilson: I was like, “Holy! You’re just gonna give me 10 bucks?”
That’s Ivory Wilson, from day 49 of the year-long project. Wilson is homeless, and happily took the money to buy some food. But Sandridge doesn’t just approach the down-and-out.
Reed Sandridge: Some people don’t think they’re deserving of it. My response to that’s always, “Well, give it to someone that you think, you know, you don’t need to keep it!”
I tag along with Sandridge on day 86, when he approaches a well-dressed guy near the White House.
Sandridge: My name’s Reed. I’m doing a year-long commitment to giving.
Nathan Andrews, it turns out, is a life-long Washingtonian who, like Sandridge, lost his job last year. Though, when they meet, Andrews has no idea his surprise benefactor is in the same boat.
Nathan Andrews: What, you became independently wealthy, giving away your wealth?
Sandridge: No, I wish. I got laid off.
Sandridge was a manager at a local nonprofit. Now that he’s out of work, the $3,650 he’s shelling out over the year isn’t exactly pocket change.
Sandridge: I put this money aside to give away. But I try to make a lot of meals rather than going out, I canceled a vacation that I was planning to go on. So, as long as I get a job somewhat soon, I’ll be fine.
Every time Sandridge gives money to people, he learns their stories and posts them on his blog. He also keeps track of how they’ll spend their 10 bucks. Nathan Andrews says he’ll do the most popular thing: Get a bite to eat.
Andrews: I might go buy my brother lunch.
Sandridge: Buy your brother lunch?
Andrews: Yeah, he works across the street.
Sandridge: That’s a great thing to do with it.
Roger, a homeless man from Day 57, says he’s saving the money for housing. Cleo from Day 51 plays his trumpet outside the Verizon Center before hockey and basketball games. He says he’s buying a new music stand. But really, the way Sandridge sees it, the Year of Giving isn’t about the money.
Sandridge: Ten dollars doesn’t change someone’s life, with a few exceptions of Davie, from I think day 5. It was what he needed to get a bus ticket to New York for some things he had to do there. But it’s not about the $10. It’s about the act of giving when there’s no reason to give, and that altruistic spirit.
The same altruistic spirit he says his mother embodied, before she died of heart disease in 2006.
Sandridge: She was kind to a fault, probably. She always thought of others before herself.
That’s why Sandridge started the Year of Giving on Dec. 15th.
Sandridge: Which is actually the anniversary of her passing. So when that day comes around, I can remember, you know, something I know she would have loved.
When the next Dec. 15 comes around, Sandridge has big plans.
Sandridge: At the end of my Year of Giving, I’m planning a celebration. I’d like everyone who I’ve given to, to come to that.
In the meantime, Sandridge will pound the pavement again today, approaching some incredulous person on the streets of D.C., and offer a 10-dollar bill with no strings attached.
In Washington, I’m Rebecca Sheir for Marketplace.
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