Archive for February, 2010

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Making a Difference When No One Else Cares To

February 19, 2010

First off my name is Dean Kenneth Young and I’m proud of my story so if you feel its worth printing, please do. This story happened a few years back when I was waiting tables near the beach in southern California.  The restaurant I worked at was renowned for our guest service and the way we made everyone feel like family. At the end of your meal we would present your check on a silver platter (the restaurant was a tiny hole in the wall Italian place like you find on every other block in NYC) with a personal thank you card from your server, a toothpick and mint for each guest at the table. But the real treat were the fresh baked chocolate chip cookies we would also set down at the end of your meal, free of charge. Just an extra little thank you for choosing to spend your lunch/dinner time with us. Now not everyone eats or wants their cookies. And every night or afternoon when Id get off work, I would always pass by this homeless man on my way back up to where I had to park to beat the parking meter Nazi’s lol. Well, normally I didn’t pay him any attention, because he obviously wasn’t mentally or physically challenged and looked to be capable of holding a job. So after a while, I started bringing him all the extra cookies that would accumulate at the end of a shift. I figured he might be an addict or drunk and would just use any money I gave him to get his next fix. The first time I gave him a bag of fresh chocolate chip cookies…. wow, I’ve never in my life felt so much gratitude for such a small gesture. He thanked me and I went on my way. Well dropping off a bag of warm cookies became a daily ritual, we’d talk a bit here and there, basically just shoot the breeze. Well after a few weeks I asked him why he’s livin’ on the streets. Turns out the guy lost everything, came back from a stint in the service overseas to find his wife had cleaned him out, sold everything he owned, wiped out the bank account and basically took off to Mexico with another man. The guys depression got so bad he got a medical discharge and just wandered from north San Diego county all the way up to the South Bay where my restaurant was located. He had tried to get a job but he had no money, nowhere to live, and a few clothes including the ones on his back that had worn far worse than I think the military ever had them designed to. The guy had high caliber computer skills, he just couldn’t get a job because he had nowhere to go and no one to fall back on, no family, nothin’.

So almost a month after I started dropping off cookies for him, and yes I introduced myself and got his name the first time, I just dont have the right to add his name to this story officially, I found him in his normal spot. But this time I didnt have any cookies, he looked up and greeted me and I could see he noticed I didnt have a bag and asked me if we had a problem with the baker that night. I offered my hand towards him without a word and when he grabbed mine I pulled him to his feet and told him “Gettin you back on your feet may seem impossible, but with a friend and a helping hand its going to be as easy as you getting up just now.” He kind of looked bewildered and I told him to get his things and follow me. We got up to my truck and got in and he asked where we were goin. I told him it was a surprise and to feel free and change the radio to whatever kind of music he wanted to hear. Unfortunately he changed it to country….. *sigh* lol.  Now I barely knew the guy so I wasnt going to act that trusting and bring him to my house. So I drove to the closest decent motel I knew of which was only a mile or so away and got him registered into a room. The night manager didnt look all that happy with having the guy there, but I flashed my cash and he didnt say a word. We got to the room and I got him settled in. Out of my back pocked I pulled a small bag with a razor, toothbrush, comb and pair of scissors in it. I tossed it to him and told him to get cleaned up and get a good nights rest because I would pick him up the next morning well before I had to go to work.

I wasnt sure what Id find the next morning when I knocked on the door. When it opened I was stunned, shocked, and those words dont even come close. I thought this guy was well older than me and I was only 26. I mean he had the long scraggly beard and mane of mangy hair and so much dirt crusted on his skin it made him look 80! The guy that opened the door looked younger than me! I had never asked him how old he was and he told me 25. He was younger than me! He thanked me for the room and letting him get cleaned up and said he had to be on his way to panhandle before it got too hot out. I told him nope, not today. Im not done with you yet! That day I took him out shopping for new clothes and a suit… granted we only went to Target because I wasnt all that well off. After that I took him back to the motel and had him dress in the suit and new shoes I had just given him. Then we drove down to a temp agency that I knew of and used whenever I needed extra money or was in between jobs. The manager of the place was good friends with my aunt and one of the nicest ladies you could hope to meet. When we sat down in her office I didnt tell her the whole situation but introduced my friend and told her he did work with computers and asked if she could talk with him. She agreed as a favor kind of and I waited in the lobby. About an hour later my friend came out with a smile on his face and proceeded to tell me about the job she offered. It paid very well even after the commission the agency got, had nice hours, opportunity for overtime and had the opportunity to become permanent if he did well after 3 months. The only problem was it was in downtown L.A. and he had no transportation and wouldnt even let me think of taking him after all Id done. No problem I said, and trust me I dont want to be your chauffer either. Then I asked if he wanted the job and he said it was perfect for him, so I told him ok, Ill pay your motel, meals, and get you passes for the Green Line to get to and from work until your first paycheck and can support yourself again. At that point he just lost control of his emotion and started crying thanking me, saying no one in his whole life ever did anything close to what Ive done and I was a total stranger. He then told me that he would pay me pack every cent as soon as he was on his feet and moving forward with his life again. I shook my head and said “I dont want you to pay me back, its enough for me that I was able to help you and also get my brownie points with karma at the same time.” He insisted that he had to pay me back somehow and wouldnt take no for an answer. So finally I told him “Tell you what, when you get to the point where youre back on your feet and financially secure enough to pay me back for what Ive done for you, turn and go the opposite direction away from where I am. Keep going until you come across someone that can benefit from your kindness, your charity, your friendship and help them the way I helped you or anyway they need you to help them.”

I saw him again a couple years later down near the beach around where the restaurant I used to work was. He had been hangin around down there a little each day for a couple months hoping to run into me. I had gone surfing down near the pier and when I came back to my truck he was leaning against it. He rushed up and took my hand shaking it vigorously while at the same time pouring out the last couple years events in his life like he was trying to do it all in one breath. Turns out he did very well at that company and now owned his own home and was set for anything life could dish out. Then he proceeded to thank me and tell me how he “payed it forward”. Well he thought about helping out one of the many homeless all of us southern Californians see each and every day but which one? Then he came across an inner city youth that was from a broken home, didnt know his father, barely knew his mother because she wasnt home and just ran the streets. To make this long story a little shorter, turns out the kid loved baseball and my friend basically became a big brother father figure to the kid and even donated enough money for the kid and a group of his friends to form a team, along with all the uniforms and equipment to go with it. He also took them to a bunch of Dodger games and is now their little league coach and a positive figure in their community even though it isnt his own. And as we said our farewells, he told me he coaches the kids not only about baseball but about how even small acts of kindness can change anyones life for the better. This story began in 1997, when I saw the movie Pay It Forward it brought back memories and I wept at the simplicity of bringing joy to anyones life and how it can become a movement. I just wish more people knew about this website, this foundation, that its real and not just the story of a movie with Kevin Spacey.

This story and other inspiring stories from the Pay It Forward Movement.

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Meeting New Neighbors

February 17, 2010

One day I pulled up to my apartment building and noticed a father and daughter unloading a moving truck. Normally I shy away from contact with strangers. That particular day, though, I felt like I should just help these people unload their truck. I approached them to introduce myself, welcome them to the town and offer to help. After changing into proper shoes (I was wearing flip-flops), I went over and helped them move all of their belongings into the apartment. After we finished, we talked some and I got to know my new neighbors. It might seem insignificant, but it seems like people are less open and friendly with their neighbors these days. I want to change that, at least in my small apartment complex. As we talked I discovered they were from Florida just like me! During this particular time in my life, I was going through a really difficult breakup with my girlfriend of seven years. I didn’t feel like helping anyone or doing anything positive, but I figured why not? And I’m glad I did. Also, as luck would have it, their daughter is my age (college student) and we’ve developed a friendship.

The reward was the act itself, though. I got to know my new neighbors and made some new friends in the process. And I felt really good about it. Since then, I’ve tried expanding my comfort zone to perform other random acts of kindness. So far, so good. I’d encourage everyone else to do the same!

This inspirational story provided by the Acts of Kindness Foundation HERE.  Visit their website for ideas for acts of kindness in the classroom, the office and in your community.  Visit our website for opportunities to volunteer if you’re looking for a more traditional way to provide service to the community.

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This Just In…

February 16, 2010

Do you love to blog? Are you the person with a camera at every event you attend to capture the memories you make? Use your creative writing and passion for service as a co-writer for the Volunteer Center blog. Volunteer bloggers should have excellent writing skills including spelling and grammar. Our ideal blogger will be an active participant in the community and utilize the Volunteer Center’s website on a regular basis.

Bloggers should be able to make a minimum 6 month commitment to the project. Bloggers should be participating in at least 1 volunteer opportunity each month through the Volunteer Center website in order to write about their experiences. Bloggers can also write about long term volunteering experiences they participate in, community events or other volunteerism related topics. Bloggers can also interview other volunteers to share their stories through the blog. Experience with Blogger or writing your own blog a plus. Volunteers must have their own computer and email access as this opportunity will be completed from home. Successful bloggers may have the opportunity to write for our Volunteer and Partner newsletters as well.

Click HERE to express your interest in joining our volunteer blog team!

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Random Acts of Kindness = Free Coffee

February 16, 2010
In celebration of Random Acts of Kindness Week from February 15-21, United Way’s Volunteer Center and select local locations of The Coffee Bean & Tea Leaf are teaming up to encourage niceties among Las Vegans.

Good Samaritans will be rewarded with a free specialty coffee drink on Monday, February 22 or Tuesday, February 23, as a thank you for their random act of kindness. Coupons for the complimentary regular-sized specialty drink will be emailed to those who report their nice gesture online at coffeebeanlv.com/kindness, and are redeemable at neighborhood locations of The Coffee Bean & Tea Leaf in Las Vegas and Henderson.

“The Coffee Bean & Tea Leaf in Nevada is a locally owned and operated organization that cares about the people in its community, so partnering with the United Way and the Volunteer Center of Southern Nevada for Random Acts of Kindness Week was a natural fit,” said Phil Patent, president and chief operating officer for The Coffee Bean & Tea Leaf Nevada franchise. “We are proud to support the pay-it-forward concept and can’t wait to see what niceties are reported online.”

United Way’s Volunteer Center is offering ideas for qualifying activities throughout the week by posting inspirational messages on its Facebook and Twitter pages. “A random act of kindness can be very simple,” said Robin Kelley, director of the Volunteer Center of Southern Nevada. “Ideas range from simply writing a thank you note to someone, or complimenting everyone you encounter on a single day, to donating blood or volunteering your time through our center.”

Further ideas and suggestions on random acts of kindness and more information about the promotion can be found at coffeebeanlv.com/kindness. Those looking to volunteer their time during this national week of humanitarianism should visit the Volunteer Center of Southern Nevada at VolunteerCenterSN.org, or follow United Way on Facebook or Twitter (uwsn.org/connected).

For more information on Nevada’s The Coffee Bean and Tea Leaf, visit http://www.coffeebeanlv.com/.

About The Coffee Bean & Tea Leaf
The Coffee Bean & Tea Leaf® is the oldest and largest privately-held chain of specialty coffee and tea stores in the United States. The Company has more than 520 stores, 275 of which are company owned and 245 are franchised. The first Nevada location opened in November 2001 by local entrepreneur Jeff Fine and has grown to a total of 15 coffee and tea shops. http://www.coffeebeanlv.com/

Need Some Inspiration?  
 “I’ve learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.”
– Maya Angelou (American poet, 1928)

Random acts of kindness can be as simple as holding the door open for the person behind you, letting someone go ahead of you at the grocery store or paying someone a sincere compliment.  The great thing about random acts of kindness is that they can be done anywhere, any time and throughout the year.  Check out The Random Acts of Kindness Foundation for ideas that can be implemented at school, at work or in your community.  There are also quotes and stories to help inspire you to share some kindness to those around you.

Another option is to “Pay it Forward” which became a movement after the film featuring Kevin Spacey, Helen Hunt and Haley Joel Osment debuted in 2000.  Visit the Pay it Forward Foundation for stories, school toolkits and great ways to get involved.

Be sure to connect with us through our social networking sites (Facebook, Twitter, Blogger, MySpace) for more words of inspiration, acts of kindness ideas and opportunities to volunteer.  We’ll post something new every day of the week.  If you complete one of the suggested acts of kindness or volunteer at one of our suggested opportunities be sure to come back and let us know what happened.  We welcome comments and pictures from your acts of kindness.

“No kind action ever stops with itself.  One kind action leads to another.  Good example is followed.  A single act of kindness throws out roots in all directions, and the roots spring up and make new trees.  The greatest work that kindness does to others is that it makes them kind themselves.” 
– Amelia Earhart (First woman to fly solo across the Atlantic Ocean. 1897-1937)