Photo of Sandridge sitting with "Nature Boy" on a park bench.
Reed Sandridge tapes his latest beneficiary, Elijah Alfred “Nature Boy” Alexander, Jr. for his year-long project, titled “The Year of Giving.” Photo by Jon Howell.

“Happiness is only real when shared” 

“This is…ion Station Met…. Doors opening.” Ding. The sounds of shuffling feet fill the air as hurried individuals exit the Metro train and head toward the escalator. The chatter of cell phone talkers reverberates across the crowded room. The flashing white sign is the signal to cross the street. This daily routine can become somewhat monotonous if time is not taken out of a day to interact with strangers. Reed Sandridge ensures that he breaks the monotony by giving $10 away to a stranger every day.  

“I enjoy stories and getting to know and be with someone,” Sandridge said. “I’ve met drug addicts who sit down and cry when they tell me about their drug addictions and have met people who have just had babies. I’ve heard about the highs and lows of people’s life. That’s powerful.”  

Unemployment posed a unique opportunity for Sandridge to pursue his personal goals and focus on helping others.  

“Unemployment is a time that’s difficult and emotional, but it is also an opportunity to do, go and explore,” Sandridge said.  

“While I was working, I volunteered at S.O.M.E. about once a month, but now I have the opportunity to go there more often. I couldn’t do that before.” Sandridge’s “Year of Giving” began at 3:30 p.m. on Tuesday, December 15, 2009. “That was the three-year anniversary of my mom’s death, so I wanted to do something happy to remember the day,” Sandridge said. “I also wanted to do something that got me closer to my community as well as inspired others to give altruistically.”  

Photo of Sandridge sitting on a park bench.

After Sandridge lost his job in October 2009 at a non-profit in D.C., he decided to to give $10 a day to a stranger. Photo by Jon Howell.

For 365 days, Sandridge is setting out to find a stranger to whom he can give $10. The money comes from his savings account. After locating the recipient of his $10, Sandridge then composes a short story of their encounter and posts pictures and videos on his blog.  

Sandridge decides on recipients in two different ways. “I live an everyday life, too,” he said. “I have dinner with friends, go to job interviews, and so I sometimes just give the $10 out when I am on my way to or from something. Other times, I specifically go out to find someone. I sometimes look for a specific type of person, such as someone who lives on the streets, or I just find someone I can have a connection with.”  

The reactions of the individuals he has a conversation with are varied. “People are often surprised at what I am doing and think I must be a millionaire,” he said. “They are even more surprised when they learn that I am unemployed. Generally, everyone has been really positive and have told me that my giving has inspired them to give more themselves.”  

While he is having a conversation with the person, Sandridge asks them if there is anything they need. He then puts their requests on the “Lend a Hand” section of his blog so his readers can help some of his recipients.  

Sandridge does not think that the people he meets are truly that interested in the $10. “This is about the moment and the connection I can gain with someone,” he said. “The most important part of my encounters with people is that they have someone to listen to. You cannot achieve happiness unless you have someone to share it with.”  

Sandridge, who was an Eagle Scout, has always been interested in helping others and recognizes the value in the power of a simple conversation.  

“My parents gave everything up for my brother and I,” Sandridge said. “I was very fortunate because their priority was us. My mom worked the night shift at a nursing home. She would go to work after she tucked us in and then help us get ready for school when she came back home.”  

Sandridge is unsure of the next steps he will take. “I am not satisfied getting the same type of job I previously had because of this experience,” Sandridge said. He plans on continuing his Year of Giving after this year ends on December 14, but he anticipates being more creative.  

What advice does Sandridge offer to other unemployed individuals? “It is a time to re-evaluate a passion, dedicate time to it and to explore new passions.”  

For more information about his Year of Giving, go to Sandridge’s blog at http://yearofgiving.wordpress.com