LIANE HANSEN, host:
This is WEEKEND EDITION from NPR News. I'm Liane Hansen.
It's a safe bet that the last thing youd do after losing your job is give away money. Reed Sandridge was laid off last year as director of a nonprofit group in Washington, D.C. The 36-year-old came up with a pet project to keep him busy while he looked for work. He calls it the year of giving.
Every day, Sandridge walks up to a stranger and gives away $10. So far, he's handed out close to $1,200. He also interviews the recipients about their lives and posts their stories on his blog. Think of it as Studs Terkel meets Santa Claus.
Reed Sandridge agreed to meet us in the Washington, D.C.'s Chinatown neighborhood on a busy corner above a Metro stop. It wasn't long before he stopped someone on the street and started making his pitch.
Mr. REED SANDRIDGE: My name is Reed Sandridge and would love to give you $10 today.
MOLLY M: You must have a lot of money to be able to do that.
Mr. SANDRIDGE: What is your name?
MOLLY: It's Molly, M-O-L-L-Y.
Mr. SANDRIDGE: What are you doing today?
MOLLY: I am - should be studying and instead I'm going to go shopping.
Mr. SANDRIDGE: So, what do you think you might the $10 for?
MOLLY: In all honesty, I'm going to probably use it on Starbucks.
Mr. SANDRIDGE: Do you practice any giving in your own? I mean...
MOLLY: I did, like, tutoring for a shelter and then Thursdays - well, it's a transitional housing program. And then Thursdays I taught an exercise class for women at a shelter.
Mr. SANDRIDGE: Could I take a photo or a quick video of you?
MOLLY: (unintelligible). With my bike helmet, my unshowered hair, I don't know.
Mr. SANDRIDGE: Oh come on.
HANSEN: While we're waiting for your picture, I'm Liane Hansen from National Public Radio.
MOLLY: Oh, hey.
HANSEN: Molly, whatever possessed you to stop when this guy in a pink tie said, can I speak to you for a minute? I mean, what went through your mind first?
MOLLY: Well, first, I was like, is he going to ask me for money? Generally, you know, I'm a nice person and I'm pretty social. so...
HANSEN: I know you're going spend your 10 bucks on Starbucks, but will you pay it forward?
MOLLY: Oh, definitely, definitely. I believe in that strongly. That whole karma. What comes around goes around, good energy, all that.
HANSEN: Reed, why are you doing this?
Mr. SANDRIDGE: Well, I got laid off from my job back in October and I really wanted to concentrate on doing something that would give me an opportunity to interact with my community and maybe inspire others. But when I got laid off and I had this idea, I started thinking can I do this? So, I looked at what's the worst case scenario? In my mind, worst case scenario was one year without work.
HANSEN: Yeah. But you haven't found a job yet, right?
Mr. SANDRIDGE: Nope. I'm actually - I'm usually not so dressed up but I'm...
HANSEN: You are. You look quite...
Mr. SANDRIDGE: ...I'm going to a job interview so.
HANSEN: Beautiful pink polka dot tie, white shirt, gray suit, you know, you're the perfect model of the job interviewee.
Mr. SANDRIDGE: Thank you.
HANSEN: So, what other kinds of people have you given your money away to?
Mr. SANDRIDGE: I've given to homeless people, I've given to executives of companies. I gave to the president of a small brewery. I gave to all kinds of people. I think that's what makes it interesting is to actually get a diverse group of individuals.
HANSEN: Has anyone turned you down?
Mr. SANDRIDGE: Lots of people have turned me down.
HANSEN: What reasons do they give?
Mr. SANDRIDGE: The most common reason is people say that they don't feel that they're deserving. And I always - I didn't want to kind of influence people's decision, but at some point I started telling people if you don't feel that you're deserving, you don't necessarily need to keep it. You could do anything you want with it. And I'm still surprised that I would say most of those people who deny or decline to participate, even after I tell them that, they still choose not to participate. Maybe they just don't have time. I hear a lot of times, I don't want to get involved.
HANSEN: And people worried you want something from them for that 10 bucks and really all you want is their story.
Mr. SANDRIDGE: Yes. There was a great woman I approached one day, and I said, can you help me with a project? She goes, I don't have any money, and I said, well, that's great 'cause I'm going to give you $10.
HANSEN: Reed Sandridge, thanks a lot and good luck on your job interview later.
Mr. SANDRIDGE: Thank you very much.
HANSEN: You can find a link to Reed's blog by going to our Web site, NPR.org.