Turning 34 Years Old and the best birthday gift in the world. (12 hours in 12 pictures)
This is a short story of how my birthday started with no plans, and evolved rather spontaneously. But most of all, how it ended up so beautifully.
Started the morning in San Francisco with a check in the mail. $254.52 in my name.
Before joining 500, I had invested $20,000 into a startup. The startup has since shut down, this is all that’s left. Humble pie. Breakfast of champions! Eating dairy free humble pie.
Thinking instead about my other winning investments , I was feeling like a big spender. Wife and I found ourselves at Target.
What’s the maximum calories per dollar that I can get off snack bars? Hmm…
Loaded up on period pads, blankets, soap, toothpaste, toothbrush, socks…
18 bags worth.
But the bags were still missing something. Wife hit up Google, and we found the missing piece, Victoria Westbrook:
Lyfted down to see her.
She got out of jail a year ago. She was on meth for 20 years and was in jail for selling it. At 50 years of age, living in a halfway house with a criminal record in hand, looking for a job ain’t easy. Even if you had an engineering degree from Georgia Tech (which she did).
She couldn’t find job. Instead, she found this.
It’s called Code: Tenderloin.
A project that has now helped more than 340 Tenderloin homeless and at-risk folks get basic coding skills, life-readiness training, and jobs at neighboring tech companies like Twitter, Airbnb, LinkedIn, Zendesk.
The project was founded by Del Seymour who himself was homeless on the streets of Tenderloin for 17 years before creating this at age 67.
With the program, Victoria got her groove back. Big time. She’s now Director of the program. So proud of her. So inspired to have learned about Code Tenderloin.
We had to spread the word.
Wife added 18 handwritten notes about Code Tenderloin, one for each bag. They were now complete.
Night fell. We needed help. Popped in a 500 Startups event. Recruited some troops. Can always rely on my crew!
We hit the streets.
Stared to give out the 18 bags. At times, our bags were rejected by folks who looked homeless… but were just fashionable.
It didn’t take long to pattern match and get it right. There were plenty of grateful souls on the streets of San Francisco.
Could 1/18 be a Victoria or a Del Seymour? I like the odds.
Back at the hotel cafe, waiter overheard it was my birthday. When I asked for the check, he got me this:
What a pleasant surprise.
Lovely simple birthday reminded me that
- No matter where people are at, good things happen at the intersection of good intentions and good effort.
- Giving is as rewarding as receiving, if not more.
- And that simplicity and spontaneity can be so much fun!
Special thanks to
- My visiting friends from Jaipur, Nihar and Siddarth, for saying YES to seeing a different side of Market street
- My wonderful colleagues Bedy Yang and Itai Damti for saying YES to little adventurous ideas.
- The unnamed waiter with superhuman hearing.
- Sheel for inspiring me with your birthday celebration of giving
- My dear wife Elisa for whose efforts over the year goes well beyond these pictures
- All the friends, colleagues, and strangers who have showered me with gift of our interactions that made my year!
The best birthday gift in the world – Our the ability to give.
This is Code Tenderloin
Consider giving a birthday gift: Donate to Code Tenderloin
They run a very lean team of only 4 staff yet they’ve helped more than 340 folks. There are many Del Seymours and Victoria Westbrooks on the streets. Let’s help them – not only rise up, but bring others with them.
Let me know if you’ve made a donation, any amount helps!
UPDATE: I hear international credit cards are having trouble working with their donation gateway. If you’d like me to donate on your behalf let me know!