Stranger 73, Day 73 - Meet Kailee

Stranger 73, Day 73 – Meet Kailee, the “Volunteer for Good”

Welcome back to Monday! I had an idea of a few people I could’ve met today because I’ve seen so many people around my office that I still haven’t met them, yet. They’re still the familiar Stranger faces. So when I was in the kitchen area and one of them walked up, I was eager to say hello and FINALLY meet her. No surprise from the number of times that she’s smiled and was courteous that she was also happy to meet and be today’s Stranger. Little did I know how much volunteering and connecting with others was so much a part of her.

Meet Kailee, 24

Who are you?

“I am from the Midwest originally. I am a daughter and sister to my brother. I’m a girlfriend, and a family member. Definitely a passionate coworker. Very passionate about non-profits. Work with 501 Auctions. We work with non-profits all the time. I’m also an avid volunteer. I work with a handful of organizations. I’m pretty new to Atlanta — a new Atlantan. Yeah! It’s good to be here!”

She’s been here almost exactly a year ago — “drove down Thanksgiving of last year, and moved in the Friday after Thanksgiving.” (Today’s the Monday after Thanksgiving.)

You talk about non-profits and volunteering. What do you to volunteer?

“I volunteer at the community garden at the Blue Heron Nature Preserve. It’s right up on Roswell Rd., and right on the corner. I can walk down to the Blue Heron Nature Preserve. It’s a community garden, so a lot of people pay for their plots. They can garden right there. But then, there’s also three plots for the homeless. I volunteer, and I’m in charge of one of the plots for the homeless. I also work with the two other gardeners that run the two other plots. I help harvest all of the stuff, and then I run it downtown to Crossroads Kitchen.”

She continues, “And then, I’ve actually volunteered in the kitchen as well. Clyde run the kitchen (for a while). It’s associated with St. Luke’s, and they basically make all the food, and then they give out a ton of meals a day. I think they’re open from 10 and noon. It’s part of a program for homeless people. To be able to get your meal ticket, you have to sign up for their program. So you get a mailbox. If you’re a veteran, you can get your checks there. You can get your ID. A lot of programs. They don’t actually have a shelter, but it’s basically getting you on track to try to not be homeless anymore. That’s my main project.”

“And then, I just signed up La Amistad which is a tutoring program for Latina youth, and they’re getting a lot of help for their homework especially because English is a second language mostly.”

Why are you volunteering so much?

“I’ve done it my whole life. Growing up, we used to stop at a bunch of local grocery stores, and then take ’em to downtown Grand Rapids to a place called God’s Kitchen. I’m from the Grand Rapids area, and that’s something that I just did on the weekend with my parents for as long as I remember. So it’s really important to me. I think food’s a very important cause especially for those who don’t have it.”

“Then, I went to school. I went to college in Chicago. So I was exposed to a lot of homelessness there. A lot of cold. I went to a Jesuit college, which is very social justice-y. I worked with children. I’ve worked with the homeless. I’ve worked with the elderly.”

“I just think it’s a really good way to give back, and meet other people and connect! So I’ve really enjoyed it.”

I’m sure there’s been several moments when you’re volunteering, and something just hits you like, “wow, I made this impact” or “this person was so grateful”. Can you describe one of these moments that you had?

“I taught an after-school program in Chicago. I was a tutor, but then, they also needed a way for the kids to get some of their energy out. I’ve been a dancer my whole life, so I taught a dance class. A lot of them were mostly boys. I think I had a class of 18, and I think I only had three girls. So most of them weren’t very into it. But I had one little boy who was super into it. He would come in — I volunteered Tuesdays and Thursdays — so he would show me how he had practiced, and his little routine. I think that was really important because it gave him something to work on. He said he had been working on it at home, and I gave him something to look forward to. He hated homework, so he hated going to the after-school program. But he loved the physical aspect of being able to dance and get his energy out. I think that was a really, really good moment.”

“Also, I volunteered with a program called Caring Connections for seniors. I worked with this woman who was 85, and she had been working as a tenant advocate in the Chicago community for low-income housing. I totally had no idea all of… kind of the hardships a lot of low-income tenants have, and how landlords can use and abuse them. She really worked for awareness and advocating for them. She couldn’t read her computer. She could type, so I would sit there and read her emails for her and have to type back. She was really appreciative. She was a little sassy, but even more, was seeing how thankful the tenants that needed her help were. And thankful that me and then another volunteer were able to help and keep the program running. She’s like a huge name in that circle, but she definitely needed the help to keep it organized and keep it running.”

So you mentioned your family a lot, so far. What is one of your earliest/ fondest memories that you have with your family?

“My parents always joke that we only remember the negative parts of our vacations because we’ve had some weird things happen on our vacations. Like my mom, when we were on vacation, when she bit into a burger, there was a tack in it. There was a time when we went on this boat, and everyone got sea sickness and was puking. But I’ve never gotten motion sickness, so I was helping all of the staff pass out puke bags when I was 10.”

“I think one of my favorite memories, though, was when I got sun poisoning when we were in St. Thomas — an island. My brother and my parents stayed in and watched movies with me all day even though we were on this beautiful island. They stayed in and watched movies because I couldn’t go in the sun.”

“I think just the little things when bad things have happened, my family’s really good at sticking together, and kind of making the best out of any situation.”

So it’s the end of November, and the election just happened. Both candidates have some “negative sides” to them. Thinking about who you voted for, how did you vote for that person while overlooking/ reconciling the negative stuff the person had attributed to them? (Thanks to Toby, Stranger 72)

“Yeah, so that’s a really good question. I think for a lot of people, similarly for myself, it came down to who’s the lesser of two evils. But also, what’s important to you? What are the main causes that you care about?”

“I think about things that are really important to me like women’s issues, education, the environment is huge… I think that’s something we’re all on the same boat. Like, if we don’t act, I think there’s just a number of things, and even though Hillary definitely has a number of skeletons in her closet, she did represent a lot of the things that I found that were important. And just hearing some of the opposition’s views on things, particularly, the environment is the thing I’m most passionate about. So while I definitely don’t want anyone to fail, like we’re all in the same sinking ship with the environment, we’re all in the same sinking ship as a country, we don’t want anyone to fail, but I think my greatest worry is more about his appointment for Myron Ebell who doesn’t believe in global warming and doesn’t believe in our effect on the environment. And so as the country that pollutes the most out of the entire world, I think it’s important for us to still keep awareness that our actions do have consequences. So that was one of the main reasons I voted the way I did. But I’m not an overly radical person when it comes to politics. I think every President has their point of influence, but nothing’s going to change over night. The world isn’t going to explode. Just keeping in mind the things that are important to me, and trying to advocate for them the way I can.”

What is a question you’d like to ask anyone (effectively, tomorrow’s Stranger)?

“Hmm, that’s a really good one!”

“I’ve been watching this show Westworld.” She asked me if I had heard of it to which I said I didn’t. “So it’s very interesting. It’s very dark. It’s on HBO. It basically was created by the creator of Jurassic Park. It’s his first screenplay that he’s wrote. It’s a similar premise. Basically, you can go into this world and do whatever you want. You pay $40,000 a day, and you go in and do whatever you want. It’s set up like the Wild West, but instead of actual humans, they’re robots, but they look very human-like and life-like. So there’s a number of things… you can do whatever you want. You can drink. You can kill people. You can steal. You can do all these different things.”

“The new kind of premise from it is what do you want to know about your consciousness. If you were stuck in that world, would you want to know because some of the robots are becoming aware of it.” She admits at this point that she’s unsure of the question she wants to ask, but she thinks about it.

“If you were in a bad situation, and you didn’t know it, would you want to know? Or would you want to live in like blissful ignorance?” It’s similar to the Matrix!

After the handshake.

First, Kailee, we’re glad you’re here! (I’m speaking for Atlanta and the startup community at ATV, of course, but I’d say for Mother Earth.)

As Kailee was sharing how much she volunteered for others, it was just… astounding. I was so thoroughly impressed with how much she helped others, let alone wanted to help others. When she mentioned she volunteered for kids and the elderly and the environment, and so on, she really, really did. She has helped in so many ways in charities and causes directly impacting these groups. All I can think of was how great it was that she’s out there helping others.

I also wanted to add that she was smiling and happy throughout our meet. She was laughing at parts, but she was largely smiling as she shared her passion for volunteering and helping others. It was a great energy, and one that I brought back with me to my own office as I shared tidbits of her story with my coworkers.

Meet Kailee. No longer a Stranger.


Stranger 48, Day 48 - Meet Meg

Stranger 48, Day 48 – Meet Meg, the “Host”

Today, I got to meet the newest member (I think) to the Atlanta Tech Village community team. I remember her first day, and we briefly introduced, but that was it. Since then, we’ve said hello. That’s pretty much it. Today, I took the chance to meet her. I walked up to her to ask her if she’d like to be the Stranger of the Day to which she happily said yes and postponed learning how to bake white chocolate chip cookies. I’m usually not one to want to interrupt someone baking such deliciousness, but 5-7 minutes to get to know her might encourage her to slide a few cookies my way one day.

Meet Meg, 27

Who are you?

Meg smiles, and replies, “I’m Meg.”

“I am in physical therapy school. I’m the youngest of 7 kids — come from a big family. And I just love being with people.”

She adds, “… and being outside.”

What are your passions?

“My passions right now are…” We laugh as people in the lobby get wicked loud. (Borrowing that from my last two days from Boston.) I now hold my phone closer to her.

“… are healing people. So that’s what led me to physical therapy. I like the idea of being able to heal people with my hands and with my words and with my encouragement. I like to cook for people. I think hosting people can be really healing. I think a lot of people didn’t grow up in an environment where they get to do that well, and share meals with their family. I love just to have my buddies over and to cook for them. It’s really fun!”

We laugh some more as the people in the ATV lobby have somehow increased their volume.

What is your go-to dish to cook?

“I make really good chili. And I love making baked salads. But mostly, I just like baked vegetables. Chicken and vegetables.”

And the occasional cookie?

“Oh, cookies always. I guess that’s really my go-to dish. I used to deliver cookies to people.”

She’s learning out to do chocolate and white chocolate chip cookies, and she says she’s going to bring some in tomorrow. I definitely volunteered her to please share some with me.

What are your Dreams?

“My dreams… oh gosh…!”

Meg shares, “I would love to be doing a job that lets me heal people. I would love to do that all over the world. It’s my dream to have a really beautiful, welcoming home. It’s my dream to just be known for loving people well. And to be outside all the time.”

Do you think your best friends do love that about you very much? What are the top three things they would say about you?

“I would say understanding, funny, and adventurous.”

How does the adventurous play out? You like to be outside…

“I like to be outside. I just like to explore. I like exploring new places and doing new things. Just kind of the unknown is very interesting to me.”

Why is it interesting?

“Because I don’t know it yet! I want to know all of the things. It’s fun to discover them.”

How do you make time for that when you’re in school, you’re here at ATV, etc.?

She nods. “It’s a lot harder now than it was when I was just working.”

“… but I have a list of eight or nine things that help me to kind of get away from school and do my own things. I try to do two of them a week. It could be like 10 minutes of going on a walk somewhere new. Or it could be a whole morning exploring somewhere or reading a book. I’m trying to do two of those a week.”

She admits, “I don’t do that very well, though.”

What’s a lesson you want to share?

“Just to be kind, and to welcome people really well. You never know what someone is experiencing that day, and it’s always better to just assume the best of them than to jump to conclusions.”

“That’s like four different ones,” she laughs.

Why did you agree to accept this interview? (Thanks to Robbin, Stranger 47)

“Well, I’m at the end of my workday, and I didn’t really have anything going on. And I always see you, and I’ve never really gotten to talk to you.”

“… even though all I did was describe myself the whole time! Sorry!” She laughs big at this. I tell her it was less about me, and more (all) about her.

What is a question you’d like ask tomorrow’s Stranger?

“If they could go anywhere in the world right, where would they go? And what’s the first thing they would do?”

After the handshake.

Okay, let’s be honest here… she agreed to share with me chocolate and white chocolate chip cookies. That’s pretty much a win. Add on top that I got to know her as today’s Stranger, that’s pretty much icing on the… cookie. 🙂

Now, I’ll run into Meg as I do around the office, and we’ll actually connect on something more than “hi”, smile, and go about our ways. I’m excited to have met yet another physical therapist. She like being a host, too, so it’s nice to know someone of such great value here at the office. (I seem to get hurt a little more often these days, and I’m always hungry.)

Jokes aside, Meg is such an enthusiastic and nice person making her a great fit with the rest of the ATV team. The Life Lesson she shared echoes what a few other Strangers have said. Namely, we do not know what is going on in others’ lives, so to be receptive and respectful to others as we meet them.

Meet Meg. No longer a Stranger.

Stranger 22, Day 22 - Meet Carling

Stranger 22, Day 22 – Meet Carling, the “Ecstatic Wellness Enthusiast”

I’m talking to my buddy at Starbucks while also wondering who was going to be the “Stranger of the Day”. As I’m looking around, I notice someone across the room, but this meant I had to interrupt her… studying or work. I wasn’t sure what she was doing, but I knew there weren’t that many people there. But only seconds later, did this chick wave at me. I was a little shocked — “I’ve been found!” — and wondering what I did… turns out, I kinda met her last weekend. She was here with a friend talking about blogging — one of the key words my ears listen for. So we met briefly, but I didn’t know her. (If you couldn’t already tell because I didn’t recognize her very well when she waved the first time.)

Anyways, so I met her, but only briefly. And this is where my Rules for Engagement come in (which I should document sometime soon) — I really didn’t know her. I didn’t know how old she was, who she was, what her passions and dreams were… she was Stranger. So I approached her, and this is the start of getting to know today’s Stranger…

Meet Carling, 24

Who are you?

“I am a student and I was born in Canada — St. Catherines in Ontario — and parents moved to Charlotte, NC. I have now lived in Atlanta for 3 years. I’m going to Georgia State. I’m studying psychology, and I’m working on an online health-coaching certificate — that’s I’m half-way through.”

Carling is smiling pretty big as we start this. I’ve had some pretty happy and excited Strangers in the past, but Carling’s probably the most excited. This, in turn, makes me more excited.

“I’m one of seven kids. Number 3 (from the top)…” I was wondering if people ever say start from the bottom. We laugh as we both say, “now we’re here”. She’s kinda nerdy like me.

I love psychology, so my next question was pretty simple — Why psychology?

“I just love people and knowing how they work and myself… how I can improve myself. I feel psychology plays a lot in that.”

What are your hopes and dreams for Psychology? Or even beyond?

“I originally wanted to be an academic adviser for freshman. I was an exercise science major, and I wanted to do PT. But it was only because when I was 18, you have to decide what you want to do. I ran track in high school, so I wanted to be a physical therapist. Half-way through, I shadowed at a PT office, and I hated it. So I that’s when I wanted to be that filter for that 18-year-old who says, ‘I want to do exercise’, because no one ever asked, ‘why do you want to do that?’ No one ever asked, ‘why do you want to do that?’ No one ever stopped me and asked me, ‘are you sure? Go shadow before you make that decision.’ So I was like, ‘I want to do that!’ but you have to have a Masters to do that. So I have to do an undergrad for that anyways, so I chose psychology.”

“I finished up in May, but I’m going to take a year to figure that out. I’m not going to jump into grad school because I’m learning more about different paths. And I’m actually more interested now in the holistic health — eating and fueling your body.”

What do you think is key to being healthy? What does being healthy mean?

“Being healthy is about… feeling your body and your… soul — for the recording, I put that in quotations.” Haha, I just wanted to include exactly what she said.

“That’s eating plant-based vegetables… organic when you can, but also healthy relationships and positive thinking, and time for yourself.”

I asked her if I was healthy because I ate things that ate the vegetables, and she was okay with that. #win

What else are your passions?

“I really like learning. Sewing? I really like sewing — or creating!” She very excitedly shared how she just sewed an apron with chili peppers on it. “I’m super excited about it.”

Carling shared with me her go-to when it comes to cooking — anything Mexican. “Rice beans or anything with tomatoes, onions, and cilantro.” Then, she added salads were very important to her.

… and she quickly mentioned how she really liked Shake Shack down the street. I have to reiterate how she’s laughing a lot about all this. She’s having a ton of fun with this meeting, and it really shows. She’s got a highly energetic and infectious enthusiasm about her.

What do you like about Atlanta? Or do you not?

“I do like Atlanta now. When I moved here, I was living in an old house with a couple girls. Definitely different, but the last couple years, I’ve put an emphasis on creating friendships and exploring the city, so I definitely like it better now.”

She shares some advice for new residents who know very few people here: “Download the app Meetup.” She admits, “You have to put effort in. You have to cultivate those relationships and put effort in. Be patient and it pays off.”

As I said, I did meet Carling before, but very briefly. She was talking to a friend about blogging, so I asked her about that.

“My blog is just about things I’m learning through all the healthy stuff. I would read stuff and share it with my roommates, my two best friends, but they eventually got tired of hearing me say, ‘oh, that shampoo has a lot of chemicals. Shouldn’t use it.’ So I figured I’d find an audience who wanted to learn about this stuff.” WHAT?! Friends didn’t want to always hear about the best shampoos?! Haha, she’s laughing again.

I’ve run into a lot of people who want to write, but don’t. Many lament how they believed no one would want to hear what they had to say. So curious, I asked Carling how she found her voice.

“I’ve always journaled, so I’ve always written. To find my specific voice, I used to do write DIY and self-help, but it just naturally happened where I found myself enjoying the health aspect more. So I went with what I felt was more enjoyable. Punching in recipes was not — felt like work. Whereas the information and sharing the knowledge was where I woke up — ‘oh, I really want to share this’, so I just started to listen more to myself. I found my voice by listening more to myself. You have to pay attention to where you feel alive.”

“I found myself to listening to myself.” — it seemed like a revelation.

Have you had a Life-Defining Moment?

“I was living in Atlanta, and I wasn’t in school at the time because I was still trying to figure out what I was trying to do. I bought a $2000 industrial sewing machine. I was going to sew leather bags, not knowing how to use an industrial sewing machine or how to sew leather. So I got the sewing machine — super pumped. It was my third time trying to use it, and I couldn’t get it to sew anymore. And this time, I’m still trying to figure out what I wanted to do with my life school-wise. And the day it wasn’t stitching. I was home alone. I couldn’t get it. I Googled. I called. I remember being there, and I just started crying because I was like, ‘oh my God, I can’t get this. I’m never going to be able to do this. This isn’t going to work.’ I just got so pissed at the machine, and that when I was like, ‘I have to go back to school.’ I really put effort into actually figuring out what I wanted to do. Thinking about it, and taking off the time limit I put on myself.”

She shared with me about the “time limit”. She shared how she was 23, and she needed to get out of school at some point. Then she needed to get married. It was, to me, “the template”. She wanted to get out of that track. She figured out what she wanted to do.

But after this moment, she got into Georgia State and shares how she’s so much happier now.

I was curious how she decided to buy $2000 toward a sewing machine out of… anything and everything else out there. She admits she was just very impulsive and how she had some “optimism bias” — a mindset how she could achieve something where others couldn’t.

Note: She sold the sewing machine for $900 six months later.

What’s a Life Lesson you want to share?

She told me she needed to think about this, but took only 2 seconds before returning back to me.

Carling shared how she “got out of a 3-year relationship a few months ago.” Her lesson: “You have to be completely… only you can fulfill yourself. Going into anything in life, relationships or encounters with people or work, you have to be 100% of yourself… you have to come from a place of ‘I am secure in who I am by myself’, and then you take that into other things.”

“It’s not an ‘another-half’ kind of thing. You are you, and you bring that into the encounter.”

Carling told me how she really relied on the network of her best friend and her boyfriend, especially, when she first moved to Atlanta instead of creating her own network. I understood this as her needing to keep and expand her own identity in a new city.

Studying psychology, what do you think is a good way for others to connect with… others? How can we better connect with others?

“A… genuinely, and it’s sometimes hard to remove the fear of, ‘what is someone going to think of me’ or ‘how do I come across’, but that just ties into what I said before about being 100% — being complete in yourself, you can come into encountering others from a confident place. Just being yourself.”

“… being open.” I ask her if she means being vulnerable. “Yes… and being open to this. Maybe I would’ve said no four months ago. Now, we’re sitting here, and I’m enjoying it.”

“… just being in the moment. Don’t really focus on ‘where is this going to go’ or ‘do I have the time for this’ or ‘I have all these things in my head that I’m thinking about’. Actively listening, and not focusing on what you’re going to say next because they just said something. Just listening and being there.”

So… Be genuine. Be open. Be in the moment.” Check!

What makes you happy? (Thanks to Jordan, Stranger 21)

Carling thinks about this… “From a physical sense, listening to a great song, walking outside on a beautiful day… that makes me happy.”

“On a meta-physical sense, being around people who you know, who know you, and who you love. And just sharing laughter with them. That’s something that makes me so happy.”

Though, I was curious because she seemed pretty happy despite knowing very little about me.

“… in a broad sense! Positive interactions with people make me happy!” Haha, good update. 🙂

She adds before moving on, “being productive makes me happy.”

What would you like to ask tomorrow’s Stranger?

She thought about this question for a while.

“What are you doing when you feel most alive?” (Something on the daily…)

After the handshake.

So this was actually my longest meeting. I think it was just a testament to Carling’s energy and our connection/ her openness. She was super excited from the get-go to share her story. I mentioned her laughing and smiling throughout, but what I didn’t share was how animated she was. Like Sandrika early on, Carling was very animated. She just has a lot of energy, and you can’t help but be happy around her.

I definitely appreciated lots of points of our talk. Specifically, I appreciated her recognition in the effort it takes to connect with others. It’s not easy to connect with others sometimes, and this is even true of the friendships we all have. Relationships (in any form) take energy and commitment.

Also, I was curious of Carling’s points on how to connect with others. I love psychology, and given her studying and her own natural ability to connect, I was curious. I don’t really have much to add or augment to Carling’s key tenets, but I would say being open BOTH ways is important. At first, when I heard Carling, I was thinking about what was important for me to be with others in being “open” about myself. But the key, I think, is being open for others to be themselves.


Great stuff, and I’m excited to learn more about her healthy blogging… even if there’s a fair bit of veggie blogs in there.

So meet Carling. No longer a Stranger.