"It's free to be kind:" Mary Ann F. has a smile for everyone
Around The Contributor, Mary Ann F. is like everyone’s favorite aunt or mother. Cheerful and quick with smiles and hugs, positivity radiates from her.
Her good nature, she says, has come through deliberate decisions to be happy despite hardships.
“When you’ve got burdens, you can put up with them or throw them over your shoulder,” she says. “No matter how bad you think you have it, someone else has it a little worse.”
Born in Buchanan, Ga., a small town in the western part of the state near the Alabama line, Mary Ann was 3 years old when her parents gave up custody of her. She lived with family members for a short while before the couple divorced and placed her in a home for girls.
The situation could make anyone bitter — Mary Ann says she hated living there and left as soon as she could, first moving to Clarksville, Tenn., then Nashville. But, instead of focusing on the negative, she found ways to move on.
“I had choices to make. I could put things in my heart and be sad or let go of them,” she says. “I did everything on my own. I didn’t go to a counselor.”
With her love for children, she’s often found work caring for them and has served as a surrogate mother and role model for kids whose own moms were lacking a nurturing spirit.
In particular, Mary Ann remembers a 6-year-old girl for whom she cared. “Her mother was on crack and brought her in — she hadn’t been bathed, her hair hadn’t been brushed,” she says. “I had to be her mother for a while. I’m the type of person I am because of what I went through as a child.”
After ending her last child care job a little more than two years ago, she began to take note of Contributor vendors she saw around town and asked for spiritual guidance.
“I said, ‘God, what should I do next?’,” Mary Ann recalls. “I figured out the bus route and found my way (to The Contributor offices.) I wanted to know what to do. I was brought to it.”
She’s reached a phase in life at which she can do what she wants: “It’s my time: I don’t have to cook, and all I have to worry about is selling my (Contributor) magazines to keep my rent up.”
Showering customers with her affection, she’s a favorite on the streets as well as with her fellow vendors and staff. “A smile, a hug can make everyone feel better,” she says of her efforts to win people over. “I tell them: ‘Doesn’t that make you feel just a little bit better?’”