So, you said you’ve been selling the paper for about six years now?
How’d you get started with The Contributor?
A good friend of mine told me about it.
Do you take pride in being one of our earliest vendors?
You’ve got to take pride in what you do. It goes back to when I was a kid. I was raised to be a hard worker. You’ve got to earn what you get.
When were you homeless for the first time?
When I first came to Nashville in 2008. When I came here the second time, an old vendor told me about the paper. I’ve known him for probably 25 years ago from when I lived in Texas. We used to fly “going out of business” signs in front of businesses and then he told me to come sell the paper. I don’t want a handout. My church told me when we got a place, “Tell us what you need and we will get it for you.” I don’t need a helping hand, I need to find a place to live.
I remember you telling me you’re selling papers at your church.
Yes. Madison Church of Christ. I thank every one of them. I used to sell out in Rivergate and the people I sold to in Rivergate went to that church and they invited me to that church. So, I went.
Can you tell me about the relationships you have with people out there?
They’re real good. They’re young, old, middle aged. I’ve been sitting in the same pew for about six years now. Behind C4.
What keeps you going there?
God. I’ve always gone to church off and on. I go to church now more than I have in a long time. I think everybody needs a touch of it. Not church — God. Church is just a building.
How do you keep your faith in God?
Pray every day. And thank him every day. You’ve got to have a God, I don’t care if it’s an idol, but just something to believe in.
What else do you do during the day?
I work at the Green Hills Mall doing housekeeping. It’s the same company I was working for at Bridgestone but I got transferred to the mall. I take out the trash, mop the floor, whatever needs to be done, I do it. Every time I turn around I see someone I wasn’t expecting to see. I’ve seen people from the homelessness commission, The Contributor staff and volunteers.
I met one of the co-founders of the paper at The Green Hills Mall and he said, “I know you.” And I said, “No, you know of me and I know of you. You only know of me what they’ve put in that paper. You know my picture, my face, but you don’t know me.”
When does it switch from knowing of someone to knowing them?
When you sit down and talk to them and interact. You get to know likes and dislikes, what someone hates, hobbies, whatever. It’s like marriage, you’ve got to know of somebody at first and then you have to know them to see if you can live with them.
Are you married?
No. I’ve been with Lora 12 years, but we’re not married. That’s family to me. She knows my ups and downs, my moods, you know, everything just about. I know enough about her that we get along. The point is, we’ve lived together, and I’ve taken her to places that she’s never been to before because I wanted her to see them. And introduce her to some good people I met many years ago and she got to know them. Not of them, know them.
Is there anything you’ve learned from selling the paper?
Respect. It’s a two way street: I respected them, they respected me. They see me trying to do something for myself.
I remember the poem you wrote on that topic.
I wrote another one today called “Imagine That”. It’s my new signature phrase.
Why is it important to imagine?
It’s good to have dreams. You got to figure if there were no stars, no sky, no sun, nothing like that. Even if there wasn’t a God. You’ve got to have a dream because you can fulfill it or live it.
Is there anything you want to say to your customers?
Thank you to God and everyone you’ve put into my life. The bad along with the good. You’ve got to have both. You can’t say it’s a bed of roses because if you don’t watch it, you’re going to get a thorn in your hand. There’s a song like that. I thank everybody for everything, our church family especially has helped us out a lot.
The best is yet to come. That’s the last thing I want in the paper. The best is yet to come.