The first time I met Cynthia she approached me after a new paper release meeting with a notebook full of artwork. Using pen and a little highlighter, she draws brightly colored hearts filled with crosses and flames. My favorite piece, though, was a smiling clown with the phrase “Don’t worry, be happy” written neatly underneath. I didn’t realize until two weeks later when we sat down to do her vendor spotlight, but that picture pretty much sums up Cynthia’s vibe perfectly. She speaks in an even, confident tone about everything and really just wants us all to take care of each other. (Flip to page 14 to see some of her artwork!)
How long have you been with The Contributor?
Since 2013. Kind of off and on until 2017. Back in 2013 I’d sell for three months and then go off for nine months to work for the carnival.
Well obviously I have a million questions about what it’s like working for a carnival.
It’s crazy! I was the foreman over roller coasters and kiddy rides.
What’s your best story?
The carnival I worked for had a special needs day and anyone with special needs can come in and they get to ride the rides for free that day. I loved it.
Even though the work setting up was grueling work, when we would open and I got to watch those kids walk in and see all the lights, I even forgot about hitting my fingers with a hammer. Just seeing the look in the kids’ eyes was the most amazing part of the entire thing. I stuck with it for 30 years because watching the kids get out there with their mom and dad and brothers and sisters having a ball was worth it.
Did you travel a lot?
Oh yes. I’ve been all over the United States. It was fun. I got to spend time teaching other people how to set up a ride, how to maintenance it and take care of it and clean it and fix any problems there was with it. For a 7th grade drop out, I got a lot of chances to teach a lot of people a lot of stuff. And in a way I’m still teaching people sometimes.
What are you teaching people now?
A lot of people will ask me, “Well why don’t you get a real job and stop selling The Contributor?” And I tell them this is a real job and I own this business.
And, I study the Bible. In the morning I get up and I’m in it before I go to bed. A lot of people I’m teaching them about God, letting them know to get him in your life and stay in his presence and keep being with him and he makes life so much easier. A lot of people think you have to have a four-wall house, a big car, and all this money and everything but look, I live in a camp in the woods, sleep in a hammock through the summer, I make what I make on the papers, and I got a home. I’m living off the grid right now. Basically to me this is an extended vacation. I worked thirty years of my life and didn’t have a vacation now I’m getting a vacation, and I’m kind of being greedy with it! And I’m enjoying it. I worked everyday since I was 16 years old and I was a mother at 14, I haven’t had much of a life of being a kid and now at 50, I getting that chance of being a kid and enjoying life, ya know?
I enjoy life, I enjoy what God’s given me. I’m not being tortured, I’m not homeless because I’m on drugs or an alcoholic or anything like that. I had a stroke and I struggled so I went through my savings. Now, I’m getting back up on my feet and doing what I can do. It’s kind of hard to get a place because I have a dog and two cats. Community Pet Center on Trinity Lane is wonderful for helping homeless people take care of their animals. When I go and get them their new shots and everything I try to donate $5 to them and it helps them out too.
How important are your pets to you?
Very important. They’re my constant companions. My cat Mischief, is spoiled rotten.
That’s a great name for a cat!
She earned it! My dog, Sparky, he’s Welsh Corgi and Australian Blue Heeler mixed. He’s a little short fella. He’s spoiled rotten. Then there’s Tinkerbell, the gray calico. She’s gray, orange, and white but mostly gray. Both of the cats do a lot of hunting, but when I lay in my hammock, Mischief insists on being up there with me.
The way I got my camp set up, it looks more like a Native American longhouse. I cook right on the fire. I got pots and pans and a cowboy coffee pot. I have a shower tent with a 5-gallon camp shower and I catch rain water when it rains. And I wash my clothes with it and use it for the shower and for the animals.
How did you learn to do all that?
My grandpa on my dad’s side is full-blooded Native American and I kind of grew up with my grandpa and grannie. I’m the eighth child out of eleven and I was born with knee issues. Both of my parents needed to work, so I grew up around my grandpa and he took me out and taught me how to live in the woods. He was like, you’re gonna learn something. I had a pretty good life. Then I got pregnant and had my four kids, which they were wonderful, they still are wonderful. They are grown, thank God! I don’t if I can handle little kids anymore. When I left the carnival, it’s because I had the stroke and I fell three stories off of one of the roller coasters I had a harness on, but when I fell I hit the second track. I busted my head and one of my eyes is messed up. But I deal with it. I work. I’m still happy.
How do you stay happy?
It’s God. That’s all I can say. I got a book I read with my Bible. It’s called Jesus Calling. A lady wrote it who was going through hard times in her life.
Where I sell at the McDonalds in Inglewood, a lot of the people it’s early in the morning, or it’s lunch time and they’re in a rush to get back to work and they don’t smile much. So I made a sign to hold with my papers and all it says is, “Smile a smile and while you’re smiling another smile.” And I saw a lot of smiles yesterday. I made more smiles than I did money yesterday, ha! A lot of people pull up and say they don’t have money with them, but I say just your smile makes my whole day. A lot of people will do everything they can not to look at me. And I just looked up at God and said, I guess I’m invisible except for your people. A lot of people don’t see me. Even if you don’t buy the paper, I at least appreciate a smile or a wave.
Technically that’s why we’re all here is to help each other. When we’re not helping each other out we get miserable.