Richard T. is trying really hard not to get choked up. He’s talking about his customers — the ones who have been loyal to him throughout his last nine years selling The Contributor. It’s these customers, as well as his relationship with God, that he credits with getting him through a depression. Soon he’ll move on to a more traditional job and his own apartment. He says he’ll wait until later to cry about it.
He asks if he can start by talking about the spots he sells his papers.
The Contributor: Totally.
Richard: I start in the morning about 20 till 6 a.m. Monday through Friday at 24th Avenue South and Blakemore Avenue. I go there until about 10 a.m. Then I go to 16th Avenue South and Magnolia Boulevard and I sell there until about 12:30, 1 p.m. My customers have really been a big help. I’ve been blessed to know them. If it wasn’t for them, I would probably be on the streets. I’m so grateful for the smiles and the waves and the good mornings, the money for the papers. It seems like a lot of people out there care about my well-being. I never met so many nice people in one area in my life. I love it. I love them. Those are the best two spots in the world when it comes to love, kindness and care. They treat me like I’m one of the family.
First of the year, I’m going to be starting a new job, so I’m giving up the papers. I’m going to miss them a lot because they’ve been there for me when no one else was. They’ll always be in my prayers. I love them with all my heart and I’m very grateful to have met them, but I’m moving on. So I want to tell them now. Thank you for all that you’ve done for me. Thank you for your support.
What’s next for you?
I’ll be getting my own place, hopefully no later than March. I’m looking forward to that. I’m currently staying in a halfway house. If it wasn’t for my customers being as loyal as they are, I would probably be on the streets. I do pay rent.
I think back to when I was on the streets with no place to go. I was useless, hopeless, very depressed, worthless, didn’t have no one to turn to. But today it’s all different. And it’s all due to my God — who I love dearly — and the people that I encounter each day.
I’m excited about life now. I have meaning. I’m not useless, I’m not hopeless, I’m not in a state where I think I shouldn’t be living. I’m worth something today. I feel good inside. Every morning Monday through Friday, I’m on that corner. Sleet, snow, rain, I don’t care. I’m out there because I’m loyal to my customers, because they’re loyal to me. It’s built me some strong relationships that I don’t think I would have found anywhere else. I know God is in the mix. It’s awesome. This paper, the people, God has improved my life.
I’m looking forward to working in a warehouse or in machinery, and a little part time job at night, maybe three or four days a week. That will cover my bills and I can start me an account and I want a vehicle.
I haven’t ever really had my own place, you know? My own key. It’s always been staying with a family member or a halfway house or Nashville Rescue Mission or a friend. It’s not really ever been my own where I pay my bills, my responsibility, my key. I’m going for it.
It’s exciting. I think about it every day, what it would be like for me to go into my own apartment, fixing it up. I love cleanliness and I have to have my stuff in order. I can just imagine my place — I’m getting excited now! It’s something I look forward to.
Are there specific things that customers have done for you that stand out in your memory?
There’s this one lady I call Special K, she surprised me a couple years in a row on my birthday with a card, balloons, cake, the smile and the hug — that meant a lot to me.
I have another customer, Miss Leslie, she always speaks to me with a smile. She asks me, ‘How is your day? Are you OK?’ It means a whole lot.
Me and Miss Hannah got this certain way we speak to each other in the morning. We kinda bow down. And she laughs and I laugh and it just makes the day much better.
There’s another customer of mine, she works at the children’s hospital and she drives a silver car, and she’ll roll down her window each and every morning that I see her, and she’ll sometimes say ‘I don’t have nothing this morning, but I’ll make it up to you,’ and I’ll be like no, no that’s OK, but she does anyway.
There are two Miss Jennifers. One Miss Jennifer, she gives me a water every morning. She’s going to be leaving town soon, and I’m going to miss her because she’s really been a big help and a big influence in my life. Another Miss Jennifer, she rolls down her window and will be like ‘Good morning Richard!’ and I’ll be like ‘Good morning Miss Jennifer!’ and it makes my morning. Then there’s this other Jennifer, too! She always greets me with a smile, and we do the pinky promise thing. That’s my buddy.
This one lady drives this blue truck and she says, ‘I just love your smile!’ and I’ll be blushing then. And this other lady, she tells me ‘you are worth something’ and that means a lot to me. They’re all like angels in their own certain way and I wish the best for them because they have done nothing but bless me, cared and been kind to me.
When I didn’t have family to turn to, I knew I had a family out there on 24th Avenue South and Blakemore Avenue, and 16th Avenue South and Magnolia Boulevard. Each and every one of them has a special place in my heart and I want them to know this.
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