I appreciate the challenges Real Change vendors face because in 2003 I sold the paper myself. I remember well the feeling I got when a customer gave me a generous tip, a smile, a brief conversation. I was at a very low point in my life mentally, emotionally and financially, and knowing complete strangers cared enough to share their resources with me made a difference. The relationships that are built between customers and vendors can have a transformative effect on both ends of the equation. Selling the paper can be a lonely experience, but seeing a regular customer and sharing brief conversation eases the isolation of poverty.
It is easy for me to imagine what a vendor is experiencing when told, on a public sidewalk no less, to move on. There seems to be no sympathy for someone trying to do the right thing, doing honorable, tough work. When you haven’t sold a paper in the past hour a subtle despair can creep in. You may wonder if it’s you. The rain does not cease, nor will the wind stop howling up the cold concrete canyons of downtown because sales are slow. People walk by bundled up for the cold, barely acknowledging you. Tomorrow may be a good day, but today is wet and cold. The temptation to pack it in and call it a day looms in the back of your mind, but you resist. I know what this is, and I hope our vendors know, too, that if there is anything I can do to back them up, I will. Real Change news staff and volunteers have invested more into providing tips, tools and tricks to assist vendors in succeeding, rain or shine.
I thank vendors for enduring miserable conditions and circumstances to earn their daily bread. Stand proud knowing you are working for economic justice.
In October 2009, I was hired as a field organizer representing vendors in the community and working to resolve issues vendors encounter as they sell the paper.
I am pleased to acknowledge the hard work and dedication it takes vendors to create a safe, welcoming environment for customers. Take pride in working for change Real Change — one transaction at a time.