This little woman helped save my life out there. I heard voices then, telling me to jump off the Aurora Bridge. Tried it twice. I couldn’t get over that damn new, high fence. Hell, I couldn’t even get over the low fence.
I was homeless for 16 years. That was a very dangerous time. I had a nest on my chin, a nest on my head. You pick where the bird’s gonna live. I was a mess.
I’d go on the crisis hotline and hang up on them, cuss ‘em out. I’d be dead drunk and not even want help. I just wanted to be mad and vent to people who didn’t know me.
But that little woman came and grabbed me. She was holding me with her life. She got me by my ankles and pulled me down, this little, bitty woman. The police and ambulance and other people came, and after that, I started going to counseling twice a week.
When you walk around with nothing, just nothing, each and every day, you become desperate and confused. You don’t know how to ask for help.
You struggle with so many emotions. You can’t put anything together. You become disheartened. Your soul leaves your body. You don’t want no one to know you.
That complete isolation killed me inside. I couldn’t sleep, and drank to pass out. The drinking made me even more angry and more mad.
When you’re like that, you start letting go of more and more. You get further away from resources and places where you used to go eat and maybe take a shower.
You don’t even look at yourself anymore. You don’t want to look at that. You don’t see it.
I made it through with the help of some wonderful people. It took me a while to grasp hold of that. Why would someone be so patient and kind and caring to someone who don’t give a damn about nothing?
One day, I saw Addis making all kinds of noise and making some money selling the paper, and he told me Real Change is on 1st and Main, across from Bread of Life.
I came on over and got orientated and got into it. I found a place to sell at the Crown Hill Safeway. I’ve been there almost four years now.
I was nervous as heck about it at first. I was waving and smiling, trying to sell the paper and show people that I could be friendly, and I was going to be friendly whether they were or not.
I like people, but I didn’t like them when I was just lost. What I was doing depended on how I felt each day and the next day that I could do it again. I found I could get better. It was healing me.
I hated everybody then, but I love everybody now. Call me what you want—think what you want — I’m going to like you anyway.
I’ve been there long enough now for people to trust me. They say, “Keep trying! Keep doing what you’re doing” and “You’re doing a wonderful job.” They supported me all the way through it.
The most important thing of all is when people ask how you’re doing and smile and show how much they care, and they just want you to know that they are there. It just balances you. It really does.
And my customers helped me to trust. Once they start helping, you start growing. You don’t stay where you were.
You begin to understand that what you’re doing is real to them. It’s not just on the surface. It goes a lot further than that. People recognize me and they say hi when I’m not at the store. It’s helped me grow.
Crown Hill is my community now. I know their children, their pets. I’ve been to events, plays, games, cookouts, musicals, they celebrate their lives with me. Hikes in the mountains. Basketball games. People have brought me pies.
And when I talk to my momma on the phone and she asks “How was your day?” I’m able to say I had a good time. And ‘cause my customers help me take care of my momma, I’m able to tell them she says “Thank you!”
And it’s all thanks to a lot of people who help us out — the support Real Change gets from people I haven’t even met and probably never will.
I’ve learned that right when you think you’ve kind of lost your way a little and things are not the way they’re supposed to be, that’s exactly the way they’re supposed to be. You’ve made it. You did it.
Vendor Week: Smile, wave, make eye contact
Shawn Wilson is celebrating two years as a Real Change vendor
2019 Real Change Vendors of the Year Evie Lovett and Yermane Berhe
Read the full September 18 - 24 issue.
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