You should be reading these words in a print copy of Real Change.
A copy that you picked up from the vendor outside your grocery store, stopping to chat and catch up. Maybe you had big holiday plans, and are rushing home to start cooking a meal to be shared by many. Maybe you had planned to invite the vendor to join your table.
But this year, nothing is as planned.
With COVID-19 numbers rising, and everyone doing their part to keep each other safe, we’re having to do things differently. And so you’re reading these words in a web browser.
And that conversation with the neighborhood vendor will have to wait. That big Thanksgiving meal will be suspended, socially distanced — outside, maybe, or in front of a Zoom screen.
As you now know, Real Change has made the very difficult decision to temporarily halt physical paper sales to do our part to reduce the spread.
Our organization is founded on the idea that cross-class community is a powerful catalyst for change. When you buy the paper from a vendor, it is different than visiting a website or clicking a link. The exchange you have is a recognition of each other’s dignity, support of an entrepreneur and a chance to connect with a neighbor who may live differently than you do.
Those moments of connection hopefully enable us to see the world differently. And to think critically about the barriers that exist in our shared environments.
I am reminded of a conversation I had with a vendor, Susan, last weekend. Susan was sitting in her chair in front of the Central Co-Op, bundled up in a big coat and hat on a blustery Saturday morning, so I could only recognize her sparkling eyes visible between her furry hood and the top of her mask. I stopped on my walk to ask how her sales were going.
She told me sales are going well, and she’s hit a good flow. We talked about the paper for a bit, and then, unexpectedly, Susan offered me a gift that I cherish.
“Do you want to hear my poem?” she asked.
The poem she shared with me was a beautiful meditation on the ways we need each other. Her words painted a picture of a room of people, surrounding a candle. When someone blows out the candle, do you focus on punishing them, or do you work to re-light the candle?
Real Change, to me, is about re-lighting the candle. Focusing on sharing light and warmth, instead of judgement or punishment.
You’ll have to read Susan’s poem yourself — I can’t possibly do her words justice.
As I walked away, I heard her greeting her next customer. “Is this the newest issue?” the customer was asking. Susan was ready with her pitch, and a poem.
Those unexpected moments of shared feeling, of connection, enable us to feel seen and heard. While the paper is temporarily available online only, it is critical to keep the Vendor Center open. During these dark and isolating times, it is a place to gather. A place to connect. A place to re-light your candle.
And you, as a donor, supporter and guardian of journalism, make this possible.
We are committed to producing independent and continuous journalism and look forward to getting the paper back in your hands.
Local journalism is vital. Real Change is committed to elevating the voices too often left out of traditional media, and shining a light on injustice. The dedicated, professional newsroom at Real Change has never stopped filing stories, publishing online when print sales temporarily pause.
The decision to pause print production impacts the whole organization. About 30% of Real Change’s revenue is from circulation, and that number has dropped sharply, even while we continue to offer existing and new programs.
And of course, vendors face a loss of income just as the city is shutting down.
Which is why it is vital that we keep our doors open, and keep going. The work of the journalists, vendor case manager and program staff continues.
Your support today makes a difference. Grassroots, individual donors make up roughly 60% of our revenue — a number that shows just how much we rely on our community to keep us resilient.
Between now and midnight on Dec. 31, we’re working to raise $200,000 to power our programs. We still have $183,406.74 left to raise, and every gift counts.
Supporters like you keep Real Change resilient even during these uncertain times. Thank you for being a vital part of our community.
As the people who sell this newspaper face a loss of income, I encourage you to consider paying your regular vendor via Venmo, and read the news content online. It’s a good way to let them know you care, even from afar. You can visit tinyurl.com/VenmoYourVendor to learn more about this option.
As you rethink your plans for spending the holiday, please include Real Change in your thoughts.
And if you need to relight your candle, just reach out. We’re in this together.
Camilla Walter, Real Change development director
P.S. When you make your gift of any size on Giving Tuesday, forward your donation receipt to firstname.lastname@example.org to be entered in a drawing to win a Real Change t-shirt!
Read more of the Nov 25 - Dec 1, 2020 issue.