Positivity is a scarce resource in anxious times. The pandemic, climate change and global politics have made it even harder to find.
That hasn’t stopped Real Change vendor Jewel from spreading light.
Jewel started selling with Real Change while unhoused in 2014. A friend of hers at a DESC shelter recommended the paper as a way to support herself because she wasn’t earning any benefits at the time. Since then, Jewel has obtained housing but continues to sell Real Change as a way to earn extra money and interact with the community.
“I love people. That’s the kind of person I am,” she said.
In her eight years as a vendor, Jewel’s selling spot has stayed the same: Red Light Vintage & Costume in the U District. She feels she makes an impact on the people who pass her on the Ave every day.
“People recognize me; they know me in that area,” Jewel said. “I’ve even had people come from Paris, Texas and Poland who buy the paper from me when I tell them about it.”
She’s made a few friends while selling at her corner as well. She recalls one employee at Red Light who tipped her with a $20 bill once and a number of locals who have become part of her steady customer base. In her mind, it makes putting herself out there worth it.
“People tell me that my positive energy makes a difference in their day,” she said. “Even people who don’t read the paper support me for selling it. They’ve said this to me a thousand times, again and again.”
Jewel has been tested by people in her eight years selling Real Change, however. In her words, she has faced the good, the bad and the ugly on the streets.
“I’m sensitive to people’s energy, so it definitely affects me,” she said. “I have good days and bad days, but every person makes a difference.”
Nevertheless, Jewel remains steadfast in her positivity. No matter how mean people are to her, she does not take it to heart. As she puts it, “If people want to be a dick to me, I’m still gonna be a good person; I’m still gonna love people.”
This past January, Jewel shared her positivity with the editorial staff of Real Change. Under the shadow of the Omicron variant, she encouraged readers to look on the bright side. COVID-19 has not gone away since then, but she believes that people have grown less afraid of it.
“The news always puts out fearful stuff,” she said. “I want people to be less afraid of what’s out there and more encouraged to live their lives and be happy.”
Suffice to say, this mindset has sustained Jewel through her most difficult days. Having extra money to spend on dining in at restaurants hasn’t hurt either. She smiled as she said she liked to treat herself with her newspaper earnings. And when she’s done taking a break?
“I get right back out there.”
So if you’re in the U District, head out to the consignment store on the Ave and 47th. It just might brighten your day.
Jewel’s badge number for Venmo payments is 12713. She sells the paper outside Red Light Vintage & Costume in the U District.
Arizona Hays is the Vendor Support Specialist for Real Change.
Read more of the Nov. 23-29, 2022 issue.