How Street Roots, vendors give perspective

SR vendor coordinators, left, right Art Garcia, Becky Mullins, Kaisa McCrow, center

by Kaisa McCrow, Contribuing Writer

I’ve always believed that everyone has a story to tell. Each person’s life has diversity and magnitude, regardless of their experience as rich or poor, well traveled or homebody, straight or gay, redneck or radical. What we share is the uniqueness of our experiences as we work our way through this world. If we’re lucky, we may be able to share these experiences with someone else.

Over the last several months I have found myself in a position to celebrate the diversity of the human experience. I have been interviewing Street Roots vendors and writing their profiles for the newspaper. It is a lucky and humble place to find oneself; perpetually at the mercy of a new perspective or lesson afforded by each vendor’s life. I’ve had ideas about what it means to be homeless; what it means to have or have not. Yet interviewing vendors has taught me so much more, simply by listening and drawing out pieces of an individual’s narrative.

The Street Roots motto is “for those who can’t afford free speech.” The content and investigative journalism in the paper provides stories regarding marginalized communities, inequality, systemic abuses, addiction, etc. It brings clarity to political wranglings over budgets and often complex systems that are difficult for people to understand. The newspaper asks what the need is, who the needy are, and what they look like. Street Roots is also a platform for individuals to publish their voices through poems, editorials, and opinions. It connects the Portland community with each picture, heartfelt poem, and customized cartoon. If the investigative journalism of the paper uncovers the way people are being marginalized, the personal side of the paper reminds us that we are all the same.I’m now finished with my stint writing the vendor profiles for Street Roots. As I gear up to move across the country next month, I’m admittedly nervous. I worry that where I land my not provide similar access to a community such as Street Roots.

However, the other day I was reminded an important lesson. When a man stopped by my house looking for work, my learned reaction was that anything being elicited door-to-door was suspect. Then I reminded myself what I’ve learned at Street Roots: there is nothing wrong with someone offering a service. He asked if I needed my lawn mowed and I said, “Sure thing.”

After offering the man, Glenn, a cup of coffee, he got to work. I was happy to know that the yard was finally mowed, and someone in need earned some income.

After he was finished, Glenn sat on my front stoop with me and finished his coffee. Somehow, our conversation went right to the losses we had both experienced in our lives. We soon discovered that we’d both lost brothers, and Glenn has also lost his son. Relating to others who have experienced loss is a valuable, if bittersweet connection; something to be honored when it is made.

Glenn asked me about myself, and I told him about my upcoming move across the country. As our conversation came to a close, he said, “Well, I guess I made and lost a friend to day.” He shook my hand, thanked me for the business, and wished me well. A sincere man, he gave meaning to the phrase, “made my day.”

I realize now that I don’t need to be afraid of finding a community after I leave. The community at Street Roots has helped me better connect with people. I thank each vendor I have interviewed for that. I’ve met so many people who are doing wonderful things. There’s George, a beautiful man and performer, Terrace, a brilliant thinker, and Raymond, a man on a spiritual journey. The list truly goes on and on. These people let me into their lives for a few hours, all for the sake of a few hundred words.

I graciously say thank you to all of you beautiful people. I insist that you understand the significance each of you hold in my heart.

One response to “How Street Roots, vendors give perspective

  1. Just a proud father saying thanks for being who you are Kaisa!

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