On one of my first trips to Nashville, I noticed something that I had never seen before. On many corners throughout the city, I noticed people with yellow badges around their necks, holding up newspapers.
I was pleasantly caught off guard when the driver of the car I was in at the time pulled right up to the curb at a red light, rolled down her window and held a friendly conversation with one of them. She traded a dollar for a copy of The Contributor and we went on our way.
I was even more impressed to learn that these vendors are, or were at one point, homeless and that the newspaper is a constructive way to earn a living and build up the community.
It struck me that these people were making a move away not only from physical homelessness, but also another kind. They were creating homes for themselves by connecting with people and becoming part of something bigger than the individual, creating places to belong.
Yesterday, I had the opportunity to sit in on The Contributor’s weekly meeting. It was incredible to see the vendors, editors and volunteers come together in one place.
The editors presented and walked through the newest issue, pointing out vendor’s published work along the way. Each time a fellow vendor was mentioned, his or her name was met with shouts and applause. They also discussed the newest changes coming to the paper.
After the meeting, I spoke with the editor and several vendors. The meeting serves a similar purpose to a church service in that the minutes following the meeting are a time of fellowship for all. Hearing their stories and how they’ve seen this paper affect Nashville was inspirational and certainly gave me a new perspective on our community.
Have you ever spoken to a vendor of The Contributor? The next time you pass one by, I would encourage you to smile and strike up a conversation. I promise it will be worth the time for both of you.