This is a confession.
As I was walking into the grocery store, a person asked me, “Would you like to buy a paper?”
This man was selling Groundcover News, a local newspaper. Their mission statement reads, “Groundcover News exists to create opportunity and a voice for low-income people while taking action to end homelessness and poverty.” We can find folks selling the paper in a number of locations, often downtown on street corners.
I answered him, “Yes. But would it be okay if I did that on the way out?”
“Sure thing,” he said.
I wanted to get some cash when I was checking out. And that’s what I did. I used my debit card to get some cash back, and I brought it back outside.
I handed it to the man, and I said, “I don’t need a paper, but I can give this.”
In all honesty, this was because I was unlikely to read the paper, at least beyond the front cover. Not because it isn’t worth reading, by the way. It is, and there’s some good stuff in there. I just know myself, and I get busy. Why take the wares off of this person if I’m not going to read it? Doesn’t that take one more that he then can’t sell to someone else?
“Actually, I’d like it if you’d take the paper,” he said, “It makes me feel like I’m doing something.”
“Oh, you are. Sure,” I said.
He handed me two.
“Thanks for giving me two,” I added as I began to walk away.
“Well, you bought them.”
I walked to my car, and I thought, Oh… Renee. Sure, I was trying to save his papers so he could keep selling them, but in handing this guy some cash, I was undercutting the fact that this guy has a job. He felt more dignity in selling the paper. Plus, wasn’t I kind of dissing the work that went into the paper?
And his answer was, “Duh, well you bought two.”
This is my confession today: How easy it is when trying to support others, and in trying to “do good,” to just keep the same stratified roles that a paper like this is trying to bust. “I don’t need your paper… but you need my money.” That’s not what I was thinking internally, but that was absolutely the impact. And that’s gross.
Buy the paper, Renee.
We can all buy the paper.