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Response to Sissyk (Original post)

Wed Aug 14, 2013, 03:31 PM

3. One of the Featured Vendors

Featured Vendor: John Parker
When did you start selling The Contributor?
In 2009. I heard about the paper one day when I was down here [at the Downtown Presbyterian Church] eating lunch, and I heard some people talking about it and I followed them and I saw where they went and I went in there and thatís where I met Tom and he told me what to do, so Iíve been here ever since.

Do you like selling The Contributor?
I wouldnít be here if I didnít like it. Come on, now! It gives me something to do in my old age, you know, sitting at home and looking at them walls drives you crazy, so it gives me something to do. It keeps me alive. I like meeting people, stuff like that. And Iíve met a lot of people, too. Yeah, many of them here in Nashville and in Madison. I really donít have no problem selling this paper. Itís a good thing for a person that doesnít have an income, you know. Iím 66 years old and Iím not thinking about retiring from The Contributor until Iím about 76, and then I might feel better than than I do now, so I might go to 86 [we both start laughing]. Thatís right! If Iím here that long. I have these medical problems, but they are working out alright.

Tell me about the people youíve met.
Oh, there are some lovely people out there, Iím telling you the truth. You know, I always did know that Nashville has some of the most beautiful people in the world, because Iíve been in Nashville all my life. These people, you canít beat Ďem. Sure canít. Customers, friends, some of them, I call them a friend because they look for me. They ask me about this and that, and you know, anytime someone is providing you with currency, I think they your friend. It all depends on how you treat people. How you present yourself and how you treat people. When Iím not selling out there sometime, I come back and they ask, ďWhere you been? How ya doiní?Ē Stuff like that. Men and women and children. The children are so incredible, itís beyond my comprehension. Theyíll be hanging out their window with their money in their hand, little Ďol bitty devils, and I got a habit of waving at kids. They be in the backseat and boy, they just be waviní. And then sometimes when they come by and Iím not waving at them, theyíll be knocking on the window. That makes you feel pretty good. Probably the first time they ever waved at somebody in their life. Probably the first time a 80-year-old lady drive up to me, give me a dollar and smile. She probably ainít smiled in a long time. I can see it in their face.

You see, Iím out there making people smile, Iím happy. They make me smile, I make them smile. Pass it on. Thatís joy. You know what I mean? Yeah. Thatís where I get my joy fromóseeing people happy. I hate seeing people down and everything. Sometimes you have to be, sometimes I am, but I try to hide mine.

What was it like growing up in Nashville?
Well, I was the 11th child out of 12. I was next to the baby. And, I growed up in the Baptist church, as a matter of fact, Jefferson Street Missionary Baptist Church. And, Iíve been there all my life. I still go. Iím just going to stay there until I die, I guess. You canít run me out of that church. Iíve been singing there ever since I was 7 years old. And Iím still singing. I sing on the menís chorus, when Iím able. Everything is just beautiful. I had some bad times, I took myself through some bad times. God is so forgiving that he brought me out of that.

When were you homeless for the first time?
I left home when I was 11, and I stayed with some friends of the family. I stayed with them until I got about 16. I was homeless then, but I was just staying with them. When I became 19 I went down to the Mission and stayed there for a long, long time. I got fortunate and stayed with some people, but it didnít go right. I think my last homeless day was when I was 57 years old. Thatís when I got my Section 8 apartment.

Where else did you stay during that time?
Well, I found a half of a school bus right out here on Murfreesboro Road. I kept seeing it, and I was trying to see if anyone was going over there and stuff. So, I started moving mattresses and chairs and covers and cardboard boxes and I stayed in there for about three years. I froze my butt off. People kept coming around giving me blankets, so I had about 17-20 blankets and I stayed up under them.

It was a big olí bus. It looked like somebody cut it in half and set it over there. Wasnít no seats, empty front half, there wasnít no steering wheel or nothing in there. But it had all the windows, so I just set up camp, sure did. It was so far back off the road that you really couldnít see if anyone was over there, but you could see the bus. I had a little table in there, candles, everything. I used the Mission address to get my food stamps and I was going to various places to get canned food. Then, I got my Section 8. I had signed up for it, but it took so long to get it. Everything fell into place. God makes things fall into place, all you have to do is sit back and let him work. Thatís right.

Did you work during that time?
No. My mind was tore all to pieces like a fried egg.

I used to be a cabinet builder. I worked at a cabinet company here in Nashville. I worked for them for a long time, and I got too slow so I had to leave there. Those cabinets were on an assembly line and you have to keep up. I was the door person who put the door on the cabinet. They had to be equal and I had to be fast because I had to get back off that cabinet and look at the doors and they had to be even. If they werenít even, I had to take that sucker out and get it even. So you had to be fast. If youíre putting out anywhere from 1,500 to 1,800 cabinets a dayÖthat wheel was rolliní.

But, here in Nashville, people donít want to hire you when you get a certain age. But, the last job I had, I worked at the Hard Rock Cafť. I opened them up on my birthday, the 21st of June. I worked there a little while, and there had to be speed in that, too. I was over the dish room and I had two little workers in there from Scotland or somewhere and they couldnít speak my language and I couldnít speak their language, but we worked together. We got the job done. They was twins. Two little Scottish twins.

What are your hopes for the future?
Well, I been trying to get closer to God. Iíve come a long ways, Iíve had some good days and Iíve had some bad days. Right now Iím trying to get closer to God and trying to teach my children the same. Because without God, I wouldnít be nothiní. Probably wouldnít even be here because he has blessed me tremendously. Probably wouldnít have known you. So, Iíve come a long ways to meet you. So, thatís just about it. I just hope everybody finds what they are looking for, but keep God first. Sounds good to me.

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