For those of us that live in Seattle we are painfully aware of the challenges of the homeless and those who are poor in our community. One of the best homegrown solutions is a publication called Real Change News. Real Change is a weekly progressive street newspaper based in Seattle written by professional staff and sold by self-employed vendors, many of whom are homeless.
Homeless people commit to sell the paper around town and are able to split the income as a way to gain employment, dignity, and a way off the streets.
“We ARE the Community”, these are the words of one humble community member and Real Change vendor who is sharing the change she has lived through.
Susan Russell is being honored as this year’s Real Change vendor of the year. We first met Susan at the Stand for Compassion, an event organized by Real Change in response to a tragic incident in which homeless were needlessly and thoughtlessly beaten on the streets in Seattle. Susan spoke eloquently about the challenges of being poor and homeless and she has become a key member of Team Seattle and has participated in the art projects and creative expressions that are bringing love and light to strengthen our beloved community.
It takes a brave soul to stand on these corners and educate passersby. You see Susan doesn’t educate just through the stories of the newspaper; she educates through her own story of homelessness and poverty.
“The way I see it, it is my duty as a human being to educate those who will never experience poverty.”
This is how Susan describes her calling. In her struggles she became very intimate with her humanity. Living without presented dangers, emotions and obstacles that only the human will to survive can overcome. It was that same humanity that embraced Susan, and many in her situation, that supported her journey out of homelessness. “I want everyone to know this because without the support of the communities…I would not be the person I am today.” Susan has transformed that humanity, struggle, and compassion of community into her duty to make a difference.
After overcoming drug addictions Susan has dedicated her life to service. She speaks of her journey as “rethreading” her life. “With threads, hair and twisted fabric, I thread in my experiences, and I thread in love, and in the end, it’s harder to know if one keeps me warmer than the other.” Through this journey she brings a voice and face to the fight to end poverty.
Many advocates work to end homelessness, but Susan seeks to heal our community as a whole. She works to educate that those homeless are just as much a part of a thriving community as those thriving in it. We all have a responsibility, a duty, to serve all those in our community. These teachings connect back to the humanity that poverty strips from so many. It forces community members to see their neighbors, their bus drivers, their school teachers as those who could be homeless. It teaches that care and compassion for those that touch our lives is just as important to those that don’t touch our lives. Susan teaches that infact they do touch our lives. Susan bridges the humanity between those suffering from poverty with those who choose to ignore them.
“I challenge everyone to become involved at some level to end homelessness. We all need to act together, we are all connected in this community.”
Susan, we accept your challenge; we give thanks for making such challenges; we celebrate your overcoming the difficult challenges. We also join with Real Change in honoring a true Compassion hero. Thank you for your commitment to change and your infallible spirit to overcome!