Real Change Vendor Donald Morehead often stands at Ballard Market and bears a genuine grin as he offers a new issue of Real Change — “hot off the presses!” — to his customers.
This month marks Donald’s 16th year with Real Change. In that time, he’s become an integral part of Real Change’s vendor leadership. He manages our new vendor orientations every Tuesday and Friday and serves as an intern in the Vendor Program, where he maintains Real Change’s relationships with store managers and customers at vendors’ selling locations.
Donald is no stranger to selling papers. In Chicago, Donald sold several papers out of a newsstand he owned. The original owner, a friend, taught Donald the ins and outs of the paper-selling business. He willed it to Donald, leaving Donald with $1,000 and a year’s worth of newspapers, paid in advance, to help him out in Chicago.
“But then, they tore down the building [the newsstand sat on], so I moved from there,” he said.
After bouncing around in other areas, Donald settled in Seattle in February 2001 and started selling Real Change the very next day.
“When I came here, I didn’t have any money. So me being a hustler, I found out a place where you could get money, you know, where’s the news place at, where you can sell papers. You know, that’s what I said because I’m used to doing that, so that’s what I did.”
Donald was initially baffled by the vast number of homeless people he saw on the streets of Seattle, but he came to understand it as he became one of them.
“I started downtown and selling [Real Change] over there by the courthouse, and I noticed the courthouse yard was full of people with tents. And so I’m asking around, why is all these people out here with tents? Oh, they’re homeless. Oh, with all these free shelters around here, why are they homeless? They feed you, you can sleep in there, and then I got a little taste of it.”
The bedbugs found Donald.
But so, too, did success: With his PTSD, Donald was and is able to regulate his own hours of selling, based on the state of his mental health.
“With my mental problems, it fits in perfectly. If I don’t feel like going, I don’t have to go. If something triggers my PTSD, I can leave immediately, don’t have to ask questions — it fits in perfectly with my personal problems.”
The flexibility agreed with Donald, who brings his service dog, Optimus Prime, to sell Real Change with him. Optimus is “trained to distract me, or pull me down, or whatever it takes for him to get my attention” to throw Donald off his PTSD triggers.
Donald’s longevity and success as a Real Change vendor are only a testament to the firm moral character and hopeful outlook Donald possesses while in the Real Change office and while selling the paper.
“You got good and bad — there’s good and bad in everybody. In order to get ahead, you gotta look over the bad and see the good. Focus on the good. And if the bad overpowers the good, then you separate yourself from it altogether, in order to keep a positive attitude. Because that’s the only way you can sell the paper, is to have a positive attitude. If you don’t have a positive attitude, ain’t nobody gonna buy the paper from you.”