James Marshalek used to “fly a sign” asking for money, but he didn’t like asking for something for nothing.
“It’s not just about money, it’s about self-respect.”
“I told the good Lord I needed something else. I talked to a brother selling Real Change.” Then, he started selling it, too. Now, “people fly a sign next to me all the time and it really bothers me when they ask my customers for money.”
James loves selling Real Change at his location in Lower Queen Anne. “It helps the homeless. But it’s not [just] a homeless paper. Real Change is a good paper. People love to read it.” He reads the paper himself and particularly likes working the crossword puzzle.
There are sometimes articles people don’t agree with. “When people ask me, I tell them that you’ve got to have your own opinion. Some people don’t like it, some people do.” He says he loves his customers. “They give me love and respect. If you give them love and respect, they’ll give it back.”
James grew up on a large farm in Nebraska with 250 head of cattle.
The farm is still in his family, run by his brothers now that his father is gone. He gets back there two or three times a year, partly to see his children. “My oldest son is 31, my daughter, she’s 28, and then my youngest boy, he’s 22. They’re all doing OK and making it. Proud of them, very proud.”
James loved the work on the farm, including butchering the cows. But he was drawn to Alaska to work on fishing boats. “I went out to the Bering Sea, salmon fishing and crab fishing. Winter and summer.” That’s how he ended up in the Pacific Northwest and Seattle.
He can’t work on fishing boats anymore. “I’m having health problems. I was [in the hospital] quite a few times. Right now, I’m going through getting over a death. It hurts. It’s really hit hard. It’ll be 8 months.” It was his girlfriend who died. “I met her in my building where we lived. She was a beautiful lady, but we lost her. Gotta walk on. That’s what I’m doing, walking on. God bless her soul.”
“Real Change brought me through. Gives me a reason to get up every day. Right now I am homeless. That’s going to soon change. Because of Real Change, I meet so many good people. If they don’t see me around they worry about me. And I worry about them, too.” He says that’s his real incentive to go to work every day. “They care about me.”
James likes to listen to vintage rock like Led Zeppelin, Journey and Pink Floyd.”
I love all of it. I don’t like TV. It’s fake. But music comes from the heart, from the soul.”
To James, Real Change is like that, too. “People come up. They don’t want the paper but they’ll give me $2. It’s about giving. It’s about the heart and soul.”