Vendor of the Week
Vendor Profile - Mark Richardson
My story is one of reflection. I am a previous seller of The Big Issue and still remember how important the money I earned was to make ends meet. More importantly, I am thankful for the independence, confidence and opportunity The Big Issue gave me. That was getting on to 20 years ago, when the sale price was only $2 and I got half, which added up at $1 for every copy I sold. I’d usually aim to sell 50 copies and would load up a couple of shoulder bags for the day. It was my job, even though I didn’t have a job: in fact, I felt more like I was self-employed.
I would pay $50 for my 50 copies and would get $100 back in return for my efforts. What this does for your self-esteem is immeasurable. My life had purpose, as simple as it might have been, and I can safely say that The Big Issue saved me from total disillusionment.
I had different parts of Sydney that I’d travel to from the [central business district] with my magazines. I had regulars in Newtown, Mosman and Paddington who were very supportive — not only in purchasing from me regularly, but also in the friendly encouraging words we often exchanged. I hope they are still reading The Big Issue and would like to thank them. It is important that readers understand how much help they give to whoever they buy from. They are giving much more than their monetary generosity to many people needing a hand up.
Routine is something that’s missing when you’re not working, but I developed a bit of a routine by selling The Big Issue. I’d get up early to be in the city for my copies and then catch a bus or train out to my suburban locations. The journey itself, although it became regular, was enjoyable for the break it gave me from my at-home existence. Looking back, I can see that being out among people and having a sense of purpose, with an element of the unexpected, was the most interesting and exciting thing in my life at the time.
I aimed to be at my location early enough to catch the commuter rush period. Time would pass quickly because I’d be trying to catch people’s attention in a friendly way. That initial morning rush gave me a bit of a boost and never failed to lift my spirits. After that, I’d have the luxury of buying something cheap to eat. I used to like to pick somewhere parklike and relaxing where I could enjoy my meal before heading back to my location to sell whatever I had left.
Sometimes the magazines went quickly, on other days it felt like I had leprosy and no one wanted to come near me. Yet still I’d need to eat again, which would add to my expenses. But at least I would have the money to allow myself the luxury. Thankfully, those days were the exception, and I was never discouraged. I always managed to sell my 50 copies before I’d call it quits for the day, and the journey home was filled with a sense of satisfaction; a job well done.
This little routine may not sound like much, but it did more than help me to survive. What it did was get me out of a rut of hopelessness and help me see more clearly both within and beyond myself. I believe that living is a state of mind, and that circumstance and opportunity play a large part in how we think. It seems it’s easy to become negative when times are tough, but it’s good to know that there are positive opportunities such as The Big Issue for people in difficulty.
I’m now 53 years old and receive a disability pension. A lot has happened over the years, most of it pretty good. Life being what it is, however, there is usually some sort of unexpected unpleasantness along the way. I won’t pay that any attention, though.
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