When Paper Men Matter

Not everyone who matters in our lives is well known to us. Sometimes, in expanding the thinking of who “counts” we find a few surprises.

About a month ago, my mom and I chatted on the phone, helping me refresh my Yankee accent. Midway through talking about the weather and her job she asked, “Do you remember Jimmy?”

“Ma, there’s a million Jimmies.”

Her voice shifted. “Jimmy who sold the papers on the corner. He waved to everyone.”

I noticed her use of the past tense.

“Well, Jimmy and sometimes his wife sold papers. About a week ago,  I finally bought one from him and asked, ‘How are ya?’ I don’t even know why I asked. He said they were moving to a new apartment that day. They were trying to save money and found a cheaper place. It must have been about two days later I saw his wife on the corner. I parked and walked over to her.  ‘How’s the apartment? Where’s Jimmy? Is he sick?’  She said,  ‘They stabbed him.’

She told me he went upstairs to the neighbor’s to complain about the music and as he walked away the guy stabbed him, she got him to the hospital, but he died. I just saw him two days ago, waving at everyone and now he’s dead.”

I listened to my mom’s voice break off  and she began to cry. “Life changes so fast Vikki. Take nothing for granted, even if it’s as simple as a paper man.”

A paper man. Or the postal carrier. Or my favorite register woman at Wal-Mart. They all create a part of my life that matters. Mom is right – I shouldn’t take them for granted because the people you would notice as “not there” are the ones to notice as “there.”

About a month later, I’m driving to the grocery store. I’m listening to a local radio station that has upcoming events.  I hear an interview with an internationally known artist who took photos of – get this- guys who sell the paper on the street. Christine Kirouac has had her media installations exhibited from Canada to Cairo and she’s doing an art show on – paper men.

It’s called “Hawkers” and is featured at the Delta Fine Arts Center until June 30th 2012.  On opening night, May 27th, some of the paper men will be there. The exhibit will continue through June 30th.

Yes. I’m going. I’m taking hubby (aka Mr. GPS) with me because mom’s right – I need to take nothing for granted, not even paper men.

I’m going to go despite the fact that I don’t see paper men in my daily travels. I don’t even buy the paper. I have never even said “hello” to one because they always look busy.  I will be a social mess.  “Hi, I’m here because my mom’s paper guy, uh, hawker, in Connecticut got stabbed and the area is rallying around his widow as she sells papers, and I want to let you know I’m grateful that you are part of our community even thought I don’t pass you guys. Um, I almost never buy the paper, but I will and I’ll try to find you.” And, I’m sure the artist or hawkers I talk to will give me a glazed stare and that’s okay.

Why am I going? Why push through the anxiety when it’s just easier to NOT go?  I’m hoping to connect dots, heed mom, and learn to be open and aware. Maybe I will realize that my life and idea of community can be expanded to “count in” more people than I realized .

P.S. Below is the link to the Connecticut paper man’s widow and others speaking to a reporter.  But the impact her husband had on the community can be seen and felt throughout the piece.


12 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. Wishful Preaching (@WishfulPreachin)
    Jun 14, 2012 @ 18:48:12

    Hell, Yeah! Great post. I’m sharing with the world!


  2. Shelly May
    Jun 14, 2012 @ 19:31:43

    I’m over the moon excited that you have a blog! Over the moon excited I tell ya! Why, because you are such a beautiful writer with many stories to tell and much wisdom and love to be shared. This is a beautiful post and yes, take nothing for granted. Everyone is in our lives for a purpose.
    Light, love and hugs to you!


  3. Linda Stansbury
    Jun 14, 2012 @ 20:26:16

    I was so delighted to see this post in my mail box. Well done! Touching, sincere and a real tribute to Jimmy. You have honored him, and the many people like him who touch our lives everyday and often go unnoticed. A wonderful message.


  4. Sue
    Jun 15, 2012 @ 00:08:15

    I followed all the articles in the CT Post when that happened to Jimmy and even thought about where he was in location to where you used to live. It is so incredibly sad what happened to him. I’m glad to see his story has spread beyond CT to remind us all about the power of kindness and how small acts amount to large feelings of gratitude.


  5. Leslie Waldron
    Jun 28, 2012 @ 10:54:27

    Such a great piece, Vikki! I’m so sorry to hear about what happened to Jimmy, it breaks my heart. So senseless. And how amazing that there would be an art exhibit about Hawkers! I’m glad you went and shared with us.


  6. Marlene
    Jul 01, 2012 @ 00:44:23

    Vikki, this article had me in tears. Beautifully written. You captured the feelings of loss and appreciation simultaneously. Amazing.
    I can’t wait to share this with Mary Clearly herself on Sunday. She is really a very pretty lady and is as sweet as can be, still selling papers on that very corner, in memory of her husband.
    Thank you for sharing this article with so many people, but mostly for her and her family.

    Still buying papers,


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